The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

No Retreat Followup

I’ve now played another game of No Retreat (as well as several sessions of just pushing chits around, which I find enjoyable. I don’t think too hard and just discover possibilities. I’m keeping my rating at ‘8’ (which reminds me, I have a discussion about ratings. A benign rant, perhaps. But some other day), and I’ve played “Fall Blau,” but there are some things that I must admit (although I stand by my initial thoughts:

  1. The rules are novel enough that I can’t keep them all in my head. Sadly, neither can my opponent. We are continuing to miss easy stuff (like when you detrain, tonight) for some reason. I blame  everyone but myself. Still, I’ve read the rules multiple times, spent 5+ hours solitaire, read many forums, and I still get things wrong. Maybe I’m just getting old or out of my comfort zone, but there’s just something about these rules that stymie my attempts to understand them.
  2. That being said, the rules (and cards) are vague on some key points. I think part of that is just the fact that the designer isn’t a native speaker and the wording just doesn’t always flow like I’d expect (I asked a question about one example), there are also a few weird wordings on cards (like a card that refers to a ‘phase’ that exists in the sequence of play as a ‘step’… does it just refer to the step, or the phase the step is in?).  I think if I just picked out a card at random I could likely come up with a scenario where I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Scanning the rules forums lets me discover answers that surprise me. Not a good sign. Still, if you handwave and make reasonable guesses things seems to work.
  3. My big fear is the worry that No Retreat is a card game that happens to have a board, and not vice versa.

Let me explain. We played Fall Blau. The Germans start with 7 cards to the Soviet 2.  The Germans got a card that drew more cards. Then I played my cancel card, which the germans re-cancelled (which gave him an extra card, to boot). He then used another card to retake the cancelling card.  Now, each side has a cancelling card, but when one side has a huge card advantage … if I cancel one German card, he still has 5 left. If he cancels mine, I have one left. You can also draw dead cards (although as cards are also spent for replacement troops, counterblows, faster organization and additional rail movements that isn’t horrible). But the Russians often need to spend 2-3 cards a turn just on troops (in the early scenarios), so having your final card or two cancelled feels crushing.

Also, some random card draws switch the weather. Some random card draws just cost you a card.  Really, for a ~40 card deck (55 cards actually, but you remove some for early war, remove others for late war)., there’s a lot of variability. A bit too much. Like random “Oops, one less card for you and 2 extra for him” and other cards that do little to nothing. I just wish they were a bit tighter. And if I get only 1-2 card plays a turn (for a 3-4 turn scenario), I’d like them to be cancelled by clever play, not by a counterspell.

To be fair, after all my bitter card luck, I won, but I had a turn with three amazingly lucky combats (including a 1/6 shot to save an Out of Supply tank unit). So I’m not willing to say that it’s all the cards. But I’m worried the card’s vary too wildly.

Fall Blau (as Chris said) is much more interesting scenario than Barbarossa. We had a very confusing center (including one turn where the units effectively broke past each other, cutting both players supply), some sharp thrusts and counters in both sides.  Now I have to play past turn 10, where the initiative changes…


Written by taogaming

November 22, 2011 at 2:03 am

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. I played my first game of this last night as the Soviets using the Barbarossa scenario. I agree on the card point. In turn 4, which is supposed to be winter, we had three card draws that turned snow to mud… so we weren’t going to have a winter with snow. This gave the Germans the advantage they needed to keep forcing retreats – my opponent also was capable of only rolling 5s and 6s so…

    Charles Feduke

    November 22, 2011 at 8:43 am

  2. I had 7 choose 5 at the beginning of the scenario, but the next turn I held 2, drew 4+1, and played summer offensive for 3 more, for a total of 9 cards to start the round.

    The “counter opponent’s card and take that card” is extremely powerful, as is the dredge the deck card. “Shuffle the deck and don’t draw a card” is the opposite extreme obviously. Cards that are unplayable because the initiative is wrong are also bummers.

    Randomly and mandatorily changing from clear to mud is massively bad for the side that needs to take territory. On the soviet initiative going from snow to mud would also be bad and random.

    Frederic Bush

    November 22, 2011 at 9:25 am

  3. Playing with the joker should churn a lot of the useless cards (although the mandatory play + no redraw card is still a problem.) Of course, it then becomes even more of a card game.

    The more units that are out there, the more important the unit play becomes are as opposed to the cards (it seems to me) so as you progress through the scenarios/play the full game it might be less of an issue.

    Frederic Bush

    November 22, 2011 at 10:31 am

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