After the debacle with Afrika Corps, the game with perhaps the most unwieldy title of all time was up. Dave and I gave the initial scenario (A Friend in Need) of Lock ‘n Load a spin. All I have to say is … now we’re talking. This is a game that manages to capture a lot of what made the classic Squad Leader so appealing, with a slightly cleaner, faster-playing, and more interactive system. Now admittedly, I got to play the VC, who on immediate inspection seem to have a significant advantage in this scenario; and it’s always harder to attack the first time you play a game. Still, the rules read like a Squad Leader (original) knock-off, but the actual play is unique, and works pretty well with only a few minor glitches. Even moreso than SL, firepower is prolific and troops fragile, and this felt very real. The Ambush-style paragraphs are also a very nice touch, although I fear it will limit re-playability, perhaps problematically. The virtually chartless direct fire table is very nice. The rules are slightly sketchy (the reciprocity of LOS should really be mentioned), but overall I was very pleased and will definitely be playing this one again.
Settlers of the Stone Age is a fun game, but I fear it is just too damn long. I love Settlers, and as I’ve said before the true brilliance of the game is the 45 minute playing time. The dice can hose you, but you’ll be done and can play again soon enough. Settlers of the Stone Age has so much good stuff, but at 2.5-ish hours, you can be playing for a long time with nothing to gun for. As much as I wanted to like this one, after some 5 plays I don’t see this one coming out again anytime really soon. Interestingly, Starfarers seems to get around this problem; that game can go 2 hours, but it rarely seems to drag in the way Stone Age can.