Billabong Boardgamers - 25th July, 2000
Present: Doug, David, Craig, Debbie, Steve, Janet, Roger, Joe
Doug Adams writes:
Roger, Debbie, Janet, Doug
Armed with the new rule set from Anthony Rubbo, I was keen to try Die Haendler out again. Our only other game at Billabong (see http://members.optusnet.com.au/dacoutts/Billabong/16111999.htm) saw a three hour epic due to a translation error in the wagon arrival track rules. After explaining the game to Roger and Debbie, we noted the time and began.
This appears to be a game that can be played in a friendly or ruthless manner, depending on your game group. We leaned more towards friendly, I suspect, typically charging 200 per good to get it on a wagon and rarely going over that figure.
The auctioned abilities were:
In our game nobody failed to get on a wagon, as the wagon master is usually anxious to recoup costs invested in the wagon. Roger and Janet picked up several Influence cards via their Courier abilities, while Debbie and Doug claimed none. I think Debbie was getting rather frustrated with the game - especially when she *finally* became wagon master and watched both Janet and Roger plonk down "free loading" influence cards. Debbie and I agree that anybody who picks up those courier cards has to pay through the nose for them!
Eight wagons rumbled into towns in our game, and it could have been nine - Doug could have sent the last one into Genf, however some quick calculations showed that Roger was going to come out ahead on that arrival, therefore it stayed out. Largest payout was early in the game with Roger claiming 4200.
Progress up the status track was slow early, then everybody realised it wasn't going to get any cheaper, so if the cash allowed everybody went two at a time. Doug got the jump early, but a cash flow crisis near the end of the game saw him caught. Janet was lagging early, not taking part in the early payouts, but really picked up in the latter stages. Nobody failed to make their maintenance payment, thus nobody took a loan or slid down the status track.
Doug's rating: 7. I really enjoyed the game and would like to explore it further, however this is not for everyone. The blind bidding and dial-a-price-change disks really throw some chaos in the pot. I also think the game should be played ruthlessly, with tough negotiations, wall to wall broken axles, etc, to driver gamers to bankruptcy and bring out the full flavour :)
I have soft spot for games with money, great bits, lots of mechanisms - this has them all, but it's definitely one of those "try before you buy" games. I'm happy with it.
Roger, Debbie, Janet, Doug
We played the basic game as a filler until the other table finished. Doug picked up 25 in the first round, which was more than everyone else together. While scoring tightened up as Doug's holdings were ravaged over the next two rounds, the lead didn't change.
Continuing our six part Gettysburg campaign, General Coutts and General Adams completed three battles to close out the evening.
Campaign Game: Gettysburg
The status of the campaign after Day 2 was 10-8 in the Confederate's favour. David is reporting on Pickett's Charge, as I just can't bring myself to do it :) Let's just say the score at the halfway point is 16-8 to the Rebels.
David writes about Pickett's Charge: Continuing our match-play campaign, I mentally psyched myself up for the assault on Hancock's 2nd Corps. With a lead of just 2 flags, I didn't want to blow it just charging mindlessly forward on to glory and defeat. So, I decided to tease Doug a little on both flanks and test the waters. Hopefully this would allow me to accumulate more than just the one card (from a hand of 4) that I had for the centre.
Well, on my left flank Pettigrew's division started the scenario already weakened (due to an earlier heavy fighting against the Iron Brigade) to 3 figures per unit instead of the usual four. Nonetheless, their rapid advance saw first blood to the Confederacy.
On my right flank, Doug sent Doubleday's division forward into good defensive hill country and quickly reduced one of my infantry units to 1 figure. To avoid losing a flag, I eventually withdrew this unit behind the cover of a building hex. The right flank was looking pretty tough.
I'd managed to draw a Leadership card, so I now used it to try my luck at long range in the centre, whilst allowing Pettigrew to cause more havoc on my left. So, both Armistead and Pickett advanced from the trees and focused their volleys on the centre Union infantry unit. Each rolled 3 dice, and badly damaged the targeted unit. Meanwhile Gibbon's Union division in the centre poured some devastating fire down on my poor boys, reducing one unit down to 1 figure. I then played my Attack Centre card (which I'd been dealt), placing Pickett with one infantry unit, and Armistead with a fresh infantry unit, ahead of Armistead's damaged unit in order to screen it from further fire. They finished off the reduced Union infantry unit and I was 2 flags up. On the left flank, Pettigrew gained me a third.
Next turn, I withdrew Armistead's damaged battalion back to the trees and out of range of even the Union artillery. Doug played a Short Of Supplies to send Pettigrew and his unit back to the start line. However, another Leadership card saw me race Pettigrew forward to his most advanced unit and, more importantly, destroy a recently arrived artillery unit in the centre thanks once again to Armistead & Pickett. Now I was up 4 flags to 0.
A Force March card on the left flank saw Pettigrew once again in the think of it, killing General Hays (5-0) who hadn't budged an inch all game, and later finishing off a Union infantry unit that had incautiously advanced from behind the fence line. 6-0. I couldn't believe it, and neither could Doug...
So, my lead in our campaign was now extended to 8 flags (16-8) and the first Battle Of Gettysburg was won by the Rebels. Yee-hah!
Doug, to his credit, was then game enough to play another 2 scenarios (as it turned out) as the others were still in mid-game. I see he has already posted his reports, so my supplementary comments follow. I was going to end my report by saying that McPherson's Ridge starting very well for, as I went 2 flags up (8 flags for evening, and 10 up in the campaign!). What could possibly go wrong? Well, now you know...
The plan was now to change sides and repeat the scenarios, General Adams leading the Confederates, General Coutts taking the Union. It was back to....
This battle looks very tiny compared to Devil's Den and Pickett's Charge. Eight infantry regiments, two generals and an artillery battery. General Coutts made this look easy the first time around courtesy of the Force March card. Any infantry unit on McPherson's Ridge counts as a flag point, but getting there will take time unless some good cards come my way.
Well, well, well - I am dealt the Force March card! I decide to keep this one until I am in a position to rush the Ridge and overwhelm the Union with numbers. My first card is a feint in the centre to try and rush the Union horse artillery on the ridge with an infantry/general unit. That move failed terribly as David methodically destroyed both units to go 2-0 up. This is becoming a nightmare - 10 flags behind!
There was no time to lose - I played my Force March card on the left flank and send my four units charging the ridge. The dismounted cavalry is forced back, and subsequently destroyed along with it's general.
The Rebels swarm up the ridge on the left and the flag count is now looking a healthy 4-2 in the Confederate's favour. General Coutts is forced to advance infantry to try and take back the ridge hexes less the battle is lost, but from the high ground that infantry unit is destroyed and a third Rebel infantry unit moves onto the ridge. The battle is over, 6-2 to the Confederates.
David and I both agree that the Force March card really blows this battle open, and could possibly be removed from the deck. In our two games playing the battle the Rebels have had it twice and won 6-2 both times.
Battle Result: 6-2 Confederates
David writes: I remember advancing both cavalry units onto their respective ridges (was that a good idea?) ... I remember quickly destroying the lone infantry unit and its general that advanced towards my position in the centre. So far, so good. The rest was quite literally a blur (and perhaps I'm already suppressing the memory...), as Doug blew away my cavalry on my right (with its general) and occupied 3 ridge hexes. My Johnny-come-lately infantry uint on my right arrived just in time to allow Doug to complete a quick and easy Reb victory, 6-2.
This was a very close battle first time around, 6-4 to the Union. The Union begin in a very good position, deployed forward in strength on the right, with only a couple of Rebel units opposing them, screened by trees. On the other hand, the Rebel right is very strong, but there are fewer opportunities for flags on that flank.
My battle plan here was to get the vulnerable units on the back row of the board forward less a retreat result force them out of the game. I was going to ignore my left, keeping the Rebels behind the screen of trees, and let David come to me. If I could swing my artillery in the centre around and cover David's predicted advance against my left, then I would. On the right, I'd try and claim those two rebel flags opposing me and move into the centre, as David did last week.
Well, the plan sounded good :) General Coutts' initial advance was in the centre, and once again I was waltzing to David's tune via losing an early flag. However this battle the flags were exchanged and had quickly tightened up to 3 each. General Coutts began to get his right rolling towards the screen of trees, where two quaking rebels and a general awaited. Crunch time came when a Union regiment accompanied by a general came through the screen of trees, only to be confronted by a Short of Supplies card that sent it back to the back row of the board (I love that card!).
Meanwhile the Rebels had advanced on Devil's Den and eliminated the Union regiment occupying the hex. Another flag beckoned via the 20th Maine on Little Round Top, but the right flank cards dried up and that "gimme" flag lay tantalizingly out of reach.
General Coutts was trying to keep the pressure up in the Centre/Right sectors, where David picked up a fourth flag. David missed a terrific opportunity to fire on a Rebel unit/general on the back row, which given a retreat result would have won him the battle. General Adams hastily moved that exposed Rebel behind the trees, attached the general to a full strength unit and fired on his only target, a Union artillery battery. The result was a hit.
The battle was very tense - if David had a right flank card, he could have won the battle via inflicting a retreat result - but he didn't! Doug fired yet again at that exposed artillery unit, rolled another hit, and the battle was over 6-4 to the Confederates. Very tense stuff!
Battle Result: 6-4 Confederates
David writes: This one appeared to be going quite well for a while - at least I managed to keep pace with Doug, flag for flag. I occupied Devil's Den early, to forestall giving Doug an easy time on my weak left flank. I advanced quickly in the centre, and more slowly on my powerful right flank. As Doug mentioned, I think I blew this one by not attacking his General Anderson and 2 infantry figures sitting right back on their start line. I actually held a Probe right flank card so, with 3 dice at range 2, I could have forced a retreat result (it was a 50-50) and won the game. Or perhaps I might have destroyed his infantry unit. After that, my attack on the right just petered out as I drew no more right flank cards and Doug's Short Of Supplies disrupted things there a bit, too. I lost 6-4. It was a good come back by Doug.
So, on the night, I started 2 flags up with Pickett's Charge next to play and that's exactly how we finished! Now Doug, forget all about Coutts' Charge and remember, Pickett's Charge is meant to fail...
Our campaign finishes next week with the final battle, Pickett's Charge.
David Coutts writes:
EUPHRAT & TIGRIS
Steve, Craig & David
With Alan away this week, we could only muster a partial rematch after last week's very enjoyable game. Craig started the action and soon built a Blue/Black monument using blue tiles in the one spot on the board where that's possible. I began on the opposite side of the board, trying to combine 2 temples with white cubes for my Green leader to collect one of them. Steve had also selected his own corner, so we appeared to have each selected our little patch of the board to found our kingdoms.
The trouble was, for me, that I needed a blue tile to ford the river and connect my 2 temples - I hadn't drawn one. Plus, Craig's monument beckoned... so Craig & I spent the next few turns contesting (via internal conflict) his monument. I began the game with plenty of red, and just kept drawing it, so I began to accumulate plenty of blue & black. Craig eventually gave up and moved in on my deserted empire, managing to link the temples and claim the reward. Meanwhile, Steve built his own monument and extended his own kingdom.
Some turns later Steve's Black leader ousted my own, but Craig had replaced one of Steve's leaders in Steve's empire. Craig then managed to kick my Blue leader out of what had been my kingdom, and only my Green leader remained (supported by 3 temples). I then quickly gobbled up a nearby Red leader kingdom of Craig's, and claimed a white & red cube. In fact, by this time, it was only my green score (2) that was the problem.
I therefore resolved to fight an external conflict with Craig over Green. Over 2 turns I isolated a little of his green support, built up the green tiles in my hand (5), and launched my attack. Sadly for me, Craig matched my attacking score (6) and I lost my Green leader and support. Craig was still master of his kingdom, separated by only 1 square from most of my old kingdom (except the part containing my old Blue / Black monument). I had no leaders on the board!
We were down to 3 temples with white cubes, and very close to finishing. However, neither Steve nor Craig quite wanted it to finish yet. Craig began to construct a Green monument. Steve cautiously began to edge towards linking his kingdom with my old kingdom by fording the intervening river.
I spotted an opportunity to gain some green, claim the last white cube, and end the game. Given that I thought I was winning, and I felt that Steve - given a few more turns - would overtake me, I went for it. First, I replaced my Green leader back in his old spot with 3 supporters. This had the effect of linking me to that now separated part of my old kingdom with the Blue / Black monument. However, there was no leader in this old fragment of my kingdom. so my placement of my Green leader was valid. This also triggered an internal conflict with Craig's Green leader (who had been preparing for an external conflict in green). Once again, I had sufficient red to do the job and Craig was out. I then completed Craig's green monument and linked the kingdoms, claiming the 3rd-last (and my 5th) white cube, ending the game. The tile-bag was still quite full, so it was a fairly quick game.
Steve Gardner writes:
THROUGH THE DESERT
Steve, Joe, Craig, David (in playing order)
I've played this game a handful of times now, but I'm still no closer to penetrating its mysteries, or to winning a game. If I try to enclose areas, I seem to get beaten by the person who pursues longest caravans, or by the person who touches all the oases. I think my problem is that my strategy is too rigid and doesn't respond adequately to events as they transpire on the board.
Joe won this game in a canter by managing to enclose to significantly large areas on opposite sides of the board, collectively worth about 30 points (including enclosed oases). I had the opportunity to stop him on one side, but didn't notice the urgency of the situation until it was far too late. Joe also managed to secure longest caravans in two of the five shades. I managed two longest caravans myself and hit plenty of oases, which was enough for a distant second.
Rating: 7. Still trying to get the hang of it.