Feb 042016

First con of the year for me over at Bucklow Hill, south of Manchester saw me with a game of Prague prearranged, part of the Battles of the Age of Reason (BAR) series from Clash of Arms. I hadn’t played BAR for a while but I’ve always loved the series and having not managed to get much wargaming in over the last few years I was looking forward to a meaty game. 

By the time I got there Thursday morning I had an absolutely streaming cold but luckily I still felt fairly ok. Although my nose would stop running eventually the cold continued to get worse. How brave am I?

I grabbed the other two that were there, Tom and Richard, and introduced them to a new game, Automobiles. This is a race game, but also a deck building game, without cards. You’re no doubt confused by now but to explain you buy cubes that allow you to move on the track, white grey and black cubes move you on the progressively longer white, grey and black spaces, or take an action of some type, eg remove wear from your discarded cubes, move faster if you’re lower down the track, take wear to move faster etc. The coloured cues actions are shown by cards, and there’s one chosen from a selection for each colour so the game is different each time. Any cubes you don’t use in a turn can be taken as credit towards buying more cubes, hence the deck building aspect. I think this is a very original and exciting variant on the deck building genre. Not only do you have to think about what cubes/cards you wish to put in your bag/deck, but positioning on the track becomes very important. For example in a game I played this week, one of my fellow players ended up stuck when she was only able to reach the white part of the track due to another player blocking her, but she had no white cubes. And this was two spaces before the end of the track on the last lap! Highly recommended.

My fellow Prussian player, Steve, was by now setting up Prague so while I had a bit of time I grabbed Richard and we had a go at Wing Leader. I’ve wanted to play this for a while, and Richard had already had a go but wasn’t very experienced, so we played the first scenario t give him a reminder and me a look at the rules. We took a US squadron each as the Japanese just move forward each turn and aren’t really much fun to play in this one! Despite this we managed to lose 🙁 Not downhearted we moved onto scenario two where my Japanese bombers and fighter escort were aiming to get off the other end of the map without giving Richard’s US interceptors too many kills. This was a very close game and ended up with the US winning on the last shot of the game. Brilliant! I knew I was going to love this game when I heard about it and I was right. If you love aerial combat game, with a difference, then you must play this.

Prague was ready to go so we ploughed into it. The morning scenario we were playing started with Steve’s Prussian and John’s Austrian cavalry facing off against each other on the Prussian left flank and they manoeuvred. Meanwhile me and Ross glared at each other with our infantry and I tried to get my offboard reinforcements on as fast as I could (they never fully arrived).

By this time Tom and John S were playing Storm over Normandy, and area movement game of the Normandy landings. The US had a disastrous time trying to get ashore, but the British stormed the beaches with great success. Also at this point Leslie and Andy had arrived and set up the new GMT US Civil War game, though I’m not sure they were completely clear on the rules as they made a few mistakes and took it down fairly quickly.

In the evening we took a break from Prague and the four of us, and Tom, had a go at St Petersburg. I always loved the original version of this, and the new release comes with all the expansions and can be played in a lighter version, or the full gamers game with the market phase. Everyone seemed to love it, even though I got the rules wrong for five players and disadvantaged myself at the start. TBH that probably made everyone else like it more 🙂 Tom won a close game and everyone decided we’d have another go during the weekend. Can’t remember what everyone else was playing at this point.

After breakfast I was still waiting for my fellow Praguers so I grabbed a quick game of W1815 with Tom as the Allies and me as the French. This game was pretty close but the French failed the crucial moral test and bottled it. A great short game and the system needs to be used for other situations.

We got to turn two of Prague. Now the Austrians charged three of their cavalry in first and were very successful, routing two of our cavalry and destroying a third!. In return Steve charged back and caught the Austrian Wing Commander and two of his cavalry units, and with a great roll caused them to surrender. It was looking good for the Prussians at this point. However yet again the Austrians attacked, this time with their second wave of cavalry, and again they were very successful. At this point our left flank was looking very weak, and we had no cavalry units in good order to hold back the tide of Austrians. Thing were looking grim. Over on the opposite flank Frederick the Great finally arrived on the map. And, having taken a look at the reinforcement schedule (well someone had to), we realised we had an entire wing coming on behind our shattered cavalry. Zeiten to the rescue!

While all this excitement was going on Tom, John S and Richard were playing Triumph and Tragedy. Despite both the Western Allies and the Russian having clear chances to win, the Axis took the win when the Russia left Moscow and Leningrad empty and the Axis cheekily took them in a double turn!

In the evening we had a four player St Petersburg. This time I got the rules right and managed to hold on to a close win. On one of the other tables Tom, John S, Andy and Leslie had a go at Blood Rage, one of my current favourites.

By this time I was starting to feel pretty tired as my cold was making it difficult to sleep. The cavalry continued to manoeuvre on the left flank, and the infantry started to get closed up. It wouldn’t be long before they got into contact.

Matt and John S were playing Storm over Normandy, and Tom, Richard, Leslie and Andy got stuck into Fire in the Lake.

Finally on the Prague map the brave Prussians boys stormed the Austrian earthworks, to a mostly unsuccessful result, with three out of four being routed. On the other flank a unit of our Hussars charged the best Austrian cuirassiers while their back was turned, not only routing them but then wiping them out in the pursuit. Huzzah!

By this time we’d spent so much time catching up with Steve (who we’d not seen for 10 years almost), having a laugh, and generally enjoying ourselves we’d not got very far in Prague and decided to leave it and play lighter stuff for the rest of the evening. This included a four player Blood Rage (try not to get caught between two players with Loki Trickster cards!), a hilarious game of Saboteur, and other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Sunday we packed away Prague, chatted about what we were going to do next time (late March, La Bataille de Preussisch-Eylau) and yet more catching up.

Another great con. I loved getting some proper hardcore stuff in, and even though I didn’t get to fight with many units, I ended up working out all the combat results to get some practice in. So next time we’re playing a completely different system of course!

Thanks to Ross for arranging it, and see some of you at the next one.

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