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Command & Control at Antietam

How does Command & Control work at Antietam?  Instead of explaining the rules, here is a good example to show you:


Burnside attacked across the bridge in turn 2.  He was driven back but Jones is now spent.  We are at the beginning of turn 3. 

 

In this case, Longstreet and Burnside both want to move first.  Half of Burnside’s Corps is spent but he still has 2 fresh units to attack with.  If Longstreet can move first, he can rally Jones BEFORE Burnside can strike. 

If Burnside attacks first, Jones can’t rally.  He must either fight against 2 fresh divisions (good chance of dying) OR fall back.  Falling back is sensible but you would also be giving up your good defensible terrain and allowing the Potomac a bridge head across the Antietam.  –A very bad position to be in on turn 3!

Should you roll now to move first?  No.  This will waste your HQ roll.  Better to sit tight and see what happens:

Wouldn’t you know it, Burnside gets picked to move first.  Disaster for the Rebs?  Not yet…..  This is where the HQs come in.  Longstreet can roll to jump ahead of Burnside.  He needs a 1-4.

Wouldn’t you know it, he fails.  It happens.  Now what?  Game over?  Nope.  Keep your shirt on.  That’s why you keep your Army HQ in range of your Corps HQs.  Lee can do this easily at Antietam.  He has relatively short interior lines.  He also only has 2 Corps to deal with. 

Lee now rolls to Jump Longstreet ahead. 

Success!  Now Longstreet will move first, THEN Burnside.  

Ok, disaster averted?  Not so fast.  The Potomac command hasn’t weighed in yet.  Their HQs can roll to alter this too.  It is harder for the Federals in this battle.  They need 1-3. 

Burnside swings a misses.  Good.  Are we in the clear now?  Nope.  McClellan can roll just like Lee did for Longstreet.  Well, not just like Lee.  He needs a 1-3.

He pulls it off! 


Note what makes this roll possible is that McClellan is both Fresh and in range of Burnside.  It is much harder for McClellan to pull this off than Lee.  McClellan has 6 Corps on the board now with a 7th arriving later.  They are also scattered along a much bigger frontage.  McClellan is able to roll for Burnside now because he is nearby.

Also note the opportunity cost of this.  Staying close to Burnside, means that McClellan is out of range to influence the whole right side of the field.   


Ok, so now where are we?  Can’t we just have Lee roll again?  No.  Only Fresh HQs can roll.  Rolling causes your HQ to become Spent.  It will become Fresh again at the beginning of next turn but that won’t help you now. 

So does that mean we are done and the poor Rebs are about to have a bad day?  Not quite.  There is still 1 more trick up our sleeve.  It just so happens that DH Hill is east of Shaprsburg.  He is in range to help Jones.  The key thing here is that DH Hill isn’t in Longstreet’s Corps.  He is in Jackson’s!  Jackson’s HQ is still Fresh, so he can roll and he does:

Success!  This allows Jackson’s II Corps to jump ahead of Burnside.

What will this do for us?  Jones will still move after Burnside but this allows us to move DH Hill forward to block for Jones.

Next Burnside will move.  He will attack with his lead units and rally his reserve. 

Finally Longstreet moves.  Since he’s not in contact, Jones can now rally.  The tables are turned!  Instead of attacking 1 spent defender, Burnside runs into to Fresh Divisions, across a bridge, on top of a hill.  Not good for the poor Federals. 

Alright you say, clever trick.  What about the Potomac?  Can’t they just do the same thing?  Can’t they just roll in another Corps to jump ahead of Jackson?  Theoretically, yes they could.  The problem is in this case, there are no other Federal Corps in range that could get there.  I know, it’s that darned interior lines advantage again! 

One more thing to note here.  What about the opportunity cost for Jackson?  Yes, this was a clever little trick.  The ANV has used their superior C&C to out position the Potomac once again but this does not come without a cost.  Jackson is now spent and this is only the first couple of chit pulls for the turn.  What is going on in his half of the line?

If a critical emergency like this develops for Jackson’s Corps, he and Lee can do nothing about it.  They’ve been tied up putting out Longstreet’s fire.  Jackson’s boys are going to have to deal with whatever the chit pull gods throw down on them.  I hope they are already in a good position to handle it.

Imagine if they weren’t?  Imagine if they were also facing possible disastrous pulls like this on their side of the field?  What does Jackson do then?  Does he let Longstreet get whacked and save his HQ roll for his own troops?  Which emergency is more important?  Time for the Scotch.

Solitaire Suitability


This is why Pub Battles makes such a great solitaire system.  Look at all the head scratching decisions this forces you to deal with.  Struggling with all of these conundrums is very interesting and rewarding as a solitaire game. 

Multi Player


Surprisingly, it makes for a great multiplayer game as well.  Imagine  playing through this same situation with other live players.  Imagine that a separate live player is Longstreet.  You are Jackson.  You can watch and see all these events unfolding with Burnside.  The only problem is:  You can’t communicate with Longstreet! 

You can’t strategize and work out the best course of action here.  He can’t say, “Well, don’t worry about me.  Your problem is much more pressing.  I think I can handle this on my own.”  OR “I don’t care what you have going on, if you don’t help salvage this now, the battle is lost!”  Which one is he thinking?  What is your assessment?  Agonizing fun!

I know it’s hard to get other wargame players.  It is way worth the effort here.  You also have 2 big advantages working in your favor:

  • It’s easy to learn.
  • It plays fast.

 

 

Lessons from Gettysburg

Notes from the Design Table


First of all, this is coming together way faster than I expected.  I didn’t think this would be ready till next summer.  We might be done much sooner.

 

Losses Not So Bad


This battle is giving me a much different view of casualties.  When a unit is destroyed, that doesn’t mean 100% casualties were suffered.  In real world terms, it means that 50% casualties were suffered which renders the unit 100% ineffective.  Some of those casualties are lost stragglers.  Some have minor wounds.  They will return to the ranks overnight. At first, I thought I had suffered catastrophic losses on day 2.  There is no way I can continue this battle.  Maybe this combat is too bloody.  I resolved the whole battle in 1 day!

Wait a second.  Put half of those guys back on the board and flip everybody up to fresh again.  Oh.  Ok.  That’s not so bad.  That looks about historical.  We can fight from here.

Lesson learned:  All those guys in the dead pile?  They aren’t really dead.  Half of them spring back to life for the next day.  You’re probably ok.

 

Nice to Have Options


I love the scope of our new map.  Most maps here cut off at both historical flanks.  Ours is open.  It allows you to explore all possibilities.  Turn their flank on the left or right.  You can try.  Realistically, you probably won’t do it.  I like ‘not doing’ it because I chose to, NOT because some game rule or map MADE me do that.  Big difference.

What is also cool about this, is also the possibility of a Confederate side slip to the right.  We are designing this with the possibility of a Pipe Creek defense later as an expansion.  Don’t want to defend in Gettysburg?  Fine.  Fall back to Pipe Creek.  First day is a total disaster?  You lost Cemetery and Culp’s Hills?  Fine.  Fall back to Pipe Creek.  Confederates were able to side slip to the right and skip out south to Taneytown?  Now you better skedaddle down to Pipe Creek!

 

Interior Lines of Communication


At Antietam, Lee only has 2 Corps.  They are somewhat mixed and Lee can be in range of both of them.  Confederate HQs are rated higher than the Feds.  On top of that, Lee almost always can weigh in with a second opinion when it comes to jumping ahead of a move.  🙂

At Gettysburg, a much different story.  So far we are using all HQs rated the same.  Still, it’s a huge difference.  Mead is on the inside of his fish hook.  He is in range of almost all his Corps.  He also has many Corps to respond with.

Lee only has 3 Corps.  Along the longer stretching lines of communication, which Corps is he able to influence?  Usually the wrong one.

So Pender launched an attack on Cemetery Hill.  They got lucky and forced the Federals back.  In Pub Battles, that doesn’t mean you’ve taken the Hill!  It means you have shoved them back and now have a ‘chance’ to take the hill.

The next turn is a race to see who can get back up on Cemetery Hill first!  The Confederates have 1 roll to jump ahead and get there:  The Corps Commander.  Is Lee in range?  Probably not.

How many Federal Corps can get there?  Almost all of them in one way or another.  So there is about 4-6 rolls.  Can Mead roll also?  Yes.  He is in range of just about everybody.  Easy.  Who is going to get back up there first?  Most often the Potomac.  Why?  Because of interior lines.

 


Keep in mind that these are very rough and crude play test maps.  NOT the final version.

 

The Other Fog of War in Wargames

When we think about Fog of War in board gaming, we usually think of hidden units.  There are many ways to do this.  Traditional Kriegsspiel uses Umpires.  Each ‘player’ is isolated with his own map.  Only the Umpire knows where everybody is at any given time.

True Kriegsspiel is fantastic!  It does require lots of players though…  Most wargamers struggle to find 1 opponent, little lone teams of people.    

Wargames with Fog of War


Modern wargame (board games) have been moving towards incorporating Fog of War in their games.  Usually not with Umpires but with board game ‘technology’.  In many ways Columbia Games started this effort with their hidden blocks.  This conceals the unit type and strength.  This effort has grown with new companies pushing this concept in different ways:

Command Post Games

Columbia Games

Simmons Games

Worthington Games

The Other Fog of War


These companies all make great games that incorporate some Fog of War effects from Kriegsspiel into a regular 2 player board game.  As I think about playing Kriegsspiel and these games, I notice there is something missing.

In Kriegsspiel, you don’t know exactly where the enemy is or what they have.  Heck, half the time you aren’t certain about where your own people are or what they have!  That is true but it is only half the problem.  The other half of the problem is Communication and Control.  This is huge.

Control


When it is my turn to move, I don’t actually move them.  Another player (or an Umpire acting as my subordinate) moves them for me.  I give them orders telling them how to move and what to do but I don’t actually do the move or even see it.  Did they do what I said?  Did they do it exactly like I would have done?  Did they do it quickly or slowly?  I don’t know. 

In Kriegsspiel, I control MY pieces indirectly.  I don’t actually move and attack with them myself.  Imagine all the Fog of War that results from this one simple difference.  It is massive! 

Communication


Ok, so you don’t actually move the pieces, you tell somebody else to do it for you.  Keywords here are:  ‘Tell Somebody’.  That is Communication.  Did they hear what you said?  Did you say what you thought you said?  Do those words mean the same thing to them? 

Here is a bigger problem:  What if there is no communication?  You CAN’T talk to them?  At least not right now.  Maybe there is a turn or two delay.  What happens in the mean time?  Bam!  Fog of War. 

Example


It all starts out sounding so simple.  Your orders are to attack the enemy in Newville.  Throw them out and occupy Newville.  Hold and defend Newville from the enemy thereafter.  Fine.  What could go wrong with that?

You approach Newville.  As you do, you find that the enemy is not there.  Newville has been evacuated.  You see some enemy activity on your right flank and get the sneaking suspicion that they are preparing for a massive counter attack at you from there but you have no hard evidence to support this.

What do you do?  Do you occupy Newville as ordered?  If the enemy does attack from your right, you will easily be cut off.  If you delay and ask for clarification from command, the enemy could occupy Newville in the meantime.  Now you just lost and easily secured objective. 

Maybe your commander already knows about the enemy forming to your right.  Maybe they already have something in place to deal with that threat.  Maybe they are clueless and you are about to get stomped. 

Notice the key ingredient that causes the headache here is:  No Communication, not least not for the moment.  IF your commander was sitting right next to you, holding your hand, there would be no issue.  You both instantly know what is going on and can easily make the best decision. 

 

What can we do?


Hidden units in wargames are great.  They bring in much of the Fog of War.  From my Kriegsspiel experience, that is only a part.  A much bigger part of the Fog of War is limited Control and Communication.  How can we bring more of these elements into Wargaming? 

Our first big push in this direction is Dracula’s Final Stand.  Yes, it is a semi fantasy theme but make no mistake, it IS a wargame.  The movement & combat may be very simple.  I’ll argue that the C&C aspects are very advanced and sophisticated.

In many ways, Dracula is the opposite of traditional Block Games.  Dracula implements Fog of War not by Hidden Units.  All players can clearly see everything on the board at all times.  Guess what?  This makes little difference.  This game has massive amounts of Fog of War, like you’ve never seen.  (Unless of course you are used to Kriegsspiel.)  The Other type of Fog of War.   

Dracula’s Hopes and Fears


Dracula is a strong push in a very new direction:  Fog of War based on C&C.  This is very exciting and we plan to drive harder with this in more ‘serious’ wargame titles.  I can’t wait to see how this develops.  

The only down side I see is that it requires more people.  No way around this.  To get the real C&C Fog of War effects you MUST have teams.  It doesn’t take much.  You can start to see this with even 3-4 players.

To make this easier, we’ve kept the complexity to Dracula very low.  Grandma can play it.  If you are a Grognard, your first thought maybe to skip it.  A simple ‘Dracula’ type game is hardly worth our higher, cerebral, military science faculties. 

I’d ask you to think again.  Yes the movement and combat is really simple.  That’s so you can easily find players.  The military strategy, C&C is very complex. 

Can you lead and turn Grandma, two teenagers and your fishing buddy into an elite fighting force to take down the enemy without being able to talk to them half the time? 

Now you are practicing the true Art of War.  I would say this is a much more realistic and accurate model of Command.  “What if YOU were in command at Gettysburg?”

They were a sad lot.  Soldiers dressed in rags, poorly paid and low in morale.  Under Napoleon, they became heroes, achieving the highest, heights of glory.  

 

   

 

 

 

Fog of War in Military Board Games

Strange how such a key factor in war is completely left out of most military board games:  Fog-of-War.  It would be like playing Poker with all the cards dealt out face up on the table.  I suppose you could play it that way but it wouldn’t really be Poker anymore.


This is a simple example of how critical the difference can be.  Howe and Cornwallis move onto the board in Brandywine.  Howe’s HQ comes flying around our flank.

With perfect intell, this move is ridiculous.  We can see this is just Howe.  He has no troops.  There is no threat.

Now let’s throw in a Hidden Reserve Card.  The enemy can hide forces attached to this HQ behind the screen.  Right now, we don’t have any eyes on Howe.  What does he have?  For all we know, it could be anything!  It could just be his HQ.  There could be nothing behind it.

We have to actually march somebody over there that can see Howe.  What will they find when they get there?

They see just 1 Dragoon.

Fine, but what is behind them?  We still can’t see.  It could be 2 elite infantry brigades backed up by artillery support!

It could be 2 Dragoons ready to speed all around behind us.

Or, it could be nothing.  Just 1 Dragoon.

 

Look at all the problems and decisions this forces on us.  At the very least, we MUST send at least 1 unit over there to investigate.  That unit that could have been fighting elsewhere.  

Next, we are going to need to engage and probe to find out what the extent of this force is.  There is another lost turn.  At what point do we decide we need to send more units there?  How many?  What if we send to little?  Too much?  Too late?

Is this a weak distraction?  A moderate attack or the main effort?  There are many uncertainties here.  Many unknowns.  It’s like a mystery.  What other clues do we have to indicate what the enemy is up to?

Now we are struggling with real command issues.  Real poker.

 

 

 

 

Dracula, Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

Dracula, Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

  What do these all have in common?  The inspiration for our latest release!

This is a recent interview with a Tupelo Game Days.  


  1. What is your game? 

Dracula’s Final Stand:  Forest of the Impaled

It is an Asymmetrical, Cooperative board game, where up to 6 Muslim players try to invade and take down the Christian Dracula player.  It plays in 1-2 hours, is low complexity and well suited to casual gamers. 

Dracula is massively outnumbered.  To survive he can hunker in Castles, slip through secret mountain passes and of course, Impale people!


  1. What was the inspiration?

Risk, Kriegsspiel & Zombicide

I know, a strange combination.  We incorporated our favorite parts of these games.

I’ve always found the historical Dracula far more horrific than the campy vampire from Hollywood.  I don’t even think they can show most of the stuff that went on in a movie.  The real Dracula was very tragic and complex.  Was he a hero or a villain?  In many ways he was a freedom fighter for independence:  defending his Christian European country from oppressive Muslim rule, crushing taxes and invasion.  His tactics were brutal and savage but those were the times. 


  1. What are some unique features/mechanics your game features?

 


Impalement

Dracula can Impale any piece in the dead pile.  He can even Impale his own live troops!  What does it do?  When you march into an area with Impalements each group must roll a die for morale:  4-6, they stay in the ranks and take down 1 Impalement marker.  1-3, they run away!  How many of your troops will actually be there to fight Dracula?  All?  Half?  15% ?   Always a surprise.  Usually hysterical.   

 

No Player Elimination

Is there anything worse than being the first player to get knocked out of Risk?  Then you sit there, a bored loser for 4 hours while everybody else has fun.

There is no elimination in this game.  “Dracula just whacked my army!  What can I do?”  Simply form a new army:

  • Go ask another player to give you some of his troops.
  • Did the selfish bastard turn you down?   Form a new army by rounding up all of his stragglers that just ran from Dracula’s Impalements.
  • No stragglers in the area? Just ride back to Rumelia and recruit a new army.  No big deal.    

 

Team Play   

Another big problem with competitive, multiplayer games is that the only way to win is to make a ‘fake’ alliance and then betray and backstab another player.

This is a team game.  You win by working better as a team.  This is more fun, challenging and rewarding.  You can still be the ‘best’ player that saved the day and won the game but your teammates may find this arguable.       


  1. What is your favorite part of the game?

No Communication!

Players on the same team cannot ‘communicate about the game’, unless their HQs are in the same area.

It is hard to describe how incredibly fun this is.  It is very much like Krieggspiel without an umpire. 

Dracula gets a free ReRoll token as a penalty every time somebody breaks this rule.  ‘Communication’ means all types:  verbal and NON-VERBAL, to include:  smiles, frowns, sighs, staring, eye rolling, groans, banging your head against the wall, etc.  (No I’m not exaggerating.  I’ve seen it in this game.)

We can talk and plan our strategy before the game:  You go up the center.  I go up the right and take down these castles.  Fine, except then your army gets trashed by Dracula.  Now what?  Should I go rescue you and cover the center?  Should I ignore that and follow the plan:  castles on the right?  Should I stop and waste a turn to go talk to you about it and come up with a new plan?

Another great result we see from this is that the ‘smart kids’ can’t bully everybody with:  “Oh no, that’s not what you do.  THIS is the perfect move in THAT situation.”  Not being able to talk makes this absolutely epic.  The mere mortal players have more fun because they are free to try anything and experiment.  If it all blows up,  they have a great excuse:  I didn’t know!  Nobody could tell me!  The ‘smart kids’ have more fun because they are horrified at what everybody is doing ‘wrong’ and they can do nothing to stop it. This game is SNAFU on steroids. 

Guess what?  Sometimes, the ‘wrong move’ works.  Sometimes the ‘perfect move’ fails.  This is a game that serious, competitive, strategic players can play together WITH casual gamers and even non-gamers.  Everybody has fun and learns a lot of interesting things about communication and teamwork.  This game isn’t about being a strategic genius and making ‘perfect’ moves.


  1. Will it be Kickstarted? If so when?

Yes, it’s on Kickstarter right now!  It ends on Halloween.  There is one week left so you’ll need to hurry to get the cool extras like custom Dragon dice.  -in some rewards. 


  1. Where can we keep up with the game?

You can see it on Kickstarter:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1743441977/draculas-final-stand-forest-of-the-impaled


  1. Anything else you want to share?

Short Play Time

Easy to fit in time to play.  It only lasts 4 turns.  It is usually over in 1.5-2 hours. 

 

Short Rules

Quick & easy to learn and teach.  Only 8 mini pages of rules.  Even non-gamers play and like this game. 

 

Good 2 Player

Though we strongly urge more players, this game plays very well as a standard 2 player game.    

 

Great Solitaire

You’re gonna think I’m just saying this to hype the game but it’s really true.  It makes a great solitaire game as well.  This game was designed to be multiplayer.  Surprisingly, our play testers report that it is very strong as a solitaire game.  I can’t explain it.  I’m not sure I understand it.  I’m just tellin you what we hear.       

 

With Friends Like These

Games like this are fun but we can also learn priceless, real world lessons;


This is a good example of team player dynamics.  Radu (red dragon crest) moves first.  The path to Castle Dracula is wide open!  Radu moves into Poliesti. 

Now Radu can talk to the black crest player:  “Let me take your 6 Troops with me!  That will get me up to full strength so I can take Castle Dracula.”

“Heck no”, says the black crest player, “Those are MY Troops.  That will leave me with nothing.  If Dracula attacks I’ll lose my siege and get crushed.” 

“That’s ok,” says Radu, “You can march back to Rumelia and raise new troops.”

“YOU march back to Rumelia and raise new troops.”, responds the black player, “I’m taking down THIS Castle.”


If they can’t agree, what happens?  They are each in control of their own Troops.  You can’t make somebody give you their Troops.  Unless of course you are the Sultan.  That is an interesting twist but not the case here. 

Ok, so rebuffed, Radu continues his march north.  Maybe now he won’t have enough to Storm Castle Dracula but he can at lease Siege it. 

Next up to move:  black crest.  After thinking this over for a bit, he now sees a chance for glory.  He marches up the valley to have a little chat with Radu. 

“Hey, I think this will work better, if you give me your Troops now, I can attack Castle Dracula and take it down this turn!” –says the black crest. 

“Yeah right.” responds Radu, “Why don’t YOU march back to Rumelia and get your own Troops.”  

Same problem.  Same result.  Black crest marches north to Siege Castle Dracula.  It’s the best he can do.

 

Notice how this plays directly into Dracula’s hand.  Dracula moves later in the turn:

  • He can strike at Poliesti and cut off Supply to both Muslim armies;   OR
  • He can crush the black crest army at Castle Dracula;   OR
  • He can cut through the mountains and smash Radu in the valley. 

On top of that, how many penalty tokens are the other Muslim players going to give Dracula for wanting to knock their (Radu & black crest) heads together! 


To wargamers, this is often disturbing.  “That’s not the BEST move!  That’s not what they should do!”

 I know.  Isn’t it great?!  🙂  Guess what?  It happens all the time in real war with real officers.  You may think this game isn’t very ‘realistic’ because it doesn’t have thousands of counters and a 100 page rule book. 

I’d argue it is more realistic because of messy, command issues like this.  I’ll also argue it is more fun as well! 

The average person off the street can relate to this.  Everybody has to deal with conflict like this. 

How many times have you seen the ‘imperfect move’ being made at work?  You tried to persuade co-workers and management to do things differently but they didn’t listen?  Did it hurt your team’s performance?

Games like this are fun but we can also learn priceless, real world lessons;  and they are games everyone can enjoy playing together.       

What Now?

Maybe my move wasn’t the greatest but they just cost our team penalties.  Which is worse? 


In Turn 1, the triple crest (lower right) and then the Sultan both charged straight in at Dracula in Pilesti.  The result?  They were both completely destroyed.  Dracula was beat down but then he Recruited and Impaled a bunch of prisoners.  Still 1/3 of his army is gone.

 I attempted a third attack on Dracula but 3/5 of my army ran from the Impalements.  Luckily, most of Dracula’s army was sleeping when I arrived (failed their search rolls) so I was able to withdrawal before a battle with no losses. 

Now it is turn 2.  I have to move first.  What should I do? 

The Castles to the left and right are already under siege. 

If I attack Dracula, I’m liable to get smashed.  I also now have the only remaining army in the center.  I feel an obligation to hold that but I don’t want to just sit here and waste a turn.  We only have 3 turns left to conquer Wallachia and Transylvania.  The Sultan and triple crest can go back across the Danube and raise new armies. 

I could storm the Castle at Targoiste to the right.  Dracula hasn’t moved yet though.  This will weaken me and leave me vulnerable to a strike from him later. 

I don’t want to take the hit.  I’m the only one left with an army around here!  But on the other hand, we have to start wearing him down.  We can’t beat him head on but we have to start chipping away at him, so that he will collapse by turn 4. 


This is just an example to illustrate some of the tough decisions in this game.  Note how the dynamics would play out in a real multiplayer game.  In this case, the Sultan is there.  I could strategize with him and the triple crest on what to do.  The Sultan could even order me to make the move HE wanted if I disagreed.  He could even take all my Troops and send me back to Rumelia to raise a new army.

 

If you are off on your own, the decision is all up to you.  You also CAN’T consult your teammates for help.  Communication is against the rules.  What if I forget about some stupid rule and make a real bonehead move?  Yes, I’ll look like an idiot but I have a good excuse!  I forgot and nobody was able to tell me. 

Even better, when I make a really bad move, my ‘smart’ team mates are liable to groan and howl.  Guess what?  That’s “communication”.  Dracula gets penalty Re-Roll tokens for that. 

Maybe my move wasn’t the greatest but they just cost our team penalties.  Which is worse?            

Cooperative Asymmetric Betrayal

 

Do you win by backstabbing and betrayal?  What is the new Dracula game like?  Risk?  Diplomacy?  It comes from these roots but it has some very key differences.

 

-Not player elimination. If you get whacked by Dracula, you just go raise a new army.
-Cooperative. You work as a team to take down Dracula.
-Asymmetric. A real player actually is Dracula. It is a pretty extreme situation. Dracula is outnumbered 6:1.  Both sides have very different armies and must adapt very different tactics. 
-Epic player interaction.  In most games like this, the best path to victory is to betray some other player.  In Dracula, you can have some form of backstabbing and betrayal but player interaction is much more subtle and interesting.

You have to work as a team. Dracula can easily trash 1 player but there are 6 of you. Nobody wants to go first but somebody has to. You have to start wearing him down.

The fun thing is that you can’t ‘communicate’ unless you are in the same area. So you have to make a plan before the game and execute it without talking. So in a way, you can ‘betray’ the team by not following the agreed upon plan and running off to do your own thing. Does that help bring down Dracula or hurt?

You can also kind of mess with other players by taking their troops! So let’s say your army gets whacked by Dracula. You have to go all the way back to Rumelia to recruit a new army. OR you just wait until other player’s troops flee from Impalements. Then you can go round up their stragglers and form a new army. This is much quicker but your team mates won’t appreciate it. 🙂

 

 

 

Confederate Strategy Guide for Antietam

Sounds like the poor Rebs haven’t been doing so well lately on the field.  Here are some tips to raise a little hell with the Feds! 


First of all, let’s consider the mathematics.  IF you are under cover (Hills, Woods, etc) you have about a 2:1 advantage.  Meaning you should take 1 loss for every 2 you inflict on the poor enemy.  (Yes, I almost feel sorry for them now.)  So all else being equal, both armies should reach their breaking point about the same time.  Odds are, the game will be a draw.  All YOU have to do is something brilliant to tip the edge.  Easy. 

Note the key thing to making this work is: 

YOU ARE UNDER COVER


Tips

  1. You must setup carefully. There is plenty of good, covered terrain to go around.  That’s why Lee picked this location to fight.  Every front line piece should be under cover at the start. 
  2. Don’t launch some fool attack right from the get-go thinking you are Stonewall Jackson seizing the initiative. Jackson knew when to lay low.  Remember that you are starting off outnumbered 2:1.  You need to make the Federals pay dearly for everything they do.  The burden of attack is on them.  You are sitting on their home turf.  They have to force you back. 
  3. DO launch vicious counter attacks to keep that key, covered terrain along the front. Here’s your chance to be aggressive.  Consider this:  If you lose your initial position and have to fall back, what is your second line of defense?  Do you have good, covered terrain there?  No?  Then you better fight like your life depends on it, to get that initial position back!  Why?  Because it very likely does!

This is an interesting mechanic in Pub Battles.  Just because you lost a fight, doesn’t mean you lost it.  –What?!  Well, at least not yet.  Here’s an example: 

Let’s say Richardson (Fed Div) crosses over the Antietam on turn 1 and attacks DH Hill (Our Boys) in the Sunken Road. 

Wouldn’t you know it, the dice gods hate you and you get blown out. 

Considering that is the key terrain the anchors your whole center is this game over?  Well, it certainly isn’t good but no, not game over.  You can come back because technically, you haven’t lost the Sunken Road yet.  Richardson may have blown you out of there but he hasn’t taken it yet. 

Next turn is absolutely critical for you to move first, so that you can counter attack Richardson and get that road back. 

With your better HQs, you should be able to get the jump you need to do this:

-Don’t blow all your HQs by rolling to jump first.  Who knows?  You might get picked to move first naturally anyways.  That’s like a free roll, right there.  Wait until you need it:  Richardson’s Corps (or some other Fed Corps that can move into the Sunken Road) gets picked or jumps to move first.    

-Keep Lee in range of both Longstreet and Jackson.  That way when the time comes, if the Corps commander is asleep, Lee can give them the kick in the A they need.  (meaning roll again to jump them ahead in Pub Battle terms)

-Keep your Corps mixed, just like they did in the real battle.  Rebel HQs can command each other’s troops for attacks.  This ups your chances of going first even more!  Let’s say Longstreet fails his roll to jump ahead of Richardson.  Lee blows it too.  Okay so roll for Jackson!  If you keep a mixed reserve of Divisions from both Corps sitting around, you can move up some of Jackson’s boys to take the Sunken Road back.  Problem solved.

  1. I like to keep a few Elites in the backfield as a reserve. These are best to counter attack with into critical situations like this.  Even if you get the chance to move first, it’s still going to be a tough fight.  You are attacking them now.  That means the road won’t help you.  You’re going to need an Elite unit to pull this off. 
  2. Before you do this, pour all the artillery you’ve got into Richardson. If you can force him back, then you can easily saunter back into the Sunken Road without a shot.  Now the Feds have to start all over again. 
  3. Remember that most Federal Corps are only 2 Divisions. That means they go Ineffective very easily:  after only 1 loss.  Ineffective means, that Corps can’t Rally for the rest of the day.  That’s huge.  A good Federal player should become very timid and mousey after taking 1 hit on his lead unit while attacking with a 2 Division Corps in support.  If he has any sense, he should really fall back and regroup.  If he doesn’t have any sense, you might want to remind him how that is the prudent thing to do. 

If your Federal opponent is still being a mule about pressing his attack, it’s time for you to teach him a lesson the hard way.  You need to stick for another round to kill that lead Division.  After you do, you need to counter attack and kill the next one.  You’re gonna take down that whole Corps. 

But what if my lead Division is spent too?  Go all in.  The odds are in your favor because you are under cover right?  -And the Feds have a lot more to lose.  If you do down, you lose a piece.  As discussed before, you can likely get back up there and keep your good terrain.  If he loses his front piece, he has just effectively lost a whole Corps.  Do that another couple times and it’s game over for the Feds. 

If he is fool enough to press the attack, his supporting Division is likely spent also.  If not, a well placed artillery shot will do the trick.  He better keep it safely behind lines for the rest of the game now.  It’s worthless.  If not, this is the other place to launch vicious counter attacks!  Hood’s Elite Texans can mow down these sitting ducks, especially if they are Green.  Heck, even Stuart might be able to start picking off ‘unrallyable’ units like this with the right timing.

Against a Federal player like this, pretty soon half or more of his army will be Ineffective.  This is extremely dangerous for him.  A spent army that can’t rally is paper thin.  Stay calm.  Watch and wait for the right times and places.  Strike at this weakness.  Pretty soon you will start racking up devastating losses on them. 

I’ve seen games like this start to snowball into something that resembles Austerlitz!  50, 70, 80% loss for the Federals.  There was a reason for McClellan to be cautious at Antietam.  This is a real possibility.  Once you ‘teach’ them this, your Federal players will start becoming much more cautious too.     

Muslims Invade Europe to Slaughter Christians: The Board Game

Given current political events in Europe, does this game go too far?  Yes, Halloween is approaching.  It’s time for board games and vampires.  Dracula, Transylvania and Castles.  Yes, yes, yes!  Desperate Christians in Europe resorting to brutal terrorism to defend themselves against a massive invasion of Muslim armies intent on subjugating the insolent infidels.  Wait, what?

Impalements along the border

Yes, we are talking about Dracula.  The historical Dracula:   Vlad Tepes -The Impaler.  This Cooperative board game, now on Kickstarter, takes the historical approach to Dracula.  One Dracula player tries to defend Romania from 6 invading Muslim players.  Those odds are pretty bad.  Outnumbered 6:1, how can the Dracula player ever have a chance?

Dracula has the home field advantage.  There are Castle Sieges, fierce battles and difficult mountainous terrain.  Dracula is a better leader and has a better army.  If that is not enough, he can always resort to Impaling people. 

Yes, Dracula can Impale the Muslim invaders.  Dracula can Impale the dead and even his own people, just like the historical Dracula did.  I’ve always found the historical Dracula much more horrific and scary than any Hollywood movie.  These were brutal times.  The blood soaked deeds are unfathomable.

It often feels like our world is full of growing division, tension and violence.  Had this come out in the 80s or 90s, hardly anyone would have batted an eye.  The history being so far removed, this game would have been received as pure fantasy. 

Today, it doesn’t feel like fantasy.  It has a very uncomfortable, ‘modern’ feel.  Maybe this is what we find so disturbing.  It’s not so much about the game and the past.  It’s about the future.  Is this where we are headed?  A dark and brutal future where the West fights with Islam over the control of Europe?  All roads seem pointed in this direction now.  Is there anything anybody can do to stop it? 

Therein lies the real horror.