Mid-month Meeting, Saturday 21 August 2004

after action report


Well, not a great turnout (rain and holidays affecting the usual numbers - only 11 attending on this occasion) and no one remembered to bring a camera, so we have no record for posterity.


Jeff hosted a DBR game of the English Civil War battle of Edgehill; hopefully he will be persuaded to come up with a brief report shortly.


Lawrence Hung and Simon Shum played 3 smaller board games; here is Lawrence ’s report:


We played Atlanteon (Fantasy Flight), Ivanhoe (GMT), Zero (GMT); 3 smaller and shorter games in view of the rainy day and few attendees.  We played 4 games of Atlanteon, 2 games of Ivanhoe and 2 games of Zero in 5 hours.  We completed all the games to the end.  All these games are short in rules and the longest one is Zero, whose playing time is also the longest to complete one game.  We had fun in playing so many games in a single day.


Atlanteon is designed by Reiner Knizia, the household name of Euro games and designer of Lord of the Rings; Ivanhoe also.  We considered both are based on Knizia’s obsession with mathematical logic.  We learnt Atlanteon and started playing very quickly because there are no complex rules and just pure fantasy war about the capital of the Sunken Kingdom in the undersea – Marauders the attacker and Guardians the defender.  The first one to capture all three Towers in the game, the first one to control the opponent’s King (of course), or the first one to control the whole city by placing 11 control markers, with the King surviving, on the mapboard divided into 25 squares, wins the game. 


Despite the initial mix-up about the concepts of “Influence”, Capture” and “Control”, the game plays rather smoothly once you learn the basics.   The trick of the game is to place the force tiles as many times as you possibly can with an “Influence” number orthogonally (4 squares) adjacent to the enemy or the towers, and thus surrounding it, that enemy/ tower occupying square will become under your control if you have the maximum “influence” (the highest total number of influence points summed up wins). 


You then place your wooden control markers (11 of them) on the squares to denote your control.  Since the force tile numbers range from 0 to 9, you calculate your influence points and placement of the tiles to your advantage.  The timing to place your King tile on the map, he must be placed on it, is also crucial as you need to protect your King with your forces.  If you place him next to your highest influence forces, you will certainly have your King protected but then he cannot be used to capture the Towers.  Balancing the needs becomes your strategic priority.  Lawrence won the mini-campaign game (a game of 2 sessions) by placing the 11 control markers on the map both times. 


Ivanhoe by the same designer let us down a bit in that there appears to be a no-brainer in playing out the cards in your hand by following your selected joust colours.  The cards in your hand are randomly dealt with and the players must follow suit.  You withdraw from the game if you determine you can’t follow the suit or if the joust colour is one you already have won.  The objective of the game is to collect all the 5 joust tournament colours.  It is best played by 5 people, instead of just 2.  Joust with poker cards could have been a tantalizing combination.  It lacks the historical flavour of any sort as it is shallow in strategic thinking.   The tournament colors mean nothing to the players and the special action cards do not tick much in your head when you play them.  Mind-boggling with the numbers on the cards, it is more of a good potential PC game subject than of a good gaming.  GMT was in need of money in 2000 from selling this kind of game in the hope of subsidizing the development publication of the more niche historical wargame in its financially difficult times.


Dan Verssen did a better job at card games, and for a good degree of simulation.  His Modern Naval Battles gave us a good time before.  He developed the Down in Flames series card game to cover the air.  Zero! is the game about the Imperial Japanese Air Force controlling the Pacific sky with series of dogfights with the Americans.  The Japanese planes are smaller in size (thus easier to get shot down) but with more agility (turn faster with more horsepower and thus more action card options).  The Americans have higher tenacity (read higher “Damage Capacity” usually at a 3:2 ratio to the Japanese planes) for hits.  A game is played out in 6 rounds to see who hit the most (shot down or damaged other planes) and won the game.  We decided to play out the entire dogfight until the planes all got shot down.  Simon took a F4F Wildcat and P-40E Warhawk while Lawrence chose an A6M2 Zero and Ki-43-I Oscar. 


We saw some intense dogfights over the sky at very high altitude, down to sea level low altitude, with both sides chasing each other using tight turns, barrel and vertical rolls.  The core game mechanic is to use the action cards in your hand to shoot and out manoeuvre your opponent’s planes and get into an advantageous position for a better shot. The number of attack cards, called “bursts”, you can play on your opponent’s planes increases by 1 when he is disadvantaged and 3 at a tailed position, plus your plane’s own burst rating.  A plane can only have maximum 3 bursts in a single round.  If your opponent cannot respond to your attack by playing counteracting response cards (with printed matching responses on the cards), you score damage hits, according to the damage number on the attack cards, on the plane.  Exceeding the plane’s “Damage Capacity” would shoot down the plane.  Our game result was pretty close – the Americans all went down into the ocean together with the Japanese Oscar while Zero was severely damaged.  We like the game as by playing out the action cards you can really visualize the dogfight position, tailing and evasive actions taken by the planes.  It is abstract though, but given we can complete the game in one sitting in about 1 hour, with 2 elements of air force (each with a wingman) on both sides, it is quite a good game.  Simon has the Rise of the Luftwaffe volume 1 in the Down in Flame series.  So maybe we can play out the Germans next time. 

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