Carl came by again for one of our occasional Columbia game sessions.
First was Hammer of the Scots. The Scots have actually been on quite the roll recently with the new “South First” strategy. Wallace moves out of Fife and into Mentieth to secure the center of the board to link up with Bruce in the south, who hopefully never falls. Wallace then turns the whole south of Scotland into a quagmire for the English while Moray slowly cleans up the north over many years. Well, I was now the first to lose with this strategy (in games I’ve been involved in, anyway). Part of this was two serious tactical errors: firstly, I was entirely too anxious to link up with Bruce, and bypassed a significant English force in Argyll, which combined with a sea move snuck back to retake the critical Mentieth area leaving Wallace cut off at a very bad time. Secondly was pushing too hard in the north too early. Moray and the infantry block in the north assaulted Buchan and were bloodily repulsed through very bad luck. This wasn’t the bad move; the bad move was then trying again before building up enough, which when he lost again resulted in Moray being too weak and he was attacked, surrounded, and eliminated. The English nobles up there can’t do too much, but they can still be potent if given the chance to gang up and kill someone who can’t retreat.
I must admit that I feel I can blame at least some small part of this 2-turn fiasco on the dice … Wallace was egregiously incompetent in this game, managing to score some 2 hits in his first 20 or so shots. This was huge I felt, because Wallace and his A3 is desperately needed to actually inflict some casualties on the English nobles early, otherwise they just retreat before you come to grips with them. The other problem was that for the two turns and change we played, my hand was remarkably homogenous – all 2s and one 3. This sounds cool, but the Scots really don’t need that many activations – they really want to be moving last, and as it worked out I was often moving first, which actually caused a lot of problems.
My opinion of Hammer has been fluctuating a bit. I was down on it somewhat for a while when it seemed there was an optimal Scottish strategy. I still think there is (the South First is the only thing that seems remotely plausible, every other alternative has failed spectacularly), but it’s certainly not a script the Scots can follow. There are still tough operational and tactical choices, and sloppy play is punished. This is good, and I’m feeling better about playing the game again, although it still ranks only about 5th on my list of favorite Columbia games.
After this disaster, we broke out Rommel in the Desert, the Crusader scenario (it’s short – only 3 turns, and due to the supply situation it plays more like 1.5). Now we’re talking. The dice that had abandoned me in the first game came back with a vengeance in this time. Carl attacked 3 hexes, all of which contained a single recon unit (I felt proud of this), all of whom retreated without loss. My German reserves then proceeded to crush one intrusion, obliterating 5 British units at the cost of one (double) step. For Carl, it was downhill from this point. This is a tough game to play the first time, and my experience was decidedly more recent than Carl’s, so I’m sure he’ll return the favor next time. Plus, the Brits are tough to play in this particular scenario I think – forced to attack with a supply advantage but a decidedly inferior army. And those dice … I would have preferred a little more balance, but you take what you can get. Every time I play this game I tell myself I gotta play it more often. This is an awesome game, really, really tense – even after mauling these British units, I was always worried about the amount of supply I had spent to do it and was scared I had not kept enough in reserve to counter British threats – the German supply situation is very tight. At one point I was down to 2 supply while Carl had 6 cards in hand, but he didn’t have enough.