Sunday, 30 January 2022

We The People

For COVID-related reasons too involved to go into I was looking for two-player games on Friday, and realised that it's possibly 20 years since I'd had 'We The People' out of the box, let alone on the table. So this afternoon I rectified this, and Catherine obliged me with a game. "We The People' has to be played with another; it has too hands of hidden cards to work solo.

Obviously I spent Friday evening and some of Saturday familiarising myself with the rules. None of it is particularly complicated, but there are lots of bits to remember and some subtle differences in how some mechanisms apply to one side as opposed to the other.

Obviously the game covers the American Revolution, potentially from 1775 to 1783, although a random game end mechanism ensures you can never be quite sure about how long you have. The Americans win by eliminating all British combat units from the Thirteen Colonies, or, at the end of the game, controlling nine of the fourteen colonies (they can score for Canada). The British win by controlling six of the colonies (but can't count Canada in that total), or by eliminating all American combat units. Or by capturing George Washington.

Here's the basic setup. There's not a lot happening on the map at this stage - a British presence in Canada and Boston, and American troops under Washington and Greene sitting outside Boston. The hexagonal counters are political control markers, and they are the key to the game - control more markers in a colony that the other side, and you control the colony. The markers can be place, removed or flipped during game-play, and it's possible to isolate areas of control as well, forcing the markers to be removed. Armies and generals help maintain control of markers, and that's what you end up fighting over.

Armies are round counters, but are mostly ineffective unless they have a general with them, and both sides have a limited number of generals. Each is rated for two things - Strategy and Battle. Strategy dictates how easy it is to activate the general, whilst their Battle rating dictates how good they are in a fight. The British tend to have plodding generals who are good in a fight, and the Americans the reverse.

Here you can see Howe in Boston, with Washington and Green observing him. I played the Americans in this game, and Catherine the British.

The game itself is run by strategy cards. Each player gets a hand of seven of these, and they alternate in playing one until both players have none left. cards can be events, or (the majority) strategic operations cards, which allow the activation of generals, placement of political control markers or deployment of reinforcements.

If a general moves into a space with opposing troops, a battle is fought. These use another deck of cards, with various tactics on them (Flank Left, Frontal attack and so forth). each player gets a hand of cards, the number being based on their general's rating, how many units they have and various bonuses - The British get a bonus card for their regulars, and also two for naval support if the battle is fought in a port, for example. One side plays a card and the other side must match it or lose the battle. So a small army can, if they are lucky, defeat a larger force that got a bad draw. The losing side retreats and may lose units.

Here we see Washington attacking Howe at the end of the 1775 turn. Catherine evacuated Boston and sent Howe into the New York wilderness. Washington was able to use a special Winter Offensive bonus to drive him north at Saratoga. Over the next year or two he drove Howe all the way to Quebec, before being defeated, and ending up having to retreat back to where he started. He came close to being captured as his army suffered serious losses on the way.

Meanwhile Catherine had landed a couple of bodies of troops in the Carolinas. I'd been fortunate with the placement of political control markers and closed off most of the ports north of this area to her. Cornwallis and Burgoyne exerted some control over area, whilst Lee and Lincoln watched warily. But initially  a lot of the activity was the placement and removal of markers rather than any actual fighting.

Eventually Lee attacked, driving Cornwallis out of Charleston, and then chasing him to New Bern. Lincoln came up in support, and eventually restricted the British to a couple of coastal enclaves.

In the north Washington had retreated to New York, but Howe followed and attacked, losing the ensuing battle despite having the odds seriously on his side. Had Washington lost he would have been left isolated without troops and vulnerable to capture. Washington was then able to escape along the coast back to Boston.

Lord North's government fell in 1781, which ended the war. The Americans controlled ten of the Thirteen Colonies, for a convincing with - the British controlled Canada, Massachusetts and New York, whilst Connecticut was still divided.

Given that neither of us had touched this game for twenty years we picked it up pretty quickly, although it is one of those games where you have to work out how you achieve your goal as well as simply how to play. I used my weaker general aggressively, picking up a few key wins in battles, but a lot of the win was down to grabbing most of the ports early on and preventing the British from landing armies except where I wanted them to. With no British troops around I was able to consolidate political control of the middle of the board, and focus my actions on where Catherine's troops actually could operate.

And this also qualifies as an entry for 52 Games.

52 Games - Game 12 

Saturday, 29 January 2022

More Sundiata

After Sundiata's win over the Elves the other day, I kept him out on the gaming table, and played a couple more games, one yesterday and the other this morning.

His first opponent was the Army of Wonderland.

They defended their magnificent House of Cards. In case anyone thinks that I assemble this before each game, I don't. It's all done with glue and trickery. Mostly glue.

(It is actually in two parts, though. so it fits in the box.)

Like the Elves, Wonderland presents their opponents with a wall of spears.

The battle opened with Sundiata's hunters ambushing Wonderland's flock of giant flamingos. The flamingos prevailed.

With their flanks protected by a wood and a village, the Queen of Hearts was content to leave her army where it was, obliging Sundiata to advance and attack.

However the griffin and mock turtle threatened the Malian flank.

The cavalry sent to deal with them were routed.

Sundiata charged.

His knights broke through a block of playing-card soldiers.

The results were less good elsewhere. Sundiata pushed back teh Queen of Hearts, but his troops were otherwise repulsed along the line, with some losses.

Alice took on the victorious knights, and destroyed them.

Sundiata was now isolated and surrounded. But he won, driving back his opponents!

His archers entered the village and finished off the flamingos.

Sundiata now had the Queen of Hears driven back against her stronghold, but now she fended him off. Both generals had come within a roll of destruction and saved the day.

The griot Bala Faseke took on Alice, and defeated her.

And with his flanks secure, Sundiata charged in again, driving the Queen of Hearts into her own stronghold. Another win for the Malians.

It was a close game. The initial Malian attack went very badly, and wonderland very much had the upper-hand for a couple of turns, driving back the main Malian line and inflicting some heavy casualties. But the army's two personalities, Sundiata and Bala Faseke, took out their opposite numbers, The Queen of Hearts and Alice, to even the score and pick up the win.

The second game saw Sundiata on the offensive again, facing William Walker's filibuster army.

Walker and his henchmen. Or advisors.

Once again Sundiata was obliged to attack.

An epic charge but knights never gets old. And, in this case, they were charging vulnerable warband.

Unfortunately in solid ranks with flank support the warband were able to fend off the knights, destroying one element, and leaving Sundiata's flank vulnerable.

And that was it really. Sundiata was isolated and killed. A pretty short game.

Sometimes that bold frontal charge just doesn't pay off.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Australia Day Games

One of the things I hadn't quite realised about doing the 52 Games project is that I have to document even the most trivial of gaming experiences if it involves a game I've not previously played this year. So it was with yesterday, the end of January public holiday that some people celebrate as Australia Day. We had a busy day involving walks and lawn-mowers, but did fit in a couple of games. However we wanted things that were light and fluffy.

In the afternoon we played a new game for this year's project, Greed. This is one of Maya's games; a basic push-your-luck dice game. The dice have latter son them which spell 'GREED$' (with the E's being in two different colours), and you score points for various singles and combos. You can keep rolling until you decide to keep the score you have, or you get a no score. The first player to 5000 wins, although each other player gets one turn to beat them, so it's worth going over th limit by as much as possible.

The lighting in the above photo obscured the dice, so here's a better shot of them.

Anyway, there's not much more to say. We played three lively games and, as you can see, won one game each. In the third game (on the right-hand side) I took my score to a useful 4950 first, giving me a chance for a good margin over 5000. But Catherine and Maya were so far behind that it was unlikely they'd have caught up anyway. Saying that, Maya did score over 2000 points in a round in a previous game.

In the evening Catherine and I played more Codenames, but I've covered that game in a previous post. In the two-player version you work together to beat the clock; the 'opponent' automatically covers one of their words each turn, and you have to win before them complete their grid. We played five games, and won four of them, although two were with the lowest possible score. It's harder than it looks ...

52 Games - Game 11

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

HOTT Monday

I set up another game of HOTT yesterday evening. The Elves always seem a popular choice (actually the box was handy) and their opponents this time were Sundiata's legendary Malians. Sundiata defended and I ended up with a village and wood closing down one flank and with both sides having a hill on their side of the board. Both armies had a core of spears, shooters and riders, with the Elves rounding out their army with extra spears and riders and a tree-man behemoth, and Sundiata fielding knights, a cleric and the man himself as a hero general.

Sundiata's warriors the knights and spears.

The Elves - a strong shieldwall in the centre, flanked by the imposing tree-man.

The Elves overlapped Sundiata's line and advanced quickly with their riders, looking to turn their opponent's left flank. The tree-man advanced as quickly as possible in support, so as to prevent the left end of the Elven cavalry line from being overlapped.

The first fights. The end result was a lot of pushing and shoving, but no casualties.

Sundiata pushed forward in the centre, taking on the tree-man himself, with his knights providing support.

This did rather leave his lighter horsemen out on a limb, a situation the Elves exploited. Sundiata's horsemen were wiped out.

The Elven cavalry reformed, ready or a run at Sundiata's stronghold. This left Sundiata with a decision - pull back and try and block the horsemen, or attack the Elves and go for a win before the stronghold fell. He opted for the latter strategy.

Sundiata's troops attack! The knights on his extreme left swept away their Elven foes.

This allowed the tree-man to be flanked, although he held his foes to a draw.

Under pressure the Elves had to spend their limited PIPs holding off Sundiata's attack rather than moving their horsemen towards the stronghold. They lost an element of spears to Sundiata's knights.

The tree-man couldn't hold out forever, and was chopped down.

This left Sundiata free to turn on the stalled Elven cavalry. Another element was routed.

Meanwhile the knights had turned the Elven right flank, and another element of spears was ridden down, breaking the Elven army.

The final position.

Early on the Elves looked very strong. Sundiata was weak on both flanks (on the other his archers were stuck behind a hill and harder to move), and the Elves were able to exploit that. But a bold attack when things went wrong wrong-footed the Elves, and a series of good combats saw their army collapse. Sundiata's only losses were his horsemen.


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