The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

So, Bridge exploded

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I’ve never been to a national Bridge tournament. Hell, I think I’ve been to one regional where I traveled more than an hour. Honestly, I only give the ACBL money its convenient but I’d be completely happy if the whole thing burned to the ground as long as I could find games. (Which reminds me, I need to ping the near experts I play with and see if we can restart our weekly game after a summer hiatus).

But at this last National tournament something interesting happened. Mike Passel – a Texas pro and #2 on the all time masterpoint list – was accused of cheating, suspended for some amount of time, and had 25% of his points taken. Then the official story was that it wasn’t cheating, just an irregularity, but the suspension/25% stood.

Now all the Texas players I know say that Passel is the only one who wasn’t cheating. Passell’s side of the story sounds like a relatively minor affair. (Yes, yes, you should always call the director for any incident, but I tend to be of the “if I can fix it myself I do.” Other’s have pointed out that’s against Bridge Law. But like real law – which it aspires to be – Bridge Law is an ass).

Then Boye Brogeland (a world class player) announces that four members of his team offered to vacate the 2014 Spingold championship, because their teammates (3rd pair) cheated. (He goes on to accuse the pair of cheating against him this year, which is what triggered him to look into it, which does give the whole thing a whiff of sour grapes). Kit Woolsey – instrumental in catching the coughing German pair – comes out tenatively in agreement, but would like some other experts to judge as well.

Then the ACBL granted a stay on Mike Passell.

Me, I need some popcorn.

Update Sunday Evening — Seen on bridgewinners.com. Hmmm

Due to recent events, we are getting a lot of traffic. This has caused our site to become unstable. We are actively working on this, and hope to be back online in the next few hours.

Written by taogaming

August 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Bridge

Two more QG and thoughts after the strategy guide

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Our first game of QG had what would seem to be a near ideal UK opening:

  1. Build Navy in the North Sea+ Plane
  2. Build Army N. Africa + Plane. Then US plays Arsenal of Democracy to let the UK build Indian Ocean + India.
  3. Increased Common Wealth Support to build an Army in Australia. (This may have been T4). Now the UK is generating 6 points a turn (wah!), has the N. African chokepoint with two supply paths (!) and has bottled the Italians in the Med. In fact, the Italians had to reallocate resources to get into the med at all.

The Axis won. To be sure, the other two allies were new players (in particularly, Russia released General Winter too early and was kicked out of Moscow a second time, and Germany was generating 10 points a turn (and played Plunder on the final turn for 16 points) because as the UK, once I’d built up I didn’t actually have any good place to attack, and Italy and Japan both worked to kick me out of India. The US had practically bombed Japan out of the game by T10, but it wasn’t enough.

I consider this an excellent sign for the game.

In my second game as Germany I got a deadly opening hand:

  • 4x Land Battles
  • 2x Economic Warfare
  • 1x Build Navy
  • 2x Sea Battles (all I have!)
  • 1x Deploy Airforce
  • Operation Weserübung  (Bolster — Play at victory step, discard the top card of your deck to build an army in Scandanavia)
  • Production Initiative  (Search your deck for a status and play it).

I decided to chuck the EW, Sea Battle, Bolster and a land battle, and then go dig for Blitzkrieg (after battle, build).

In hindsight, I could have gone for the EW opening (keep both EW, Build Navy, Bolster, Production Initiative, Deploy AF and 1 Land Battles) On T1 play Build Navy and Bolster, then I can hit UK for EW – with a bonus because the  whenever I have a spare turn. Very risky, but it’s what the cards said. Pitching 3 land battles early is galling, though. But I would have dumped my hand on T1 (Navy, AF, Bolster) and gotten 3 new cards, then I could decide which status to fetch.

In any case, I got hit with Enigma and didn’t see a build army for a long time. I should have probably sucked it up and fetched one, but the idea of chucking 2-3 battles for it was galling, so that game was a route.

Still love it, though.

Written by taogaming

August 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Session Reports

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Your Sunday Reading — The Sea of Crises

Go read The Sea of Crises, by Brian Phillips, on Grantland.

A sumo wrestling tournament.
A failed coup ending in seppuku.
A search for a forgotten man.
How one writer’s trip to Japan became
a journey through oblivion.

Written by taogaming

August 16, 2015 at 10:15 am

Posted in TV & Media

International Gamers Awards

Hey, let’s discuss things! So, the IGA

General Strategy, Multiplayer:

  • Have not played — Aquasphere, Deus, Elysium, Hyperborea, KraftWagon, Orleans, Panamax,
  • Five Tribes — Meh
  • La Ganja — Meh
  • Quartermaster General — My pick, obviously.
  • Roll for the Galaxy — I played a burst of 20-ish games, and I’ll probably play a burst when the expansion comes out. Any game I play twenty times is intriguing and probably pretty decent, but I’m mentally comparing this to Race, and few games stand up to that scrutiny. Roll is no exception.
  • Voyages of Marco Polo — I enjoyed my single game of this, and I haven’t played another. I’m not sure anyone local owns it.

Two Player Games:

  • Baseball Highlights: 2045 — I guess I don’t need to read the rest of this category, and in fact the only other game I’ve played is Star Realms, which (like Roll) was a burst of 20 games over a few weeks and done. Then again, I’ve had a tough time getting BH2045 back to the table, but I’m still pushing it.
  • Games I haven’t played — Fields of Arle, Patchwork, Star Wars Armada, Wir Sind das Volk

 

Written by taogaming

August 15, 2015 at 8:45 am

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

Too Many Words about Quartermaster General

This article covers my (evolving) thoughts about Quartermaster General strategy, tactics and planning. This article assumes the game with Air Marshal, but a fair amount of it applies to just the base game as well.

Currently (in our group) games rarely go past Turn 15. One side wins via a 30 point lead. This colors my view on  discarding and Economic Warfare. Any game that goes past 15 turns is usually just seeing if the Allies win by 30 points or win by total points on T20. I’ve never seen a game where the Allies are ahead at T15 (or later) won by the Axis, although I assume someone has.

My (one) criticism of QG is that each game revolves around the appearance (or lack thereof) of key cards for each side. QG feels balanced as a series, but most individual games seemed wildly unbalanced. It is, after all, a card game with each deck sporting a dozen or two unique cards. Each game feels different, but on the order of “Woah, look at this new way the (Axis/Allies) are crushing!” Even when balanced, the game feels like the Axis rushing to win before they run out of steam.

Time will tell if this is typical.

Supply and Tempo

Quartermaster General’s main thrusts are tempo and supply. (Pretty good description of war, actually). Most turns you play a card, and that’s it. One turn = One card (plus maybe a bolster two or an Air Deploy). Some decks (particularly Japan) let you bank turns, but one turn = one card. You get twenty cards, plus a few bonus (if the game goes the distance).

If your supply is cut (say, the UK’s North Atlantic Fleet) you may lose several turns time after a chain of units (North Africa, Africa, etc) go out of supply. And out of supply units can’t build or battle, so you don’t even get any last licks in. Losing one key point in the chain can cost 4+ turns and key cards. Even if you rebuild your fleet right away (to put everything back into supply), it’s a terribly urgent move. If you don’t get cut – if your opponents dawdle and give you time to build a bit more (Bay of Bengal, India) – suddenly you have two supply routes and losing that Fleet is annoying, but not devastating. It costs 1 turn, but you get to keep the rest of your turns.

A long spread out chain makes your position fragile. You risk having to play an Urgent move at a time of the opponent’s chosing. If they have a well placed bolster or two enemies time it correctly, you may be unable to recover even with the right cards.

Many cards spend tempo for long term advantage. That’s what a great status card does. You spend a turn playing it, and then next turn you can do more. Germany excels at this. Blitzkrieg (“Use once per turn when you battle a land space. Discard the top card of your draw deck and build an army in the space battled.”) lets you turn a Land Battle and a random card into a Land Battle, a Build Army and the tempo to play it.

(I’d buy a lot more books if they came bundled with the time to read them).

So an early Blitzkrieg earns back interest. Germany’s deck gives it a massive tempo advantage.

German has to pay twice for this:

  1. A random card for each use. We’ll discuss this later.
  2. A tempo right now. Often times this isn’t a big problem, but it’s a cost.

For cards like Blitzkrieg the second cost is rarely painful, but for many status cards (and events, etc) the cost is paramount. Especially in the base game, which is much less fluid. Consider three spots Germany-Eastern Europe-Ukraine. The first player to build in Eastern Europe is now the invader. Yes, the other player can battle, then you rebuild (back and forth) but of course Germany has to worry about the UK and Moscow about Japan (or Italy). If the invader has something comes up you can ignore Eastern Europe for a turn and lose the initiative.

If your opponent has Eastern Europe and something comes up and you have to ignore it for a turn? You just lost your unit in your Capital.

Examples of Tempo:

Consider a novice UK player. We’ll call him, oh, Tao. He looks at his opening hand and sees not many battles, but builds and the “You may build in India” status card. Ah ha! That’s fast points, and the UK often struggles to get points. Germany goes into Western Europe, ‘Tao’ drops his status card, and the next turn Germany builds in … the North Atlantic. If the UK had a sea battle, no big deal. But I don’t (ahem, the UK doesn’t). And now Germany starts hitting the UK. On the other hand, Build the navy first, Germany would have to Sea Battle (hardly Germany’s strong point), then build a navy and while that would be painful he’d be neglecting the East Front. A huge swing. Build the Home Fleet First.

On a more advanced level, the UK’s second build can be into North Africa (unless an event comes). Even if Italy builds into the med, the UK can reach N. Africa first. If the UK declines, Italy can go in there and at that flips who can battle across Gibraltar. I’m coming to the conclusion that the UK really should grab N. Africa as the second play, because now all of those sea battles can go towards the Med. And once the UK parks a Navy in the Med, things get ugly for the Axis. (I believe this play will swing our play group’s win ratio from Axis winning 2/3rds to Allies winning over half, possibly even more).

The Squeeze

You want to threaten the initiative, to force your opponent to respond. Cutting supply is a squeeze. Taking a critical point (like N. Africa) is a squeeze. If an ally is nearby you can each strike at a weak point and only one can be defended. Or you can use a bolster card to get a critical tempo advantage to swing at two points (or to take the initiative). At it’s heart, Deploying an Air Force gains initiative. If you go Eastern Europe + Air Force, then if your opponent land battles, you lose the planes and attack the Capital. So one player can squeeze one opponent, with the right plays. But two people can almost always deal with one opponent.

The Deck as resource

Decks range from 37 up to 51 cards. If you assume you are going to play 20 cards, plus discard five at the start. Plus 5 bolster/air deploys, that’s 30 cards. But in our play style we only have 15 turns, so that means 5-8 fewer cards played. Even if you go the distance, you have cards to burn. I’m willing to discard aggressively (either at the end of a turn, or to reallocate resources) with those cards. Cards knocked off the top of your deck only matter if you are going to run out. Germany and the USA can spend a card every other turn. The final push to win it can be worth your entire deck to earn that decisive VP. Similarly, discarding (weak) cards from your hand to trigger a status is fine.

Yes, discarding could mean that economic warfare cost you points, but the game often ends by the 30 point concession (which is now the real auto-victory, instead of the two Capital rule).

So you can afford to discard four cards to go fetch a build or battle (or deploy Air Force card) once without much pain, assuming you don’t mind giving up those particular cards. You can even do it twice. If your cards are unlikely to be useful soon, consider chucking them during the prior discard phase. You may save a card or two or draw a great status/event. Each deck has several game changers you’d want to get hold of, and those you just have to draw.

Sometimes you need to reallocate. But discard aggressively, particularly for non-playing event/statuses/bolsters. Most decks have a few ways they can go, and once you decide not to do Operation Sea Lion or that hitting an opponent with economic warfare isn’t a big deal, get rid of those cards aggressively.

One time to keep a few bad cards is if you are planning to spend them as part of a bolster cost (or to trigger a status). Then you hold them to avoid drawing all useful cards you don’t want to chuck.

One final note on Re-allocating resources. If you have a card that puts cards back on the bottom of our deck (such as Rationing or Rosie the Riveter), you can re-allocate to shuffle your deck, which may put those cards back on top! (This is really only important if the UK puts the awesome “discard a German status” Engima back on the bottom of the deck by Rationing. I still wouldn’t re-allocate just to do it, but it would tempt me).

Card Limitations and True vs Small threats

Novices make non-squeezing plays. They battle their opponent because …. just because. The UK can’t afford to spend all of it’s precious land battles early. Yes, the Resistance may let you take Western Europe, but how will you take Germany? Save them for when they matter, or you can threaten a squeeze.

Or consider if the axis attempts Operation Sea Lion (the Germany Amphibious Invasion of the UK). This can actually happen fast (I’ve already shown a self-inflicted version). Assume Italy and Germany are both in Western Europe, with Italy having an air force. Italy battles into the North Atlantic (sacrificing the air force if necessary) to clear the space (the US has headed to the Pacific). Now the US gets a play, but if they don’t occupy the ocean (or Lend Lease) Germany builds a navy before the UK and moves an airforce into the Atlantic.

The UK is in trouble (particularly if there is no AF in England).

But Italy only has two Sea Battles, and Germany only has two Build Navies. If either player has squandered both, it won’t work. And you can’t really have Germany attack and the Italian navy build … the UK gets a move in between, and they usually can build a navy. So you need to get the cards and get a bit of luck, but wasting the card to check if the Royal Navy has a Build card is pointless and forecloses most of your shot for Sea Lion in the future. To summarize – Well timed Squeezing in the Atlantic is huge, battling just to battle does nothing. The UK has more sea cards than Germany and Italy combined.

(Similarly to how I think the UK has been ignoring N. Africa in our group, I now think that the Axis have been ignoring Sea Lion in our group. But the US can also help stop Sea Lion just by building it’s east coast navy, so it’s available to Sea Battle Germany the turn after Germany builds into the N. Atlantic, or to build after Italy battles).

Tempo and Two Points

Why are we seeing most games end by 30 point concession? One player gets off to a rocky start and falls behind (maybe self-inflicted, maybe not). They earn two points when everyone else earns four, or four instead of six. If your team is earning two points less per round, you lose in fifteen rounds. If two players are earning two points less on your team, then you lose in eight rounds. All three? Five rounds.

Our last game hand an instructive Allied Victory. Germany, unlike most games, drove towards Scandanvia on turn 1. (Presumably he had a handful of cards that required an army there). The Soviets played Germany-Soviet Treaty of Friendship… to build in the Ukraine and Russia, then the US played Murmansk Convoy, giving the USSR two more builds. That’s an extreme example, but not outrageous. The odds of the Soviets starting with that event is just under 1/3rd, and the odds of the US holding Murmansk are only slightly worse, call it 10% odds of this being a possible opening.

Now Germany had a defensive knife fight on the Eastern Front. If he’d taken Western Europe on T1 that still would be true, but then Germany would be earning 4 points a turn instead of 2 during that fight. The Axis lost on around turn 15, so those two points a turn were decisive. (Obviously Italy ended up getting some points in Western Europe instead of Germany, but Italy spent several turns doing this instead of building his own point base).

If Germany earned two extra points each turn, the game would be effectively tied.

Don’t discount two points a turn. You don’t want to sacrifice tempo or risk a long term squeeze for it, but all else being equal, grab the points. Germany can go East immediately, but then Italy has to go to Western Europe. (Since it’s a 2-team game, it’s zero sum. Denying Russia 2 a turn is just as good as earning two points, but as we’ve seen there are tempo considerations on Europe). If Italy could have gone into the Balkans or Med for a point, that’s a cost. As the UK, once you’ve secured the Atlantic, getting a second supply center early (Australia or India) on turn 3-4 is 30 points over the game (in undisturbed). That turns an automatic loss into a nailbiter.

(Also note Germany going to Western Europe threatens the North Atlantic and Sea Lion in the early game, So it’s a points + squeeze, whereas Italy in Western Europe on Turn 1 means the UK can grab Gibraltar).

Taking a Capital looms large because it denies all of that player’s points and also severely restricts their card play. Moscow is the most precarious, but apart from the US they are all reasonable (the US could fall, but that would be amazing. I’ve seen the West Coast conquered, though).

The Wild Blue Yonder

Planes are tempo in metal form. You can drop them (with a deploy card) as part of a turn, and they let you go on the offensive. You build + AF, they attack, you can take the loss and attack back. But the units and cards are a limited resource, which leads to the interesting question: When do you to take the AF as a loss versus accepting the loss of the army/navy and reposition the AF? Obviously if you can’t move the AF to a legal adjacent space, sacrifice it instead of the base unit. Evaluate the tempo situation of each option. If the tempo is OK, take the regular unit loss. If the tempo squeezes you, lose the AF. (Obviously if you have another AF card in hand, then that adjusts it). Having an AF on the board lets you also threaten multiple fronts. Build an AF and now you solidify a front and maybe threaten to sacrifice to kill your opponents’ AF. If the give up the normal unit, you can then move the AF (after battle) into a weak spot.

Each country has natural choke points. If Italy can’t get into the Med (or control N. Africa, after that) they’ll have a tough time getting extra points. An AF can be a critical position holder. (As Italy, Build Med/ Deploy AF med as the first play is reasonable, hoping to build N. Africa, move AF to N.Africa. Now Gibraltar and the N. African forces shield the Med fleet). I don’t mention an Deploy Air Force in my discussion of openings, but if you have one you’ll usually throw it down on a choke point ASAP.

 Economic Warfare (EW)

In the base game, Economic Warfare routinely entered into play. With the expansion, since most people don’t play most of their bolster cards, the threat of earning a ton of VP as your victims sit and do nothing is much reduced. (Good! That’s not fun). Economic Warfare (and any forced discard) hits random cards. It may discard cards they want, or cards they don’t want. As the opening (draw 12, discard 5) proves, all cards are good sometimes. Most EW cards also give you a VP or two (this isn’t true for the US). Not much – I’d certainly rather drop a status card that earns points each turn – but those few points add up. If you have the tempo, take them. The loss of cards also forces some caution on an opponent if the game does threaten to go long, and who knows, you may hit a great card. Another consideration is that if your victim is desperate and not playing a card you know will crush you, it’s probably in their deck. If you are Russia and Germany is Land Battling instead of playing Broad Front (“Battle up to 3 Soviet Armies that were adjacent to yours at the start of the turn”) It’s reasonable to guess that the card is still in his deck. (Russia doesn’t have EW cards, but you get the idea). Similarly, if the Reich is partying in Moscow for a few turns and Russians are muttering “Winter is Coming,” then probably Russian Winter is somewhere in their deck. (Maybe they are dropping response cards, because Winter by itself isn’t enough, but you never know).

After the expansion, play EW cards for the points and to help your opponent feel constrained. Or just whenever you are in a solid position and waiting for a good combo. Until you get hit with the second EW card (or Heavy Bombers) it isn’t so bad, although you’ll have to cut back on re-allocation and maybe not discard as aggressively.

If you do run your opponent out of cards you may be able to waltz into their homeland, and deny them any more points for the final few turns.

Not really related to EW, but you can also sometime squeeze a final point by joining in a supply center, if the other person has already scored their two points! (Italy can go into Western Europe to get a point, after Germany took two. This is useful if you need one critical point to end the game). This won’t get you one or two a turn, but sometimes you need to scrounge it!

Card Diversity and Limits

Apart from the deck limit, each deck has a card diversity limit. Japan has few battles, but lots of responses that let you stack battles. Be aware of how many of each build and battle card you have, and know when you are running down. Don’t spend them wily-nily.

Some status cards that let you convert any random 1-3 cards into some other card. Russia and Germany can spend two cards to fetch a build army from the discard pile. Italy can spend 3 (ouch) to fetch a land battle from the discard pile. The UK has Resistance which lets you spend 2 cards to attack Western Europe or Italy. These can be great options, cycling chaff to pressure the enemy. Sometimes you even want to do this when you have the right card in your hand! (Particularly Resistance, since the UK wants land battles for different spaces). If you have one of those cards, you can be a bit more liberal in spending those cards. Russia, in particular, can cavalierly toss Build Army cards in the opening.

The Opening Discard

Given what I’ve stated above, I hope to draw five useless bolster or EW cards in the opening to make the “Twelve Choose Seven” choice easy. What I don’t want to see are lots of builds and battles, particularly all my land or sea battles! Those lack flexibility, and you don’t want to run out early. If playing with the optional rule that allows for mulligans as long as a pair from each side agree (which I do), don’t mulligan easily, because you have to give up one good card. Mulligan because you have to give up three or four cards, or are staring at way too many battles.

Notes about Specific Countries

Deck information is total cards, # Armies/navies, # Battles Land/Sea, EW cards, Ev(ents), Status, Response, Deploy AF and Bolsters)

Germany (7 armies, 3 navies, 2 AF)

(51 cards total, 6/2 A/N, 7/2 Land/Sea, 5 EW, 7 Ev, 11 Status, 0 Resp, 3 AF, 8 Bolster)

The most important cards are Statuses: Blitzkrieg and Bias for Action let you turn a Build into a Build + Land Battle and a Land Battle into a Battle + Build at the cost of a random card. These effectively let your deck count as having many more battles and builds, but also means that the German deck is not nearly as thick as you’d expect at 51 cards. You hope to spend 5+ cards a game on these guys. Similarly, Dive Bombers lets you battle twice, which is useful in dealing with Air Forces. The Production Initiative Event lets you go get one of those statuses, so expect the Germans to get at least one (maybe two) of these early. Conscription lets the Germans discard two random cards to play a build out of their discard pile. Coupled with a Blitzkrieg this makes the German feels a smaller deck, but every card builds or battles.

Germany’s Bolster cards mainly let you battle hard and often and are also quite good.

Germany’s weakness is that it really can’t do much against the UK (barring a coordinated assault or mistake) and it’s not a point machine. You can often get to the Ukraine, but Russia may scorch it. By all means take Moscow but be aware that the Russian events will probably mean you can’t keep it. Germany effectively scores by denying the USSR points. Italy will often outscore Germany, even as Barbarossa rolls on. As long as you fight the Reds, that’s fine.

As the Russians, you should not feel the need to keep a front line next to your opponent. (Particularly if they have Bias for Action and not Blitzkrieg).

Germany has a minor theme in getting to Scandinavia. This turns their economic warfare against the UK into a serious threat, and offers a few more points with Statuses. If the US comes calling you may want to play Atlantic Wall (to make land battles in Western Europe costly) and Jet Fighters to blunt the US economic warfare, but honestly I chuck that.

Typical opening: Western Europe, then Roll east. Rarely you can head east and let Italy secure Western Europe (typically if he has no bonus scoring cards, but even then, you are forcing him to use a limited Build and army that could be spent elsewhere). Leaving Western Europe open after Italy’s turn is not an option, it’s an invitation to lose brutally (The US has plenty of ways to give the UK a bonus turn.)

So grab Europe and take two points now. Sometimes drive for Scandinavia and the N. Sea. Great opening, play the Forced Conscription to build twice (Go West and East) and then drop your monstrous status cards and don’t look back. Guns and Butter is a great card because it lets you fetch and play a build or battle. Note that Western Europe opening lets Italy play Afrika Korps, which lets you drop a navy in the Med and an army in North Africe, so that the Axis control Gibraltar. You won’t care but Italy does.

Cards I love to discard in the opening – EW cards and statuses, Volksturm (if you are fighting for the Fatherland, you’ve lost).

Italy (4 armies. 3 navies, 1 AF)

(37 cards total, 4/3 A/N, 4/2 Land/Sea, 2 EW, 7 Ev, 5 Status, 3 Resp, 2 AF, 5 Bolster)

Poor Italy is a lot of fun, IMO. You can get points from Mare Nostrum (+1 for the Med), Balkan Resources (+1 for the Balkans), Africa and the Middle East (Imperio Italiano) and parts of Russia (Anti-Communist Sentiment). Coupled with a plunder card (one time +1 for each army/navy outside of Italy you can rack up 5-6 a turn starting very quickly (particularly if you get the early double build. With the Afrika Korps you secure the Med early on, really nice temp.

Your downside is you barely have any cards or pieces. The Italians can harass Russia or the UK somewhat, typically not both. Actually, the best play is to harass each one in turn as a squeeze. Italy also can use the time to play a few minor Economic Warfare cards for the spare points.

Typical opening. Secure the Med, the generate extra points. Shore up Germany’s weak spots and apply gentle pressure. If you get Italian East Africa (which you could play on T2 if you took the Med T1 and the UK didn’t battle it) you threaten to grab India as quickly as Turn 3! This can also help keep the US out of Szechaun. Like I said, Italy has options.

Don’t be afraid as Italy to just get some points and then solidify a position. Play Economic Warfare cards (or Plunder) for spare points if nothing happens. Use Division Azul to remove a Soviet Response. The tide will turn, you have to win first!

A note on the Balkans – There are several cards that hose the Balkans, but you have a status that gives you points for them, so you just have to accept the loss from time to time.

Cards I love to discard in the opening – Golden Square Coup, German Reinforcements Counterattack, Monte Cassino (if Italy falls, etc etc), Anti-Communist Sentiment (Yes, it’s a point per turn, but it’s really hard to keep for long, what with Russian Winter and all, and the other point statuses are better.

Japan (5 Armies, 5 Navies, 2 AF)

(43 cards total, 4/6 A/N, 3/4 Land/Sea , 2 EW, 0 Event, 3 Status, 11 Response, 3 AF, 7 Bolster)

Japan has seven battle cards. Japan has seven battle cards. Just like Italy. Look at it again. Seven.

Japan has a metric zillion of response cards and bolsters that say “When you battle, do this other awesome thing.” In my very first game, as Japan, not knowing what to do, I stumbled on a very good Japanese strategy.

Turn 1: Sea of Japan. Turn 2: Build in China. Turns 3-10 (ish), play a response card, pausing maybe to drop a VP status card and build to get the VP.

Then – on command of the Emperor – Unleash Hell. You know, sea battle, then “After a sea battle, also land battle, then build a few armies, then maybe some more battles and, oh, I don’t know, drink all the sake.” And then when the counter attack hits, just flip up some response cards to nullify it.

That’s a pretty good plan.

Using your land and sea battles without responses leaves you no way to trigger your responses. Note that you can battle an empty space to trigger responses!

All three of Japan’s status cards grant a new VP condition, corresponding to a SE Asia Strategy (Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere) an Easter Pacific Strategy (Forward Bases) and a South Pacific strategy (Imperial Designs). Japan can (barely) stretch to India or Australia. So a status, + 3 supply centers gets you up to 8 or even 10+ points a turn. If this is happening the US had better be rolling through Europe.

Japan may have to fight the UK or US quickly, if they drop a status that lets them build in Australia or Szechuan early, but often you get left alone.

As Japan you have to be somewhat flexible because Magic discards a random response. Japan’s chokepoints aren’t just annoying things like Vladivostok not touching Japan, but having to remember which responses you have. Several of your bolsters also let you discard a response from hand to do an action, which is nice.

Japan doesn’t really have the armies to march on Moscow, but if the Soviets have to fall back and forage for supply they can threaten to eliminate them completely. Rather surprisingly Japan can actually threaten the US (especially with Forward Bases to make the threat earn VP). Taking the Western US is a 4 point swing, and probably gives Germany some breathing room. But Japan will have to pick his battles.

Typical Opening is Navy in Sea of Japan then China (2 points) then whatever your hand says. Note that if you have Special Naval Landing Forces you can drop this on T1, build a navy and activate it on T2 to grab China and the Phillipines/Iwo Jima. Then you could drop a status on T3 and be at 5/turn!

Cards I like to discard in the opening – EW cards, everything else is conditional. Evaluate your hand for Japan. It has lots of moving parts.

USSR (7 armies, 1 navy, 1 AF)

(41 cards total, 8/1 A/N, 6/2 Land/Sea, 0 EW, 6 Event, 7 Status, 4 Resp, 2 AF, 6 Bolster)

A fact that I am reminded of when I play this game. The Soviet Army took more casualties than the size of the entire German army. Every year. (I’m not entirely sure it’s true, but I heard it, so it probably is). See those 8 build army cards? May as well be infinite. Women Conscripts lets you put a played Build Army back on top of the deck. Defense of the Motherland lets you build twice (for two discards, in addition to the build). Guards lets you spend two cards to play a build from the discard pile. Asian Reserves (a bolster) fetches two back.

No discussion of Russia would be complete without Russian Winter. This is your one-time get out of jail free card. It’s for when Moscow is occupied. But don’t just slap it down. You may want to put down the Rasputitsa, which cancels a build in/adjacent to Moscow. And Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad responses keep armies in Ukraine, Moscow and Russia. Be sure when you play the winter you’ll have time to build there next turn.

Another status worth mentioning is Shvernik’s Evacuation Council, which keeps all your troops in supply. This is good because you can build behind Moscow and still fight after Moscow falls. If you have a lull, it’s often worth playing. It also means that when you play Vasilevsky Takes Command in the Far East to eliminate the Japanese army in China you get to keep the army in Vladivostok. (Ditto Tito’s Partisans for the Balkans). You’ll often want to play Scorched Earth to deny the axis the VP from Ukraine.

As noted before, you can build up a quick offensive with German-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Demarcation and/or Murmansk Convoy.

You only have two sea battles, but can often use them on the Sea of Japan or North Sea at a critical moment.

Typical Opening – Ukraine (two points a turn, while it lasts) then drop down statuses and responses to hold off the inevitable (unless Operation Sea Lion starts, at which point you have to attack!)

Cards I like to discard – Usually a build army or even two (especially if you Asian Reserves!) Trans-Siberian railroad is a great late game card, but not worth holding early. Leningrad protects Russia, which is nice, but it’s no Ukraine or Moscow.

UK (5 Armies, 5 Navies, 2 AF)

(47 cards total, 5/5 A/N, 4/5 Land/Sea, 2 EW, 7 Event, 7 Status, 4 Resp, 3 AF, 5 Bolster)

Britannia rules the waves. So do that. Much like Italy, I find the UK fascinating. Russia has a grim situation, the US has to position it’s overwhelming force, but Britain can do lots of things. Try to spread out to score points. Harass Europe, slug with Japan. Build into the North Sea (after Scandinavia) and try to support the Soviet Union, particularly if you have Warsaw Uprising. (OK, that’s probably not good).

Interesting. Much like Italy, you’ll have to time your battles. The UK can rely on the US to give you a spare turn or sometimes build, so you’ll have that. You’ll want to play either Resistance (discard two to battle in W. Europe or Italy) or Rationing (discard a different card to put your played card on the bottom of the deck), both of which turn your spare cards into a huge asset, and typically mean that instead of 9 battles you have many more.

For Bomber Command, just trust me and Bomb Italy.

If you can drop a Navy (+AF) into the Mediterranean you’ll note only deny Italy points, you’ll practically ensure Europe’s fall. You only have to survive 4 sea battles there, max.

Typical Opening – Build Navy, then you may want to battle the med or seize N. Africa. If not, Dutch East Indies, Australia Forms the Directorate of Manpower or Lord Linlithgow Declares India to be at War all give you two more points a turn and put some pressure on Japan.

Cards I like to discard in the opening – Free France is similar to Resistance, but much inferior. In order to use it, you have to actually open up Western Europe. Ifyou can keep it empty for any length of time, the US can invade for you. Mackenzie King Drafts the National Resources Mobilization Act is just an inferior point card that doesn’t actually let you build, it takes too long. I’d only keep it if I had no other status/event that let me build in a remote supply center. General Smuts Strengthens Ties to UK has builds in typically mediocre places without providing supply. Singapore as well, but if you have Australia it’s great.

USA (5 armies, 5 Navies, 3 AF)

(50 cards total, 5/5 A/N, 4/4 Land/Sea, 5 EW, 8 Event, 9 Status, 0 Resp, 4 AF, 6 Bolster)

As the US, your job twofold: Second, win the endgame. First, ensure there will be an endgame.

Your goal is to put pressure on the Axis, and fast. The best way to do this is to play cards that help the UK or the USSR in the opening, and grab points. Sure, in the endgame the US Economic Warfare dominates, but with the expansion the game rarely lasts that long. Toss those to Rosie the Riveter, who lets you cycle cards. The US can often give it’s allies (particularly the UK) a turn. It’s wise to do it, particularly in the opening or when they can use a tempo. Once that’s done, see who you can attack first. Assuming you spend 1 turn helping allies and another getting the Western US, you attack Europe on turn 5. Japan takes longer (although if you have Fleet deployed to Pearl Harbor you can play it, then build a navy in the Pacific and then attack the sea of Japan on T5 … if your Navy is still around).

You shouldn’t entirely discount EW cards. Some turns you just have little to do. Probably it’s better to put down one of America’s great status cards, like Aircraft Carriers or Amphibious Landing (both turn a battle into a battle + build), Radar (save your ships) or Superior Shipyards/Wartime Production (double build). Since it takes you so long to attack the Axis, the slight delay for dropping a status or two will usually be canceled by the benefit before it matters.

The US also has a bit of a problem because of it’s distance. If you go for the Pacific you’ll need Hawaii and another forward base. That leaves you one army free (assuming you have two in the US). Presumably in Szechaun. You can’t afford to go placing armies wily-nily. If you go for Europe you can afford a few spaces.

The US also has 3 AF counters, and 4 AF cards, so feel free to sacrifice an air unit or two….

Side note –If the game balance does swing heavily towards the Allies, starting the US without it’s initial army may be a reasonable balance and is thematic.

Typical Opening – If you can’t give a critical tempo with Lend Lease, Murmansk, Arsenal of Democracy or Free French, build in the Western US (two more points a turn). American Volunteer Group Expands lets you build into Szechaun and count it as a supply center, two more points and attack Japan from the west. Pearl Harbor quickly gets you to Hawaii (rarely beyond, since Pearl Harbor‘s builds are in a specific order as per the FAQ). If you don’t get into Szechaun, you can go fight in Europe or the Pacific. If Russia is in trouble, you probably want to go to Europe. It will take you a long time to pressure Japan, but you can fight Germany quickly (if you can build two navies).

Cards I like to discard in the opening – Apart from EW cards (and P-51 Mustangs, an EW bolster card), Theater Shift (great late game card, but just useless for the first half, besides you can play Flexible Resources to pay 4 cards to play out of your discard pile later on). Patton Advances seems good, but remember you have to be adjacent to Western Europe, which also has to be open. Way too early for the opening hand.

Written by taogaming

August 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Look, while I’m being annoyed

GMT did not market Churchill as a CDG, but I see it on lists of like Card driven wargames in the pipeline and I got it into my head that Churchill would be like a CDG. It’s my fault. Fine.

But it sets up an expectation, and the fact that it was a false expectation is still annoying me.

My second game was more interesting than my first, but enough people have a copy that I’m just going to eat the loss and sell mine now (probably in a few days). The game is all about implicit collusion and the rather subtle ways the chrome interacts, but the core of the game is not brilliant.

Said the annoyed person.

And if I hadn’t played Churchill, I probably would have gotten in two more games of Quartermaster General along with the three I did play, and been happier overall.

I’m probably going to write too many words about that, soon-ish.

Also, after watching it, let me just jump on the Rick & Morty Bandwagon and ask why you aren’t watching? Amazing episode this week, constantly subverting expectations and amazingly funny and would make Sterling Archer blush.

Written by taogaming

August 11, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Summer Media

When the kids are at camp, I can finally get around to watching Game of Thrones.

You know, it’s a much better TV show than book, but I’m watching by inertia. It has some “Holy shit!” moments, and the best opening credits on TV, but the brutal take down by South Park still applies. Does anyone not think it’s Dragons versus Zombies at the end? I will also, again, point out that my decision to stop reading the books after the first one came out (“Because it’s a god-damn trilogy, and probably will turn out to be even longer and take forever”) stands as one of the best predictions I’ve ever made and kind of applies to the TV show. But with a TV show stretching things out for another season is kind of expected. So, what I’m saying is GoT is watchable (and bingeable), but once you’ve seen it you are done. (Even with the good acting).

Whereas I had no problem re-watching BoJack or Rick and Morty.  (Why is it all of the comedy I really like these days is animated?)  I did watch a few episodes of Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, and it was ok but not great. I wish netflix would get more Adventure Time on streaming. (Yes, I could watch on Adult Swim, but they have a painful # of commercials, in my experience).

So I’m looking for Fall viewing. I’ll probably watch Doctor Who (although I’m sick and tired of Clara and Moffat).

I watched a few episodes of Mad Men. I may pick that up. I’m not hooked, but it’s not bad.

In the meantime, I’ll just play more Mage Knight.

Written by taogaming

August 9, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Posted in TV & Media

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