Friday, November 30, 2007

I'll be waiting... with a gun and a pack of sandwiches (Flying colours, Way Out West)

Lots of gunfire this evening.

Luch, Kozure and I opened with Flying Colours, a naval war game from GMT. We played an introductory scenario which boils down the conflict to a simple 2 vs 1 fight. Luch and I teamed up as the British and Kozure played the lone (but much larger) french ship. It's a basic hex and counter war game, played on a large paper map of the ocean. Rules, for our scenario at least, were quite simple for a wargame. Movement factors in wind direction in a simple way, and other than that the rest of the rules involved combat (choosing to shoot the hull or the sails, arc of fire restrictions, dice result tables, etc). In our brief session, Luch and I sped along to the back of Kozure's ship. Along the way, I took a shot just as I was rounding the bend and started a fire onboard his ship. Then, I took a perfect shot right down the length of his hull and cleared the way for Luch to do the same. We both rolled high, and the French sunk like rocks.

We got pretty lucky, and I'd say the scenario felt pretty heavily weighted in our favour (Kozure confirmed this later). Still, it seemed like the system would be fun enough to play a more fleshed out scenario next time.

Next, we played Way Out West. JayWowzer and Shemp had arrived. I think it's the first time we've played with five.

Full disclosure: I always feel lost when I play this game. Although eurogames frequently make you feel like there are all sorts of things you'd like to do, and very few actions to do them, WoW takes is a few steps further and I never feel like I'm being effective. In fact, I was convinced that I'd never even come close to winning before (though, apparently I won our last game. I'll have to re-read that post to remember it).

True to form, the game started and I was perpetually broke, never in possession of the store or hotel where it was usefull (or the wagon, for that matter). I decided to build the jail everywhere, and see if I could take other buildings over later on. I also decided I'd try to start fights when the odds were approximately 3 to 4 against me (since the weaker side shoots first, it seems like an advantage to go in weaker). Whether it's an ill advised plan to start with, or luck just wasn't on my side, all I can say is I tried to put that plan in action on 2 occasions in Abalene and both times I lost everything. I was down to 1 cowboy on the board (in Kansas) and it was protecting the last 4 cows I had on the board. I thought I was sunk. Then, something funny happened... everybody started fighting each other around me and THEY lost everything. My cows in Kansas city stayed safe (giving me the majority) and Dodge City went from raging metropolis to ghost town. I had since placed 2 cowboys there and had my pick of the buildings to take over. Having gained the majority (through buildings, I still had no cows outside of Abalene) I scored big at the endgame and won.

On my ride home, I was thinking about how my win was mostly a result of other people misfortune, and how JayWowser wound up with very little to do on his final few turns. It occurred to me that these are similar "issues" we've had with Conquest of the Empire... another Wallace game (more or less). The limit of 2 actions per turn in both games force players to make things happen over a series of moves, and the fact that certain items must be in place (cowboys, in this instance) and that they are easily lost, can easily lead to situations where players have nothing to do. I think I called this a problem of "inertia" in CotE. Anyway, it's just an observation. I'll lump Way Out West into the same category as Shogun... games I always find fun for the experience, despite the fact they ... might not work exactly right as a strategy game. They are also similar in the sense that they FEEL heavy and strategy oriented in most of their mechanics, but are then sent kareening in the other direction by one or two aspects of the game.

But really, could the Wild West and strategy REALLY be found in the same game and feel right? Probably not.

edit: I re-read the last Way Out West post, to see if I had really won. I did. Unsurprisingly, the reason was similar: the leading player was undone, and I spied an opportunity in the aftermath. Who knew the cowboy way favoured the sneaky?

2nd edit: a quick trip to BGG shows me we are not the only ones that want to redo the board. There are already a number of alternates there for download!

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