Memoir ’44 – 03 – Sword Beach

Winner: David

Full Scenario

History:

The set up!
The set up!

Morning. June 6th. 1944. The 8th Brigade Group of the 3rd British Division, supported by Commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade and the Sherman tanks of the 13th and 18th Hussars make up the first wave of Allied forces to land on “Sword” beach, near the mouth of the Orne River.

The objective of the day was for the Allied forces to retake the city of Caen, and although the French troops captured the Casino at River Bella, the Allies failed in this objective. The sea was difficult that day, the tanks were supposed to land first and engage the enemy before the infantry landed, however, tanks and infantry ended up landing together. This coupled with the German resistance meant that the inland advance was seriously delayed. The failure to retake Caen was one of the biggest set-backs of D-Day and the consequences were still felt well into July of that year.

Strategy and Tactics:

Axis:

You have a defensive advantage in this scenario. Not only are the Allied forces advancing from the sea, which initially gives them a terrain disadvantage, but some of your forces are also already holed up in bunkers. Bunkers are useful as they give a -2 to tanks and a -1 to infantry when being attacked. You also possess the only artillery unit in this scenario. This is, if you manage to prevent its destruction, probably your most useful unit, as it has the longest attack range.

Despite these advantages you also have fewer troops than your opponent, and your only tank unit starts in a useless position, from which you have to order it twice to get it within attacking range of the Allied forces. You also have one less command card, and move second.

Okay, so that aside, tactically we found that arranging your troops towards the back of the board and then waiting for the Allied forces to come to you was a fairly sound way of playing the scenario. Though it’s definitely worth dragging your tank unit out of the corner early on. I would also generally say that it’s worth keeping the units that are already in the bunkers in them, unless for some dire reason you have to retreat or lose that unit.

Because wood hexes provide a -1 for attacking a unit in the woods it’s also worth trying to position your in Lion Sur Mer in the most forward of the two woods hexes next to it, this moves you closer to the fighting action whilst giving the unit a decent terrain advantage and enabling it to be close enough to try and prevent Allied forces taking the town and claiming the medal there, that contributes to their victory points.

Other than that, I would say, try not to let yourself get surrounded by the Allies, because they’ve got a lot more firepower than you, and also, if possible, knock out their tank units first, as these move further and have a fighting advantage over infantry units as well as needing less hits to destroy a unit.

Allied:

Although you start in the sea, you have an advantage in number units and number of command cards, as well as being the side that starts the scenario. Not only do you have three tank units to the one that your opponent possesses you also have three special forces units available to you, these are able to move up to two hexes and still battle, where regular infantry can either move one and battle, or two and do nothing.

Your first task is to get your units out of the sea, this is slow going because of the terrain restrictions that the sea imposes, but we found that it was tempting just to move either one block of your units out, maybe just from, say, the left flank, or to maybe move one unit from each section of the board, depending on your command cards. This is however, not a good idea. If you move one unit from each section too far from its comrades you make it an easy target, remember that you’re at a disadvantage with the bunkers, not to mention the hedgehogs and barbed wire that’s between you and the Axis forces.  And if you only move one block and ignore the others you also make those units targets because if they’re in the sea and they get attacked a retreat roll on the battle dice counts as a hit because you cannot retreat and so must sacrifice one member of your unit for every retreat rolled.

If you start out with any command cards that enable you to annihilate your opponents artillery unit this is a big score early in the game, it levels the playing field a lot. Not only does it have only two pieces to a unit, making it the easiest to destroy in terms of dice rolls needed, but it also makes it much harder for the Axis player to just sit and wait for you, as they can no longer pick off your units from such a distance.

Surrounding bunkers is a good way of destroying a unit completely, if you attack a bunker with three units instead of just one, you’re less effected by the defensive advantage they give to the Axis player.

Lastly, don’t forget about the medals in the three towns at the back of the board. Each one of these counts for one of the five victory points you need to win the scenario if you capture, and hold, the town. They’re worth going after because they mean you need to physically destroy less enemy units.

To Conclude:

I really enjoyed this scenario from both sides. As you can see from the running score we’re keeping – I lost. But it was fairly close both ways round. It was more a lack of useful command cards than any tactical errors made. This scenario is also great because you get artillery and special forces units in play, as well as bunkers, hedgehogs and barbed wire, which adjust the way you have to think about moving around the board. This is great because by this point you’re familiar with the infantry and tank units, and then the game gives you something new to play with. It also starts to pick up the pace of play. Dave mentioned in his last post that he thought it felt a little slow, I agree with him, but I think that this scenario really cranks the game up a bit, making it much more interesting.

Running Score:

David: 8

Miriam: 4

 

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Memoir ’44 – 01 – Pegasus Bridge

3 - 5

Winner: Draw

Full Scenario

History:

Set on the night of June 5th, 1944  this scenario recreates the brief battle for Pegasus Bridge. Or Bénouville Bridge, as it was known at the time, in Normandy, France. Major John Howard led the men of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the first airborne assault of D-Day, his objective being to capture both Pegasus Bridge and Orne Bridge. At a few minutes past midnight the Horsa Gliders land in a patch of field only yards away from their objective. The men stream out of the gliders totally surprising the German forces, there’s a brief and furious fight involving a machine gun in a sandbag nest right by the Pegasus Bridge. The British forces secure the Bridge, and the Orne equally as quickly, losing only two men in the process.

Full set up

The bulk of British troops here start behind the impassable pond, meaning that they must be maneuvered around it to get involved in the battle. The Allied player has the natural advantage in this scenario; they have more men to begin with, receive more Command Cards, and play first.

Strategy and Tactics:

The Allied player here has the upper hand, but if they play badly that’s going to be completely irrelevant. In this game a certain amount of your success as a player is determined by which Command Cards you draw, as on some occasions you may need to give orders to a section of the board that you don’t have the Command Card for, and so can’t. How quickly and efficiently you kill enemy units is also determined by the roll of the battle dice. So some amount is down to luck and chance. But aside from that we’ve found so far that once you’ve found a decent defensive position (for example in a patch of trees) it’s ideal to stay there for as long as possible, all the while you can fire on your enemy from there you should stay as the woods reduce the chances that you’re going to lose men when the enemy fires on you.

In  this scenario the German forces have barbed wire and sandbags. These are inconvenient, for an Infantry unit to be able to remove them they have to move into the space that the barbed wire is in, and then remove it instead of battling. So it can be completely suicidal to remove them as you end up adjacent to you enemies units and unable to attack them. Leaving you as a clear target. It’s also important to remember that the rive does not effect line of sight. You can fire on an enemy unit across a river provided that they are within range and no other terrain restrictions that would prevent you attacking them apply.

I found, when playing as the Allied forces, that trying to take the patch of wood on the right flank of the board, by the Orne Bridge, was a strong position to be in. That bridge is under defended and so the woods is a good position from which to either attack the lone German unit at the top of the board there, or to swoosh down and take the bridge from the other German unit. The blue medals on the two bridges count as victory points if the bridges are held by British forces. Meaning that that player has to destroy less of the Axis units to win the scenario.

For Axis forces it’s tactically ideal to get you lonely unit in the top of the right flank down into the patch of woodland before anyone else can, this is a good defensive position to be in, to prevent anyone trying to take the Orne Bridge. Your second unit there could then be on the bridge, between them they’ll put up a good fight against any optimistic British forces.

When we played this scenario we left the Axis units mostly where they were in the center and on the left flank, only really moving the one in the top left corner to bring it closer to the action. On reflection it would probably have been a good idea to shift the unit in the town right next to Pegasus Bridge further down the river to attack the British, because we didn’t actually use it that much.

To Conclude:

This is the starter scenario, so it’s been simplified from the original battle. The Germans has a machine gun in their sandbag nest by Pegasus Bridge that’s been replaced with regular Infantry in this one. But as starters go it’s very good, it’s an easy board to navigate, and the use of only one type of unit allows you to completely get to grips with how they move and battle. It would’ve rated higher, but that it’s been deliberately simplified for learning purposes, so the scenario doesn’t have as much going for it as some of the later, more complex ones do. It’s well designed as an introduction though, and sets you up in good stead for future scenarios.

Running Score:

David: 2

Miriam: 2

Memoir ’44

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

4 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 2004

Creator(s): Richard Borg (designer), Cyrille DaujeanJulien DelvalDon Perrin and Claude Rica (artists)

Right. Well. I think we played that wrong….

We should really include that in all the titles/opening paragraphs for this blog, since I can’t immediately think of any game that we haven’t played wrong at least once. Memoir ’44as has been stated at least once now, is a fantastic game. I don’t think we’re likely to ever get bored of it. Based on real scenarios from the Second World War it’s not only interesting for its historical accuracy, but also as a strategic game.

What’s In The Box:

IMAG2834
The Stuff

 

Countryside side of the board
Countryside side of the board
The board beach side
Beach side
The Rules
The Rules
  1. 14 Special Forces Badges
  2. 3 Blue and 3 Green Command Card Holders
  3. 44 Double-Sided Terrain Hex Pieces
  4. 60 Command Cards
  5. 1 Double-Sided Obstacle Summary Card and 1 Double-Sided Unit Summary Card
  6. 7 Terrain Cards
  7. 8 Battle Dice
  8. 2 Sets of Army Miniatures; Green = Allied Forces, Blue-Grey = German/Axis Forces
  9. 4 Double-Sided Bunker and Bridge Tiles
  10. 10 Double-Sided Victory Medals
  11. 1 Double-Sided Battlefield Board Map
  12. 1 Rules and Scenario Booklet

Playing The Game:

Objective: To fulfill the scenario’s victory conditions before your opponent and score more points after you’ve switched sides.

When you read the rules for this game you’ll see that the first scenario it recommends you play uses only the Infantry Units available to each side. This is very good, as the game builds you up to a thorough understanding of each of the different types of unit available to you in different scenarios by introducing them one at a time into gameplay.

You start by setting up the board, as directed in the instructions for the scenario you’re playing. You change the look and layout of the board by using the terrain hexes to put in woods, hills, villages, rivers etc.

The starting set up of the first scenario in the rulebook
The starting set up of the first scenario in the rule book

Once you’ve set the board up for the scenario you then decide who’s playing as who. In the rule book the scenario instructions will tell you which side plays first, and how many Command Cards each player is dealt to begin with.  Players then take turns. There will be a preset condition for victory in each scenario.

The Command Cards contain an array of  things a player can do on their turn, standard orders or special commands. These mostly look like this:

an example of the Command Cards most commonly in play
an example of the Command Cards most commonly in play

The special command cards look like this, but are all different:

A special command card
A special command card

Winning The Game:

There is no time limit to the scenarios, players continue taking turns until someone manages to destroy enough enemy units to fulfill the victory conditions for the scenario. Then the board is reset and players switch sides. A note is kept of the score from the first round, for example, if the victory condition was that someone needed to have completely destroyed 4 of their enemy units and the other player had destroyed 2 when this happened you would then make a note, and at the end of the following round the victorious players score would have to be the highest total number of units destroyed.

Strategy:

We realized fairly early into the playing stages of this that the scenarios are usually relatively heavily weighted towards one player, they may have an advantage in the number of Command Cards they have, or in having bunkers or sandbags. But despite this, if you play reasonably tactically, all the scenarios we’ve played so far could go either way.

We started out just playing the most obviously useful card we had in our hand at the start of each turn, and seeing where it got us. Because the destruction of a unit is determined by a combination of the card you played, the position of your units, the terrain around you and the rolling of battle dice it can be unreasonably hard, on occasion, to annihilate a unit that should have been wiped out the first time you attack it. This is both true to the slightly unpredictable nature of a battle, and completely inaccurate as an Armour unit fighting Infantry at what is more or less to be considered point-blank range should not somehow manage to miss all of them. But that aside, it is possible, tactically, surround and destroy units, using terrain disadvantages to your advantage.

There is a lot to be said about strategy on this game, but we’ve decided that in the interest of keeping you interested, we’ll go into much more detail on tactics and strategy, as well as historical overview and other exciting things like that as we write about each scenario individually.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The game was designed to commemorate the men and women of WW2 and the sacrifices they made.
  2. It was published in collaboration with the Mission for the 60th Anniversary of the D-day Landings and Liberation of France.
  3. In 2004 it was awarded the International Gamers Award for the General Strategy: 2-Player category.
  4. There are eleven expansions for this game, all of them require the original to play.
  5. The game can be played with up to six people, playing in teams of three, each commanding a different section of the board.

There is more to write, but we want to look at the history of each scenario in greater detail over the course of the month, as we’re doing with our Strategy section of each post.

To Conclude:

As is evident, we love this game. We hope that over the course of the month these posts will show us gaining a better understanding of the game, and knowledge of the historical associations of each scenario. As well as actually letting us play a game more than once, which will make a nice change to our usual style of review. If you can get a copy of this game and a friend or two who might be interested, do it. Otherwise, stay tuned for our upcoming post of the first scenario of the game Pegasus Bridge!

Update – We’re both back!

So as you’re all aware from Dave’s updates, I’ve been out and about in Europe for the last month or so with a friend. But I’m back now and we’re ready to get the blog back on schedule(ish) for the rest of the summer!

However, whilst on our travels, Rosie and I have come across, and played, many a game. Some that we’ve already reviewed, like Cripple Mr Onion. But other (more interesting games) that we found in hostels we stayed in, such as Pandemic! (Turns out we’re terrible at this game, we’re just too good at destroying all of humanity…) So below are a few photos of the game related things that we did:

This was waiting for us (by my bed) in the hostel in Stockholm, the first city we visited, because we’re both terrible at maths, we didn’t play it.

 

For some reason, it won't let me turn it the right way up...
For some reason, it won’t let me turn it the right way up…

In between Mathable and the next photo we also managed to play English Scrabble with a German Scrabble set. Needless to say scoring was interesting. Unfortunately, we forgot to take photos. 😦

Switzerland appears to have been the best country for board games in the hostels, most of the other places had chess, Copenhagen did have a few other interesting-looking games, but they were mostly in Danish, which neither of us could speak or read.

We found this in the hostel in Zurich:

PANDEMIC! It's a race to save humanity
PANDEMIC! It’s a race to save humanity

We freaked out a few people sharing the common area with us for the five hours that we spent playing this. Apparently we were taking saving the world from four deadly diseases far too seriously…

Also in Zurich I wanted to get this for Dave:

Because it's just beautiful, as chess sets go
Because it’s just beautiful, as chess sets go

But it was a little out of my price range. He got a bar of Toblerone instead.

From Zurich we headed to Bern, and in Bern we found (but didn’t get a photo of) a giant Nine Men’s Morris set, an outdoor one, like the chess sets they have in schools and parks. It was awesome. But we also managed to play Mastermind in Bern, albeit, with a set that was missing a few pieces…

Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind
Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind

Once again, we apologize for the slightly hiatus in posts, but we’re hoping to be back on track, spamming you all with geeky board game reviews within the next few days!

The Settlers of Catan

5 - 5

Number of Players: 3-4

Year of Publication: 1995

Creator(s): Volkan Baga, Tanja Donner, Pete Fenlon, Jason Hawkins (Artists) and Klaus Teuber (Designer)

Create the Best Civilisation and become King of Catan!

Okay, you don’t actually win the title “King of Catan” if you win the game, but it’d be cool if you did. Instead, you just win the sheer joy of winning, which is almost as good. Settlers of Catan is a brilliant game, primarily for its simplicity and versatility. Because of the way the board gets set up, no two games are ever going to be the same and it’s got so few rules that anyone can learn to play!

What’s In The Box:

The stuff!
The stuff!
  1. 19 Terrain Hexes and 6 Sea Frame pieces – set up in one possible arrangement for play.
  2. 9 Harbour Pieces
  3. 18 Circular Number Tokens (chits)
  4. 95 Resource Cards (19 each of Stone, Sheep, Clay, Wood and Grain)
  5. 25 Development Cards
  6. 4 “Building Costs” Cards
  7. 2 Special Cards
  8. 16 Cities (4 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  9. 25 Settlements (5 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  10. 60 Roads (15 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  11. 2 Dice (one Yellow, one Red)
  12. 1 Robber
  13. 1 Game Rules and Almanac Book

Playing The Game:

Objective: To develop your civilization fastest in order to gain 10 Victory Points and win the game!

Setting up the Board:

To start the game you set up the board so it looks more or less like the photo below. You give a few of the Terrain Hexes to each player. They’re then laid out in that honeycomb kind of pattern, and edged with the Sea Frame pieces. There’s no set layout for the beginning of the game, so the hexes you get given can be placed anywhere. Once the board is set up each player chooses a colour and takes all the Cities, Settlements and Roads for that colour. They also take the Building Costs card of that colour. Then the Circular Number Tokens are placed on the board. These tokens all have both a number and a letter on them, numbering from 2-12, missing only 7, and having the respective letters A-R. One player then chooses a starting tile, and places the Token with A on it. The other tokens are then laid out in alphabetical order moving clockwise around the board. One of the Terrain Hexes is the desert, this is the only Hex which doesn’t have a token placed on it.

Starting set up for the game.
Starting set up for the game.

Once that’s been done, the grey Robber figure is placed on the desert Hex, and each player can then place two of their Settlements, and two Roads on the board. Settlements (and later Cities) are always placed on the corners of the Hexes, so your Settlement will be on the point on a Hex where two or three Hexes meet. Roads must be placed on the edges of Hexes and connected to a Settlement or City of their colour. To start, your Settlements can be placed anywhere on the board, but following this they must always be connected to a previously existing Settlement by a road. To start each player collects one Resource card for the tiles they have Settlements on, for example, at the start of the game above, White would receive two Stone cards, one Clay, one Wood and one Crops.

Turns:

A players turn is divided up into the following phases:

  1. Rolling the dice, moving the Robber and collecting Resources
  2. Trading Resources with other players or the bank
  3. Building Roads or Settlements, upgrading to Cities and buying Development Cards

Rolling the dice always happens first, and the number rolled reflects which Resources will be produced on that turn. There are two Number Tokens for each number that can be rolled, apart from 12, once the dice are rolled, find these, and anyone with a Settlement on the corner of the corresponding piece receives one Resource card for that tile. On a roll of 7 no Resources are produced, and the Robber’s moved. The player that rolled the dice can now put the Robber wherever they like. If placed on a tile, the Robber prevents any Resources being produced for this tile until someone else rolls a 7 and moves him, so he can be a huge inconvenience to your opponents.

Like this:

Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources
Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources

Next you can trade Resources. This is done verbally and with the exchange of cards. One player simply states which Resources they need, and what they’re prepared to offer for them, and other players may accept or decline. Or haggle, if they feel so inclined. if a player has a lot of one Resource they can trade five of one Resource in to the bank, in exchange for one different Resource of their choice. If a player rolls a 7 all players must also count how many cards are in their hand, if they’ve got more than 7 Resource cards in their hand they must discard half of them, in the case of an odd number, for example, 9, you round down, so you would only discard 4, not 5.

It’s also possible to use the Sea Ports to trade resources, but you have to have a Settlement or City built on one of the three points adjacent to a port to use it.

Finally you can build things, your Building Costs card tells you how much each thing will cost you in Resources, and you discard Resources into the Resource bank to build on the board or buy Development Cards. Settlements or Cities must be connected by at least two roads, so they cannot be on the points next to each other, meaning that only three Settlements can ever be on one Hex. You must also have a connecting road before you can build a Settlement.

Play continues like this until one player has gained 10 Victory Points!

Winning the Game!

Winning the game actually isn’t very difficult, each Settlement you build is worth 1 Victory point and each City is worth 2. So you start the game with 2 Victory points, for your two Settlements placed before game play starts. You can also gain an extra 2 Victory points for having the longest unbroken road, this is one of the Special Cards, and is awarded once a player has a road at least five segments long. However, this card can get passed around a bit, as other players build longer roads. In the game we played, I had the longest road:

I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long
I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long

So I got the extra Victory points on the Special Card:

Longest road!
Longest road!

So, the end of our game looked like this:

I win!
I win!

So, ignoring the tea, ice cream and small rubber duck, this is what the game looked like at the end, I had acquired here, Longest Road, Largest Army (which is the other Special Card, Knights can be acquired by buying Development Cards and you get Largest Army once you’ve got three) and then also some Cities and Settlements.

Strategy!

This game can be played strategically, at the start of the game, when the board is being arranged, look for areas where a lot of one resource are concentrated, if you build both your starting Settlements on these and then quickly expand your Roads you can create a monopoly on one resource, forcing other players to trade with you for whatever you demand. Alternatively, try and build you Settlements so that you get as many different resources as possible. Both these are acceptable ways to start the game. One thing I would say to not do is this: unless you’re going for monopoly on something DO NOT BUILD YOU SETTLEMENTS CLOSE TOGETHER TO START. Doing this is going to severely inconvenience you later in the game. It makes getting Longest Road, or heading out to resources on the other side of the board much harder. Also, don’t be too harsh with trading, if you have something another player desperately needs, don’t ask too much for it, as they might get annoyed, and refuse to trade something you really need later in the game. It’s all a question of balance, getting as much as possible out of the trade without being unreasonable.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. One of the first European games to achieve real popularity outside of Europe – it’d sold over 15 million copies by 2009.
  2. There are over 50 Scenarios and Variants now available for this series of games.
  3. There are only four base expansions to this game, which are: Catan: Seafarers, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians and Catan: Explorers & Pirates.
  4. Die Siedler von Catan is a novel, set on the island of Catan, written by Rebecca Gablé following the popularity of the initial release of the game.
  5. Settlers has been created and recreated online over the years – it used to be playable over MSN, for everyone out there who remembers when MSN was the going thing!
  6. A series of mini stuffed animals based on the resources produced in the game was released by Mayfair, call Catanimals.
  7. A version of the game to be played on Nintendo DS was announced in 2008, but has yet to be released.

To Conclude:

This game has a rating of 5 because of how versatile it is, and how easy it is to play, the rules have little to no ambiguity in them, the storage space in the box is well laid out and therefore not annoying, and it’s a really, really fun game to play, which takes between an hour and an hour and 40 minutes, more or less. Which I think is an almost perfect running time for a game, long enough to be interesting, without becoming boring! It’s a brilliant family game too, as the simplicity of the rules allows for younger players!

Conquest of the Empire – Classic Rules

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 6

Year of Publication: 2005

Creator: Glenn DroverLarry Harris, Jr.Martin Wallace (Designers) and Paul Niemeyer (Artists)

Julius Caesar, The Roman Geezer, Squashed his Wife with a Lemon Squeezer:

So as far I can figure Conquest of the Empire is just a table top version of Rome: Total War and being a huge fan of that game I’m also a huge fan of this game. In many respects it’s cooler; because you’re playing real people you actually feel some sense of victory when you crush them! But on the other hand, it’s obviously far more limited than Rome: Total War. To illustrate my point this is a picture of the Rome: Total War map:

Lovingly borrowed from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Rome_total_war_map.jpg
Lovingly borrowed from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Rome_total_war_map.jpg

And this is a picture of the Conquest of the Empire board:

IMG_0515
Can you see the similarities?

Now, there are two sets of rules to this game, as I explain in the History and Interesting Facts part of the post but this post is only covering the Classic rules, as we haven’t had the time to play the other rules. Hopefully there will be another post covering the other set of rules before the month is over, so keep an eye out for that.

What’s In The Box:

IMG_0505

IMG_0509

  1. 1  Game board (see picture in introduction of it laid out)
  2. Province tokens
  3. Some of the Chaos tokens (the ‘X’s at the bottom of the other sheet are also Chaos tokens)
  4. Influence/control tokens for each colour (except the bottom row)
  5. 2 Instructions Booklets:
    1. 1 for the Classic rules
    2. 1 for the new Conquest of the Empire 2 rules
  6. Black game pieces consisting of:
    1. 1 Caesar
    2. 4 Generals
    3. 20 Infantry
    4. 10 Cavalry
    5. 6 Catapults
    6. 8 Galleys
  7. Yellow game pieces, the same as black
  8. Blue game pieces, the same as black
  9. Purple game pieces, the same as black
  10. 25 five-talent coins (Silver) 50 ten-talent coins (Gold)
  11. Red game pieces, the same as black
  12. Green game pieces, the same as black
  13. 8 Dice (for some reason ours has 12 but it did come from a charity shop)
  14. 16 Fortifications
  15. 16 Cities
  16. 1 deck of cards
  17. Cards
  18. 20 Roads

Playing The Game:

Objective: To capture the other player(s) Caesar

The aim of the game is ultimately just to capture the other player(s) Caesar, which can lead to a fairly short game if you get lucky and the other person is careless; or if the other person is careful it can be a long complex game of strategy and well thought-out battling.

The board right at the beginning.
The board right at the beginning.

You start in one of the six starting provinces, these are shown on the board and the instruction book denotes which are available relative to how many players there are. The tribute scale at the bottom of the board is used to mark your income per-turn and increases if you capture provinces and decreases if you lose them depending on the worth of the province (marked on the board). you start on 15, as you home province is worth 10 but it also has a city in it which adds an additional 5.

The tokens for each player show the amount of money they get each turn.
The tokens for each player show the amount of money they get each turn.

Each turn is broken up into 6 sections:

  1. Movement
  2. Combat
  3. Collect Tribute
  4. Destroy Cities
  5. Purchase New Pieces
  6. Place New Pieces

So first up is movement, normal pieces can only move when attached to a General/Caesar. When they’re attached they form a legion; a legion may be up to 5 pieces (of any type) and then the General/Caesar to make a legion of six pieces overall. Without roads normal pieces may only move one space (being from one province to another) in a turn, however General/Caesar may move two, so they may move with a legion and then one further turn on their own. However they cannot fight by themselves – but are useful for conquering unoccupied provinces. The exception to this is roads; once on a road a player may move as far along that road as he/she likes. Galleys are the only units that can move without a General/Caesar, they can move up to two sea provinces even with no units in them.

The first move of the game.
The first move of the game.

The second part of a players turn is combat. Combat occurs when you move your pieces into a province occupied by an enemy and once you have finished all of your moving.

Just before combat.
Just before combat.

Combat is somewhat similar to Battle Cry! (as reviewed here) in that it uses dice with symbols that show which piece have to be removed. You role as many dice as there are piece in your legion (up to 6) and the defender does the same. the relevant pieces are then removed according to the symbols on the dice, and either you fight again or one player retreats. Generals/Caesar are the last pieces to be removed from any legion and can only be captured when the rest of the legion has been destroyed. Captured Generals are kept by the winner and can be bartered with later in the move, if Caesar is captured the person who loses their Caesar has lost the game and is out.

A captured Cesar.
A captured Caesar.

The next phase of a move is to collect tribute, that’s as simple as it sounds, you look at the tribute scale at the bottom of the board and collect the amount of tribute you are due.

A pile of gold!
A pile of gold!

The next phase is to destroy cites, you can do this in provinces you own if they are about to be captured to stop the other player gaining any benefits from them. This phase doesn’t have to be done as you may not be in a situation where its required.

The next phase is to buy pieces. You use your tribute to to buy pieces to build a bigger army. Pieces initially cost:

  1. Infantry – 10
  2. Cavalry – 20
  3. Galleys – 20
  4. Catapult – 30
  5. Fortified City – 50
  6. City – 30
  7. Fortification – 20
  8. Road – 10

However when inflation is trigger the first time (marked by the change in the tribute scale at the bottom of the board) cost doubles, when its triggered again (by the second change in the scale) the cost triples from the original prices.

A newly bought army.
A newly bought army.

The very last phase of a players move is to places his newly brought pieces. All new combat units must be placed in the home province of the player buying them, ships are placed on the coast of that province, or on the closest coast if you are landlocked. Cities are placed in the relevant province that you want a city in, only one city per-province and only one fortification per-city. Roads can only be built between two cities in adjacent provinces but multiple road sections between multiple cities can be used to make one long road.

Roads!
Roads!

This process is then repeated until there is only one players Caesar remaining.

Strategy:

Now, like most games on this blog I don’t claim to be a master ,but here are a few things I picked up that are important:

  1. DON’T FOR GET ABOUT YOUR CAESAR! That’s how I won the game we played, he was left in a province by himself. Always know where he is and always have him protected away from the action (unless you have no choice but t0 have him in the action.)
  2. MONEY IS POWER!  Conquering provinces is important to generate more tribute so you can buy more units so you can have more power.
  3. DON’T FORGET ABOUT SHIPS! Ships look like they can be a very useful tool to attack your enemy where he/she is not expecting.
  4. DON’T FORGET YOU CAN DESTROY YOUR OWN CITIES! Also destroying a city will destroy a road that runs between it and another city as roads can only exist between two cities. This could help slow a fast enemy advance.
  5. BRUTE FORCE IS KING! Due to the luck/probability of the dice actually being 100% tactical is difficult, so just out manning the other player in all conflicts is advised.

History and Interesting Things:

      1. While I have stated the publication date of the game as 2005, and hyper linked the 2005 game on BoardGameGeek, the original version of the game was released in 1984 by Milton Bradley and it’s sole designer was Larry Harris, Jr.
      2. However the original version of the game’s catapult rules were considered to be “broken” so the 2005 version of the game was issued with two sets of rules, one that was similar to the original rules but with fixed catapult rules (the classic rules, the ones played in this article) and another completely new set that were based on Martin Wallace’s Struggle of Empires (these are Conquest of the Empire II rules).
      3. The original version of the game also had different combat rules and the rules in the 2005 version were changed along with the dice that have images that correspond to the different units.
      4. The game is thought to be very similar to the game Axis & Alliesthis may be because it’s also designed by Larry Harris, Jr. (and because of this Axis & Allies is obviously going on our Games We Want page).
      5. It was a 2006 Golden Geek Best Wargame Nominee
      6. The original version of the game is now completely out of print and therefore a prized collectors piece.
      7. However, that’s what Wikipedia says but you can buy a 1984 original copy from America for around £55 on Ebay here (eBay listing was active at time of publication).
      8. The game is set in the Roman Empire after the death of Marcus Aurelius. So just after this happened:

(This may be from the film Gladiator and therefore may not be historically accurate).

      1. Like I said in my introduction, the game really is a physical version of Rome: Total War, just less complex and in some ways more fun.
      2. It is also the largest game we have played to date, which makes it just a little bit more awesome.

 

To Conclude:

I like this game, I like it a lot, but I was always going to – as I said in my introduction, it’s just table top RTW. However this version of the rules has quite a lot of ambiguity but with careful reading and a  bit of logic you can think your way through this. There are a few thing I think should be done differently, for example you should be able to build units in places other than your home provinces, other cities would have had barracks and been able to train men etc. Also it just feels wrong to collect your money half way through your turn, everyone knows turns begin with collecting money, it’s true of so many games, both table top and computerized. However I understand the building units one turn and not being able to move the till the next because it represents a training time.

The biggest issue with this game though is this:

Everything thrown in the box!
Everything thrown in the box!

POOR BOX DESIGN! Now you may say that this is irrelevant to the game in the sense that it doesn’t affect game play. But it does, if you’ve had to spend 20 minutes sorting out pieces because there in a mixed mess you’re not going to have the same amount of fun playing the game as if they were all sorted already in a vacuum-formed tray in the box like 90% of games I’ve played (like Battle Cry!.) The only other game I’ve come across to rival this is the Pirate of the Caribbean edition of Buccaneer! Which you can read my rant about at the end of the post on it here.

But all in all Conquest of the Empire is a good and fun game (perhaps not quite as good/well thought out as Battle Cry! and definitely not as versatile). It’s also very large which for some unknown reason makes it more exciting…

We’ll have to wait and see if the other way of playing it is as good or perhaps better.

P.S. I (Miriam) wouldn’t usually add on to a post like this, but it was more like 2 hours sorting time than 20 minutes which makes this, in my opinion, an epic design flaw… Especially when trying to determine if all the pieces were still there.

They weren’t.

Battle Cry!

4 - 5

 

 

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1999/2010 (Anniversary Edition)

Creator: Richard Borg

Picture lovingly borrowed from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/uncle-sam/uncle-sam-posters.htm
Picture lovingly borrowed from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/uncle-sam/uncle-sam-posters.htm

As is self-evident from the name of the game Battle Cry is a strategy war game. It recreates the American Civil War. Players play as the Union or the Confederates, in other words, North or South America and can play through each of 30 scenarios from the war. The board is set up using Terrain Tiles with different images on them to create different parts of the country. Each scenario is defined in the Rule Book and has a pictorial representation of the starting layout of the board. My favourite thing about these descriptions is that there’s a little historical information provided about each scenario, but at the bottom, right after it tells you who originally won that battle it says: “The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.” And it leaves you to find out who the best strategist is!

Dave and I did initially play the game slightly wrong, because we were in a rush. But this just reinforces our firm belief that you should thoroughly read the rules before starting any game.

Our first attempt at playing this game - we set up the board wrong.
Our first attempt at playing this game – we set up the board wrong.

What’s In The Box:

The stuff. I know the layout of the box looks weird, I have since changed it, but taking another photo was a lot of effort...
The stuff. I know the layout of the box looks weird, I have since changed it, but taking another photo was a lot of effort…
  1. 8 Battle Dice
  2. 9 Double-sided Entrenchment/Fieldwork Tokens
  3. 46 Double-sided Terrain Tiles
  4. 14 Double-sided Flag Tokens
  5. 60 Command Cards
  6. 3 Artillery with Flags and 6 Artillery Crewmembers
  7. 3 Generals with Flags, 3 Cavalry with Flags and 6 Cavalry
  8. 10 Infantry with Flags and 30 Infantry

Plus also (and in a different picture just for fun):

The other stuff.
The other stuff. The stuff that didn’t fit in the first photo.

The Game Board, Terrain Reference Sheet and Game Rule Book.

Playing The Game:

Objective: To capture a given number of your opponents flags before they do yours and win the match!

Although this game has a few scenarios that’re a little time-consuming to set up, it’s actually not all that complicated. Turns consist of five parts: playing a Command Card, giving orders, moving, battling and drawing a new card. I’ve only played two of the available scenarios so far, but both have been really good. The starting set up for the board on the simplest set up is this:

The starting set up for the simplest scenario, called First Bull Run. Blue is Union, Grey is Confederate.
The starting set up for the simplest scenario, called First Bull Run. Blue is Union, Grey is Confederate.

To give you an idea of how simple this set-up is comparatively, here’s a photo of the next one on in the Rule Book:

A slightly more complex (and time consuming) set up.
A slightly more complex (and time consuming) set up.

There’re a fair few men on the board here, but it’s a lot simpler than it appears – the occupants of one hex on the board are a unit and all move together. Infantry can only move 1 hex at a time, Cavalry moves 3 hexes, Artillery moves 1 hex, and a General can move 3 by itself or if it’s in a unit with Cavalry, but can only move one when in a unit with Infantry.

Command Cards:

There are two different kinds of Command Cards; the Section Cards and the Tactic Cards and Dave and I have ranked the Section Cards in terms of usefulness. The least useful are the Scout cards, these allow you to order one of your units in one section of the board, then draw two cards instead of one, and choose which one to keep, discarding the other. Next are Probe cards, you can now give two orders to two of your units in one section of the board. Yet more useful is Attack, you guessed it already, you can now give three orders to three units in one section of the board. But the most useful of these cards are the Assault cards, these allow you to give one order per card you have including the one you’re playing, to units in one section of the board. The section of the board you give orders in is always specified on these cards and can be either Centre, Left Flank, or Right Flank.

A Section Command Card in play.
A Section Command Card in play.

The Tactic Cards are very different, they allow you to do a whole host of things that the Section Cards don’t, such as placing Fieldwork Tokens on the board, which changes the terrain, and impacts on sight lines, amongst other things. There are, however, a lot of Tactic Cards, so I’m not going to go into any detail about them. But you can have a photo of one!

An example of a Tactic Command Card in play.
An example of a Tactic Command Card in play.
Giving Orders and Moving Units:

Once you’ve read out the Command Card you’ve chosen to play you put it face up on the board and announce which units you intend to move. You must order all units before moving any of them. Next you move your units, taking into consideration terrain restrictions and remembering that a unit cannot battle unless it’s been ordered, even if it does not move.

Battling and Retreating:

Now you can battle! Any unit that’s close enough to an enemy unit (or an Artillery unit that was ordered but not moved) can now try to eliminate some of the opposing soldiers. This is done by rolling Battle Dice. Terrain restrictions, distance from target and type of soldier all effect how many dice you roll, and therefore how likely you are to succeed in doing any damage.

For example; if you’re attacking an enemy unit that’s on a hill hex, you roll one less Battle Dice than normal depending on how far away from the target you are, because you’re attacking uphill, which puts you at a disadvantage.

All units have one member that has a flag in them, when fighting an enemy unit, you always remove the flag bearer last. 

I won’t go through how each unit attacks, but I’ll use Cavalry as an example. Every unit has a different range to the others, Infantry can attack enemy units up to four hexes away, Artillery up to five hexes away, and Cavalry must be adjacent to the unit they wish to attack.

Depending on where you are in relation to the unit you’re targeting you roll a certain number of Battle Dice. Cavalry always roll three, unless terrain battle restrictions state otherwise.

Of the three Battle Dice rolled here two were hits. As you can see, the small image on the dice is of a Cavalry figure. When rolling to eliminate opponents you must roll the correct symbols.
Of the three Battle Dice rolled here two were hits. As you can see, the small image on the dice is of a Cavalry figure. When rolling to eliminate opponents you must roll the correct symbols.

These are all six of the sides of the Battle Dice, and each symbol means something different. Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery are fairly self-explanatory – for every one of those symbols rolled, you can capture one of the equivalent enemy pieces if there is one in the unit you’re attacking. The cross sabres are the only symbol that can remove a General from the board, however, if there’s no General in the unit, sabres also remove anything else. The flag is a retreat:

The Battle Dice. As you can see, there are two Infantry symbols showing. This is because there are two sides of each die with the Infantry symbol on them. Making them the easiest units to capture.
The Battle Dice. As you can see, there are two Infantry symbols showing. This is because there are two sides of each die with the Infantry symbol on them. Making them the easiest units to capture.

A flag rolled means that the unit you’re attacking must retreat one hex, however, it can’t retreat onto an occupied hex, unless that hex has a General on it that’s not attached to a unit, the General then become attached to the unit and must move with it.

Different Kinds of Terrain:

There are hexes on top of the board, these are the Terrain Tiles. In both the scenarios I’ve played so far there are only three kinds on the board: Woods, Hills and Homestead hexes. These alter the course of the game in that they place restrictions on movement, line of sight and accuracy. So can be used to your advantage, or to severely disadvantage your opponent. All of these act as blocks in the line of sight when you want to attack a unit, but the Woods and the Hills can be incredibly useful. From the top of a hill the range of an Artillery unit is increased by 1, whilst the accuracy of an attacking unit is decreased by 1. Likewise, on a Woods hex the attacking units accuracy is decreased by 1, but the unit inside the Woods has no such impediment.

Winning the Game!

One the page in the Rule Book assigned to whichever scenario you’ve chosen to play there will be a small amount of information underneath the picture of the starting set up. This will include the historical background to that particular battle, which General both sides are commanding as, who moves first, and most importantly, how many flags you need to capture to win. The first player to achieve having this number of their opponents flags, immediately wins the match. However, to play a complete match, you’re supposed to reset the board and change sides, and the winner is determined after both matches are complete. This probably often ends with a draw, but I haven’t yet played a complete match in this way. The game we played the first player to capture six flags won:

My victory stand at the end of the game!
My victory stand at the end of the game!

Strategy:

This game is tactical, it requires strategic thinking and a little bit of foresight. I’ve found that on the First Bull Run the best way to play is just to push forward in more or less a straight line, going up hills wherever you can, or into woods. If you’ve got possession of the hills and woods you’ve got the advantage, because your enemy is less likely to be able to capture you when they attack.

This isn’t a huge amount of help, as it’s things that’re mostly just common sense, but I’m not particularly strategically minded, so although I’m not bad at this kind of game, I also don’t make plans when I play them. Just take each turn as it comes, kinda thing.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The first game to be published under this name was published in 1961. The concept of this game was the same as the version we’ve got, but much much simpler. Each side only has 22 pieces, the grid is square, not hexagonal, and there’s only one battle scenario available to play.
  2. An online version of this game was released in November 2008, to GameTableOnline.com and can be played player vs player or player vs computer.
  3. It won the International Gamers Award in 2001 for the General Strategy: 2-Player category.
  4. I don’t have anything else to write about the history of the game, so have some points about the Civil War instead: Before William Tecumseh Sherman became a famous Union General he was demoted for apparent insanity.
  5. More men died in the Civil War than in any other American conflict, and two-thirds of them died of disease.
  6. During the war Robert E. Lee’s Virginia estate was confiscated and turned into a cemetery by the Union.
  7. Robert E. Lee was the bloodiest General of the war.
  8. President Lincoln was shot at, and almost killed, nearly two years before his assassination riding to the Soldiers’ Home (his summer residence) from the White house on an August evening in 1863.
  9. On the Union side, black soldiers refused their pay for 18 months because they were being paid less than their white comrades.
  10. Harriet Tubman led a raid to free slaves during the war, this one raid freed more than 720 slaves – more than 10 times the number she had freed in 10 years on the Underground Railroad.

I read about the history of the war here, and got my game info off of Wikipedia.

To Conclude:

So  this game is great for a few reasons; it’s easy to understand, it’s easy (though time-consuming) to set up, and there are so many different scenarios that it’s going to be a long time before it stops being interesting!

I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a proper sit-down game. It takes about an hour to play a scenario, with around 15 minutes set up time (this’ll probably become less as we get more familiar with the board and different layouts). For anyone with a son or daughter who’s an up-and-coming tactician, this would be a fantastic game to play with them.

If this is a game that’s up your street, go out and get a copy, and have lots of fun re-writing the course of history!