I recently posted on the GBG forums on BoardGameGeek that I had some wargame goals to try to fulfill over the rest of 2011. The main idea is to get much more familiar with these five games:
1. Fighting Formations
2. Europe Engulfed
3. Battles of the American Revolution System
4. For the People
5. Napoleon's Triumph
Later today at GBG I'll be playing Europe Engulfed in person for the first time. I've played one of the short scenarios from it online a few times, but I've always been eager to play the real game. We're going to play the 1941 scenario, which has Germany already conquered Poland and France. Apparently the 1939 scenario allows you to play out those early years, but has a lot more variance because a lot can go significantly right or wrong for the German player... so the 1941 start is recommended for new players.
Last night, my buddy Marc came over to relax and get some gaming in after some time he has been busy with work and his dad visiting. I suggested we play For the People or Napoleon's Triumph. We've messed around with For the People once or twice, and he has some interest in learning NT at some point. We decided on For the People since we at least had some experience and some of the rules down.
Every time I play For the People, I get more and more a sense that I am going to really love it once I actually know all the rules. This feels similar to learning Paths of Glory. I know another gamer who I can play this with, Richard - we played For the People at Origins a few years ago.
Marc and I rolled randomly for sides, and I got the Confederates. The short 4 card turn 1 went quietly, and on turn 2 I moved my army up from Richmond to next to DC. He left a gap in the line there, and I know there is a way to exploit that but wasn't quiet sure how. I decided to wait for Lee to show up and put him there, since Marc wasn't putting tons of troops nearby.
I took Kentucky with PC markers while the Union took West Virginia. I realized too late that in past games I've found it helpful to move troops up to the top of Kentucky and block off Union advances coming through Cincinatti, but as I realized it, he created an army there and started to move in. Marc put a lot of troops into this endeavor, and slowly whittled my army there down, while Lee started to bash into DC. One thing I really like about For the People and Paths of Glory is that both players have opportunities for going on the attack and taking ground. In Paths of Glory there are natural places where each side pushes, but in For the People it seems more a matter of where you get your generals (they are placed on the map randomly but in places you select) or where you reorganize your generals to. This lets you choose from a pretty wide open set of attack avenues.
Eventually Marc created a second army out west while his Army of the Tennessee held mine off defending Nashville, a valuable resource location. His second army came down west of the Mississippi, taking Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. Meanwhile, Lee eventually beat the army defending DC and forced the Union to relocate it's capital to Springfield, Illinois. The real difference maker in terms of Strategic Will (a score each side has that goes up and down as they have successes and failures) was Marc's use of Blockade cards to increase the level of Blockade. Each turn the Confederacy rolls for each of four zones and if they beat the Blockade level, they get a troop, and if not, they lose 2 Strategic Will points. Once the Blockade level got to 5, I was losing 6-8 SW points each turn. I was able to keep my points roughly even because of SW points you get when the Confederates have 3 spots in a state, due to Lee's adventures in Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
In the end, Grant's arrival spelled the doom of my rebellious chances. Grant and Lee duked it out around Harrisburg, but due to my loss of reinforcements based on the loss of the my three western states, Grant was able to attrition the Army of Northern Virginia to dust, and the next turn take Richmond and complete the crushing of my will. I believe the game ended on turn 10 out of a possible 13, so we went pretty far.
I learned a lot about some of the rules I was hazy on, such as general reorganization. More importantly, I got to see a bit more about how the rules impact the game - they are making more sense in connection to the victory conditions. When you've only learned the rules and are playing a game the first few times, you might wonder things like "is it worth playing these Blockade cards?" but this play showed me the value of that aspect of the rules for sure.
I really want to play For the People again soon, to get the rest of the rules down. We were left wondering if there was more to using amphibious assaults and controlling the rivers. I'm planning to re-read the rules again today or tomorrow to get as much in as I can. I found the six hours I was playing the game felt like 2 or 3 hours, which to me is a sign of a great experience.