Replay AEL: Summerian Empire – King level

Warming up exercise this Saturday morning: I decide to give a go at a quick Ancient Empire Lux, playing the Sumerian at King level, and choosing the hardest party called Umma (x5 score multiplier).

A bit of background

What’s the situation at the beginning of the game?

  • Umma is the most central city, and thus probably the most vulnerable to attacks from all sides.
  • Umma brings a bonus of 2 points, less than counterparts Lagash (4 points) and Ur (3 points) which already enjoy sizeable armies and controlled land surface.
  • Vast expanses of terrain are owned by the remote mountain city of Susa (White color). They are easy preys and ways to win bonus cards, and they will be bitterly disputed by all players.

Bonus map

Situation at start

So what’s the best strategy here? My proposed short term plan is:

  • Quick wins of land 360 degrees, although favouring the less armoured North, along the Zagros mountains
  • Secure the northern-eastern lands thanks to the locking cities of Sipar and Lagash
  • Lagash is definitely a priority target, with 4 points bonus (Sipar and Susa only have 1)

If I manage to do that, I’ll be in a good shape to then regroup and launch an assault to the rich Southlands. Of course, I need to be ready to change my plans based on the random level of aggressiveness of the various opponents.

Turn 2

At the end of Turn #2, I understand that my Western neighbours of Sippar and Kish are relatively peaceful, whereas RED from Ur and YELLOW from Lagash are ruled by imperialistic monarchs. I decide to launch and adventurous scavenger raid behind YELLOW in the Zagros mountains. After a couple of turns it pays off, and I seize the capital city of Susa, enraging YELLOW who counterattacks repeatedly over the next few turns.

Turn 4By Turn #4, a counter-clockwise momentum has built and only my armies find themselves going in the opposite direction and clashing against YELLOW. This is too much attrition for him, and while I keep his troops busy on the frontline, RED cracks into Laggash, his armies marching in triumph in the key city of the Summerian Empire. A fratricide war of attrition begins in the far South, and I decide to hold ground while initiating a campaign in the North towards Sippar.

While the Western nations keep peacefully expanding, after GREEN failing to capture Ur, YELLOW goes into guerrilla wars in the wetlands along the Tigris. His troops reach my capital city of Umma and briefly occupy it. Fortunately, unexpected but timely reinforcement cards allow me to group a large contingent and launch a crucial counterattack to regain the heart of the kingdom on Turn #6.

Turn 6

My plans regarding Sippar have only been delayed, and even if my urban centres are still weakly defended, I decide to take a chance to seize the northern bottleneck city. While still containing recurring assults from YELLOW in the South, I march towards the ORANGE capital to conquer and make History.

Turn 8

Sippar falls like a fruit too mature, to my surprise, and I fail to anticipate the counter attack organised by ORANGE on turn 9, resulting in the fall once again of capital city Umma. Shame on me. My balance sheet could be better: Apart from disappearing GREEN, I’m the weakest nation, at war with 2 others (YELLOW and ORANGE) with limited revenue. In the South, a RED dragon is stirring, successful in his plan to lockup to sectors with 3 cities.

Turn 9

I do not manage to accrue troops fast enough to catchup with the loss I have on 3 different front lines.  Time for a step back and an actualisation of the grand strategy. Determined to regain and never loose again Umma, I also opt for the consolidation of my position, leaving the other Parties to exhaust their wrath on each others. Umma taken back on turn #11, I then spend 3 consecutive turns simply spreading reinforcements and carrying out skirmish operations at my borders. At the end of turn #15, I have secured my 3 blue fortresses with armies of 12 firepower. But a red tide seems to come from the South, and I wonder if ORANGE and YELLOW will be sufficient air bags to absorb the shock.

Turn 15

The good surprise comes from YELLOW who launches a blitz offensive westward through Laggash, Ur and ending up in far away Kish, operation Sharp Sickle. RED is completely taken aback and can only launch a counter strike on Ur to cut the YELLOW snake in two parts. I have the sudden feeling opportunity rings again. My next target is still Laggash and I regroup in the south-east plains for another stab in the back of YELLOW.

Turn 16

The coup pays off, but war rages and reaches another level, with dozen of points gone into smoke at each clash. RED is busy freeing up the banks of the Euphrates, while I fight block by block in the streets of Laggash. Best news for today is that there will be no cooperation between YELLOW and RED, and I’m free to launch operation “clean-sweep” out of Susa to send un-supplied remnants of RED and YELLOW armies routing in the swamps. By turn 18, phase 1 of my initial plan is finally complete!

Turn 17

By early turn 19, YELLOW is a mere memory and a lame mention in school manuals for the free people of the South. But the RED tyranny in Ur still mobilises masses, and logically a strong contingent is sent to kick out the autocratic RED regime from the antique city. The northerners leave a peaceful life, behind the inexpugnable walls of the Tigris citadels (30 firepower each). BLUE as just become the new super-power. But Armageddon is in the making in the outskirts of Kish, where RED shows all his madness and lack of strategic acumen.

Turn 19

With Ur taken and RED’s inability to call the fortune cards before the gates of Kish, we see the collapse of a RED clay giant, his armies roaming aimlessly in the central plains, suffocating without re-supplies. Our next stop is Kish, which falls by turn #20, signing off the absolute end of the YELLOW empire. Treasures are accumulating in the King’s halls of Umma and Ur, and money flows to pay countless Blue armies now.

Turn 20

On the morning of turn 21, river birds stop singing and large mammals desert the central grasslands, as we launch operation Typhoon to pacify the area occupied and looted for years by the evil troops of ORANGE. This all happens overnight, leaving only rogue bands of RED to clean up in the far North.

Turn 21

 

The game is won in 2 more turns, for a total of 24, leading to a score of 12,570. Please let me know if you manage to significantly beat that, I’d be interested to know.

Turn 23

 

Victory

25 years of Strategy & Tactics for just $20?

Hi peeps, back this morning onto the Australian Wargamer blog, which I have completely let down over the last few months, completely sucked into the black hole of my new career. No good excuse for sure, and I do apologise for those I have left disappointed by not replying to their comments or enquiries, shame on me.

Never to late to do some good, and my first action is to catchup with the latest updates from the industry. As I browse through my subscriptions, I realise it’s about time to become a faithful and regular reader of Strategy & Tactics, the legendary publication from Decision Games. In a few clicks I pay the fee for the next 24 months and I’m about to check out when I notice the “Premium Subscription” offer. A bit curious and greedy, I check this out to discover in awe the Holy Grail I have been looking for for decades: The ability to get access to the (almost) complete collection of S&T back issues, yes nothing less.

The publisher offers to go back in time up to issue #128, dated …. late 1989! Already a bit numb, I get completely stunned when I discover the ridiculously affordable cost for such a privilege: $19.95 … yes TWENTY US DOLLARS to skim through the precious pages accumulated over the last quarter of a century by one of the most iconic wargaming journal and prolific authors.

I bless the day, and start downloading. So should you do too!

Strategy & Tactics Premium Subscription and Library

Replay iBattle Academy – Western Desert Campaign 1

The Western Desert Campaign is the first one available in Battle Academy for iPad. One will argue that this game is not the most realistic simulation one can find about WWII at tactical level, and that’s fair enough. But what an awesome lot of fun to move troops across the dunes and villages on a tablet!

Western Desert Campaign

Mission #1 is titled “Capture the fort”, and it is some sort of tutorial set up involving just 3 AFVs and a couple of squads, whose mission is to take control of an isolated Italian fort. I love these briefing screens:

Capture the fort - Briefing

Capture the fort - Tactical map

The interest here will be to tick the 3 proposed achievements:

  1. Do not lose any units (probably the hardest one)
  2. Kill at least 10 enemy units
  3. Capture all victory points in 12 turns

So let’s get started! No option to configure your army here, you’re just offered the default 3 “Queens of the desert” aka Matilda tanks. A couple of Bren carriers full of tommies will come along a bit later, to help securing the buildings.

OOB and Achievements

 

Turn 01

 

I launch my platoon of reco tanks at full speed along the trail, and on turn two they spot their first column of italian tankette, which turn out to be CV33 or L3. The Matildas easily deflect the rounds of machine-guns, and in a snap I have blasted the first two in the column down to hamburgers. The 3rd one will face the same doom minutes after, hammered by my off-board artillery.

Turn 02

 

Pushing forward, I encounter some opposition in the rugged terrain around the road, where italian footmen have taken cover during my artillery barrage. These crags are indeed the ideal cover in barren lands, I should be mindful of them later on.

But resistance is futile and I bypass the obstacle to meet another column of brazilian tankettes. Meanwhile, my infantry is catching up, riding fast on the priceless Bren carriers. Stupid me! There was another italian squad hidden on the opposite slope of the valley. They were quiet so far because suppressed, but now they show up for a last hurrah. The tommies have to disembark for a surgical cleanup, while the Matildas teach english to their italian counterparts. In the bloody battle, I loose one of my squad, which is taking one achievement away, damn!

Turn 05

 

Finally, we are reaching the settlement and the fort, which looks dangerously quiet. No doubts there are some machine guns ready for an opportunity fire behind these dark windows.

Turn 06

Using Assault movement, I scout around the buildings, to spot some jerrys entrenched in the building on the outskirts. The tommies carry out a merciless assault and take ground. Good surprise, more reinforcement are coming, 3 more squads to support the final assault. Although they’ll take 3 turns to reach the settlement, in the absence of proper transport.(And now I realise I should have sent my empty Bren carrier to accelerate deployment). As there’s no signs of life, I decide to call for another artillery barrage, hopefully to suppress the last defenders.

Turn 08

 

My AFVs circle around, with a hope to take them aback, while infantry comes closer to the city wall, and capture another outpost.

Turn 09

 

 

We finally spot the last defenders and HQ officers trying to flee from the back of the fort. They are snared in a snap, and we claim victory on Turn 11!

Turn 10

 

Victory

PocketTactics: Battle of the Bulge announced

Bulge by SPI in 1979Battle of the Bulge is one of these legendary titles that have founded modern wargaming and changed the life of the young boardgamer I was in the 80′s.

Initially published by Avalon Hill in 1965, it has been then replicated, duplicated, and reissued countless times by the most prestigious publishers, both on cardboard and on PC screens.

There were certainly some serious opus along the way, and any serious wargamer should have in his library Bulge released by SPI in 1979.

Battle of the Bulge for iPadAnd when you hear that one of the grognards from SPI, Eric Lee Smith, decides to start a new venture named Shenandoah Studio to port the game on tablets, starting with iPad, you can start believing again in Santa!

The game should be available on the appstore this September 2012, so keep an eye on the developer’s diary. We’ve been able to grasp some screens and game arts here and there on the web, and it just looks awesome, nothing clumsy or clunky anywhere, this is all beautiful and polished and we just need now to assess the gameplay!

Battle of the Bulge - Game interfaceBattle of the Bulge - Game interface

This is great news for all grown up pocket gamers. Add on top of it that the next battle using the system is already planned for 2013-Q1: Get ready to fly to North Africa, to meet Rommel at El Alamein. That will be Volume 2 of this new game series titled “Crisis in Command”. It’s a wonderful world.

El Alamein announced!

Eric Lee SmithProject’s video inspirational pitch by Eric himself: http://kck.st/I5cHzt

Eric Lee Smith is a game designer and software development specialist. He worked for both Avalon Hill and SPI (Simulations Publications, Inc.). Most of his games were published by Victory Games (I), a subsidiary of Avalon Hill formed around ex-SPI employees. In 2005, he became Vice President of Product Direction for Investor Force Incorporated.

Battle of the Bulge – Very early interface preview

Start Small: Rattenkrieg

Rattenkrieg: Game mapRattenkrieg is a postcard game published by Turning Point Simulations, the new venture by LPS Inc, publishers of Against the Odds Magazine. It has been designed by Steven Cunliffe who also made The Hell of Stalingrad. It’s a solitaire simulation of the intense fighting for the Tractor Factory in the Battle for Stalingrad. The player takes the roll of the Germans as he maneuvers panzers, infantry, and elite pioneers into the ruins to hunt down the Soviets. Ambushes, snipers, and tough decisions await the Germans as they push deeper into the city.

The longer the game lasts the more Soviet Reinforcements infiltrate through the ruins to surround and cut off the attackers. To win the player will have to master warfare in the most brutal of all WWII battlefields. Rattenkrieg is literally “War of the Rats” and is the name given to irregular and deadly city fighting.

Rattenkrieg: RulesNote that you’ll get the game for free, including die cut counters, with your next order at LPS Inc., go for it!

The system proposed here by Steven Cunliffe is lean, smart and highly scalable for any sort of area control game. It’s about a dozen blocks in 1942 Stalingrad here at a tactical level, but it could be as well about provinces in North Vietnam at an operational level, or galaxy sectors in a sci-fi strategy game.

5 dices, well balanced double sided counters to define opposing forces, a couple of resource scales, and a beautiful game board is what it will take you to create your own solitaire entertainment. This might also easily become the next viral tablet game for digital wargamers.

Initial Setup

Gameturn sample

I start the game with 4 balanced squads, each of my leader leading armor in the North and in the South. My objective is to quickly take control of well defended zones 3 and 10. I push westward and start cleaning the sewer system of the iconic soviet city …

German push on turn #1

A bit of luck on this first round:

  • Soviet roll a die and add a new counter in zone 5. But I do not change my plans, I’ll address that with Infantry on halftracks (2MP). Damn! This is one of these platoons of T34! They pin down my assault and suppress my infantry. Air support is more than welcome to balance the odds and to finally get rid of the reds.
  • North squad enters 3 and reveal an ambush by Molotov cocktails, depleting infantry.
  • Grenadiers enter zone 12 and spot a sniper who retreats, as there is no German leader in the area.
  • In the southern part of the industrial complex, grenadiers secure area #11, while my armour push forward with Colonel Baess. We meet strong opposition there and call for Stukas, but the assault fails and outcome remains uncertain.

That concludes Turn #1 and I realise a couple of mistakes: I forgot to promote Khol in the North, that’s an easy one to fix, giving me an extra iron cross for upcoming battles. As turn 2 begins and soviets are going to roll dice to infiltrate new troops, I bite my fingers and think I should have sent an infantry counter in zone#2 to cover my back. Luckily enough, the soviet rolls 5, and there’s no infiltration as the area is under control. The assault can continue. Good fun!

Situation after turn #1

Europa Universalis IV development started

Paradox Development Studio have started to share their Developer’s diary with the fan community, about what will be the 4 opus of the blockbuster series Europa Universalis.

Europa Universalis IV - Main Visual

As you well know, the empire building game Europa Universalis IV gives you control of a nation to guide it through the years and create a dominant global empire and will provide you unprecedented freedom in how you want to rule your nation and is cutting edge in its depth and historical accuracy. The game covers a period starting on November 11, 1444 A.D. and expanding until late in the 18th century.

Europa Universalis IV - Interface

Europa Universalis 4′s multiplayer will allow up to 32 players to battle each other or to join forces and cooperate as a single nation in a timeline encompassing thousands of historical events over 300 years.

Players will choose from more than 4,000 historical monarchs from over 250 countries. With a new system called “monarch power,” a nation’s leader influences the personality of the nation under his or her control. “Do you have a warrior King? Then it is time to make war,” Paradox said in a press release.

The game will also include a new trade system, which players can exploit by honing a nation’s trading prowess or through brute force by conquering key shipping ports. It is due for 2013-Q3, too long a time to wait. Stay tuned: http://www.facebook.com/EuropaUniversalis

European Indies: AGEOD is back!

AGEODAGEOD stands for AGE Online Distribution, and it is a French venture formed in 2005 by 2 good friends but also remarkable characters of the gaming industry. Philippe THIBAUT was the brain behind blockbusters like Europa Universalis and Pax Romana. And Philippe MALACHER is the creator of a 3D engine called AGE, now probably outdated and obsolete, compared to products like Unity3D.

Anyway, this looks like a fertile union if to consider the vast catalogue these gentlemen have produced, out of their office in the French Alps, near Grenoble! To be fully honest, we haven’t tried out any of them yet, as we are just discovering the studio, but there are certainly appealing titles, such as Pride of Nations (Colonial Era in 19th century) or Revolution Under Siege (Russian Civil War 1917-23).

The company has been a joint venture with Paradox for some time, maybe a couple of years, trading as Paradox France, but it seems  they have just bought back their independence this August 2012, or have been kicked out from the mammoth organisation.

Alea Jacta EstThe next big release is “Alea Jacta Est“, an ambitious simulation covering various conflicts of the Roman Era. Serious competition to Rome Total War 2 (2013) ? You never know, wait and see! The game is available for preorder, and if you’re looking for your 15 minutes of glory, you can select the Praetor or Proconsul editions, in which you can have so extra goodies and your name included in the product and in credits, nice trick guys! We’ll keep a caring eye on you from now on.

Alea Jacta Est - Interface Preview