Friday, 18 September 2009

gaming in photos

31 Aug 2009. Pandemic. This was one very unusual game of Pandemic. Michelle and I now play exclusively at hard difficulty (i.e. 6 Epidemic cards in the deck). In this particular game, our card draws were lucky, and we made all the right choices. We eradicated one disease after another, and once we eradicated one, infection cards for it keep turning up (i.e. no effect). It was almost a perfect game. We eradicated three diseases, and by game end, there was only one city still with sick people - Shanghai with two red cubes.

5 Sep 2009. Galaxy Trucker. I was quite confident when I built this spaceship. I had lots of cannons and lots of engines. I didn't bother much with crew size, since from the event cards that I had seen, they weren't that important. Then one of the earliest events that came up was a war zone. The player with the least crew had to lose goods. I had no goods yet, so I had to lose batteries. Without enough batteries to power my double-cannons and double-engines...

...eventually my spaceship ended up like this. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I still had one human crew left to bring this piece of junk back safely.

My 3rd spaceship in the game turned out better, but it wasn't enough for me to catch up after my disastrous 2nd journey.

12 Sep 2009. Han and I played Waterloo again, the 2nd time for both of us. This time we switched sides so I played the French and he played the Allies. Waterloo has an interesting mechanism for tracking injury / death of your soldiers. Injury / death are represented by damage cubes, and these cubes are like baggage. Infantry units can carry up to five of them with them when they move. If any infantry unit is forced to carry 6 cubes, that unit is eliminated. So carrying the cubes away from the front line represent injured units retreating to safety, while fresh units take up their spots at the front. In this particular photo, one of my infantry units carried 5 cubes with it to retreat to safety.

In our game, Han executed a very good cavalry flanking move. Massing some cavalry, he charged my left flank, and killed off many of my cavalry, and one precious leader and one infantry unit. Killing cavalry units do not count towards the victory conditions, but cavalry units are important and when put to good use can be devastating.

I brought some of my own cavalry units from my right flank to come save my crumbling left flank. I eventually did beat back Han's brave cavalry group, but overall I lost more cavalry units than him. It was a painful lesson. I should have been more careful.

Three injured infantry units hiding away from the fight. You need to save your infantry units because they count towards the victory conditions. Another twist in the game is if you run out of damage cubes (e.g. you have been too efficient in getting infantry units to carry them to the rear) and need to assign some damage to units which are fighting, you must then eliminate some infantry units to free up some damage cubes. I imagine this as injured soldiers dying from their injuries.

This was the end of the game. We were only at Round 4 (of 9). The Prussians had just arrived at the battle (but only two units - see upper right corner). At the start of Round 4, I suddenly spotted a gap in the Allied front lines, and used two cavalry units to charge through it to attack two badly injured Allied infantry units. That gave me enough kills to achieve a French instant victory. So Napoleon rewrote history again.

Han and I both felt it was hard playing as the Allies. We had learned from our first game, and played better (I'd like to think so), but still by the time the Prussians arrived, the Allied forces were spread very thin. Well, not that the Frenchmen had much reserves left. I wonder whether we were still playing overly aggressively. Could the Allies have stalled for time more? After all, they win after Round 9 as long as the French don't achieve their goal. The French probably should be playing aggressively, to try to win the game before the Prussians arrive.

After our second game, I still find Waterloo to have a bit too many look-up tables for my liking. Many factors to consider when referencing these tables too. Combat resolution feels a little convoluted. But it does feel realistic. (aah... the compromise between elegance and being thematic) Indeed after a while we got familiar with the tables and it became quicker to look up. But if I play this game again a few months from now, I'd likely have to learn this looking up all over again. Painful.

13 Sep 2009. Hammer of the Scots. Han and I have not played this for quite a while. He had recently been reading about Robert the Bruce, and was interested to play this game again. Of course, we played the second scenario - The Bruce. Han played the Scots and I played the English. This was early in the game, and I had sent the English King Edward I and two knights into Scotland.

Hammer of the Scots is a game about the Scottish war of independence, inspired by the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart (which I loved and later found out it was full of fiction). The game mostly centres around controlling the 14 Scottish nobles. Nobles either side the English or the Scots. When you defeat an enemy noble, instead of killing him, he joins your side. The two sides play very differently, and the game is very interesting. It is considered an entry-level wargame. Not too complex, and at the same time very thematic.

By the fourth year, Han had already coverted the whole of northern Scotland to blue (Scottish side). Things were not looking good for the English. I have been making use of English knights a lot. The advantage they give is their strength. However the down side is they are for short-term use only. In the Bruce scenario, they can't spend winter in Scotland and must leave the board at the end of the year (go home for Christmas).

This was on very big battle where the Scots (blue) attacked the English (red). The English king was in Scotland that year. If either king died, the game would end in an instant victory for the other side. The 12 blocks lying down were the main attackers and defenders. The blocks still standing were the defenders, and would arrive at the battlefield only by the 2nd round of battle. A battle only lasts 3 rounds, after which the attacker must retreat if there are defenders remaining.

This particular battle went well for the English. We learned that when big battles like these happen, the defender gets a big advantage, because he gets to roll dice first. The attacker will usually be badly hurt before he can even start attacking.

Han retreated from this battle. I later pursued, and suffered the same fate, and had to retreat. We played until the last year of the scenario, and Han won the game decisively, with 8 nobles vs my 5 nobles. In hindsight, I probably should have spent more effort on controlling nobles and setting up for the longer term, as opposed to trying to set up big battles and making use of knights so much. I should have brought in more infantry (which were not as strong as knights but could stay in Scotland over winter). I still enjoy Hammer of the Scots a lot.

Jing Yi, Sui Jye, Han, playing Modern Art. Sui Jye was interested in trying this. I have not played this for quite a while myself.


Brettspiele said...

Pandemic is a really fantastic boardgame, here in Germany will be a new extention published called "Pandemie - Auf Messers Schneide" - I am really looking forward to this.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

I'm planning to buy the Pandemic expansion too. The English version is called Pandemic: On the Brink. I guess it's the same one.

wankongyew said...

Whoa, was that first comment an ad spam? Anyway, I've always heard that Hammer of the Scots is an extreme finicky simulationist game. The example I heard of was about how so and so may not winter in Scotland in such and such year, except if a particular condition comes up etc. That sounds unnecessarily clunky to me.

I've heard good things about Pandemic though and would like to try it soon. When I first complained about how arduous playing Arkham Horror was, people told me, "Now go play the version of Arkham Horror that's actually good. It's called Pandemic."

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Indeed Hammer of the Scots has some rules that are quite "un-Euro". The wintering bit I wouldn't consider part of the fiddliness though. It's actually very core to the game. The more finicky parts include how a Scottish King is to be crowned, how French knights come into play, how the Norse block is used. They are all thematic, but of course at the cost of some fiddliness. But I think they do contribute to gameplay, and are not there just for theme's sake. I'd classify this as a wargame, albeit a pretty introductory one. I think to seasoned wargamers this game is probably very Euro.

Pandemic is a pretty straight-forward game, so much so that sometimes it feels you can finish exploring the game after only a few plays. But somehow it still draws me back and still continues to be interesting.

Cecrow said...

How does "Hammer of the Scots" compare with "Warriors of God"? They appear to be light wargames with a similar theme.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Warriors of God has a more "sweep-of-history" feel, compared to Hammer of the Scots. In HOTS, you fight a few rounds, and then prepare for wintering, something like a reset. The game flow keeps getting interrupted by wintering, so you need to plan for this. In WOG, I think there can be more luck (or at least it feels so from my one play), due to early deaths of your leaders, the number of actions available for the round etc. In WOG you have to mitigate risk more. The two games are quite similar in complexity, but I think they feel quite different when you play them.