Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Game) After-Action Report Part Three

Standard

End of Empire (Compass Games, 2014)
American Revolutionary War Campaign Report (1775 Start)
Part Three: Turns Thirteen through Seventeen (Spring 1777 to Winter I 1777)

Overview

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

The British start in control of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with the remaining colonies faithful to the American flag. Howe’s forces in and around New York City remain quite formidable, though they are harried by Washington at every turn.

The Americans have eliminated only 7 of the 20 British Regular steps needed to convince the French to intervene. The attritional strategy thus far has not brought about sufficient losses, but the Americans can see little way forward otherwise. Washington’s considerable army seems more like a fire brigade than a spearhead, having to blunt British conflagrations wherever they spark into being. There are too many ports to guard against naval predations, and the fear remains that the British will scoop up enough of them to shake the fledgling economy, sending the fragile American army home, unpaid and demoralized. But if the Americans can weather the storm, surely they will gain the initiative, as British losses can but mount.

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


Turn 13 (Spring, 1777)

Naval Phase:

The British fleet sails north along the coast, taking position in the Gulf of Maine.

Reinforcements:

Howe [1/5/4] sees seven regiments of Loyalist and Provincial troops raised in New York City, with citizens in Georgia and South Carolina also rallying to the crown.

Their enthusiasm cannot match that of the Americans, however, who bring seven regiments into being in Philadelphia alone, with five appearing in Boston and a score more throughout the colonies. Also entering, a namesake of, if not match for, Howe in Howe (Am) [0/14/3].

End of Empire, Turn 13, Howe vs. Howe

End of Empire, Turn 13, Howe vs. Howe

The Spring recruitments refill the ranks of both American and Loyalist/Provincial troops, with supplies captured from Nova Scotia in 1776 going to re-arm the 1st New Jersey Regiment, whose homes are invested by Riedesel [1/12/2]. Ominously, though, British conquests prevent the replacement of thirteen regiments, a hefty sum indeed.

Continue reading

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

Standard

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.
Continue reading

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

Standard

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.

Continue reading

Table for One: End of Empire (Compass Games) Review

Standard

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.

Continue reading

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

Standard

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.
Continue reading

Table for One: Sinai (SPI) Review

Table for One: Sinai (SPI) Review
Standard

For the inaugural post in the new Table for One project, a series of wargame reviews with an eye towards solitaire suitability, I’m going back to the first wargame I ever played: Sinai (1973), by SPI. Then, as now, I tinkered with this operational level one-mapper on the various Arab-Israeli wars without benefit of an opponent. Unlike the last time, however, I sort of know what I’m doing this time around.

Playing a wargame sans opponent requires an understanding of how wargames work, and some thirty-odd years ago, first confronting this mass of paper and cardboard and rules, I had no idea at all how to proceed. But I was hooked nonetheless, captivated by the possibility of moving these variously colored forces across the stark buff-and-blue map.

Even then, as certainly now, I loved the idea of chrome, and the promise of a US expeditionary Marine force or a Moroccan mechanized battalion entering the fray made me determined to learn how to play wargames. I didn’t really succeed then, but mostly because I didn’t know how to play both sides at the same time.

It’s an acquired skill, this simultaneous solitaire, requiring both an uncanny impartiality and a willful ignorance of what the “other half” of your brain is planning. With years of playing face-to-face against an opponent under my belt, it’s actually rather easy to drop into this dual-mindedness. Sometimes your opponent knows what you’re going to do and will try to oppose it directly; sometimes, he or she doesn’t see it. You can tie yourself into knots trying to guess if your opponent knows what you know—that way leads analysis paralysis, a dreaded gaming disorder. You just have to take your chances to the best of your ability. Wargames are sufficiently complex creatures that you’ll often overlook a good move or clever feint until you switch sides and see clearly what you should have done. That little bit of uncertainty makes solo wargame play possible.

Still, some games provide a better solitaire experience than others, and in Table for One, I hope to look at games from a solo perspective and highlight what aspects of them make for good, or poor, single-player experiences.

Overview

Sinai: The Arab-Israeli Wars, ’56, ’67 and ’73
Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI), 1973
Designed by James F. Dunnigan

Sinai (SPI) Flat Pack Cover Sheet

Sinai was released in two versions, as a boxed designer’s edition and in the infamous SPI flat pack with integral counter tray. My copy is the latter, complete with folded rules folio. Everything about the SPI flat pack, down to the cheap, poorly-molded d6, screams cost-savings, and the ability to simply drop in a new cover sheet under the flimsy plastic cover allowed SPI to push an enormous number of games out the door. SPI was nothing if not prolific; the contemporary management notion of “fail fast” seems tailor made for their way of business, leading to some remarkable successes at the price of a few less-than-brilliant games, all sent into the world at a breakneck pace—breakneck, at least, in comparison to today’s wargame publishing market, where most games are subjected to lengthy waits on pre-order lists prior to release.

Sinai (SPI) Flat Pack Counter Tray

Sinai comes in as neither an overwhelming success nor a resounding failure. It’s a fairly bog-standard ’70s wargame, with locking zones of control and an utterly bloodless Combat Results Table. The single standard-sized map is awash in blue and tan, with a slightly confusing road network and terrain roster that variously exists depending on which scenario is being played. The 255 half-inch counters are front-printed only on decently thick cardboard, with crisp printing in a few colors that nevertheless allow for good differentiation between the multiple factions in play. One either deeply appreciates Redmond Simonsen’s Letraset skills or finds them bland; I fall firmly in the former camp. Indeed, the clean lines and contrasting colors of this game’s components, far more than the gameplay itself, helped draw me into this hobby all those years ago.

The counters in my copy suffered just the slightest bit of off-registration printing, leading to some counters with an off-color band on the bottom or side. The die cuts were good and well-centered, however, and the counters look quite tidy after a visit from a 2mm Oregon Laminations Counter Corner Rounder.

Order of battle research seems thin on the Arab side, with only a few units given specific designations; by contrast, the vast majority of pre-1973 Israeli units are delineated and set up in their historical starting locations.
Continue reading