GMT West – Day 4

After playing a full day of Europe Engulfed yesterday, today I went in for a play of the one-year, one-map tournament scenario (you can find it on BoardGameGeek). This is a great learning and quick-playing scenario.

I played the Soviets. To be honest, I have not yet figured this one out as the Germans. Taking two objectives is extremely difficult, but so is holding the front line – although you have an initial tank advantage, the Soviets out-produce you. You need to strike hard and early to have any chance at all, but between the rivers and heavy fortifications, this is easier said than done. My German opponent was comparatively inexperienced and had a very tough time – he attacked on turn one but made little headway, and had to shift to a defensive posture right away. After that, it was only a matter of time before the shock armies started moving on the Ukraine.

I’m going to have to solitaire the first few turns of 1942 as the Germans to figure out how to do it right.

After this, I went on to chat with some folks playing The Napoleonic Wars. This game is still going quite well, with some 6 or 7 games played over the weekend, second only to Sword of Rome probably. The guys were having a blast with it, and it convinced me to give the game another look sometime, although you have to get the right crowd I think (and I do somewhat suspect I might not be a member of that crowd). The game does have some crippling problems, of course, which haven’t gone away – but there is a certain fun factor to it also.

Clash of Giants is Ted Racier’s World War I “operational”-level game, covering the pivotal battles of Tannenberg and The Marne. The game is quite low-complexity, and has been something I’ve been wanting to try since it first came out, but have never gotten around to (being partly deterred by Mr Racier’s contemporary and not quite successful Reds!, perhaps). So I was happy to give it a spin. We played Tannenberg.

At it’s core, this is basically a classic, low-complexity, hex-ZOC-CRT game, with some interesting chrome for movement (Russian movement allowances are highly variable – you roll a die for each Army to see how far its component units can move – and reflect the uncertain nature of the Russian command). It was interesting to go back to classic “sticky” (movement-halting) ZOCs, because they felt surprisingly klunky. After playing a fair amount of Ardennes ’44 (which has ZOC bonds, unintuitive at first but rather clever and they’ve grown on me a lot) and The Gamer’s OCS games (which have very weak ZOCs that really only affect trucks), Clash of Giants’ rules felt somehow inelegant.

The combat resolution is rather clever, though. Each unit effectively has a strength and saving throw number, representing tactical skill. Combat is resolved by each unit involved making a saving throw. Those that fail get step-reduced. Odds give modifiers to the saving throws, and in extreme cases, limit the number of units that have to save. I’m not sure it quite works for me, but it is interesting and different, and definitely a big improvement over the classic straight d6 CRTs of the old days.

All in all, I liked Clash of Giants well enough. I was easily able to resist buying a copy after playing, but I’m still glad I was able to give it a try, and Rick B was a good opponent so I enjoyed the game. But at this level of complexity, I have to admit I like the block games, Wizard Kings, Gettysburg, Liberty, or Worthington Games’ Victoria Cross. The hex and counter stuff seems to not quite make it for me until you get into the moderate level of complexity of an Ardennes ’44 or OCS Korea or Burma, when it starts becoming semi-reasonable simulations.

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