Doctor Who Project: Death to the Daleks

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Tell me, have you ever tried Venusian hopscotch?

This time, the Dalek story title wheel lands on an alliteration, but at a stretch, it’s possible that Terry Nation’s “Death to the Daleks” (Story Production Code XXX) actually could apply to the story itself, since the dozen or so Daleks in the story do perish at the end. Alas, as with most things Dalek in the early 1970s, the title, and the story, aim for the grandiose and provide the pedestrian.

Surprise, Daleks!

In keeping with one of Nation’s favored themes, a terrible plague threatens the outer colonies of almost all species. Only one planet, Exxilon, inhabited by a Stone Age civilization, possesses the cure in quantities sufficient to save the millions who suffer from the disease. Both the humans of the Marine Space Corps and the Daleks (of, um, the Daleks) want this miracle substance, parrinium, and would gladly fight each for it, if only their spaceships and energy weapons worked once they neared Exxilon.

For even the TARDIS succumbs to the energy-draining powers of the “forbidden city” of the Exxilons’ ancestors, who were old when the universe was young. Their city, imbued with a form of bio-technological sentience, was meant to be their crowning achievement, but in standard science fiction fashion, it realized they were an impediment to its efficient functioning and killed off most of them. The remnants worship the city, reduced to chanting and incense-heavy sacrificial ceremonies in its name.

The main course awaits her fate

Terry Nation must hold some grudge against the TARDIS, as for the second story of his in a row, the TARDIS runs out of a vital component (here energy, previously oxygen) and remains useless to the Doctor. Even in “The Daleks” back in 1963, he sees fit to render the blue box hors de combat, with the Doctor pocketing the fluid link to force everyone to investigate Skaro to find a replacement. The notion of the inviolable TARDIS never quite took with Nation, it seems, and he uses whatever plot device he can to get the Doctor out of its safe confines. At least the Doctor has an oil lamp handy with which to guide his way out of the blacked-out TARDIS, as one does…

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Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Games) After-Action Report Part Two

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End of Empire (Compass Games, 2014)
American Revolutionary War Campaign Report (1775 Start)
Part Two: Turns Seven through Twelve (Spring 1776 to Winter II 1777)

Overview

Please see Part One of the Campaign Report for a detailed breakdown of Turns One through Six in my playthrough of the American Revolutionary War campaign in Compass GamesEnd of Empire.

The British start in control of Georgia and South Carolina; the remaining colonies hew to the American cause. Their position in the southern colonies looks strong, and they anticipate building northward.

The Americans have eliminated only 4 of the 20 British Regular steps needed to bring the French into play. Continued attritional attacks to whittle down British Regulars before large numbers of German and Loyalist troops arrive seems paramount, and with the British fleet about to arrive, attention must be paid to vulnerable ports as well. The British amphibious invasions can strike at will, perhaps their greatest strength in the war.

(Leader ratings given as combat modifier/rank/initiative. Combat results are attacker losses/defender losses. Phases with no significant actions are omitted.)


Turn 7 (Spring, 1776)

Naval Phase:

The British fleet arrives over the horizon, sails lit by the rising sun, and takes up position in the North Atlantic, menacing large swaths of the coast. [The British fleet automatically enters each Naval Phase until the French enter play.]

Reinforcements:

The captured Schuyler [0/4/3] and Carleton [1/4/5] are swapped, a fair trade given their co-equal ranks. Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina send large numbers of men to the colors, with Maryland and New York also sending troops to the Continental Army. Replacements flock to American units, bringing them all back to full except for the troops from South Carolina, currently under the royal thumb.

Howe [1/5/4] makes good his threat to invade and embarks from Halifax, leaving a small force in garrison. New York City soon sees the tall ships, and Lee [0/3/3] decides to stand, having brought his meager force into fortified positions. The NY militia turns out, but a neighboring regiment from New Jersey fails to respond to the calls for help.

Howe’s forces swarm off the longboats carrying them in. [32 attack strength against 16 defense strength for 2:1 odds. Mods are +1 Howe, -1 fort, +1 US reforms for net +1. Combat dr=1; final dr=2 for 1:0. 1 British regular step lost; 5 total lost.] The cannon Lee kept in New York pay off, but Howe pushes the attack, unwilling to return to Nova Scotia in defeat. [29 attack strength against 16 defense yields 1:1 odds. Mods are still net +1. Combat dr=6; final dr=7 for 0/2.] The militia panics, and Lee decides to pull out of the shambles of his base with the cannon, at least.

End of Empire, Turn 7, Situation after Howe's landing in New York City

End of Empire, Turn 7, Situation after Howe’s landing in New York City

Howe immediately calls out the loyalist New York militia, and in Philadelphia, Thomas [0/6/3] does the same, mustering the Pennsylvania militia, though there’s some grumbling about having to leave Philly to defend the New Yorkers, of all people. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the Marion Militia appears just outside Charleston. Though not overwhelmingly strong, they represent a threat to the rear of Clinton’s advance.
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Doctor Who Project: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

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Planet? Spaceship? What are you talking about?

Doctor Who has never been accused of subtlety, but Malcolm Hulke’s “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” (Story Production Code WWW) manages the closest thing: misdirection. From all the evidence on display, one expects the six episode story to be what it says on the tin, a tale of dinosaurs rampaging across London. Taking a page from Robert Sloman’s book, though, Hulke brings us an extended diatribe on pollution, zealotry, and nostalgia. Plus, yes, dinosaurs. So many dinosaurs.

An empty city

At the start of the story, the scenes of deserted London streets summon some of the series’ most striking visual moments to date: Daleks crossing the Thames with Big Ben in the background, Cybermen marching in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and Autons smashing forth from a high street window. Here, director Paddy Russell paints an eerie, desolate setting with a few deft strokes. But then, she has to add the prehistoric stars to the mix.

UNIT vs the dinosaurs

For a variety of reasons, the dinosaurs never actually appear threatening. In part, the combination of puppetry and green screen/CSO effects, though executed with great audacity, doesn’t work to great effect. Soldiers fire their weapons away from the beasties superimposed behind them, and the puppets jerk back and forth, particularly the Tyrannosaurs Rex model. Even when the seams aren’t showing, the Doctor insists to all who listen that they are (mostly) pea-brained vegetarians anyway and not to be feared. By the final episode, where the Doctor and the Brigadier drive a jeep under a Brontosaurus, the effects begin to come together, but at that point, the saurians have been relegated to plot nuisances.

Rare amongst Doctor Who stories, the true villains in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” take up most of the character list, such that everyone seems in on the conspiracy: a Minister of Parliament, a British Army general, a mad scientist, and…Captain Mike Yates?
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Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Games) After-Action Report Part One

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End of Empire (Compass Games, 2014)
American Revolutionary War Campaign Report (1775 Start)
Part One: Turns One through Six (Spring 1775 to Winter II 1776)

Overview

The full American Revolutionary War campaign in Compass GamesEnd of Empire stretches some 41 turns at two months to the turn. Both maps (68″ x 22″) are in play, stretching from Nova Scotia to New Orleans and the Atlantic seaboard to the Great Lakes.

To win, the Americans have a seemingly simple victory condition: eliminate at least 35 steps of British Regular units from the map; two-step units that have flipped do not count until they are completely eliminated. Failing that, simply surviving to the last turn having secured 20 eliminated steps without suffering economic collapse will also see victory.

The British, conversely, seem to have the harder row to hoe, needing either to reclaim all thirteen colonies (plus Vermont and Maine) by securing all supply locations within each simultaneously; or to control and/or raid enough port locations to collapse the American economy via die roll, the number of ports raided/controlled acting as modifier. Rolls close to the needed number will withdraw a large number of American troops.

The French enter play on the American side once the Americans have eliminated 20 British Regular steps, as counted above, and the Spanish enter nine turns after that, also opposed to the British.

If the Americans secure fewer than 20 eliminated British Regular steps but keep the British from their victory conditions, then the game ends in a draw.

Initial Siege of Boston in End of Empire

Siege of Boston, Turn 1

Initial Thoughts

For the Americans, the initial strategy focuses entirely on inflicting enough losses per combat that the British must fulfill them using Regular steps. As the defender picks the first step lost, the presence of any Loyalist or Provincial units will ensure a buffer for the Regulars, so when they’ve been removed, the Americans must continue to strike before they’re reconstituted. British troops hunkered down behind walls, afraid of step losses, are almost as good as eliminated in terms of keeping friendly control of American ports and supply locations.

The British, on the other hand, need to begin to mop up the locations whence the American reinforcements and replacements surge forth—as long as the Americans know they can replace all their losses, they will not hesitate to make poor odds attacks in hopes of picking off a Regular step. The longer term goal of controlling/raiding port locations to trigger economic collapse follows from this initial objective. Force preservation remains paramount, but a death by a thousand cuts awaits if the American manpower advantage cannot be tamed.

(Leader ratings given as combat modifier/rank/initiative. Combat results are attacker losses/defender losses. Phases with no significant actions are omitted.)


Turn 1 (Spring, 1775)

Reinforcements:

The lone British reinforcement, the Second Marine Regiment, only has four real options: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Boston, or St. Augustine. Spring Break in Florida sounds lovely, so down they go to Prevost’s command, where the plan is to march up the coast towards Savannah, Georgia, rolling up the rebellious subjects of King George as they go.

For the Americans, the Catawba rally to the cause of the fledgling nation, appearing near Augusta, Georgia. Ward, west of Boston, preemptively calls out the Massachusetts militia.

British Phase:

Prevost [0/17/3] thinks about how long the walk to Savannah will be and delays it for the time being [Initiative dr=5 fails].

Meanwhile, in Boston, Gage [0/2/3] contemplates the forces arrayed against him: potentially 25 regiments in two stacks that could react, plus rumors of a significant rabble of armed peasantry. No, the “Americans” will need to come to him.

American Phase:

Ward [0/2/3], his forces bolstered by the addition of the militia, marches boldly into Boston [Initiative dr=3 succeeds]. The British remain behind the fortifications, unwilling to come out, so he orders the attack. 14 regiments plus the militia against 12 British regiments. [41 attack strength against 35 defense strength for 1:1 odds, mods are -1 US reforms, -1 powder shortage, -1 no artillery, -1 fort for net -4. Combat dr=3, final dr=-1 for 3AR/0.] The attack, though high in enthusiasm, breaks against the walls, with unpleasant results. The militia scatters, realizing they’re little match for the Redcoats on this day.

Thomas [0/6/3], to the south-east of Boston, delegates a handful of regiments to stiffen Ward’s forces, but, perhaps having received word of the initial skirmish, they are not inclined to march this day [Initiative dr=5 fails].
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Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Games) Review

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Daring amphibious assaults, bitter city sieges, near-run coastal evacuations, major offensives cut short by poor winter planning, massive armies made up of multi-national forces fighting side-by-side, and…George Washington?

Compass GamesEnd of Empire: 1744-1782, a grand-operational level wargame covering the various British conflicts in North America, takes gamers beyond the traditional understanding of these wars. Far from a series of skirmishes and set-piece battles, the fight for North America was as much one of maneuver as manpower, of politics as powder, and William M. Marsh manages to bring it all home in an accessible, engaging, and well-mannered monster game.

Dedicated readers of this site will note that I have previously reviewed End of Empire, but with my recent ability to get larger games on my table, combined with a very solitaire-friendly game mechanic, I thought it a fine choice to revisit for the next review in the Table for One project.

Overview

End of Empire: 1744-1782
Compass Games, 2014
CPA 1024
Designed by William M. Marsh

End of Empire, Compass Games, 2014

End of Empire originally saw life as a magazine game in Command Issue 46 back in 1997. The Compass Games edition some seventeen years later builds on the original’s solid bones, coming boxed with four and a half countersheets (5/8″ counters), two standard-sized maps (running lengthwise, for 68″ x 22″ total dimensions), two black-and-white printed rules booklets, a few glossy charts, and a nondescript d6.

Of note, other than informational markers, each of the three main conflicts depicted—King George’s War, the French and Indian War, and the American Revolutionary War— has a separate counter set, with the ARW getting the lion’s share of the counters. There’s a lot of game here, fifteen scenarios in all, though many just provide a shorter version of the main three conflicts by moving the starting date back a year or so or tweaking some variables.

Counter examples from End of Empire

The counters themselves pack in a lot of information, all efficiently presented in the style one has come to expect from Brien J. Miller. The counter color scheme, though, leaves much to be desired. Crucial gameplay elements hinge on differentiating between British regular (burgundy) and provincial (russet brown) units. American forces suffer the same closeness between Continental Army (“darker” blue) and State (“medium” blue) units, with a similar need during play to tell them apart.

To make matters worse, the German mercenaries have three schemes that are close to each other and the Americans as well (navy blue, medium blue, medium green). Even in good light, these counter colors are not readily discernible at a glance, and some variations in printing lead to moments of second-guessing. I understand the desire to theme the units via color; context clues, plus some printed notes, make most of the units’ affiliations decipherable, but some other mnemonic needed to be employed, just for ease of use.

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Table for One: Sinai (SPI) After-Action Report

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Sinai: The Arab-Israeli Wars, ’56, ’67 and ’73 (SPI, 1973)
1967 Scenario Report (Base Scenario; no optionals)

Overview

The 1967 scenario for SPI’s Sinai tasks the Israeli player with three objectives, which seem at first rather daunting:

  • Occupy/Control all Suez Canal crossing hexes (15 VP plus 5 per turn before T12)
  • Clear all Arab forces from the West Bank (10 VP plus 2 per turn before T12)
  • Clear all Arab forces from Syria (5 VP plus 1 per turn before T12)

However, given the forces at their disposal and the severe restrictions placed on the Arab nations in terms of mobility and supply, as outlined in my review of Sinai, the Israeli player will be able to accomplish all three tasks; the question is how long it all takes. The highest level of victory (Decisive) comes in at 75 points, which corresponds to completing the first objective by Turn 6 (15 + 30) and the other two by Turn 7 at the latest (10+10 and 5+5).

All this presumes that the Arab player is prevented from his/her own objectives of destroying Israeli cities and fortified settlements (10 and 2 VP, respectively), and units (1 VP per point of combat strength). Though they’re fairly well de-fanged by the rules, the Arab nations can still strike painfully if they choose their moments.

Sinai 1967 Scenario Set-Up

Sinai 1967 Scenario Set-Up (Click for full-size image.)

Should Jordan not enter the conflict, the West Bank victory condition cannot be fulfilled and the VP levels are dropped by 16 points. A late Jordanian entry is not accounted for in the victory conditions, but should they come in after Turn 1, the Israeli player will have a more difficult time reaching the Decisive level owing to fewer turns to clear the West Bank.

Initial Thoughts

On the Israeli side, efficiency is key. Not only does the possibility for a Decisive victory dwindle after Turn 6, but also automatic supply runs out. Once the automatic supply falters, any Israeli offensive will perforce be channeled along roads in the Sinai, meaning a lone Egyptian unit passed by can cause havoc if it can throw even a Zone of Control onto the supply path. Some units will have to stay back to guard against this possiblity.

The single Israeli airmobile battalion starts near the Sinai, but I think it will do much better up in Jordan, should they enter the war—Arab nations have to trace supply to the map edge, and there are only two bridges across the River Jordan and only a few paths to the fort line in Syrian. Shutting down one of those supply lines will make clearing the forces dug in much simpler. Besides, the Israeli mechanized units can move eight hexes a turn on roads—who needs air-mobility when you have treads!

For the Arab nations, it’s a matter of playing spoiler while trying to avoid encirclement (and thus elimination). A unit surviving one turn longer than it rightly should can throw off the entire Israeli timetable. There are a few fortified settlements that appear vulnerable to at-start forces, but attacking them allows Israeli units into Trans-Jordan. The VP trade-off might not be worth it if that allows for Israeli forces to sweep at the West Bank from behind.


Turn One

Israeli forces jump off and conduct a number of overruns in the Sinai, clearing the Gaza Strip and freeing armored forces to race down the Mediterranean Coast. The airmobile unit promptly uses its 15-hex movement ability to transfer to near the Syrian front, while the forces there push around the Sea of Galilee to try to flank the Syrian forts. Even though they’re occupied only by 1-1 strength Syrian Infantry units, the defensive bonuses from terrain and forts make them hard to clear. On the Jordanian border, a second unit moves to West Jerusalem to fortify the unit already there. With automatic supply, there’s no need to worry about lines of communication being cut quite yet.

Sinai 1967 Scenario Turn 1 after Israeli Combat Phase, Sinai Front

Sinai 1967 Scenario Turn 1 after Israeli Combat Phase, Sinai Front

The initial onslaught causes enough combat losses that Egyptian forces suffer the full brunt of the Arab Command Control Table—over half their units run towards the Suez Canal. Most of them would have anyway, because the column of Israeli armor pushing down the coast road can’t be intercepted. There are simply no roads from their positions to the coast road, as their mobility restrictions keep them on roads and clear terrain. For a desert, there’s not a lot of clear terrain in the Sinai.

Worse still, the two best units of the Syrian Army, a pair of mechanized brigades, fail their command roll and speed off map, not to return. They would have stiffened the fortified line as well as provided some flank protection, but for this scenario, it’s not to be.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian raiding force of two mechanized units pushes into the lightly defended Negev Desert, hoping to reach the fortified settlements there. Only a lone Israeli infantry brigade stands in their way, but it sits on the only clear/road path available and cannot be bypassed.

Jordan enters the war at the very first opportunity, a bright spot for the Arab nations.
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