Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Session Report: Shifting Sands, 14 Aug 2006

Rob and I faced off for our second match of Shifting Sands. We switched sides for another go at the Campaign scenario, with me being stuck leading the evil Axis forces.

Rob started off very well with his skilled card play beating back my weak Italian desert army from the gates of Tobruk to cower in the Libyan mountains, hoping some Germans would come to their rescue. Seeing the deployable state of my army in Libya and admiring the well motivated Indians, Australians, and British facing me, I decided to turn my attention to the Horn of Africa and my legions in Ethiopia.

I launched a major assault towards Nairobi, running over Rob's weak colonial forces. I was on the verge of knocking him all the way back to South Africa when Rob displayed his talent for spotting when I've left a gap in my lines. He sprinted an infantry battlegroup past my lumbering Italian infantry division to capture my capitol unopposed. Argh!!! Key rule in this game: never leave your capitol ungarrisoned.

Now I had revenge on my mind. I brought my buddy Rommel on to the map and led my Libyan forces for an assault on Tobruk. I think I played about half the cards in my hand in one action round to make a maximum attack. The odds favored me heavily. If I forced Rob to retreat with Tobruk surrounded, he'd loose an entire stack of troops. The only way I couldn't win was to roll a 1 with Rob rolling a 6. Sure enough, that's what happened! No!!! Seeing the red blanket waving in front of me, I attacked again two more times with ever mounting losses (mostly assigned to my friends, the Italians, of course), but his troops held out. So, seeing British tanks on the horizon, I scurried back to the mountains to lick my wounds. I was starting to get nervous.

I still had not yet achieved revenge though, so I fought my Ethiopian legions back into supply, then captured Khartoum and again began my march to Nairobi. Then, I pulled my dream card: Egyptian Revolt. Rob had, I think, only one garisson unit sitting in Egypt, and with Khartoum in my possession I was able to activate a massive revolt across Egypt. I rapidly ran my rebels into most of the key cities of Egypt, racking up serious victory points. Rob had to spend most of the next turn burning his most powerful cards to reposition his troops to mop up my brave but doomed rebels.

While he busied himself chasing my guys around the pyramids, I busied myself stirring up revolt in Iraq. I launched a full-scale Iraqi revolt, then quickly obtained a full alliance with the Vichy French in the Levant. Next, I dropped a full German Mountain Division into Baghdad, and the game was on. I took complete control of Iraq, pushed him out of Jerusalem, then charged across the Sinai to capture the Suez canal. Victory for the evil Axis forces.

Wow, what a good game! This game definitely has a learning curve and a number of tricks. Its a game where you kind of have to know what might happen before it happens, so you can plan a defense against it in case it does. The two games we played developed very differently, so I do think there is a lot of variability and replayability. The key too the whole game is how the various events react against and counter each other and this will certainly be different in each game.

Rob played very well against me and if things hadn't gone my way during a key turn or two, he was set up to really beat up on me. I think this game is very well balanced, and I look forward to playing it again!


At 8:06 PM, August 15, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Hopefully I'll get to try this at some point....

At 8:23 PM, August 15, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

I will let everyone know as soon as I see rules posted somewhere... Hopefully soon!

At 11:19 PM, August 15, 2006, Blogger Mark said...

Looks like a very interesting game. Would like to try sometime.

At 11:41 PM, August 15, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

This game is a monster. It's possessed my brain. It was all I could think about last night, as I went to bed and mumbled
"Freaking Iraqi and VF...I mean...good night to you too honey".

No really, it's a good good game. Both armies have very distinct strengths and weaknesses you can actually feel as you play.

The coolest thing about card driven games (for those that haven't tried them) is that it actially feels like a story is unfolding before your eyes. I'm not just pushing cardboard, I'm fighting in this war that feels just a bit more alive as real historical events unravel. And that story, given the nature of CDG's (where cards can either be used as an event or for OPS/Redeploying/Reinforcing), WILL be different everytime you play (within reasonable historical "boundaries").

As Ben stated, you definitively need to know the FLOW to this game... mainly the possible events that can come up during the different years. You also need to know the prerequisites and counters for the different cards.... Of course, there is a nifty card manifest that GMT made, but I haven't printed it. This aspect of the game seen in all CDG's (knowing the cards and flow of events) is both a plus and a minus. A plus because it allows for better strategies and a more engaging/challenging game. The game only gets better the more you play. A minus because it means you have to play at least twice this ~5hr-long game to start "getting" the FLOW. Such is the nature of the beast.

Having played only Twilight Struggle before (my first CDG ever played), I have to say I REALLY enjoy this mechanic. Look forward to trying out For the People and WWII: Barbarossa to berlin someday down the road. BTW, Brian? Anytime you want man. They don't want to post the pdf?? I'll just photocopy the rules or something if you want.

With my brain fried from last night, I'm now in the mood for something like No thanks. Sword of Rome next Monday? Oh crap.

At 8:25 AM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

At least Sword of Rome is less complex that Shifting Sands.

SoR seems to be in the We the People/Hannibal school of CDGs, while Shifting Sands is a sibling of Paths of Glory.

The complex aspect of Sword of Rome seems to be in the special power each side has and how it affects the rules.

At 10:55 AM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Jonathan W. said...

I just finished my first read through of the rules for Sword of Rome (my copy came in the mail yesterday), and I do have to say that it shares a lot of it's rules with We the People.

At 6:30 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Rob wrote:

"As Ben stated, you definitively need to know the FLOW to this game... mainly the possible events that can come up during the different years...."

This is the down side of card mechanic: you need to have a general idea about the entire deck.

There are a lot of positive aspects to CDG, but it does introduce a big learning curve as far as learning the deck of cards.

This sounds like a fun game, and I'll put in my queue of interesting games I want to try to play, but here's a scary comment:

"This game is a monster."

At 6:54 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Rob, If the rules aren't too long (and you've got the time) a photocopy is fine. I can pay a couple of bucks if need be.

At 7:02 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

I'll e-mail you a PDF in just a bit... anyone else want one?

At 7:11 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

It's a beautiful monster, Ted. Actually, it's not even close to a monster by wargame standards. I'd call it a satisfying meal of a game. I'd say its just a bit more brain draining than a game of War of the Ring. A lot of options to consider, a lot of stress and tension. The rules are pretty transparent in the second run-through.

At 8:12 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Well, I meant monster in the way it'd possessed my brain (for the following 24hrs it was all I could think of). Yes, it is indeed more complicated than our usual blockgames, but I wouldn't call it a monster due to complexity. Any of us can handle a big game like this. But yes, it does become better the more you know the cards (which is both good and bad as stated above).

I have the pdf of SoR sitting on my desktop waiting to be read.

At 8:34 PM, August 16, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Bugger! The quality from my home scanner was atrocious. I'll try to find time to make a copy tomorrow.

At 2:59 PM, August 17, 2006, Blogger Mark said...

Twilight Struggle 2nd Ed. Rules have been posted on GMT's website.


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