Monday, September 28, 2009

Stalingrad is burning & the Kaiser has Pirates

Our most recent game club meeting was shortened due to another group that was supposedly going to meet in our shared space. My usual opponent brought shorter games to play and I'm glad he did. We played The Hell of Stalingrad which is a new offering from Clash of Arms. What we discovered was a very involved card game. I know, just the idea of a card game/wargame turns some people off. However, this complex card game did a wonderful job of simulating fighting from building to building.

The goal of the game is for the Germans to fight their way through a series of building and read the Volga river at four points. In order to accomplish this goal they may have to fight through a number of buildings at each point and these building are drawn randomly.

There are three decks for each player. A campaign deck, which applies affects that may be positive or negative to each player. (One campaign card is chosen per "round" for each player and its affects applied. The card might force the destruction of a unit, bring in a new leader, or offer reinforcements, etc.) Each player also has a deck of units and a deck of strategy cards. The German player decides which buildings he will be assaulting on this particular "round" (He might assault all four points, but it seemed best to me to concentrate on a couple at a time) and then assigns his attacking units. The defender then does the same. The German player determines in what order the assaults will be resolved. Then the assaults begin.

An initiative card is drawn from the "carnage" deck and it determines which side will have the initiative in the battle. Each building has an initiative result that benefits the player who wins initiative. They are all different. (By the way, the number of units that may be assigned to each building are all different as well) An initiative effect might increase the fire level of the building (which helps the Germans) or the bucket level (for the Russians of course) or it might provide an extra unit, a sniper shot, or some other action. Players then play their "vanguard" actions (based on the units in play) which might add units, kill opposing units, spread fire, etc. Then player alternate playing combat cards which are limited by their symbols. For example to play a combat card with a general symbol you must have a general in the battle. The same is true of infantry or armor combat cards.

At the beginning of the battle a carnage card also tells how long the battle will last. A battle lasts a particular number of "hold" actions. A hold action is not quite a "pass" because a player still gets to take some action, like a sniper shot, but does not play a card and the battle moves one step closer (usually 1-4) towards being resolved. Once the last "hold" action is used, players resolve the combat based on the number of counters that have been placed and survived the various card plays, the fire level of the building, etc. Dice are rolled. The player with the hightest rolled number wins. However, a tie may cause another round of dice to be rolled which may have a different number of dice. This randomness really added to the game. I was playing the Germans and thought several times I had lost a battle at a building only to get the right roll at the right time.

I don't feel that I have done a great job of describing this enjoyable game, but it was a blast and I can't wait to try it again. Oh, the Germans lost. I had to take one more building to win, but did not manage to do so.

We also played The Kaiser's Pirates, a newly released GMT product that has been described as Naval War on Steroids. There are no salvo cards, but there are a lot of neat features in this game which is a lot like Naval War. Players attack merchant ships belonging to the other players and attempt to identity raider ships or enemy warships. Each card is rated as to what type of dice it gets to use for battle. Once again, only the highest rolled die matters. Ships can be damaged (resulting in lower die modifiers) or sunk.

My opponent described it as pretty mindless, but there was definitely more meat provided than Naval War. Players could try to escape (and put their ships in their own reward pile) or plant mines. It was fun, even though my normal dice rolling ability failed me that afternoon.

Both games made for great filler games on a day when our normal 4-6 hour games could not be completed.

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