Posts Tagged ‘War’

This is a write-up of the megagame 1866 & All that. Please see earlier parts for more information – Part One & Part Two.


Battle of the Burgs

After the enemy broke out of Dusseldorf, we used  decided to take a momentary respite and rest the army. Getting further reinforcements from Von Roon helped as well. Von Roon proved to be our only friend in the cabinet, for while Bismark held the ultimate strategy for the west, Von Roon was the only person with the vision to see that the Army of the Main needed to stay alive and supported in order to see it through.

But while we rested, the enemy was on the move – towards Cassel. We knew the garrison there wouldn’t last long, and being one of our national objectives we knew we had to take it back instantly, so onwards we marched again. Strangely, despite having their whole army there at one point, the Federal leaders decided not to stick around, instead going back to their early game tactics of ‘Cat and Mouse’. As our combined forces approached the fort, the enemy corps retreated down two separate railway lines to the towns of Rothenburg and Marburg to the south.

Wanting to bring matters to a head, I had earlier split off a couple of divisions to the south in order to head them off and try and trap them again. These divisions were waiting for the enemy army at the ‘Burgs’, but since they were unsupported I had them fall back to Essen and Fulda, while my main army arrived at the Fort.

It was at this moment that I decided to force a decisive battle – The Battle of the Burgs. Advancing my two blocking divisions, and then mobilising two further divisions from the fort, we pincered each enemy army at their respective town, with Marburg being the tougher fight as it had three corps there instead of two.

Rothenburg we won quite easily – Prussian divisions, while smaller, have better morale and stronger weapons, so all other things being equal (in the sense that it was two units vs two units), we beat them back easily, and they retreated east into Prussian territory.

Marburg would prove to be our finest hour – with three corps vs our two divisions, they were able to bring an entire third front to bare, which would deal extra damage to the unit I was leading (me and Carl long ago decided to split duties when fighting). We placed our units on the positions, and chose our cards. We had some good ones at this point – the problem with most tactical cards is that they’re one use, so you have to spend some time cultivating more… but by this point we’d managed to get a hold of some decent ones that we could keep using. Looking at what was arrayed before me, and sifting through the options I had left, I was struck with a moment of inspiration.

As our armies exchanged fire, as I suspected my division took the worst of it – six hits came my way, and I was only able to negate one of them through cards. My unit’s morale was 4, so it would have broken had I not played my trump card- a tactical ability that boosted my morale from 4 to 6 (and I ‘only’ took 5 damage. My division was bloodied, but it held firm. In the end, not a single unit broke, while we ended up breaking two of their three corps.

I learned later that it was the only time we’d managed to genuinely rattle the morale of the opposing team. They’d lost plenty of fights and forts, sure, but at the end of the day their army was still alive and at the time they believed that they could beat us – that fight changed everything, and their will was broken ( <- probably an exaggeration).

But it broke me too.

You see, I had dealt an almighty blow the enemy, bringing my entire army to bear (I’d left the Prussian allies at the fort to take it. Useful as they were, they didn’t really count) I achieved the best result I was ever likely to get… and yet their army was STILL in the field. They retreated, losing some cards and some points of health, but they were still there, and over the next couple of phases they would just run, such was their will to fight.

But mine was no better- like I mentioned above, our Army was doing everything it was supposed to, but nothing was happening. We were winning, but the war was still dragging on. Bavaria and Hannover were essentially occupied by Prussia, and yet they were still in the fight. The Battle of Burgs firmly established Prussian dominance in the field for all time, and yet I knew I’d never be able to truly beat them, and I foresaw my army marching up and down Western Germany chasing after a foe that wouldn’t fight, and wouldn’t quit. War without end, and with no feedback form the political team I made a decision.

I’d had enough.

Lunch on the Rhine          

It has been six weeks since the war began. After the Battle of the Burgs, our army had split up again – half holding the line at Fulda, to guard against the enemy formation at Karlstadt on the Main, while the other half pursued the second Federal force through the mountains and along the Rhein. Fearing another capture of Dusseldorf, we made sure to get there first, and at this point we were facing off against the federal forces across the Rhine from us in Bonn, while we were in Hagen.

It was at this point I proposed an Armistice.

It turns out that the Federals had been hung out to dry more than we had – no support from Austria, not even concern for their predicament as they were driven further and further south. I probably could have chased them south of the Main and into Bavaria, but I was tired. I was tired of fighting a war that nobody seemed to care about.

(In hindsight OOC, me and Carl both regret not pushing them back that one extra step, but once we’d made the agreement we couldn’t really break it – we’d have lost a lot of bro points.)

I had learned just prior to turn six starting that our forces had firmly held onto Vienna, and that people were gathering for peace talks. Lacking concrete orders I decided I wasn’t going to throw away the lives of my soldiers just for the sake of it.

“Nobody seems to care about this war we’re fighting,” I said to my counter-part as we had lunch on a bridge over the Rhine – middle ground and neutral territory.

“We’ve beaten you fair and square, and we’re happy with the lands we now own. Let’s draw a line across the map, and call it a day for a turn, let the politicians sort it out and give ourselves a rest.”

As part of the agreement, we also agreed to exchange Nuremburg for the one Prussian fortress I had yet to take back – Coblenz. It was taken at the start of the war and I hadn’t gotten down their yet to take it back. This seemed easier, and Bismark didn’t seem to care about Nuremburg any more despite being the one to tell us to take it in the first place.

It wasn’t the best negotiation ever- I probably could have asked for more but I got a bit carried away with the role-play of wanting to finish fighting, so it was what it was. Still, we had our national objectives, and while we didn’t finish on the Main, we had already been there, over it, and back again several times during the course of the war. We owned that river.

Aftermath

And just like that – our war was over. Just after the armistice was agreed, Von Moltke strode over and grandly declared that there was an Armistice in place (I hadn’t told him about our cease-fire. He didn’t seem to care so I didn’t care to inform him), to which we replied “We know”.

The next turn, the whole thing was over – Austria admitted defeat.

I learned that our forces pretty much dominated in the East, breaking through to Vienna and occupying it against repeated Austrian attempts to retake the capital. I learned that our Italian allies pretty much got hung out to dry in the end, storming out of the peace talks and dying by the droves in the final phase of the game. I learned that despite all evidence to the contrary, our war was in fact very important as it was essentially a land-grab, which no-one really thought to inform us about, but there you go.

A few other notes to make:

  • Our King, William (played by Katie) did actually come to visit us during the game, and was actually there to witness one of our victories (I can’t remember which one). She personally gave us honour for that victory, which was pretty cool. Since I can’t remember the ‘when’ I couldn’t really fit it into the narrative, so I apologise. Thanks for stopping by!
  • Again, Von Roon’s support was key to our ultimate victory. His timely use of a reinforcement card replenished our forces in the aftermath of Düsseldorf, allowing us to march to victory at the Battle of the Burgs.

Game Feedback

Overall, I really enjoyed 1866. I enjoy the high-level strategy that Operational Megagames bring, but since it was my first I didn’t do a lot of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. The only time I did I nearly annoyed Bernie, but talking to Tom, our local control, after the game gave me a few ideas I wished I’d thought up at the time. Generally it was a very well put together experience, and there were a lot of neat rules and mechanics that facilitated the themes involved.

A few things stood out for me as not really working that well, however. I’ve spoken to Bernie already about a couple of these and he disagrees with me, but here they are anyway:

  • Movement – I felt the movement rules, while historically quite thematic, as a game mechanic they were open to exploitation a little bit. Withdrawing from a fight essentially gives you a free extra movement if you weren’t looking for a fight, as you could ‘bounce’ off an enemy army you made contact with, then still use your normal movement if you hadn’t gone yet. I’m not saying armies should be forced to fight, but I would have liked a couple of things to be a bit more ‘absolute’.

E.g., if an Army uses its movement running away from a fight, it can’t move again unless you ‘Force March’ it, negating the ‘free’ move you got from running away.

For road limits as well – passing a long a yellow road limits the amount of divisions you can move down them, as they are poorer roads. However, when I defeated a three corps army, they were allowed to bypass that rule simply because they were running away. They had to discard their ‘baggage train’, which only really ended up being a couple of cards, so I find this ruling allowed for too much inconsistency.

Bernie’s argument was that armies ran away far more effectively than they marched towards an enemy, which is fair, but from a design point of view I’ve never really gotten on with loopholes.

  • Battles – For the most part I really enjoyed the battle system. The cards, the formation lay out. The only thing for me was that the ‘supporting formation’ system seemed pointless in the end. This is probably a by-product of our theatre – neither side had enough units to really fill out the sheet, apart from in one fight. I imagine they got more use out of it on the Bohemia map. Several useful cards though specifically refer to support formations, which I could never use because my enemy never used them because they would rather fill out the leading formations as they did more damage.

I think defining the strengths and weaknesses between leading and support a bit more as to understand their various uses might be something that could be improved on, and also changing some cards (River Crossing was the main one I was disappointed in) so that they account for more scenarios and still retain their usefulness. The River Crossing card might as well not been in my draw deck.

  • Feedback – this is less to do with the design of the game and simply a reflection on my personal experience. We had clear national objectives to follow on our briefing, and then additional targets passed down from on high. The problem was though, despite achieving all of these and more, nothing was happening. We were told to knock Hannover out of the war early, but apart from taking Stade I wasn’t really given any clear indication as to how to do that. Neil, our Von Bismark, advised us to take Nuremburg to take Bavaria out of the war, but we owned it for a month and nothing happened (To be fair, I learned just before we gave it back that the ‘will’ of Bavaria was about to break, but it wasn’t useful information by then).

This lack of feedback to our success is what strove me to ask for the Armistice. I was genuinely getting a bit bored – we’d beaten the enemy soundly, but I knew I lacked the men to truly ‘crush’ them, and perhaps take them out for good. I foresaw me just chasing them around the map until the game ended, and that’s when it kind of stopped being a fun prospect from a gameplay point of view. I used to it fuel a bit of role-play which kept me entertained until the game finished.

I’m not sure what could have been done to change how things happened, the only idea I had was when I overheard the Austrians not really wanting to give up, despite losing soundly on both maps. Perhaps a more strongly defined sense of ‘losing’ and ‘winning’, to mitigate the impact of genuinely stubborn players?

Other than that though, it was a lot of fun. Many thanks to Bernie for designing a great game and thanks to everyone on my team for such a great time!

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Today I’m going to talk to you about Grand-Strategy games. I like Grand-Strategy games. Typically they can be lighter on things like graphics and visuals, but they possess so much depth and potential options that it provides a nice counter-balance. Plus as someone with an active imagination, I also get a kick out of visualising events in my head anyway. One of the leaders in grand-strategy is a company called Paradox Interactive, and they’ve got several key franchises, each focusing on a different theme. Hearts of Iron for warfare, Victoria for Economy, Crusader Kings focuses on the human aspect of ruling a kingdom and politics, and Europa Universalis is blend of everything.

I went to see them in Iceland recently, and they’ve got a lot of great titles in their line-up for these games – expansions for Victoria 2 and Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, March of the Eagles, a Hearts of Iron spin-off called East vs. West (Which looks amazing). You’ll be able to see my coverage of these games dotted around the place, mainly on Strategy Informer, but it’s caused me to have a bit of a relapse into some of the older games – especially Victoria 2.

Victoria 2 is in itself a bit of a paradox – essentially it’s a game that focuses on the industrial revolution, so the economy system is very robust. You have a detailed population interface, with everyone having different jobs and you have to make sure you provide for all their needs. You can open different types of factories, which all require different types of resources that you can either find from within your nation or export from elsewhere. This is backed up by a very hands-on political system, where you have different parties and philosophies that your people with vote on (some political parties, for example, won’t let you build your own factories, letting the private investors do it for you). There’s also the diplomatic stage, where you compete with other great powers to draw minor nations into your sphere of influence, which gives you priority over trade. Essentially, they didn’t want this game to be a wargame, like the previous title they release – Hearts of Iron III.

The funny thing is though, as the name suggest, the game is set within the backdrop of the late 19th century colonial era. The scramble for Africa is accurately represented through a colonisation interface, there are the eastern nations you can interact with, and there were a lot of wars during this period. The 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian-Austrian War, the Zulu war in South Africa… the game’s time span stretches all the way to 1935, so you’ve got the First World War in there as well. None of these events are prescribed in the game – there are tools and systems in place for such events to happen. It’s strange then that they’d focus the game so much on economy, during a time where there was a fair share of fighting. And it’s not like you can sit back and avoid the fighting either. In order to be a great power, you need to have high prestige, a good industry, and a large army, and an easy way to get prestige is to fight wars. The military side of things though is rather tame – you can build three different types of units – Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, and there are several variations you can get as you climb up the tech tree. (Tanks and Aeroplanes do appear very late in the game as well, although they don’t fit quite as neatly.)

Armies can be controlled by generals, and there are plenty of military techs you can research to make your military more efficient, but when it comes down to it a war is all about making sure your army stack is bigger than the other guys… like how Civilization used to be. At the time, it was a bit of a let down from the wonderful deep combat systems of Hearts of Iron III, and now, playing through it again, I can’t help but think it’d benefit loads from the developments made in March of the Eagles.

What I so like about Victoria 2 though is the long-term goals you can achieve. Crusader Kings II is good for this as well, in a way, as you can form De Jure Kingdoms and Empires eventually if you conquer/vassalise the right people. Victoria 2 has similar system in place for certain countries. Choose any of the Italian states, for example, and provided you can reach Great Power status you can work on bringing the rest into your sphere of influence (or just out-right conquer them), and then form the nation of Italy. Play as either Austria or Prussia (or any of the other German states, I think, although it’s much harder with them), and you can initially form the South or North German Confederation respectively, and then go on to create the German Empire. Austria also has the option to become Austria-Hungary, as it did in history. There are other ones as well for other key nations, some interesting, some not… Denmark or Sweden, for example can form an a-historical ‘Scandinavian’ nation, which I did once, although since the expansion it’s harder as you essentially have to fight Prussia for a particular territory, and you have to work really hard or get some powerful friends to become stronger than Sweden.

In my current play-through, I played as Prussia, with the eventual aim of forming Germany (going through a bit of a Germanic phase right now). The first step – forming the North German Confederation – is the easy part (relatively). You start with most of the key states under your sphere of influence; you only need to fight Austria (and maybe Denmark) for the rest. Provided you get your act together quickly enough, you can attack Austria before they have any chance of forming any decent alliances, and boom, North German Confederation. The hard part was forming Germany though, as the last few key provinces I needed were held by France, who is typically stronger than you, and in my game by the time I got around to looking their way, they had several key alliances which meant I would be fighting a war on multiple fronts. To my shame, I played a game where every so often, I’d start the war to see who joined which side (we shared several allies), and even play it out a bit to see how easy it would be… it didn’t work I, I reloaded to a save I made just before I declared war. Took a couple of goes and some more diplomatic shenanigans before I found a scenario that was favourable.

The ‘Great War’ of 1900-1905 (eventually, wars that contain multiple great powers are called ‘Great Wars’ in the game, to simulate the First World War)  was North German Confederation and my lackeys, Italy, Great Britain and perhaps a couple of others, versus France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Russia. It was the best chance I was going to get, and experience through fighting out the previous attempts gave me ideas to keep the Russians pinned on that front, allowing me to fully concentrate on the French. Essentially, the war boiled down to a massive dog-pile in Strasbourg, with two huge stacks going toe-to-toe for the whole war. Italy proved quite effective in fighting France in the south, while Great Britain kept the French navy at bay and also went for their overseas territories. I used what few stacks weren’t tied up to take out Belgium – which was harder than it should of been –  and support my allies whilst making a play for Paris. Eventually, the French army just broke, and it was only after I’d occupied all of their territories that they finally gave in. Three Cheers for Germany!

It was kind of interesting to watch the balance of power change after that – every nation on the losing side of a Great War has to ‘capitulate’, so they get rid of half their army, and other reparations as well. It removed France and Russia from the Great Power list completely, and at the time of wiring France is in the sphere of influence of The Netherlands, of all places. Russia is in the pocket of Austria, who I’ve just gone to war with as they’ve been sitting pretty gathering strength for too long. So far, the ‘Second Great War’ is going well for me.

All Hail the Fatherland.

I’m rather chuffed with myself I have to say -I completed Darksiders over the weekend! Yay me!I think this is actually the first game in a long while that I’ve just sat down with the aim to complete a game, outside of the fact that I had it for review or whatever. I’m not much of completionist as you may have picked up on by now.

Story driven games like Darksiders pull me through the most, but then I’m liable to get bored if the game mechanics are too boring or grindy, which was in danger of happening here but the key difference I think is that I had a purpose. You may remember I was in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago seeing the sequel, and in preparation for that I actually read up on the first game. Kind of spoiled the ending for myself, but it actually sounded like a decent, iconic moment for a videogame, and so as soon as I got back I bought it from ShopTo.net (GAME were out of stock), and the sometime last week I think I started playing it – doing a couple of hours every night before marathoning it during the Easter Weekend to finish it off.

It’s weird – knowing the ending beforehand gave me an end goal, a reason to put up with the oddities, the repetitions, and the rushed plot devices that littered the game, and when I got to that scene I wanted to see (which I probably could have easily looked up on YouTube), I had a real sense of achievement. More so perhaps than if I didn’t know what was coming. It was definitely worth it, and I don’t mean to make Darksiders sounds rubbish, because it really isn’t. Other people I talked to said the first hour or so was really boring, and I could kind of see that but again I knew what the game was about, and I knew where I was headed so it was easier to bear – perhaps foreknowledge really isn’t such a bad thing after all.

It’s a shame really that the second game isn’t going to continue on from that ending – it’s very much a “Can’t wait to see what happens next” moment, but given that the first game was a tentative first step into a new IP, the second is going to expand on the universe and the lore more, and then probably bring it all together for the third game where they’ll continue on from there. Assuming THQ survives long enough to help Vigil get a third game.

It’s like I said in my preview though – parallel stories are a dangerous thing, and I hope it doesn’t prove to be too tenuous a link to the original game – but it does have to account for the time of the other three horseman whilst War was incarcerated for 100 years at the beginning of the game. One of the game’s leads mentioned to me in an interview that they’d gone into the first game very much with a sequel in mind, and you can see that with the amount of loose ends they leave.

I doubt I’ll pre-order it though – too much potential to disappoint right now for me to commit financially for it, plus I’d like to get it for review if possible, but being freelance now there are even less guarantees.

Hope you all enjoyed your Easter.