Blog Moving!

October 4, 2011

Dear Readers:

Well, we’ve been at this address for over a year now, but it’s time for us to move to another site. You can now visit us here: http://marginofvictorygames.com

Please update your bookmarks and RSS aggregators as soon as possible; we want to keep our loyal readers! We’ll keep this announcement up for about a month, and will then dismantle this site.

ALSO, if you link to us from your blog, we’d appreciate it if you’d update as soon as possible. Thanks!

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Commands and Colors: Napoleonics—The Best C&C Game Yet?

September 25, 2011

(Folks, let me open by stating emphatically this is not a review. We don’t do reviews at Margin of Victory. Rather, this is a simple explanation of why I believe Napoleonics to be the best Commands & Colors game yet published.)

I’ve only played five games of Commands & Colors: Napoleonics. And yet already I know it to be a more interesting game than its cousin, Commands & Colors: Ancients, which I played the heck out of between 2005-2008.

The same card-driven mechanic is in play here, as are the left, center, and right divisions of the battlefield. Light, medium, and heavy units are now infantry, cavalry, and artillery units (all of which have some weaker and stronger versions). So on the surface, it’s basically the same game, just with a few tweaks. What’s amazing is that Richard Borg gave players more choices in Napoleonics without making the game much more complicated.

Look familiar to some other games you've played?

The three important additions are Napoleonic-era tactical decisions:

Cavalry Retire and Reform: In the face of an infantry melee attack, cavalry may evade. This works exactly the same as evasion in Ancients, it’s just that only cavalry get this option now.

Form Square: In the face of a cavalry melee attack, infantry may assume a square formation. The defending player must have a random card taken from his hand, which is then placed out of play until his unit resumes its usual formation. Attacking cavalry may only attack with one die, regardless of other benefits. The infantry battles back with one die, but if they score a retreat result on the enemy, the cavalry must move one hex away from the square (a “bounce flag”). This formation is great if your infantry get cut off and are on their own. It’s a very tough choice if they are facing both enemy cavalry and infantry, as their ability to defend themselves against the infantry is vastly reduced.

Combined Arms Attack: While attacking, you may order one cavalry/infantry AND one artillery unit to attack at the same time. You roll the normal melee dice for the cavalry or infantry unit, but you also get to add the ranged combat dice of the artillery unit in the same roll. Yup, you might be rolling 8 dice in a massive assault.

On my first read through of the rules, I didn’t think these tactics would change the flow of the game much. But about halfway through my first game with General Rick of the allied army, it was clear they were going to matter quite a bit.

In the Rolica (first position) scenario, a unit of my French light infantry found itself way out ahead of the rest of my army. Having taken earlier losses, they were at half strength and facing British heavy cavalry and line infantry. Rick ordered both units and chose his cavalry to attack first. I formed square, knowing I would likely survive the attack but also realizing that my troops would get cut to ribbons by the line infantry attack a moment later. However, if I had not formed square, his cavalry likely would have destroyed my unit, received a bonus move, and received a bonus attack against another unit. So while I lost the unit to the second attack, I denied him a breakthrough.

The game ended when General Rick executed a perfect combined arms attack. Using cards that allowed his units to move extra hexes, he arranged it so some British artillery was on a hill, firing directly down on my troops (whoops!). Then he brought some line infantry up, ordered both units, and crushed my line in a devastating combined arms attack. He rolled 8 dice in one mighty attack (4 for the line infantry + 4 for the artillery firing at point blank range). Needless to say, this caused one of my full-strength units to magically transform from neat rows of blue-coated musketeers to a pile of corpses and, alas, my French lost the battle.

I enjoyed Ancients, but I like Napoleonics even more. I feel like I have more tactical decisions to make, and thus more control over the battle. Once I factor in the varied landscape in each scenario (no more featureless plains like in Ancients) and the specialized units (rifle infantry! horse artillery! cuirassiers! oh my!), I think I’ll be playing this game for a long time to come.

"Uh oh. Form square? Stay in line? Either way, I think we're screwed, guys."


Commands and Colors: Napoleonics Storage Solutions

September 15, 2011

Having spent about four hours this weekend applying stickers to the blocks for Commands and Colors: Napoleonics, I was faced with a problem: where to store them all. While it’s true that the pieces all fit inside the game box, it’s a tight fit if you bag each individual unit type, which means finding another storage solution. After digging around a bit on the web, I settled on buying a Plano LockJaw box. I found one for sale at my local hardware store. The top portion of the box fits the Portugese, British, and French infantry with plenty of room to spare for an expansion or two:

Plenty of space left over!

Meanwhile, the bottom portion can easily be arranged to fix the larger pieces–cavalry, artillery, and leaders–as well as dice, terrain, and chits. If I ever purchase an expansion, it will be easy to transfer the last three items to the original game box. This should leave space for expansion playing pieces.

Open the lid, and you've got all large playing pieces with room to spare for terrain, etc.

Once you lock everything up, you’ve got a lightweight, organized carrying case for all of your armies. I think it will drastically cut down on setup time for this game.

Who knew you could carry the great armies of Europe so easily?


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Losing

September 7, 2011

With Labor Day weekend over, it is time to regretfully close the book on summer. Camping, grilling, brewing, mowing the lawn: Every day was filled with joy. That is, until I sat down in the evening to play a board game with my wife, friends, or family.

And then I lost. And lost again. And then lost some more.

Like my beloved but hapless Minnesota Twins, I spent most of the summer getting thrashed by the opposition. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that every Memorial Day I declare a “summer of victory.” You may also remember that last year, the Summer of Victory III, didn’t go so well. However, it was nothing compared to the utter debacle that was the Summer of Victory IV: Actually, the Summer of Defeat, Don’tcha Know.

The overall number of games played went up slightly this summer, 43 compared to last year’s 38. Of these 43, I went 14-29, a .325 win average. This is a huge drop compared to last year (.447 average). In two player games, 26 in all, I went 14-12, again a huge drop off from last year, when I was 15-1-2. I attribute this to the fact that I was playing my wife a lot more, and she has proved stiff competition this summer, winning 8 of our 14 games.

The most popular games of the summer of loss were Hive (11 games played) and 7 Wonders (7 games played, no lie!). These are also the two games that Sara and I purchased together this summer, and we played them a lot. And it seems 7 Wonders is the new Carcassonne for me, as I have not yet won a single game of it. On the other hand, I finally snapped my 17 game losing streak in Carcassonne, winning for the very first time in the two years I’ve owned the game! That was a small bright spot.

In the end, I think this was a summer during which I learned to “stop worrying and love losing.” I don’t mean that I’m trying to lose, but that it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’m much more focused on playing games that provide a bit of fun and some tough decisions as well, but even more importantly, I am enjoying the company of those with whom I’m playing.

A warmer, fuzzier John? Perhaps. But I’m still declaring a Summer of Victory V next Memorial Day!


PBEM v.s. Jason of Point 2 Point, Late 1758…and the end.

August 29, 2011

Over the course of the summer, Jason from the Point 2 Point podcast and I continued our leisurely but regular pace in our Wilderness War match via PBEM. You may remember that I cut the French turn down to size  in the first turn and consolidated my gains in the second turn, but a daring foray by Jason into New Hampshire set me back on my heels a bit in the third turn. However, things started looking up in late 1758.

1758 Late Season Hand (British)
Provincial Regiments/2, Cherokee Uprising/3, Fieldworks/1, Ambush!/1, Call Out Mililtias/1, Northern Indian Alliance/2, Colonial Recruits/2, Stingy Provincial Assembly/2, Mohawks/1

(Similar to turns two and three, I have no British regulars coming across the pond to help me. Looks like my provincials will have to make do with some Mohawk allies. I begin to despair of ever making substantial gains.)

We open the second half of the year with General Levis and his French army hightailing it for the Green Mountains to avoid getting attacked after their dastardly foray into New Hampshire (which put Jason up to French +1 VP at the end of last turn). I play a card and activate General Monckton, who again misses his opportunity to breach the thick walls of Louisbourg (now renamed Minas Tirith in my mind).   Then panic strikes me and my hardy British troops as the French land their reinforcements at Quebec! This means I’ve got a decent sized force breathing down my neck.

But then…annus mirabilis indeed! I make one last desperate push to take the Impregnable Fortress of North America ™ and…Monckton gets the job done and TAKES Louisbourg. The British rejoice (+3 VP to me) and my lobsterbacks are now up 2 VP. Jason sees the writing on the wall and leaves one regiment at Quebec as a speedbump as the other two join his main force at Ticonderoga. He then moves my provincial assemblies to supportive from enthusiastic to stop any further British provincial regiments from being raised. In the meantime, the Mohawks ally with the British. I plan to do a bit of raiding up north if I can spare the cards.

A bit later, General Levis heads back into New Hampshire to beat up on Loudon, one of my worst generals, and a lonely detachment of British regulars. I’m thinking he’s hoping to take another stockade and defeat my troops in battle to boot. I let him move into my space, call up the militia, and play Fieldworks in a desperate attempt to fend him off. Jason rolls the dice, checks the results table and sees that, yup, my worst general just beat his force (British now at +3 VP). They retreat in shame, and Jason concedes the game, knowing it’s pretty tough for his French to snatch up 4 VP in two more hands.

And thus ends our blog v.s. podcast smackdown. It was a lot of fun, but I will admit that a lot of card draws and dice rolls went my way. Jason is a good-natured and talented opponent, and I greatly appreciate him taking time to play me. And there’s already talk of a rematch…

The last battle. While I feel sorry for Jason, I did have to laugh at his consistently bad dice-fu. Nothing can explain it

The final map. The British take Louisbourg and only inch up the Hudson Valley corridor, but it's enough to send the French a-runnin'.


Giant Fighty Robots!

August 19, 2011

Russ and I are playing with the BattleTech quickstart rules tonight. Giant Fighty Robots, activate!

Lazers! Die, evil Russbot, die!


PBEM v.s. Jason of Point 2 Point, Early 1758

July 26, 2011

Well, it seems Jason from the Point 2 Point podcast and I have hit a leisurely but regular pace in our Wilderness War match via PBEM, finishing a turn every three to four weeks. I achieved some substantial gains in the first turn and consolidated them in the second, but the early campaign season of 1758 turned out to be a head scratcher of sorts.

1758 Early Season Hand (British)
Campaign/3, Western Indian Alliance/2, Coehorns and Howitzers/1, Bastions Repaired/1, Rangers/1, Northern Indian Alliance/2, Indians Desert/2. Amphibious Landing/1, Call Out Militias/1.

(Like last turn, it seems that the reinforcements have largely dried up. Still, I should be able to get a lot done with this hand. I held the Amphibious Landing over from last turn, so let’s try that out.)

Jason opens by playing British Ministerial Crisis, hoping to snag a reinforcement card out of my hand and drop it in the discard pile; as I don’t have any, this has no effect. Breathing a small sigh of relief (I just know that next hand I’m getting tons of reinforcements), Wolfe moves north at a cautious pace, heading first to Hudson Carry North to link up with a small garrison left there over the winter. Jason tries again, playing Smallpox on Wolfe’s force. Unfortunately for him, he rolls a 1 and I only reduce one of my units. My response is to raise another regiment of rangers at Hudson Carry North and quietly chuckle over his bad dice rolling.

A bit later, Montcalm and force move south to Ticonderoga. I raise Northern Militia, hoping to beat back the raids I imagine will come at some point. However, Jason shifts his focus to the western frontier and Indian raiding parties start  filtering south. To combat this, I build stockades in Easton and Concord. Eventually a few raids are launched against my string of stockades, but Jason’s bad dice rolling continues and they fail. Using the campaign card I received at the start of the turn, I move Loudon and a small force from New York to New Hampshire to help with border defense. I use the other half of the campaign card to activate Monckton in Halifax. His small army performs an Amphibious Landing and lays siege to Louisbourg, where there are no troops but there is one leader, Drucour. In previous games I’ve never seen the French player sacrifice a leader in a siege, but here it makes sense: Louisbourg’s fortifications already mean I’ll be rolling on the siege table at a disadvantage, and the wily Drucour makes it even harder.

However, I have an ace up my sleeve…Coehorns and Howitzers. I reveal this on the next card play and hope my doughty Britishers can batter down the fortifications. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite turn out that way, and Monckton’s force ends the year outside the city. And it is here, my friends, that I had made my mistake. I had two card plays in the season that were actually double card plays: first the Campaign which required me to also play Amphibious Landing, and then the activation of Monckton’s besieging force with the Coehorns and Howitzers card played alongside. This left Jason with two cards and no threat of a British response.

So he did something quite dastardly; he detached Levis and a small force from Montcalm’s  huge army at Ticonderoga, marched east, tromped into Charlestown, NH, and burned a stockade to the ground. And Loudon, who was also in the area, did nothing. Typical.

We ended the turn at +1 French VP. And I wept big salt tears, shook my fist at the sky, and swore revenge…

The map mid-way through 1758. Click for more detail.