Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where The Fuck Is Agricola?!

I preordered Agricola in December, and it still hasn't turned up. Frankly, I've got the shits with everyone involved in the process, and I certainly won't be preordering from Z-Man ever again. I've held my tongue about this for a long time but it hasn't helped. This has been an absolute cock-up. I also have no interest in dealing with Lookout Games in the future after Hanno's hysterical outburst on BGG.

It'll probably be here on Monday, now that I've blown my stack.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Bitches Love ASL

I'm a big fan of solitaire gaming (because the quality of opponent is higher :-) so I've been faintly thinking for a long time about some more serious solitaire war-gaming. Anything by Richard Berg just seems to be appallingly complex, but my Facebook friend MerricB has good things to say about ASL SK1, so I've been thinking about trying that. Coincidentally a local gamer offered to sell me his, so I bought it and tried to play it today on our Ekka holiday (google it).

I think my dog figured out if she sat next to the board then she'd get to cuddle with me. It didn't work. All my hands were in use holding the rule book and scratching my head.

For the non-gamers in my audience, ASL is Advanced Squad Leader - a World War II squad level game. Think of it as the game of Saving Private Ryan where you're Tom Hanks' commanding officer. In this particular scenario, the Americans have occupied a French village called Vierville and the Germans are attempting to reclaim it. This is my initial set-up with Sgt O'Brien controlling the crossroads.

The Germans attack from the top and the bottom (east and west) and the American reinforcements arrive from the right (north). As there was good cover for the Germans on the left hand side of the board, and not much on the right, the Germans chose to attack from the southeast and southwest. O'Brien and his men held off the German commanding officer, forcing him to retreat into a building, but the half squad at the other end of the road was quickly eliminated.

Eventually the Germans realised they'd made an enormous strategic error by not occupying the building in hex R7 (the rightmost American unit). That unit controlled a vast area around it, and along with O'Brien they protected the entrance to the village for the American reinforcements. The Germans probably should have occupied the building even further to the north as well.

With the roads open to American reinforcements, the centre of Vierville was soon decorated with stars and stripes and apple pies and photos of Mae West, and the German forces suffered some heavy fire and were forced to retreat. They eventually sent O'Brien crying back to his mummy, but Highsmith arrived with more firepower and prevented any hope of German occupation of the centre of the village. O'Brien had won the war for the Americans!

Overall, this was a decent experience, but I did spend an awfully long time trying to figure out all of the rules which applied to each situation. I think I've made enough sense of movement and Defensive First Fire now, and will be able to play a lot more smoothly next time. Routing (i.e. broken forces retreating, potentially under fire) wasn't so bad, but I know that I missed the rule about units which fail morale checks being degraded. I remembered it too late and decided not to apply it. I'll have to read the rule book again and play again to see how it works.

It seems to me that the game is not so much about killing, but about controlling area. It was very often the case that forces crumbled under fire without taking casualties, and became ineffective without being dead. In a real world scenario, this might relate to everybody hiding behind buildings and being unable to progress or reunite; or getting lost in some trees. In Saving Private Ryan a sniper effectively stalls the progress of the squad as they struggle to find a safe way past him. There's much more of that sort of disablement, and not so much death. If a squad can establish a position overlooking a road they can lay down so much firepower on the road that anyone who tries to use it will break and so cannot progress down the road. There's enormous power in controlling the paths to the objective.

Next time, the Germans will know that.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Games Shelves Are Chocka-Block

My dad called yesterday to find out if I was still playing with myself... I guess he wants to see the old family traditions preserved. So I guess I'd better write something. Actually July was the month in which I recorded the most hours spent playing games ever - 13.5% of the time in the month was spent gaming. Between that and Scrabblette getting home after 3 weeks there wasn't much time for blogging.

Anyway, I was looking at some photos of my game shelves from when we moved in here almost a year ago, and they look sparse compared to now. It seems these days games are coming to get me - I no longer need to hunt them down. I've been trying to behave myself, but they keep getting in. Here's my game shelves and why they're like that.

Shelf 1 - Kids' Games and Party Games

The red boxes in the bottom left contain Big-Ass Trias and my home-made copy of Mambo. The plastic rack in bottom right is the Digimon CCG. The egg cartons are Eiertanz. The big plastic rack up the top id the Harry Potter CCG. Various odd games are stuffed in all of the corners. The base is a drawer containing Heroscape. I want to make this the kids games, party games and Ameritrash shelf, but I need to clear some space.

Shelf 2 - Abstracts and Word Games

This is the set of shelves that attracts Scrabblette most. The drawer at the bottom contains Command and Colors stuff - Memoir, Ancients, and Battlelore. The small drawers contain card games, score sheets, non-slip mats, odd dice, and one whole drawer of non-English rules. The games in the bottom left below Hive are Santorini and Twixt.

Shelf 3 - Euros and Ameritrash

This rack is the problem child. It's where games I totally must have are destined. The bottom shelf is Days of Wonder and FFG. Stacked on the top you can see the Mask trilogy (all 4 of them) and various Ticket to Rides and Friedemann Friese stuff. Lots of yummy Euros in the middle. The right-side racks include some Lego cars for playing with on the city streets mat we have, and bowls for putting counters into. The white sack is Polarity and the blue sack is Bagh Chal pieces. The drawer below the shelves contains most of my trade pile, and some older games such as Careers which I don't want to throw out but don't want to display either.

I think my next collection management project should be moving the Ameritrash to Shelf 1. Shelf 3 needs more space.