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Thursday, 2 August 2012

BGG Competition, Playing the Games: Game #1 'Advanced Guard 1914'

Boardgamegeek 2012 Solitaire Print and Play Competition
Game #1: Advanced Guard 1914 by Pelle Nilsson

The competition over at BGG has now passed the design phase and onto the play phase, with voting beginning in a couple of weeks. With 47 entries and not much time, there is no way I can get to play all of these, but the ones I do play I will be featuring here on my blog, with my thoughts on the game.

Being a wargamer at heart it felt only right that I open up with a 'wargame' as my first play. So I bring you, 'Advanced Guard 1914' by Pelle Nilsson, a game big on the 'randomness of war'.


First thoughts – Printing and initial look

The game prints off on 3 sheets, 1 with a map, 2 with counters. The look of the game is a traditional war based boardgame. The Infantry tokens are marked with X, and Cavalry with a /. Having played games like this before, and read many articles where such markings are used, I already felt at home with this game.


The fact it printed with ease, is nice, but as I found out its a little deceptive. There is actually more to this game than meets the eye. It isn’t simply a 'My turn, I move all my units' Enemy turn, the enemy moves all their units' style game, its a lot more tactical and flexible than the handful of counters leads you to believe.

Reading the rules and learning the game

The rules are presented in an easy to read format, nicely paragraphed and numbered. Although in a few places the terminology (friendly/enemy) had me a little confused. Paragraphs like Section 8.4 covering 'Enemy Assaults' reads, 'Enemy Infantry and cavalry will always assault when adjacent to one or more pinned friendly units.' this had me thinking 'Do they only attack when their ally is pinned?', or does this mean friendly as in the players units?
Aside from a few areas of initial confusion, most of the mechanics for the game are straight forward, with the game map having the core information you need printed at the bottom



Gameplay
I was expecting a you go, enemy go style of game, but was pleased when I found it was random movement. I always prefer an element of random to a turn. The game has this, but it feels frustrating at times. Units activate when they are drawn, so early game, when there aren’t that many units, feels like a lot of dead draws.

The random draw also kicks up random events, but not as many as when you reveal possible enemy. There is a good chance an event will happen here as well, and sometimes these events feel very unconnected to what is going on. In the example below, on Scouting an area I got an event, but the event happened at the top of the map and had no relevance to the Scouting.



Enemy movement also seems to be a little hap hazard at times. There are directions for enemy units to move, and while some of these seem to make sense with the enemy favouring moving along objectives the player needs to take. There are sections of the map where the enemy will never move to at all.

There may be a pattern here that I just didn’t see on my first game. Maybe once you correlate the starting units types in an area, their movement options, and the victory conditions of the player, it may all work. I confess I haven’t had the time to look through this yet.

Combat is also a little annoying, and at times even winning a fight doesn’t work out well for a player. The problem here is with the 'Pinning' mechanic, and more importantly the way a unit becomes unpinned. Its all done by the random draw, so if you hit a unit, pin it and it hasn’t activated yet, it will become unpinned. Or, if it draws before you in the following turn, it becomes unpinned before you can capitalize. This when added to the player being against the clock, proves very frustrating at times.


Summary
A good game. Some nice features. The different values of the hexes spawn different enemy unit types. Outlying areas tend to have more Cavalry on patrol and scouting, while built up areas are held by Infantry. This gives a good feel to the game, and makes the map feel like a map, not just hexes on a grid. As the game progressed I found myself thinking 'well, its likely the enemy will have Artillery stationed on that hill' and 'that section of woods will give me cover up till x point on the map'.

The addition of random events also adds a nice element to the game play, but that is where (aside from enemy spawns and movement routes) I feel the randomness should begin to be toned down.

I like the fog of war in games where I cant be certain my units will move/activate/do what I want 100% of the time, but 1914 takes it a step to far I feel. It makes it a little to hard to coordinate actions.

The combat v's the time restrictions on the player, also feels a little unfair. Combat is often indecisive despite the players efforts, and there are no rules for coordinating actions (no 2+ units activating and attacking simultaneous) which only adds to the frustration of a 'no effect' or 'pinned'.

That being said I will keep 1914 in my collection. I really enjoyed the map feel and the whole 'Contact?' based on the type of hex, but I feel the combat, activation, and events could do with a little rewrite. The Victory time frame is also harsh on the player.

If you are a fan of random you will like this game, if you prefer a little more control over your games you probably wont.

Thanks for reading.

For more info on the Competition, please check out this link -http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/798184/2012-solitaire-print-and-play-contest

For info on the game 'Advanced Guard 1914', and details on how to download, print and play the game yourself use this link -
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/806508/2012-pnp-solitaire-contest-advance-guard-1914-cont


And a shameless plug for my own entry into the competition, please follow this link -http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/829534/wip-2013-an-apocalyptic-survival-game-for-the-20


Chris

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