Monday, February 15, 2010

New 10's

I've been playing quite a few games lately. This has prompted me to reevaluate some of my ratings. The following games--which used to be 9's---are now 10's for me:

Liberté: On the surface, it may seem like a simple area majority game (El Grande) using cards to determine where you can play (China). There's so much going on in this game, I would need multiple posts in order to do it justice. You can plonk down a big pile of influence in order to make it last or spread it out to gain more success with that faction in the short term. You can go all out for one faction, or do a little in each. You can try to manufacture a Radical Landslide or a Counter-Revolution. The card management is complex, and the action decisions (play a card or draw a card) are agonizing.

ASL Starter Kit #1: Advanced Squad Leader has made inroads in my gaming circles. While I have yet to discover the joy/torture of Guns and Tanks, I have been able to teach and play more Starter Kit scenarios. The ASL system is simply the best WWII tactical game system I've seen. Everything else I've played--from Memoir '44, to Tide of Iron, to Conflict of Heroes, to Combat Commander--seems like a cheap knockoff. There are many excellent sources of information out there, including Russ Gifford's ASL training sessions and Joe Steadman's recent video series.

Tichu: I play Tichu all the time, and I always want to play it. There's no better 4-player team game. It is a card game, so there's always the element of chance that can throw a hand one way or the other. It is unlike my other top games in this respect. But it's so fun to try to make a desperate Tichu, or to set a solid one.

Napoleon's Triumph: I had played Bonapart at Marengo a few times before buying Napoleon's Triumph. I liked the system, but I wasn't too fond of the small map and limited options. NT blows that out of the water with its huge board, more than double the number of units, and more ambiguous goals that are somewhat under control of the French player. The mechanics are certainly very abstract for a Napoleonic grand tactical game, but the position-and-maneuver-focused choices are awesome. The uncertainty of the unit strengths and types, as well as the threat of breaking through the lines and/or flanking, keeps the tension very high and your plans very flexible.


At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried to like Tichu, but it seems to go on forever and ever. It takes soooo long to complete a game.

At 12:58 AM, Blogger ekted said...

It's nice to see I still have readers after all this time. :)

At 3:43 AM, Anonymous Mosse said...

How have I managed to miss Joe Steadmans videos? Guess I've had my eyes only on the ASLSK-forums, and not the full ASL-forums. I'll have to check them out!

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Iain said...

I have never been able to see the appeal of Tichu either. We must be doing it wrong.

Napoleon's Triumph blew my mind. I have to try it again.

I'm never going to let ASL blow my mind.

Would love to try Liberté. Someday... someday...

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Things of No Interest said...

Love Tichu - there is a lot of excitement (though yes, a run of bad cards can actually drag the game out on occassion).

I now really have to make sure to get Liberté to the table. It has been sitting in the "unplayed" stack for too long.

At 7:17 AM, Blogger "A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Combat Commander a cheap knock-off of ASL? Surely you jest sir? Designer Chad Jensen acknowledges his debt of inspiration to ASL, but his design stands on its own feet as a groundbreaking addition to the WW2 tacsim genre. It's a better simulation in its own terms to boot.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I do not jest. Here's an analogy to how CC works. I have a deck of "life cards" that have such things on them as sleep, eat breakfast, work, eat lunch, drive home, eat supper, watch TV, brush teeth, etc. I shuffle this deck, draw cards, and may only take those actions I have in my hand. This supposedly "simulates the chaotic nature of day-to-day life". Bullshit. It's a cop-out of lazy design. I applaud the rules and the production, but it doesn't really feel like a wargame. It's a spatial and hand management game with a war theme.

At 2:00 AM, Blogger Ryan Nip said...

Yes~ I'm always your reader! =)

I do visit here from time to time. It's glad to know that you finally write here again, since Sep-09.

Please write more. I enjoy reading your reviews.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger "A bit political on yer ass!" said...

To each his own I guess ekted, but I just must say that feels exactly like a wargame to me, one of the best I've played in my 30+ years a grognard.

I suggest that your language is too subjective: how a game 'feels' might be important in respect of whether or not a given person likes a particular game- and that is unimpeachable; but it is how games play out which determines their simulationist merits. The WW2 historical literature is chock full of material demonstrating that the end result of CC in play is as authentic a cross-section of WW2 tactical action as you'll get in any other WW2 tacsim.

So not liking CC is fair enough. In all seriousness: no one can like everything; and nothing can be liked by its entire potential audience. But to call CC "a cop-out of lazy design" lowers the discussion of the game to the level of pointless epithets which do nothing to illuminate which particular cross-section of WW2 reality you prefer games to depict.

In short: it's a cheap shot which reflects more on you than it does on the game.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger agent easy said...

Have you tried Mu? It's a card game that might appeal to you if you like Tichu. It's also a team game, but one where the teams change every round according to the bidding, and where players score individually despite playing on teams (which can create interesting decisions when deciding to play for the team or for yourself).

I've been playing the iPhone version and love it.

At 3:05 AM, Blogger ekted said...

All my opinions say something about me, but they are also exactly how I feel and not cheap shots. A unit sitting in the open watching the enemy move right by in open ground, itself not being able to move or fire is ridiculous. This is not a command and control issue; it's the unit not being able to do something sane just because I don't have a move or fire card. The only thing this simulates is card drawing, not tactical warfare.

Again, I am not criticizing it as a game. It just doesn't feel like a wargame to me. It just looks like one. I am very skeptical that any serious WWII expert would say it simulates anything--it's just too random--although I am no expert myself. I've also played other card-driven games (TS, H:RvC, WW) and am considering buying Successors. The difference is that, in those games, the cards do not restrict your choices; they simply provide you with alternative events.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger "A bit political on yer ass!" said...

I confess ekted that I strayed too close to the bad line in internet discourse with the "cheap shot" remark. I apologise for that and accept wholeheartedly your reply. Please consider my own cheap shot retracted.

On to the substantial issue.

"A unit sitting in the open watching the enemy move right by in open ground, itself not being able to move or fire is ridiculous."

I have to tell you that this is simply not so; ie. you describe a situation which is all too real. Two examples are apposite here:
- Max Hastings' Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 tells the story of an American soldier paralysed by fear who watched a German walk up to him and bayonet him to death.
- Then there is Robert Leonhard's example- drawn from personal experience, of an exercise at Fort Irwin in the US, posted on CC@CSW; this one really just has to be read to be believed!

These are particularly apposite because they demonstrate the extremes of the situation at issue: be it a matter of life and death or a carefully rehearsed exercise conducted in perfect conditions, precisely that against which you rail so much is the very definiton of the 'fog of war', and commonplace to boot- as I noted earlier.

I submit therefore ekted that your objection fails at the first reality check. I further submit that the issue is thus Chad's chosen method of delivering the effect he wished to model; ie. it is a design issue, not one of CC's authentic representation of historical reality. But that's a whole other issue.

Again, thanks for your measured reply in the face of my intemperate tone. :-)

At 2:14 PM, Blogger "A bit political on yer ass!" said...

Also: if you'd care to visit My Game Collection@BGG you'll find some detailed comments about ASL. They do need updating because I'm thinking about starting to play with the ASLSK sometime; but my estimation of the systemic limitations are unchanged. ;)

At 4:13 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Your two examples of why the unit didn't fire are irrelevant. ASL already has ways to "simulate" units unwilling/unable to engage. This is not due to lack of cards, but is a result of choices made and actions taken. Aspects of simulation are active parts of a design, not passive. You can't take the card-driven aspect of CC:E and use it to rationalize everything NOT in the game. The various effects and situations that arise in CC:E follow from the mechanics of the game. Design -> Play -> Effects. This is a common feature of euro and abstract games. In ASL, the possible effects and situations are part of the design.

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous siegeltoys said...

I myself would love to try to play a table top war game, but atlass with kids and all. I find im playing games like candy land.
Second worst game ever.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger thanida said...

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