I did it! I convinced Annie to play Alien City and she liked it (despite not really understanding what was going on—I didn’t really either!)
There are good reasons to like this game. First off, modular board. Honestly, if that hasn’t convinced you, you should reassess how you approach board games. Secondly, you can probably make this game for free with shit you have lying around your house.
For real reasons to like the game, think about your relationship with tactics. Do you like an ever-changing board situation? Do you like playing the game chicken with real cars but the cost is prohibitive? Do you like to think? Well, don’t answer that last one.
Alien city is fun, it’s smart, and it’s pretty nasty. I’m glad Annie agreed to give it a try and I’m glad she’s willing to play again. Now, go make your own copy RIGHT NOW. Right now!
The real reason Annie and I got together, however, was to continue our Manoeuvre tournament. I was wearing yellow so opted for Spain. Incidentally I had never played as Spain over the past fifteen games so it was an apt choice. Annie took the Prussians and their damned forced marches.
Photo from mid game, Annie’s perspective. This is not a terrible position for me, Annie is over extended as far as I can tell, but her troops are stronger. I’m in some good terrain, however.
This does look a lot better for Annie, and she’s already cycled through her deck. Nightfall is going to be crap for me so I need to amount an offensive here…
I take out one of her units on the right because Annie attacked a very well defended unit and took a hit, I counter attacked to finish the job.
I advance Inf Imperial and Reg De Castille, use my final leader card to combine them for the coup de grace. Five Prussian troops gone, Annie is livid.
Manoeuvre is a game that you play in a constant state of neurasthenia due to the awesome fog of war mechanics. Plus it seems Annie ALWAYS has defensive cards in her hand. This time, however, I managed to manoeuvre myself into a win by playing defensively early and keeping some cards for decisive blows. I think Annie plays too aggressively and I probably play too defensively. She always has a ridiculous Nightfall position, but I have the card reserves to force an Attrition loss for her. We’ll just have to play 50 more games to perfect our strategies.
It had been too long since we played and hopefully this will rekindle our love affair with this awesome game and we’ll finish our tournament before the expansion comes out…
Annie was anxious to avenge her loss as the French to my US (see here) so we got together to continue our Manoeuvre tournament, and we started a new tradition. Before every match we play:
As it was an Even numbered game, I got to choose the terrain tiles and the armies. I went for Russia and Spain and a very busy set of terrain.
And I promise you the five cards I’ve selected as Russia were the wrong five cards. Anyway, you can see that Annie opted to start on the side without the lakes and for some reason I was glad to have them on my side. Note to self, don’t set up a terrain where your opponent can cramp your entire right flank. Annie started up with four in her back row—although to be honest she may have changed it after she took the picture although maybe not.
Already I’m not taking my own advice as I have two units with no support on my right side and Annie has taken all the good terrain in the center. If I had been thinking positionally, I wouldn’t have let this happen.
I have managed to push Annie out of the center and I’m feeling pretty good, but this is a weak position. I have no coherent line—sitting ducks all around. Annie has a very strong link of her units and she also is up in material on me. Keep in mind, Russia is a “stronger” army than the Spanish. Ugh. To be honest, I was feeling very confident at the time.
I’ve sort of managed to put a line together here but Annie has basically broken my right flank. I need to make a kill here and quick.
Wrong kill. Annie has pushed into my territory and I have cowardly retreated.
I’ve actually clawed my way here into what I think is an alright position. I got some wounded units and a chance to break my cavalry on my right flank…
I’ve managed to surround one of her units. Looks like that lake is paying off after all!
While I take another unit, Annie pushes into my territory.
And now a weird artsy pic! I have an inkling to move my 1st cav back to make a triple attack on Annie’s infantry deep in my territory.
Annie survives what was probably a committed attack, in fact, she gets out of the way and then surrounds my unit. Keep in mind, nightfall is coming, and coming fast.
Nightfall. Spain wins 8-6. I was FUMING. Why the hell was I trying to coordinate an attack that far back in my territory? Annie has broken me and I thought I loved the Russians. Well, we move on.
Game two. Annie chooses Austria and the Ottomans. I choose Austria because I have a lot of experience with them and I owe it to Annie to play “up” in the armies to give her more chances to “break” me.
I put all five O’Reillys into my hand again. Hoping to draw an attack by Annie to dump the artillery card and then counter attack with the other four to dispatch an early unit. That is sort of how it went, but Annie actually had a brilliant opening here that didn’t pay off by one or two pips on the dice.
Ok, so there are some in-between pictures missing here, but this is what happened: Annie has two Reg Cav, an Ali Pasha’s cav, a leader card with command of 2 and a committed attack in her hand. I plant my O’Reilly in the forest and she unleashes a two unit attack that I was totally unsuspecting. Keep in mind where that Ali Pasha’s cavalry started. Anyway, I use my artillery card as defense, and narrowly avoid a 4x thanks to the forest and some crummy luck for Annie. I retreat, she misses the pursuit.
I use a unit card to regroup, and surround her poor Ali Pasha. My left over three unit cards are good enough on the next turn to off the unit. Perhaps Annie should have given her unit a way out. Like I said before, live, die, and learn.
Man, these iPhone photos really vary in quality, do they not? Strange. Anyway, We trade some more units and Annie has mysteriously not developed her two 8 strength infantry letting her cavalry hop all over the place.
You can see here that one of Annie’s units is frighteningly close to being surrounded. And that may or may not be what happened. There is a theme that Annie takes more pictures in games that she wins, turns out, but I imagine that I surrounded her cav:
My goal here is to basically hold the line and wait until I can take out Annie’s weak 5 strength remaining cavalry.
Annie has bled her cavalry dry. Nightfall is coming quick, as I think for the first time I am through my deck sooner than Annie is. With all of her cav gone, I easily gobble up territory uncontested and take the victory:
10-3 I think that is? Russia was to me what the Ottoman were to Annie—what we thought were matches made in stylistic heaven. She is shaken up and I know that she is going to be aggressive in our third match. I choose: Russia v. Ottoman. Annie, irritated with her Turks takes the Russians into her hand and I, hopefully, plan to use the Ottomans in a much different way than Annie: set traps, surround, hold back a little bit.
If I could take the patience I have when playing “down” in armies to when I have an advantage I would probably fare much better. But, I digress, here is our third game.
I think Annie made a mistake here choosing that side as terrain as I was definitely thinking she would turn this around. This set up severely weakens what should be Annie’s two strongest squares, the two central ones are completely surrounded by hills. I am licking my chops. I actually prepare my hand with withdraw cards and I can’t remember what else. Probably some unit cards of my strongest cav.
Ah yes, I had a few Ali Pasha myself. I have no idea how I got rid of the black sea cossacks, but I did thrust with Ali Pasha to try to pick off a back unit as well—Annie always always has defensive cards to thwart my moves.
Bloody early goings. I am drawing my Janissairies at precisely the right time.
Brutal. Annie is in a tough spot here and I have three units surrounding her 1st Cav.
I put the hurt on and take the Attrition victory.
1) Use withdraw cards not only to avoid attack but also to draw units into traps. This is probably painfully obvious to most people but with the Ottomans it works so well. Withdraw, Committed Attack, Regroup can be a deadly 1-2-3.
2) Really assess the terrain. If you are first player, you need to consider the possibility from starting at every edge. Are you playing the Ottoman? Then go for more terrain. They can hop all over the place and post in strong positions. Annie admits she likes open “mano e mano” fields which are good for bloodbaths, not so good for tactics.
3) HOLD YOUR LINE. God, I should have learned this by now.
4) Cycle your deck. Cycle your deck. Cycle your deck. That 3rd Infantry is never going to do anything. Park him in a town and forget about it.
It was decided that Annie will be first player for each Odd game and I will be first player for each Even game which, as far as I can remember, is how we’ve been doing it anyway. Annie chose the terrain, I decided to pick Britain and Austria (our biggest strength discrepancy so far [we’ve been selecting pretty evenly matched armies]) and Annie chose again for the upper hand with Britain.
Looking at this, I’m not entirely sure I made a totally wise decision on starting edge and I can tell you that I had no coherent opening strategy which, Spoiler Alert, set me off way behind. Austria also has no Forced March cards so the middle game developed into something like this:
I haven’t even progressed beyond my third rank and Annie is pressing hard. Annie continues to press with just these three units and I am doing god knows what. She takes a unit and continues to hold the tempo and positional advantage.
I have clearly not reached my beer intake level required of good play. Also I look gross, eh, it’s war, it ain’t pretty. I manage to dispatch one of Annie’s cavalry but her two units holding the center will. not. budge. She brings up her left flank and I am still allowing myself to be hamstrung in my back ranks.
This picture shows you how disastrous my position was. Two units down, and the ones on the board are doing little to nothing to help me dislodge Annie’s position. I think, uh maybe we should actually have a line to hold here and Annie capture’s a move of mine:
Annie is clearly taking as many pictures as possible to document what will surely be a win for her and her Brits. I do manage to catch up in units, some how and manoeuvre (get it?) myself into a better position.
But I’ve got a relatively unsupported half-strength unit and a sitting duck on my right flank. Annie pounces on my weakened cavalry and goes up one unit and one away for the win.
I think here I made some silly mistakes as in the next picture you’ll see that one of my center pieces goes daringly into that good night for an Attrition victory for the Brits. I am ashamed and guilty that I sacrificed these fine young men to my misbegotten plans.
Annie goes up 4-3 in the overall tournament but I still have a “mini-break” because I won as Britain against France (France is technically a stronger deck, so I call it a mini-break if a lower ranked army beats a higher ranked one. How Tennis of me.)
The next game sees me as First player and Annie selects Austria & Spain. I decide to take the stronger army (which is not something I’ve been doing… I’ve been selecting weaker because I’m nervous about losing with the upper hand…) and hope and pray that the Austrians will be more valorous this time around.
I decide to have a real opening strategy this time. I go for what Rick over at Margin of Victory calls a Strong First Strike: Single Unit opening. I start with all 5 unit cards of my O’Reilly Chevaulegers (Austria’s strong Cavalry) and bring him up the center. Annie attacks but I use my bombard card to defend. I bring out all four cards on her Del Ray Dragoons, she says “Where’d those come from??” and get a quick kill and positional control of the center.
Oof, why was Annie bringing a 5 strength unit up early? Live, and die, and learn. Annie said she now went into a defensive strategy and given the terrain on her side of the board that seems like it should have been a good one. The opening finished with me having a strong position and Annie a little closed but exerting pretty good influence with a Hill and Town to support her central units.
The thing about this game is that it can go from an Open position to a Closed one quickly, even without Cavalry units. Annie brings up her back units and I push up my right flank and manage to get some units trapped.
The fight continues in the middle as we trade units and I try to manoeuvre her into more enclosed areas. In the end, it was not only the Del Ray Dragoons who succumb to my Austrian might but four other units and I prevail in an Attrition victory.
For our third game, I look at our score sheet and see that we’ve only used France once, Ottoman once and US once… This could be our first big handicapped battle and I do opt for France v. Us. Annie, as is her wont, chooses the upper hand with France and I shudder and set up my units.
There are not a whole lot of pictures from this match-up which is a shame because it was very intense. I set up with three units in my back row, something I’ve never done, and loading my first hand with a Scout and a Withdraw and some unit cards… Possibly a Leader. Annie pressed forward with her 8 strength cav and I scouted her. Sure enough she was set on a split attack with her 8 strength infantry as well. I hold back and wait for it with staggered units and survive the initial onslaught.
My staggered line manages to surround, weaken, and bombard my way through her Guard Cavalry and Guard Imperial as I dispatch her two 8 strength units. The mid game sees me, as the weakling US, with an actual Unit advantage.
The game continues with another unit from each side gone to the great beyond (which I think is Xanadu) and Annie has a clear positional advantage going into Nightfall. She, however, is so enraged that I’m up a unit that she brings one of her units back into her own territory to try to take my poor, untrained 4th Infantry. Before she can, however, Night falls and the US pulls an upset victory with a 9-7 vp spread.
Teaching moment: Annie could have easily got a Tie (although, still a loss) if she had not recalled her right flank Infantry. One more square north and it’s 9-9. Annie admits she wasn’t planning for Nightfall and is still a little unsure about how to position herself at the end. Annie is a very aggressive Manoeuvre player and nearly every game is fought on my half of the board. This time, however, I felt like I managed to counter that with some positioning, unit support and lucky card draws and it didn’t hurt that four of Annie’s leaders were in the last five cards of her deck.
Annie was fuming at the end, but we went to Fuji-Ya, got some Sushi and rehashed the three games to glean greater insight into the great game of Manoeuvre, which, to be sure, was less interesting than what we overheard on our walk home:
“She writes books about fairies… Not because she thinks it’s an interesting topic to write about but because she thinks she actually sees fairies.”
(A little teeth got the bottle open.) We were able to play four games and enjoy a few Gin Bootlegs
We quickly moved inside as both Annie and I were drenched with sweat considering the Humidity of 100% (or so it felt.) I chose the two armies for our first game: Austrian and Russian. Annie opted for the Russians so I took the weaker Austrians.
I got off to a rough start losing the game to an Attrition loss—the end of the turn would have been a Nightfall victory for me but Annie knocked off my fifth unit to take victory. I still have no idea why I was moving the same unit three times in a row in my first three turns. Idiocy, mostly, or the gin.
The next game Annie chose Russia and Prussia and I opted for the upper hand with Russia and won a pretty quick Attrition victory.
After two games we were a little light headed from the heat, the gin and the Pippin so we went and picked up some halftime pizza at Pizza Luce and discussed some theology.
When we got back we put on some Jesus Christ Super Star and some Gillian Welch and dove into our third game. Annie chose the big armies: British and French.
I think, here, Annie wanted me to be dramatic with the cards and sing along to JCSS so I am obliging her. You can also see I chose the British hoping for a “mini-break” as Annie was favored to win with the slightly stronger French. I won in a Nightfall victory and went up 2-1.
Our final game, I chose the opposite end of the spectrum and picked Ottomans and the US. Annie chose Ottomans and we played a very tight game. I ended up losing in a Nightfall tie-break… a very VERY ill advised move caused me to go from 7 VPs to 6 in the last turn and Annie’s ability to knock off more units let her win the tiebreak. More like HEARTBREAK.
Anyway, I was very happy to get in four games of Manoeuvre and I am still trying to figure out strategy and tactics for this game. Annie and I are very evenly matched so the next 52 games look to be just as close as the first four. Annie was hoping we’d get through the tournament by the end of September… But I’m guessing 2013 is probably a more reasonable deadline. Until next time, Ludocrats!
Jeff uncharacteristically offered to play a game tonight and asked if there were any I was “itching to try.” I opted for Manoeuvre again because it’s a pretty simple game and is hella fun. I chose the Russians and gave Jeff the Brits—I picked out a map with only hills and forests and off we went. I was hitting pretty hard in the first half of the game but Jeff started drawing good cards and relentlessly pushed into my territory. Before I knew what was what, it was a nightfall victory for the Brits, 9vp to 5. Even though he won, he was not too jazzed about the game (he did, however, still rate it higher than Small World). This means he probably won’t want to try Virgin Queen when it comes out (tentatively) in November… but perhaps there is still time!
Annie came over today for a li’l manoeuvring. We started off with Brits v. French in the requisite accents and I must have had a certain… je ne sais quoi… because I popped off five of Annie’s cockney units for an attrition victory. Annie was having fun so we opted for another go with an hour before our dinner reservs and she chose the Spaniards so she could lisp the whole time and I opted for the Ottomans so I could make racially insensitive jokes about being terrorists. My cavalry were hoppin’ all over the place and since the Spanish deck was shrink wrapped before the start of the match and Annie did not heed my REPEATED advice to shuffle until you think you can’t shuffle no more and then KEEP SHUFFLING, she basically drew cards in sets of five which hamstrung any offensive efforts. I again managed to remove five of her units from the board (I think without sacrificing one of my own) but Annie’s enthusiasm for the game was undiminished and I know this game will see the table again (after we make it through Washington’s War and For the People). [Special thanks to Annie for taking the pictures. Special thanks to my left eye for being super lazy? Special thanks to the late Summer for making me so unbelievably translucent. Clarification, in my eye-droop pic, I am having Annie choose which hand has the First Player token in it, not fake riding a bicycle.]
It is my baby kitty’s 1st bday today. I celebrated by breaking in a new game and enjoying the ever-so gluten-free culinary stylings of one of the most stalwart ludocrats; Tim. Two pics of Boots and a pic of a British v. French Manoeuvre game before some botched rules removed two of my units from the board. Great game—simple but so much to think about. I am dying to try this again. Tim and I also got in a Dominion game with 5 base set cards and 5 intrigue cards. I won in the nick of time—41 to 30.