1973 Replay: Dolphins Squander Sure Victory

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The Miami Dolphins, fresh off their undefeated 1972 season, looked to begin the 1973 season where they left off as they hosted a subpar San Francisco team. Instead, they watched a 20 point lead evaporate in the game’s final 13 minutes to fall 21-20.

The game looked like the Dolphins would cruise to a victory after the picked off 49ers’ John Brodie’s first pass of the game. Moments later, Bob Griese hit Paul Warfield from five yards out to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead. Brodie was intercepted again, this time at the doorsteps of the Dolphin end zone. A long drive ended with a two yard dive by Larry Csonka and the rout looked on. A Gary Yepremian 20 yard field goal gave the Dolphins a 17-0 halftime lead, but in what became the game’s turning point, Bob Griese hobbled off with an injury and had to be replaced by Earl Morrall.

San Francisco continued to sputter as Brodie found passing lanes clogged by Dolphin defenders, but the Niners gained confidence as they started slowing down the Miami rushing attack. Trying to pass to keep the pressure on, Morrall couldn’t find the magic he had from ’72 off the bench.

Down 20, the Niners did the unexpected and started to run more instead of pass. The result was the normally stout Dolphin defense began to get gashed by the combo running of Vic Washington and Ken Willard. The two combined for 219 yards, and their big play ability acted almost like a short passing game. San Francisco finally got on the board early in the 4th quarter when Washington rushed in from four yards out.

With the run game stuffed, the Dolphins looked to Morrall to gain some ground, but even with the 49ers focused on the run, Morrall managed to throw three straight interceptions. One gave San Francisco a short field and Brodie hit his longest pass of the day, a 16 yard scoring play to Gene Washington.

With the ball and a chance to run more clock, the Dolphins spun their wheels with penalties and miscues. A short punt gave the 49ers to ball and a chance to win with just five minutes left. This time the Dolphins went after the run, but a key 27 yard scamper by Vic Washington gave San Francisco first and goal. Willard capped the drive with a six yard run and suddenly the Dolphins were down one.

Then, briefly, Morrall woke up and a 29 yard pass to Warfield looked to salvage the game. With a first down on the 49er 24 yard line, Morrall tried one more pass. This was tipped and landed in the hand of San Francisco linebacker Dave Wilcox. The interception, Morrall’s fifth of the half, sealed the epic collapse by Miami. The preseason favorites will have to rebound after a disappointing opener while a better than they look 49er team has a sudden boost of confidence.

Stats:

Passing: 49ERS: Brodie 10-29 89 yards 1-2; DOLPHINS: Griese 4-7 33 1-0, Morrall 8-17 77 0-5.

Rushing: 49ERS: V Washington 21-155-1, Willard 15-64, Thomas 2-11, Brodie 4-2. DOLPHINS: Morris 11-108, Csonka 15-50-1, Leigh 1-9, Kiick 3-8, Morrall 3-(-3).

Receiving: 49ERS: G Washington 4-35, Abramowicz 3-33, Kwalick 2-15, Willard 1-6. DOLPHINS: Mandich 4-35, Warfield 3-47-1, Briscoe 3-24, Leigh 1-4, Csonka 1-0.

Defense:

49ERS: Interceptions Taylor (2), Simpson (2), Wilcox

DOLPHINS: Sacks: Stanfill, Interceptions: Stanfill, Anderson.

Wilderness Empires

Overview

The French & Indian War (and its parent the Seven Years War) is a particular passion of mine. Having taught 5th grade for over a decade, I’ve enjoyed taking the extra time to teach the war that would help lead to the American Revolution. French and Indian War staples like Wilderness War and A Few Acres of Snow have been around for a few years, but this conflict has been getting more and more hobby love recently. Enter Wilderness Empires, Worthing’s card-assisted block game designed for simple, stream-lined play.

Components

After playing a few other Worthington titles, I got the impression that most Worthington games had good albeit not great components. That’s not the case here. Wilderness Empires is impressive. The artwork on the cards gives a real flavor for the time period. The mounted board is great, covering the upper Colonies to New France and through to the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes. The point to point map may have limited options, but it’s broad enough to cover the British three prong strategy they historically implemented while still allowing for some strategic movement for the French.

The stickers on the blocks are simple and easy to read. The locations on the map are cut to accommodate the blocks, but you’ll be able to stack units far larger than will fit in a single stack. You may feel like your pushing a stack of poker chips across the board at times, but it’s not a major issue. I do really like the dice in the game, wooden cubes that mimic no effect, refuse to fight, and losses. The rules are straightforward and well written. It doesn’t take long to set up and understand each side’s objectives.

Score: 9

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Despite the unwieldiness of the stacks, the game is quite impressive during game play. 

Game Play

The objective of the game is for the British to own 10 more points of objectives than the French, while the French must prevent the British from doing so. Though cards are used, it is not a card driven game, both leaders can move all their armies every turn. The heart of the game may be move and attack, but there’s more to the game than that. The cards are used to add reinforcements, provide bonuses in battle, or even assassinate leaders. Hand management does play a role and a well-played card can help turn the tide of a key battle. Leaders are also important to the game. Leaders are needed to engage in battle, and the side with the leader advantage (highest rated leader in battle) gets to add a special die (or dice) to combat. While the special dice are no more deadly than the normal dice, it is a great bonus since the maximum number of regular dice that can ever be rolled in a round of combat is five. Each special dice collected is a bonus shot at the enemy.

Native Americans are allied with both sides, though the French have considerable more at their disposal. Both sides have cards that allow their Natives to conduct attacks without a leader. Other cards French allied Natives can conduct raids, robbing the British of valuable strength points, while British famine cards hurt the French and their allies as British blockades take their toll on French supplies. The native population played a significant role in the war, and Wilderness Empires does a good job of replicating that.

Keys to victory come down to the capture of at least two of the three main French cities: Louisbourg, Montreal, and Quebec. Of those, Louisbourg is the most important since its loss prohibits French reinforcements. French reinforcement of the area is a top priority, but a particular card draw can lead to Louisbourg falling on the first turn. The British always recruit and move first. Should the British gain reinforcements for Halifax and attack Louisbourg immediately, the French have no way of responding, especially if they fail to draw any battle cards. It’s a minor gripe, but it should be noted that the game becomes near impossible for the French if they lose Louisbourg early.

The French are guaranteed a win if they hold on to each of those three main cities, but it wouldn’t be advisable to hole up and await the British army. The British will gain more reinforcements and simply playing a game of attrition won’t gain the French a victory. Selected attacks against smaller British forces is important to keep pressure on the British. The French have plenty of tactical options at their disposal.

Meanwhile, the British strategy is more straightforward. Pounding Louisbourg is a priority. Marching up through Fort Carillon or Fort Frontenac to put pressure on Montreal is as well. The British problem comes through consolidating their forces and working with inferior generals. The inept Braddock starts in a precarious position along the frontier with little support behind him. Should the French break through the lines of British forts, plenty of victory points lie unprotected throughout the American colonies.

There’s plenty of game play options for both sides, especially in terms of handling your deck and maximizing your attacks. It’s a lighter block war game, but it does it fairly well.

Score: 7

Replay Ability

The overall goal of the game will never change. The French must hold on to at least two of the three key cities. The British must drive to capture them. But the deck of cards will alter the strategies used to get there each time. Early French reinforcements may prompt a more French counterattacks. If General Wolfe arrives early, the British can afford to be a bit more aggressive. The war may generally follow the similar path with each play, but there’s enough here to keep the game fresh.

Score: 7

Balance

Historically, the French suffered from a lack of supplies and reinforcements as the war drug on. Louis XV turned his attention to the war on the continent while the British navy wrecked havoc with French supply lines. Still, the French have a decent chance at victory in this game. The game certainly favors the British in the long haul, but too many costly defeats can keep the British from winning.

Score: 8

Overall: 7

When it comes to owning more than one game from the game war, I always try to look for something to make that game standout. So why bother with this game? After all, Wilderness Empires isn’t the best French & Indian War game available. Still, it is playable in less than two hours. It has great components. The cards allow for plenty of strategic variety. I’m happy it’s part of my collection, and it’s worth a look for those that enjoy this period of history or are looking for a lighter block game.

 

 

 

 

Like MacArthur…

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Doing reviews for Gaming Trend has been fun, but it’s certainly taken away from my ability to post here. So I’m trying to establish a routine to where I can do both. I love writing reviews for them, but war games are few and far between while football games are absent altogether. I miss just writing for writing’s sake, so here I am!

I’ve played several games lately I’d like to do some reviews here on. This requires a bit of a rewrite on my part if it’s a game I’ve reviewed for Gaming Trend as I prefer my style here to the style I need to write for them. I also have some reviews of games you won’t find on their site that I have played and would like to discuss.

That said, gaming wise I spent most of the spring playing my mega league in Statis Pro Basketball, but I’ve gotten some 1973 Second Season Replays in. Here’s some recaps:

 

Falcons Blast Inept Saints

If there’s ever a bad side to playing football simulations, it’s when you play a game between two teams with painful to watch offenses. This was the case for much of the game, as Atlanta clung to a 13-3 lead heading into the final quarter. Then, the flood gates opened. Dave Hampton scored from seven yards out, and after a botched kickoff, Ken Mitchell tackled the returner in the end zone for a safety. Set up by a deep Bobby Lee pass to Tom Geredine, Hampton rumbled in from five yards out and within three minutes the Falcons had blown open a 29-3 lead. The misery continued to pile on for the Saints as Archie Manning’s deep pass to Jubilee Dunbar was intercepted by Ray Brown and returned 64 yards for a score. A tipped Manning pass fell into the hands of Jess Phillips for a 42 yard score and slowed the bleeding some, but Manning was sacked in the end zone on the next drive by Tommy Nobis and Mike Lewis, ending the scoring at 36-10. In all, New Orleans managed just 188 yards of offense and Manning ended the game with a disappointing state line, 8 for 22, 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Manning was also sacked four times. Atlanta should feel fortunate to come away with such a resounding victory considering they gained only 281 yards themselves.

 

 

 

Don’t Tread on Me

Overview

Don’t Tread on Me is the quintessential under the radar title. White Dog Games’ American Revolution solitaire game has garnered some attention, most notably from being featured on one of Dice Tower’s HAMTAG war game videos. The solo experience has its player take the role of King George III’s forces as they attempt to crush the rebel uprising. The unique point of view translates into a tremendous gaming experience.

Components 

White Dog Games is not the war game behemoth in the ilk of GMT Games or MMP, so don’t expect the same quality of components. That’s not to say the game is inferior. The counters are reminiscent of ones produced by Victory Point Games: thick and colorful with simple, easy to read information. Some of the colony and congress counters are too compressed to see the detail of the seals, but it’s nothing distracting. The rule book is no frills, but does a fine job of intermixing logically sequenced procedures along with some historical references. The game map is printed on thin stock. Boxes cover the map representing different regions of colonies with sea zones connecting to them. While the boxes are all functional, the background map of the 13 colonies and Atlantic seaboard is a nondescript glob of green and blue. The map serves no function in the game, but aesthetically it’s lacking. Luckily, those willing to upgrade can print a nicer map from BGG that adds to the historical feel of the game.

Score: 7

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The heart of the rebellion, New England, along with New York, each split into four counties that represent fighting areas.

Gameplay

The game is played in turns, each of which includes several phases. Turns split years up into early and late segments, starting with early 1775 to late 1782. At the beginning of each phase, the British collect their money and look at the turn’s “news” which are set events that happen. These reflect events from the actual war: the American struggle with enlistments early, the French arrival after Saratoga, and the eventual drain on British manpower as the British turn their attention to protecting other assets. As the war drags on, British willingness to fight diminishes, and the game does a great job of simulating that. The British have a relatively easy go of it early only to scrape and claw as the years roll along. Nothing makes this clearer than the pounds the British have to spend each turn. They peak in late 1777 and dwindle to nearly half that amount by the war’s last stages.

Once the news has been decided, the British take most of their actions. First comes the naval phase, where smugglers are placed, and the British react. Smugglers represent the French support being brought in to the colonies to help the rebel cause. After all, the British are the big bullies in the world in the late 18th century, and the French would love nothing more than see the American rabble knock the Brits down a few pegs. The British then react to the smugglers. This is vital because smugglers translate into American forces. British naval reaction can help reduce the forces the redcoats and their Hessian allies will have to face. Attacking smugglers costs pounds, but spending it here can save money later on. This is a great way to reflect British naval superiority during the war.

The British then buy their troops, conduct their moves, and the first battle phase commences. There are nearly a dozen things that affect the battle phase. If in the war, the French army and/or fleet may intervene. Both sides might have militia show up to join the fight. The presence of Congress, Vermont loyalty, and even Thomas Jefferson might cause a shift in the odds table. The sum of all these minor shifts and force additions is important, but the most important aspect of the battle is its location. All three numbers on a force counter represent that unit’s strength in a different location: wilderness, farm, or a town/fort. Some units excel at fighting in the open (farms) while others do better in more rugged terrain (wilderness). Once all strength points and adjustments are made, combat is resolved. Units can be eliminated or retreat. In another great historical addition, American and British forces do not retreat the same way. American forces retreat toward the interior and may eventually leave the board and return to the force pool to live to fight another day. The British retreat toward the sea and the safety of their mighty navy, though French intervention can cause the British units to disappear permanently (a la Yorktown).

The next phases turn the tables. American forces are placed, and the rebels go on the offensive. Battle strengths and results are done again. This split movement between British and then American forces really forces you to think strategically from the outset of each turn. Each turn you have to balance your objectives with preparing for possible American offensives. In most cases, you can anticipate this since you know where the smugglers are at, but continentals can show up in a target state as well. Each turn a target state is listed that is the focus of the fighting. COS (Committees of Safety) can also show up in any area. What looks like a pretty pro-British map after the first battle phase could be teeming with rebels by the end of the second battle phase. Planning, and a little luck, are key.

Finally, the logistic and liberty phases happen. The logistics phases allows the British player another shot at effecting state loyalty. Loyalty affects militia strengths, the higher the loyalty to the British the less minutemen show up to join the fight. The British can affect loyalty by winning battles or by pumping money into the state during the logistics phase. After this, the liberty phase is where the game is won or lost. Each turn, the British are trying to have sole control of at least 3 of the states, including the target state. As long as they do that, the liberty marker doesn’t move. Otherwise, the liberty marker increases by one (and it could increase again if the British lose control of Quebec at any given time). Keep it at three or less, and the British have squashed the rebellion, but a score of eight or higher is a resounding British defeat.

I love solitaire games, but I do tend to think they can be scripted. After some plays, you can generally anticipate how a solo game will play out (your luck in dice rolling not withstanding). It may seem that this game is incredibly scripted with so many phases and procedures to work through, but it’s actually the opposite. There’s so many things to plan for and think about that the game generally feels like a game and not an exercise in beating a system. For that, it’s a refreshing solitaire experience.
Score: 10

Replay Ability

As mentioned, there’s a lot going on in this game. Even with target state order remaining stagnant, the placement of COS and smugglers can change the game each and every time. With all this, you are more unlikely to feel like you’ve figured out a tried and true method unlike most solo games. This doesn’t count the immense historical flavor the game has.

Score: 9

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Game setup, with the Americans and British meeting for the Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Balance

Balance in a solo game is different from balance in a game with two or more players. In a solo game, great balance comes from a system that gives you an opportunity to win while providing a solid challenge. Don’t Tread on Me certainly does that. Sure, I’ve played this to resounding victories because my fleets could do no wrong, but I’ve also watched as my hold on the colonies slowly melted away under the onslaught of Americans materializing all over the map while those pesky French would appear at the least opportune times. Luck will always play a factor in the dice game, but the game gives you a good challenge with varied unit placement and offensive decisions.

Score: 9

Overall: 9

This little known gem should be in the collection of anyone with an interesting in solitaire gaming or the American Revolution. The game does take a bit of a commitment till you feel comfortable with the aspects of each phase of a turn. However, despite the multiple moving parts, the game has a great flow to it. It’s quite intense to deploy your units to vie for control of each region and then hope your units can withstand the wave of rebels in the upcoming turn. You’ll relish the might of the British navy and scorn the intervention of the rival French. It’s a superbly detailed system that doesn’t feel systematic.

Churchill

Overview

If you have any interest in war games at all, you’ve most likely heard of GMT Games latest, Churchill. In the game, you take the roll of one of the big three Allied leaders of the war, Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin. The designer states that Churchill is not a war game, yet it revolves around the competition of wills of these leaders as they struggle to set their agendas and help their countries not only win the war but shape the post-war world as well. It’s connection to the war gaming genre is undeniable, just don’t call it a war game!

Components 

Churchill comes with a mounted map board that is split into two areas. One shows the European and Asian theaters with placement tracks to reflect the different fronts on each theater. The other shows the agenda board where the big three will debate agenda topics. Everything is laid out clearly with useful charts and procedures even listed on the board. Those that aren’t are covered in nice charts to flow pretty smoothly. A few blocks are included to represent the combined Allied fronts while smaller cubes depict the Axis military. Wooden markers are also used to show overall command in both theaters as well as political alignment markers. Basically all placed markers are wooden except the clandestine markers, which are thin little plastic discs. It would have been nice if these were wood as well as these can be difficult to pick up, but I imagine it’s a cost and/or weight issue as there are a lot of them. Each country also comes with a deck of cards. These have pictures of various political leaders for each country, an OPs value, and a special modifier for particular agenda items. Each country has its own D6s but only one D10 is included in the box. Since die rolls determine advancements on different fronts, it would have been nice if three D10s were included. Still, this is a minor gripe. Overall, the production value is top notch.

Score: 9

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It’s a long, hard road from the steppes of Russia to the streets of Berlin.

Gameplay

Once the game is set up, each player deals themselves a hand of seven cards with their leader card available to them at all times. A conference card sets special agenda items as well as makes note of any restrictions or bonuses players may get this turn. Then, players use their cards to bid (using the OPs number) to see who sets the opening conference issue. From there, everyone can put different issues on the table to be debated on. These can include direct offensive and production markers where the winner of the issue gets to determine how these items will be used in the upcoming war phase. Players can also place issues dealing with political alignment and clandestine markers which allow you to influence other countries (think political alignment for after the war), atomic research, opening second fronts, or leadership in the two theaters. Players then take turns deciding which issue they want to play a card toward.

The OPs value of the card determines how far up that country’s track the issue goes. The higher up the track, the more likely that country will win that issue with a seven locking the issue in. However, each other player, in turn, has the option to debate an issue which could move it back towards them. Say the British player wants European Theater control and plays an OPs four card on it. The issue would move from the neutral center to four on their track. The U.S. may not want to lose control, though, and decides to play a five card as a debate. The issue then goes back five towards the American track resulting in a net plus one toward the U.S. for that issue. It’s a surprisingly easy system that makes for some interesting decisions. Each player has seven cards, no more. Debating an issue means you’ll be down one when it comes your turn to select (you can pass). Also, different cards give different bonuses to certain issues. The Russians, for example, have plenty of cards that give bonuses when played with direct offensives, which could change a two OPs card to a four.  There’s some neat balancing mechanics when playing the cards. Churchill has advantages when deciding the opening issue. Stalin’s bonus comes in debating, while Roosevelt breaks any and all ties. It’s a neat way to give some flavor to each country while not letting any feel overpowering.

Action then switches to the theater side of the board where players use their production and any possible direct offenses to decide which fronts should get the supplies needed to, hopefully, advance. Players may also place clandestine markers (spy networks) and political alignment markers or even advance the atomic research track. Progress in any of these will result in victory points at the end of the game. If the Russians make it into Berlin before the West, they get victory points. The Americans, and by association the British, must complete Atomic research to gain victory points. Everyone can earn points from how many clandestine/political markers are on the board. It’s through the scoring the game gets interesting.

There is some sense of cooperation that comes in. The Russians need the West to open a second European front. The Americans need to push in the Pacific to put pressure on Japan and it helps when Russia opens up the Manchurian front. Since you would assume the goal is to win the war, you need to help each other out to meet that end. However, you may also need to help a reluctant ally out by helping them on a front. Why? Because of the way scoring in the game works. There’s no doubt that this is a little controversial. First, you may have noticed I said you would assume your goal is to win the war. That’s because if you don’t beat the Axis by the end of the 10th conference, you don’t lose. I understand the premise. The end is inevitable, the Axis will lose eventually, though it does feel a little wrong not to beat the Axis. Also, the game has a way to discourage someone rushing out in front. Should the game end with someone more than 15 points ahead of the last player, then the second place player actually has a chance to win. In fact, should the leader be more than 21 points ahead, the second player is guaranteed to win. It seems a bit absurd, but it does make sense. A country that rushes too far ahead would face the combined alliance of the other powers in a post-war world. I’ve heard the arguments that the Russians are hard to impossible to play while the game should make you win the war to win. First, I think the Russians are very playable. I’ve lost by a single point as the Russians and realize how I could have easily won. Secondly, I do prefer to play with the Allies needing to win the war, but know that this is to discourage someone from tanking. Honestly, that’s a horrible strategy. In one of my games, the American player was woefully behind until the final conference then suddenly made a stirring comeback to come within two points of victory. I think this game is far more balanced than people realize.
Score: 10

Replay Ability

Included in the game are three sets of conference cards. Players can play with the historical order or play with another set. You can even mix up the three sets for a random game. There’s also different strategies to explore with each player. There’s no set “you must do this” route to victory, which is refreshing.

Score: 8

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British influencing Western Europe while the Iron Curtain takes shape.

Balance

As I mentioned above, the controversial scoring actually provides a way to ensure game balance. The goal is to cooperate with each other to defeat the Axis while prepare for the void left from the defeated powers. Getting too far ahead is a disadvantage. The game also provides opportunities for the game to sway quickly in each conference. You may think you are losing only to find yourself back in the thick of it after a solid conference.

Score: 8

Overall: 9

I’ll admit this game is like nothing I’ve played before, and that’s fine because I thought this game was terrific. The game has tremendous historical appeal. The issues and debates are extremely engaging and provide a really strategically deep experience. Is the game broken? No. The scoring system reflects the cooperative nature of the game. Each country has a solid chance of winning. Perhaps this is a game that you get out of what you are willing to put into it, but a lot of games are like this. I can’t play this game enough, and I think those that go into it ready to immerse themselves in the experience will find themselves rewarded.

1973 Replay: Anderson Dissects Broncos in 26-21 Bengal Victory

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Ken Anderson would not let the Cincinnati Bengals lose despite his team’s best efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Anderson was masterful against a strong Denver Broncos defense. He ended the game a stellar 23 for 28 with 292 yards and a touchdown, a five yard pass to Issac Curtis that gave the Bengals a lead they would never relinquish.

But it almost wasn’t to be. It was Denver starting off hot, confusing the Bengals between Floyd Little’s running and Charley Johnson’s smart passing. Little’s five yard scamper gave Denver an early 7-0 lead. After the Bengals’ Essex Johnson tied the game, the Broncos again marched effortlessly down the field scoring on a 14 yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Joe Dawkins.

But then Anderson went to work. First the Bengals closed the gap to 10-14 on a 43 yard Horst Muhlmann field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Cincinnati scored a safety when Otis Armstrong was tackled in the end zone after having to run back to retrieve a fumble. Anderson would hit Curtis on that five yard throw with just 20 seconds left in the half. Within five minutes, the Broncos’ stunned crowd saw the home team go from leading 14-7 to trailing 19-14 at halftime.

The Bengals kept the pressure up with Anderson driving the Bengals to start the second half before handing off to Johnson for his second touchdown run of the day. Down 26-14, the Broncos finally woke up thanks in art to the Bengals defense. Three times the Bengals defense extended a late Broncos drive due to penalties. In fact, the Bengals were their own worst enemies on the day, drawing 10 penalties to just one against Denver. Denver capped off the penalty plagued drive with another Johnson to Dawkins touchdown pass. With four minutes left, the Broncos kicked off. The Broncos managed to force the Bengals into a third and long only to commit their one penalty at the worst time. This allowed the Bengals to drain more clock. By the time the Broncos got the ball back, only seconds remained and a pressured Johnson’s dump off to Dawkins came up well short of the end zone.

Stats:

Passing:

BENGALS: K. Anderson 23-28 292 1-0; BRONCOS: C. Johnson 15-27192 2-0.

Rushing:

BENGALS: E. Johnson 18-74-2, B. Clark 14-17, L. Elliott 3-16; BRONCOS: Little 11-32-1, J. Dawkins 4-21, O. Ross 2-11, O. Armstrong 1-0, C. Johnson 1-(-1).

Receiving:

BENGALS: I. Curtis 7-101-1, C. Joiner 5-78, B. Clark 5-42, B. Trumpy 4-57, E. Johnson 2-14; BRONCOS: H. Moses 4-41, J. Dawkins 4-37-2, F. Little 3-41, R. Odoms 2-43, J. Simmons 1-17, G. Washington 1-13.

Defense:

BENGALS: Sacks: B. Bergey, R. Berry. Safety: K. Avery

BRONCOS: Sacks: L. Alzado

Hundred Days 20

Overview

Hundred Days 20 is the latest release from Victory Point Games in their Napoleonic 20 series. The 20 represents the maximum number of counters on the field. This is no Great War in Europe. Hundred Days 20 is meant to be played in a single sitting. This game features two battles: Waterloo and Tolentino.

Components 

I have no idea how Victory Point makes their counters, but they remain one of my favorites from any company. They are really thick and have great color. The game does include one of the most unique additions to a war game, a napkin. That’s because the counters do have some soot that will wear off them. The counters don’t seem to be effected by this, but the first play through may get some soot on your fingers. As for those counters, they are well illustrated and simplistic. Each unit has just two ratings: strength and movement. The maps are in two sections, but they take up very little table space. Yet, the hexes themselves are pretty good size. This is nice because the game doesn’t feel cluttered when battle fronts start forming. The rulebook is one of the best I’ve read. It’s full of examples and illustrations. It took me just one play through to feel comfortable with this system. Nearly everything you’ll need for the game is included either on the battle map or the chart. The game also comes with a sturdy set of event cards and various counters. Overall, it’s a pretty impressive package.

Score: 9

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The Iron Duke is ready to be a thorn in Napoleon’s side again.

Gameplay

Like most war games, Hundred Days is played in alternating turns. In the Waterloo campaign, Napoleon must race across the map to capture Wavre and Waterloo by the end of June 18. Standing in his way is a maze of rivers and forests that hinder his armies ability to move or give bonuses to the defenders. Add in the armies of Wellington and Blocher, and Napoleon’s task is daunting to say the least. The Little Emperor has a lot to think about as the French make their push. Units that come into the enemy’s zone of control must fight. Even if that unit is touching three enemies, he must fight each of them simultaneously. Attacking with more units allows you to disperse the attack. This means you really have to set your battle lines and attack in masse. It also will require you to make some interesting decisions. Instead of fighting two battles at 1:1, do you sacrifice one confrontation at 1:2 odds to gain 3:1 somewhere else on the line? Event cards add to the tension at the beginning of each player’s turn. Event cards can be a double edged sword, giving bonuses or causing attack penalties. Nothing ruins an offensive more than pulling the card that requires you to roll two dice and take the worst result, but it’s a neat feature that helps simulate some of the problems the French had in this campaign.

The meat of the game centers around morale. You may find the game ending before Napoleon meets his Waterloo because the game ends immediately if either side hits zero morale. Morale can be gained during night’s rest of by routing the enemy (or lost by the opponent in the same battle!). However, morale is also used to boost the effectiveness of a unit in battle, gain die roll modifiers when rallying troops, or force march units to the front line. I really like this as it adds to the anxiety of whether to use your waning morale to make that last push into a key objective. Tolentino uses morale equally effectively as the Neapolitan player has to contend with wavering troops.

Once the basic game is mastered (which won’t be long), there are some great optional rules that can be implemented. The leaders are optional, but add a command radius to the game. Units out of range suffer attack penalties. Fatigue markers can be used to show the wear of troops as the battle progresses. Finally, weather can also play a part in the game if you wish. Players can use the historical weather chart on the map or roll for random weather. My only true gripe of the game is that the weather chart wasn’t included with the other charts.

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Blocher’s slowing of Napoleon at Ligny helped the Coalition when my first play through.
Score: 10

Replay Ability

Unlike previous editions of Waterloo, this 3rd edition starts on June 15, allowing players to play the entire campaign. Maybe you want Napoleon to cut north to help Ney capture Quatre-Bras. Maybe the Coalition meets up earlier in an effort to counter the French advance. I like games where you can play out some “what-ifs’ and this game does that. Tolentino also has some similar options.

Score: 8

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Wellington’s rout of Ney pushed French morale to zero. Napoleon never made it to 100 days.

Balance

There’s no denying that the aggressors (France in Waterloo, Napoli in Tolentino) are on an uphill climb, but there loss is hardly preordained. The earlier starts and ability of the French to pull in the guards allow a French victory to be plausible. His brother-in-law has a massive force that could also end victorious if their resolve is not broken.

Score: 9

Overall: 9

This is my first game in any 20 series, and I must admit I’m quite impressed. The system is easy to learn, plays smoothly, and provides a nice tactical challenge. The quality components and fantastic rulebook just add to the value. There’s no shortage of Napoleonic games out there, but this is one that’s worth a spot on your shelf.