Making Tracks Through the Desert
Been a good week for some gaming! I somehow managed to get four separate games on the table, a record for the last few years. I think I’ve been averaging pretty well, but not at this level in some time.
Let’s get going, shall we? This post will discuss the two games covering the North African Front that I played this week.
I won this game through the Facebook Wargamer Pay it Forward group, which is an outstanding community of goodwill and generosity. A couple of weeks back, I had played my first World War II North African Front game, Avalon Hill’s Afrika Korps (which Rodger MacGowan immortalized for me by featuring my pictures in his art), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to dig deeper into the campaign, so I decided to break out Blood & Sand.
I love the components! The map, while jammed with information, is pretty good and invokes the terrain well. The unit counters are colorful, use NATO symbols, and are sizeable enough for my old eyes. The rules are eight pages long.
The game is IGO-UGO, and initiative is decided with a die roll. The scenario I played, Crusader, actually has the Allies start first during the first turn, but otherwise a roll is made for the rest of the game-which is only three turns in length. The rest of a player turn consists of checking supply, determining supply points (used for attacks), moving, and combat.
I really like how supply works: Axis starts with 25 points, Allies 35. During their individual turns, each side rolls 2d6, and adds to the total ports which they control that have supply points. These supply points are then used during attacks. Depending on how far away each side is from their supply source, the map is divided into supply zones which has a cost in supply points that infantry and mechanized units must spend to attack. Example: I have a British armor and two infantry units in Supply Zone A which is one of the furthest zones away from Alexandria, the Allied supply source. The Allies have a 4/8 supply point cost, each infantry unit attacking spending 4 points, each armor 8. Thus, I would spend 16 points using the abovementioned units, which is subtracted from the overall supply points generated at the beginning of the Allies’ turn. Defenders do not pay anything when attacked.
What I didn’t like about the game was its Risk-like, buckets of dice rolling during combat. Each unit has a combat factor that indicates the number of dice rolled during combat. Dependent terrain will cause one less die roll. Infantry hits on a “6” while armor gets a hit on a “5 or 6” roll. So, if my infantry from above had combined combat factors of 2, while the armor was a 3, I would roll a total of 5 dice. I used different colored dice to differentiate between infantry and armor. Combat is also simultaneous, so the defender is also rolling dice. First hits are step reductions (or eliminations, depending upon the unit) and are assigned by the opponent, then the owner determines whether to reduce further or retreat units for two spaces for each hit.
It was mind-numbing rolling the many dice and determining first hits, retreats, simultaneously because I was soloing. Combat really wore the game down. I would imagine the combat phase would be something altogether different with more than one player.
I might add that the game uses cards which help out each respective side, but the scenario I played does not use them.
Another hit out of the park for LNL! Production quality is top-notch, from the map to the unit counters to the rules. It seemed like this would be a quick game to play…
…until I got into combat and suddenly couldn’t wrap my head around the Combat Results Table. I went to the rules to clarify, and my mind (to this moment) is still boggled by what is probably a simple concept that I am completely failing to comprehend.
So, I rolled on the CRT during combat (when else would you, huh?), and I got a 1/2 result. That’s not a half, but a 1 and a 2, attacker to defender. I can either lose a step or retreat with my result. Not one or the other, but either one. I get to choose. What?
Am I dense and not getting it? Why would I ever choose to lose a step if I can retreat instead? Help me, Obi-wan!
So, I reached out to LNL. Crickets. I asked for clarification on their Facebook page, their Board Game Geek page, and on their website forums. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? So, I’m stymied. Once I get my answer, I will return to the table and see what sort of havoc I can wreak in North Africa.
My next entry in a day or so will cover my playthroughs of Decision Games’ Khe Sanh ’68, a solitaire mini-game, and Victory Point Games’ Disaster on Everest, another solitaire that is quite the nailbiter!