Sunday, June 28, 2009

Royal Visits Expected ....

Great excitement arises in Frankszonia, as word of a forthcoming visit by a young prince and a gallant sovereign from the Mediterranian struggles with the Muslim heretics!
The several Greek and Slavic exiles whose recipes have enhanced the quality of the frankfurter locally are in fervor.

Officials are sent to the Gallian commands locally to be sure that they do not slight the expected guests and that their security patrols will be especially vigilant, given the suspected presence of M'Lady. Furthermore, it is suggested that some of their premier Gallian vintages be made available for the palettes of these Southern lords.

Lady Pettygree and her marvelous company are, of course, given a special invite to attend the festival occasions. Mistress Ewewarp is ordered to create special gowns for the occasion, and Moosart composes a special fiddle faddle.
A special battalion of Invalides Guards is formed to provide appropriate pageantry.

The reception at the Ducal palace itself, alas, will be restrained, as both the Hurtshog and Princess Stuftliana are rumored to have been recently run through some ordeal by these blundering physicians .... still, it is rumored that some special fireworks will be fired from the fortress mortars for the occasion ...

On the really beautiful version 3 Koenig's Krieg

A much more detailed commentary will be written up in a week or two. This is not a review, but more an initial reaction ... and I've promised them a review. So far, I’ve got two pages of notes on things which were either new or troublesome to me.

Let it be understood, none of them (except for the missing cheat sheet) would put the kabosh on me really liking and supporting these rules. Furthermore, the incredible and perhaps overly ambitious use of many, many color photos of figures in formation, etc. undoubtedly ran up the price of the book massively. Having seen it, I’m no longer surprised at the price.

* One: they really got fancy: wonderful eye candy, lots of figure photos, very sharp graphics which more clearly illustrate rules, and detailed summary charts. Moreover, they were at pains to repeat stuff whenever it was pertinent ... which was irritating to me, but understandably very helpful to folks who would be perusing the rules to determine what to do next. Also, they deliberately introduced double spacing in between the various points, which also made the rules structure easier to understand. Some of the many charts to summarize the rules were perhaps too detailed (the flow chart for turn sequence, for instance, which is done in such a way to enable a computer programmer to work it, {Laughing}), but will invariably speed up finding and applying a given rule (but the important ones simply will HAVE to be put on a cheat sheet).

* Two: by and large they did some excellent things to make the rules understandable and put the kibosh on rules lawyers. For instance, I found the write up on defensive fire to be most understandable (by the way, I’ve flipped on this a bit ... looking at the game logic, no defensive fire is more appropriate than what I originally fought for).

* Three: Since the game is based on Brigades and independent units, they redid the cost analysis from individual figures to Brigades and such units. While they do provide for a lot of flexibility, it is just rigid enough not to appeal to an ad hoc gamer who plays undersized games (like myself). On the other hand, the approach does make building armies much more rapid and enables the creation of "victory point" systems as well as nicely analyzed cost comparisons. Also, this method let’s them include many considerations which would otherwise require more figuring on the part of the player (such as the much more expensive staff for larger armies .... put into the cost of the general).

* Four: They also included rules to make the game much more effective for battles outside of the European theater. The effort to do this introduced a new level of complexity, which I deplore, but do vastly expand the utility of the game within the era ... Once again, one can fight for India or face the American Indian swarms ...

Of course, I have my own quibbles .... I've got to maintain my standing in the elderly, obese, curmudgeon club!

* First: Most of the rules changes seem to have obviously been done to produce a greater focus on the period of 1730 = 1780. I'll be doing a more complete write up later, but IMHO, quite a few of these new rules introduced an unnecessary level of complexity. I was particularly bothered by the new way in which the artillery rules were written ... which did not really change things that much as make the system more flexible, especially for battles outside of Europe. On the other hand, the new complexity is not too bad, easy to follow their reasoning, and not only widen the scope of play but also definitely increase the period flavor in tangible ways. The 2nd edition was quite easily used to play a basically Napoleonic army ... which is now patently improbable.

* Second: There are some amusing typos ... only two of which could cause any confusion in play that I saw so far. I understand that the proofreading was rushed and done under confusing circumstance to begin with. Should all be easy to fix in the next printing (which I also suspect, will include less of the wonderful photos of figures and so forth, as those are sure to be running up the price).

* Third: (both a very good thing and a quibble together) They include the basic major armies of the 7YW; some very nice scenario designs, and an historical battle (Mollwitz). On the other hand, the wonderful army features of the 2nd edition and its list and classification of historical period generals is missing. Nor do they have the supplements for WSS, Festung Krieg, etc. I suspect that this is because their very elaborate method of providing army lists was also a huge expense ... though it does make the lists rather easy to understand.

* Fourth: This is a lethal error, I think. They did not include cheat sheets!! They have already realized their mistake and are putting them and some supplementary material together as a freebie supplement already ... we who already have the rules can get them as a free download.

By and large, this is a very good job. The things I didn't like (almost always because I felt that they weren’t really necessary) would not impede the play and would definitely add clear period flavor. Just leafing through the book and looking at the pictures and skimming the side bars was quite fun. Really, this IS one of the games in which I'd like to participate ... if ever I can get to a convention myself! So, back to the painting board.

28 June 2009
Arthur Pigg

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Very Dry Vintage

A Very Dry Vintage

It was a dark and very quiet night (okay, I couldn’t resist). With no moon, the stars over Frankfurter sprinkled back from the wavelets on the Main. Along the unloading piers for the Gallian depot, the sentry marches tiredly on. Quietly, after the sentry has passed, two figures suddenly appear on one of the barges and step quickly across to the pier to one of the ramshackle sheds thrown up by the Gallian suppliers. The smaller fiddles with the door for a second, steps through and then back out and nods to the larger. The large man, who even in this dim light looks like an old copper statue, ducks under the lintel and a moment later steps back out carrying a barrel. The two step back onto the barge and disappear. The whole action taking less than a few seconds.
In the dark, sentries exchange the sign and countersign, and the local private wearily plods back the wier to the other end of his beat. As he passes, a strange, long boat with both ends curved up and together slips silently out into the river. The two passengers steadily and stealthily dip their paddles into the water and cross over towards Saxenhousen.
“That was quick, Moose Hunter,” the short man in the front of the canoe whispered. “Are you sure you got one?”
“Third one I picked up, Johannes,” Moose Hunter replied. “It’s full, but there’s no liquid in it.”
They quietly finish their voayage and get pulled through the muck on the south shore by a couple of soldiers. The barrel is lifted onto a small cart, and the soldiers led by a young Fahenjunker and an Hauptman hurry through the dark streets followed by Johannes and Moose Hunter. They stop at what appears to be a run down boarding house and carry the barrel inside. The soldiers step outside again and march away except for the two officers who move slowly towards a darkened inn.
“So! Our little Gallian lap dog is stealing from his master again!” the Fahenjunker cheerfully commented.
“Hush!” the Hauptman answered quickly. Then he looked carefully around and lowered his voice. “It’s time you started to pay attention to things that a nobleman should notice. And it’s time you learned to keep your mouth shut too, now that Kunegunde has Bastille’s little house to take the blame for his actions.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” the youngster apologized. “What is it that you want me to notice?”
“Frankszonia has fought four wars with other Gallian allies ....”
“And the Hurtshog has carefully held back the best troops at the last moment to ensure that they win!”
“... But under the cover of those little squabbles, the Hurtshog has eliminated the pockets of territory cutting up out Stadtholdings and more than doubled our territory and resources.”
“So he’s a good little Hurtshog who is nicely improving his claim,” the youngster snorted.
“Wake up, Son! The Hurtshog and his councilors are quite serious about Deutschland vor Deutsche Volk. They’ve got this impossible dream of some sort of confederation of little states that can keep the big boys from tearing up our towns for their playground.”
“Isn’t that what the Wieners and their Reich are supposed to be doing?”
“Ja, and you can see for yourself how wonderfully well THAT is working.”
“So what? If our tiny army sneezes, Bastille and Broglie will impress whoever is unlucky enough to survive “
”If Germania and Hesse Seewald win another big one nearby, where will all those Gallian troops be? With the Resistance fighters who always seem to get away, the supposed deserters under Pepperoni and Braunsweiger, and few other friends like Hesse Fedora, I suspect that the Hurtshog will have enough to hold Frankfurter until relieved.”
“So we’re going to double cross the frogs?”
“Only if we have to. We are quite aware that neither Germania nor Hesse Seewald are really all that interested in having a lot of little autonomous duchies to deal with. Now hush. Not a word of this even to Mother or you sister and especially not to Fraulein Busch!” At this point, they open a dark door from which light and laughter spilled.

Back at the rooming house, two nobles carry lamps into the dark sitting room. They are accompanied by a scholar. One of them reveals a prybar and starts to open the barrel.
“Careful, Your Highness!” Johannes urges.
“Somebody has to, and too many have to be hurt for me these days,” the stout man answered.
As the lid rises, a dark powder is revealed. All turn to the scholar who comes forward, lifts a small pinch out and carries it to a lamp where he studies it with a magnifying glass.
“Well, Rabbi?” the other nobleman demands.
“You were right, General,” the scholar answers. “It’s not gunpowder. This looks more like the flash powder they put into fireworks to make the loud noises. Frankly, it could dangerous if somebody charged his piece with a normal measure.”
“Are you positive, Badmann, that the Gallians don’t know about this yet?” the Hurtshog asked.
“I’m not sure,” Badmann responded. “This barrel is marked the same as that spoiled juice that Bastille and all the Gallian peers drink.”
“Then there should barrels like this in the private quarters of almost every Gallian notable around here,” Moose Hunter grunted.
“Do we tell them?” the general asked.
“I’m not sure yet,” the Hurtshog mused. “We do brief our cleaning ladies and so forth right away ... let’s see if we can get this stuff before it goes off. This could be M’Lady’s or Stagonia’s handiwork, but Roquefort has his own nefarious agenda, and we’ve put a monkey wrench in it. He may be looking for some sudden job opportunities for his own agents.”
There was a moment’s silence, and the Hurtshog turned to the scholar. “I’m a bit thin right now, Rabbi,” he said, “but I think that boatman friend of yours and his family ought to spend the next Passover in Jerusalem on a small stipend. Otherwise, let’s get this to a more useful spot. Moose Hunter, Lady Pettygree is nearby. That means M’Lady is too. Hunt her and see if any threads come loose. Guten Nacht!”
The noblemen both walk quickly out of the room and disappear down the hall towards the back of the house.