Chad and I got together to play a small, quick tactical game set in the 19th century. Hold the Line: Frederick’s War looks very much like Commands & Colors: Ancients at first glance. There is a small hex board that can be overlayed with various types of terrain, and the units have a number of morale points (MPs) that function as health points, or number of hits that they can take before being eliminated.
I like the quick action gameplay and the tactical movement. The game is quick to set up and quick to learn. It has a small footprint, which is nice, too. We played the first two scenarios. Chad won one and I won one. In both cases the “attacker” lost, but there were so many turns left over that the attacker has plenty of time to move slowly and methodically if he chooses to do so.
The only thing that we did not like was the swingy-ness of the dice. Chad was rolling nothing but ones for a few turns and could not buy a five or six to save his life. He was frustrated, but took it well. We have all been there with any game that uses dice resolution. I would like to play C&C:A with him sometime to see how the two games compare. He also wants to learn Advanced Squad Leader. Let’s see if the dice still come up snake eyes then!
One of my biggest hurdles is finding people to play with. Life is busy and the types of games that I really love have an intimidating learning curve. So when my 8 year old daughter told me that she wanted to play a wargame with me, I could hardly contain myself. She and I have been playing games for a while now. The first game that she bought with her own money was Tsuro and she played that for quite a while before losing interest. She likes Clank! and we have some other smaller quicker games that we like to play together as well.
On the day that she told me she wanted to play a wargame with me, I was playing Advanced Squad Leader solitaire. I thought to myself, “Why not? Lets give this a shot.” and I got out the starter kit. How many times can we retake Vierville? She was quite the trooper. She followed along and nodded attentively and really enjoyed spending the time with me. Unfortunately, she did not understand what she was doing at all.
She never said it to me, but she told my wife the next day that she had no idea what was going on and did not want to play ASL again. She did not want to disappoint me. I talked to her and told her that she never had to play a game with me that she didn’t want to play, and that we would try something else.
We decided to try out Commands & Colors: Ancients. It is much simpler than ASL and even more importantly, plays much more quickly. She picked up on the card play and movement and was able to actually play the game. When we finished the battle, I told her that this was an actual battle that really happened in history and we talked about it for a few minutes. That was when it clicked for her. She understood the connection between the game and real life, and it meant something. That is the reason that I love historical gaming.
We still play together quite a bit, but it is mostly Imperial Assault or X Wing Miniatures. She is the world’s biggest Ahsoka fan, and she puts her favorite Togruta on the table any chance she gets. Combining Star Wars and wargames – what a concept! I can’t wait for Legion to come out next month.
The scenario is set in Poland, 12 September 1939. Contrary to what you would think, the Poles are the attackers and the Germans are the defenders. In order to win, the Poles need to control every building on board 7b. Any time I see a victory condition that requires 100% control, I get nervous, but the Poles 21 MMCs with associated leaders and support weapons to drive out a group of 13 squads and 2 half squads (along with SWs and leaders). The ASL Scenario archive shows it to be extremely balanced.
I did not have a great number of options for defensive setup, so I thought that I would try to slow him down as much as possible holding the first set of buildings and then fall back when pressed. I did not want to concede the south side of the board, so I made sure to cover that area as much as possible. This was definitely secondary in my mind, though, and he was able to sneak one unit past those defenders to get to the solitary building in R8. Little did we know at the time, but the entire game would hinge on that control. More on that later.
By the end of the first turn there were no surprises. He was coming in as I expected him to, and I was trying my best to maintain discipline and remain concealed. We were both able to get some hits in but there were no major developments yet.
In turn 2 he really started to advance toward that lone building on the south side. I think that I made the right play in keeping my MMG concealed and pulling back slowly because it really delayed his advance and the threat of it tied up a large number of his troops. In the main cluster of buildings, His advance was stalling, and he was rolling really poorly. Every time he rolled an 11 we both laughed (What can you do?) and every time I reminded him that the dice always come back around. How right I was! You can also see here that I decided to use the cover of the hill to start falling back even though I was still in good order with the initial cluster. I did not want a series of bad roll to wipe me out and allow free access to the North side of the building. As defender, I like to maintain the threat of force as mush as the actual show of force.
By turn 3 he was finally able to overrun my initial cluster of buildings, and also sprint up ahead to grab that lone building on the South side. He was also able to encircle my lone hill defender – an excellent bit of tactics on his part. Nevertheless, my initial strategy of delaying and falling back was working, and my reinforcements had started to arrive.
On turn 4 he started to organize to make his final push, and I started digging in to cut off his movement lines and make sure that it would take him more time than he had to grab every single building. You can see that I was starting my counter attack on that southern building as well. It was very lightly defended.
In turn 5 he was coming at me hard, but I still held the buildings. I was feeling good about things, knowing that I was going to get a bunch of point blank shots. My MMG finally revealed himself as well. He was much more effective as a threat than he ever was in use, but as defender I think he did his job.
Turn 6. Ugh. Remember what I said about the dice coming back around? Holy moly. I rolled nothing but 11s. He had my northern reinforcements cut off, and my troops in the buildings could not shoot straight. The dice completely failed me and I was overrrun. Retaking that solitary building to the south was my last hope. But I had a chance.
Rest in peace, men.
Turn 7. My last chance. I had to have that building, so I moved in. My men charged bravely. Some broke on the way, but one squad made it in. This is what is all about. Last roll of the game. I am the attacker, so I get to go first. I may be wrong remembering the numbers, so please don’t look it up and yell at me, but I think I needed a 4 to kill. Rolled it. Bam. I am one roll away from my very first ASL win. He needed a 3 to kill me (There was no ambush.) If he rolls it, he wins, since we are both broken and he controlled the building. If he rolls 4 or higher I win.
I am still winless, but I love this game more than ever.
For the first session of the STLHGC, I wanted to bring a few games that people could get into easily and would be good for a variety of players, including solo if necessary. Command and Colors Ancients is a quick set up, easy to play game, but is only really good for two players. Cuba Libre is the simplest of the COIN games in my opinion and also has a small footprint. I threw the Blackbeard game in there because it looks fun and I have never had a chance to actually play it. I am trying to get it off of my shame shelf. I realized after I took this picture that I am a really big GMT fanboi. Guilty as changed.
It looked like it was going to be three of us playing today, so I decided to set up Cuba Libre. The small footprint and relative simplicoty makes it a great gateway game. In addition, for a three player game, letting the AI take the government seemed like a good choice.
As it turns out, I ended up playing the game solo and had a great time. Rev Kevye stopped by several times and asked about it. He was interested in playing but couldn’t do so at that time. Chad and Andrew both sat down for a few minutes later in the day to talk about the game, and this is definitely going to get some play time. I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy the COIN games, and now that I own over half of them, with a couple more on the way, the more people that are familiar with the system, the more we can expand our horizons.
In case you were wondering, the Syndicate won. I did not do a proper AAR since it was just me, but I will have some pictures and a real AAR next time. Please join me on Saturday February 24, 2018 if you want to play.