Sunday, September 15, 2013

After Action Review of Triumph and Tragedy

Prior to Dragonflight 2013, the last time I actually sat down and played a wargame was in February.  True, I've posted about a couple of game reviews since then, but I unearthed those games out of last year's picture archives.

After playing a game of Last Night on Earth, which will be the subject of a later post or movie, my friend Joe and I found ourselves once again, meandering around the Bellevue Hilton.  When we wandered into the atrium, we ended up chatting with Cory, who was helping playtest the upcoming game Triumph and Tragedy (T&T) by GMT Games

In this game, players assume the leadership roles of one of three power blocks:  The Communists, the Fascists and the Capitalists.  Players can win by gaining economic, political or technical supremacy over the others.  So the game doesn't have to end in a military conflagration.

After Cory gave us a quick brief of the rules, we chose sides and began setting up.  Here, Joe, the Fascist player (Nazis--"I hate these guys"), ponders how to dominate Europe.

Cory took over the Soviet Union (the Commies) and assumed control of the western powers (France and Britain, the Capitalist Pigs).  The game starts things off at 1935, so the initial disposition of forces looks something like this...

T&T is a "block game."  That is, the playing pieces representing military units are made of wooden block, stood upright, with the front side facing the owning player.  So the other players may not know what type of units you have, or how strong they are.

Like many of GMT's products, T&T is also card-driven game.  Cards can be used to develop advanced technology, like radar and sonar; mobilize military forces and attempt to gain control of other nations.  In the last case, other players can "trump" your political machinations by playing an identical card, or designated wild card.

There was a lot of that going on during our game session.  Once someone played three country cards, they gained full control of that nation.  The first to succumb to political pressure was Czechoslovakia..

...followed by a military build-up.  The type of units raised depended on number of factors, such as the population of the newly acquired country and the economy of the major power. 

The Low Countries became the next political arena between the Fascists and Western Powers...

...followed by Denmark and the Scandinavian countries.

While the Western Powers tried to obtain influence in Denmark, the Fascists gained control of Sweden and attempt to sway Finland.

Soviet naval and/or air units patrolled the North Sea, while Mother Russia gained control of Spain and advanced four units into Poland.

Meanwhile, the Western Powers gained control of Hungary--that lonely blue square next to Czechoslovakia.   France also added a couple of units to its military.

There was a lot of "off screen action," primarily attempt to gain control of various South American countries and most importantly--the United States.  America's entry into the Euro-rivalry was considered a major game-changer.

Here, the Soviets consolidated their naval/air units in the Baltic Sea, while a military unit was pushed closer to the German-Polish border.

Naval maneuvers began in earnest as the British, French and Italian navies put to sea in the Mediterranean and North Sea.  And speaking of highly technical forces, the research & development (R&D) race was another "off camera front" that was going full-bore throughout the game. 

As the game drew to a close, long range bombers, night fighters, heavy tanks, mechanized infantry were just a few of the military hardware that was being fielded by most of the powers.  
While America's entry into the near-conflict would  have been a game changer, the development of the atomic bomb would have been a game-ender.
But as it turned out, no one was able to harness the power of the atom.  The Soviets achieved economic domination of Europe--without firing a shot.
Cory said this was often a common outcome.  That players are often cautious about starting a war they could possibly lose in one fell swoop.  Here's the final disposition of all the forces...

Joe confessed that he was frustrated throughout the game.  He had three out of the four cards necessary to develop the atomic bomb.  Cory and I kept thwarting him by "burying" all the other atomic research cards in various ways during game play.

While in the political arena, Germany was able to gain control of Persia, but was continually thwarted in Anschluss-ing with Austria. 

I must admit I spent more time trying to counter Joe's moves than Cory's, which allowed Cory build up Mother Russia's industrial capacity.  And speaking of industry, the Western Powers industrial base is the weakest of the major powers.  The primary goal of a Capitalist player is to develop their industrial capacity and get the United States to join in the fun.  So it's in the Communist and Fascist players' best interest to keep America from becoming involved.

T&T can be considered a quick and dirty strategy game of World War II.  Sort of.   Especially since one could conceivably win without setting off a war, as happened in our game.  It certainly is more of a game than a monster simulation like War in Europe , or the The Europa Series.  But the benefit is, one can complete a game in one sitting. 

Our game lasted less than four hours and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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