Monday, June 30, 2014

Battlegame Book Series #4 of 20: Galactic War (Vol. 3) – Invasion Earth!

Narration from a Scottish redhead...
When I was a little boy I had one of the five volumes in the Usborne Battlegame Book series by Andrew McNeil. It was called Fighting Ships (#5) and it was published in the UK in 1975.  It was chock full of pictures and helpful information on the inside, and contained four complete wargames (with pieces, rules and gameboards in the book) that could help your imagination travel anywhere in time and space. This year, I decided to (re)collect and (re)play the entire series. And we've been playing ever since...


For the second half of our recent double-header, we moved on to Volume 3 of the series, Galactic War.  To say that this book, not being devoted to a particular period of military history, is an aberrration among the Battlegame Books would be quite an understatement.  The first half is a brief overview of basic astronomy and cosmology and a history of the space program circa 1975.  (For the record, my single favorite part of the book is how it describes the amazing success of the Skylab program in the present tense.)  As there has not actually been any galactic war though of which we are aware (at least at the time of press), the second half of the book delves into the purely speculative "someone thinks this might be something that could happen someday" digression, including the four wargames, which are pure matinee sci-fi schlock at its best.

Invasion Earth! is no exception and is definitely chock full of wtf-itude.  The scenario revolves around an attempt by an amphibious alien race called the Ganoids (Dastardly Donny here, largely due to the physical resemblance) to conquer the Earth by planting enough breeding pods into the Pacific Ocean to spawn and overwhelm the puny humans.  As you do.

The other player (me here) takes on the role of Earth's woefully underfunded and undermanned Pacific Command, charged with the task of eliminating enough of the breeding pods as they are seeded to prevent the Ganoid invasion from achieving critical mass.

The first Ganoid craft lands off the coast of Peru
The earth forces consist of essentially four fleets:  two slow-moving submarines, a much faster aircraft squadron and a middling attack hydrofoil.  In addition, the Pacific Command controls three one-shot orbital missle satellites which "scroll" across the top of the board each turn.  

By contrast, the Ganoid player controls six "beacon" space ships, with no real movement capacity to speak of.  Each turn, one ship may be landed anywhere on the board as desired.  The following turn, that craft generates a spawning craft, while another beacon ship may be landed elsewhere.  On the third turn, the spawning craft is submerged beneath the ocean depths, and the beacon ship may depart to anywhere else on the board.  The object of the game is for the Ganoid player to get 10 craft submerged successfuly (or 8 submerged in a contiguous group, which is far more unlikely to happen), at which point humanity is overwhelmed by dripping aliens clawing up the beaches, dogs and cats start living together and...  well, you get the idea.

A submarine fleet takes out a submerged breeding pod near Vancouver, while a Ganoid beacon ship considers its next move
If at any point before the spawning craft is successfully submerged, that square is attacked by the Earth hydrofoil or aircraft, everything within the square is destroyed.  (This obviously dictates the primary Ganoid strategy, which is to spread out landing sites at the edges of the board, to delay humanity's response in best hopes to get as many pods underwater as possible.)  Once submerged, neither the hydrofoil nor the aircraft may make an attack on a spawning craft, but it is then exposed to submarine fleet attack.  Of course the two submarines move with such agonizing slowness, they are of limited usefulness and lethality, depending on where the Ganoids manage to effect their landings.

Finally, the three orbital missle satellites (or OMS's) are the Earth player's one major ace in the hole.  They track across the top of the board by one space per turn, and at a certain point each may be used to "nuke" a square in the column beneath from orbit.  Everything within that square is destroyed (whether submerged or not), and that OMS is then removed from the board.  You get three shots only.  Make them count.

The Final Positions
As we commenced the game, my initial strategy was to attack the beacon ships directly as they landed, thinking I could quickly end the game by taking out these six units asap.  Donny was quite adept at spreading my forces out across the board though, and it quickly became very unfeasible for me to reach enough of the beacons before they took off for other parts.  As a strategem for victory, it proved unlikely to be effective.

After a brief re-assessment, I began to concentrate on the spawning craft instead.  The Ganoid player has a supply of 16, and realizing the impossibility of him submerging 8 in a contiguous grouping before being attacked by my aircraft, it became a matter of simple math.  If I could destroy 7 of the spawners, Donny would be entirely unable to meet his victory conditions.  

I think I already had destroyed one grouping in mid-spawn by this point, and subtracting the three nuke hits I expected when my OSMs were lined up where I wanted them to be, this meant I had to take out just three more of the pods with my mobile units.  It was honestly touch and go there for a while...  Ultimately though, my subs were able to reach just enough of alien landing sites to tip the balance towards the defenders and victory was mine.

Here is how Invasion Earth! fared in our scoring:

                                      Donny         Brian
Quick to lean           3                  3
The rules themselves were simply stated but took a good while for us to wrap our heads around, such as the alien forces having no attack value or movement speed.  We were repeatedly confused by the human units having their attack value printed on the unit (instead of the speed), and the differentiation between which units could attack aliens on the surface or submerged was not immediately clear.

Cool factor               5                  4
I was particularly fond of the OMS mechanic.  An interestying variant would be if the satellite attacked everything in the row beneath, not just one square in the row.  (On the first read-through of the rules, that was actually my interpretation of their attack capability.)

Replayability            4                 4
This game does not just lend itself to replayability, it demands it.  We both felt it took us most of the game to get our bearings in terms of how it worked, and that it would require additional plays to fully get the hang of.

Balance                    3                 3
It was hard for us to sense any particular slant during our game, but the tips and suggestions included on the rules page suggest making the game harder for the Ganoid player after a few plays by adding OMSs, which definitely implies a biad towards the alien side in the base game.

Overall                     3.625

Some pages of Volume 3: Galactic War

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The CVG Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue - Episode #009: What Is And What Should Never Be!

My poor head...

Episode Nine of The Chippewa Valley Geek Podcast and Rhythm & Blues Revue is complete and can be found here or on iTunes and Stitcher.

It's the start of Season Two, and you're getting a veritable cannonade about canon in this episode!

0:00:00  Intros
0:02:06  The Up Front: On race and re-casting canon
0:12:25  The Interview:  Tom Foss of The Fortress of Soliloquy explains the point of canon, lets us know where it goes horribly wrong, and takes on the Geek-del Test!
0:56:12  Payin' some bills

1:01:26  The Roundtable:  Wherein Donny and Mike heap their scorn on canon, then decide they're kind of OK with it after all, and then go and choose the wrong cannon!
1:45:31  The Community Calendar

1:50:44  Outro & Credits
1:52:05  Bonus Track:    Sagan the Blues!

Sweet Monkey Jesus, do we have some Show Notes and Links this time!

Make sure to complete The Chippewa Valley Geek 2014 Reader & Listener Poll

Felicia Day's "high school essay" on race and casting

Don't get these guys mixed up...

Doctor Who and The Talons of Weng-Chiang!

Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie - Oh the humanity...

The Hitchhiker's Guide movie  (Now is a good time to panic.)

Hey kids, it's Kate Mara!

House of Cards
Kevin Spacey and the worst Cockney accent ever...

Shira Brie came first.

Jupiter's Legacy! by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (It gets brutal...)

The Return of Donna Troy! by Phil Jemenez

Daredevil! by Mark Waid

Wolverine & The X-Men! by Jason Aaron

If you liked the first 150 pages of the Silmarillion, you'll love DC's 52, by Johns / Morrison / Waid / Rucka.

Spider-Man: One More Day

Spider-Man: Brand New Day

The New 52

Grant Morrison is a genius, pure and simple.

Check out his amazing interviews w/ Kev Smith on Fatman on Batman here, here and here!

Adventures of Superman

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight

All-New X-Men! by Brian Michael Bendis

Amazing Fantasy # 15! by Lee / Ditko

The Death of Superman! by Dan Jurgens and a bunch of people

Tom Foss's Walking with Superman blog project.  It's pretty farking clever.

The 8th Doctor Audio Adventures

The Night of the Doctor: Mini Episode featuring #8

Garth Ennis' The Punisher

Star Trek: Into Darkness  - frickin' kids these days...

It's  A Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman: The Superman Musical

Jaime Reyes and the Blue Beetle

Wally West

Daredevil <-- Find a decent Kingpin here...

Miles Morales and Ultimate Spider-Man

Superman: Birthright!  by Mark Waid

All-Star Superman!  by Grant Morrison

Superman: Red Son!  by Mark Millar

Supergirl: The Director's Cut

Tom Foss is at  The Fortress of Soliloquy and on Twitter at @dowding_tom.  I think.


Cannon: Season One w/ William Conrad

Cannon by Wally Wood

Rock me baby like a Wagon Wheel...

A few words from the Furyondy Chamber of Commerce.


Wolfgang Baur is here.  (He didn't really do any of the stuff I said he did.  He's a nice guy.  Really.)

Memorize the Wookiiepedia and learn about Billy Bob!

You should read some Patrick O'Brian!

Master & Commander

Because she's there...

Atomic Robo

Rat Queens:  Sass and Sorcery

Back to the Future

Donny's Horror Reboots:

A Nightmare on Elm Street
Friday the 13th 
Fright Night
Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Salem's Lot

The Star Wars RPG Mike meant.

Don't forget the Forgotten Realms!

Ed Greenwood!

The One Ring!

Traveller, baby!

Mutants and Masterminds!

Call of Cthulhu - Core Book

Mecatol Rex from afar and up close and personal

Captain Kirk's Cannon!

Captain Kirk's Cannon, Recreated!

Pachabel's Canon

Dyan Cannon, 1978...

Hint: the correct answer is -not- to always own a cannon

Rollie Fingers

The origin story of Monster Mike
(Someone is owed some life story rights I think...)

Teen Wolf

The Geek's main Amazon link!

Remember you can get your own copies of the bonus tracks out at Bandcamp!

Sorry, no Monthly Marathon this time out.  I'm playing binge-watch-catch-up on a few series right now and will need any bonus free time to start work on the next few eps of the podcast.  Feel free to view amongst yourselves.

PC Stinger:  Quelidan the Magnificent
This month's stinger is by an Eladrin Wizard contributed by our special guest Mr. Tom Foss.  Check out his character sheet here...

The backing sound effects used in this episode included:

-  "Moroccan Guimbri Lute", obtained via via a Creative Commons 0 license.  The original file can be found here.

It's no "Heaven and Hell", but nevertheless, special thanks for helping to inspire this episode's bonus track go out to Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere." - Carl Sagan

Introducing the 2014 edition of the Chippewa Valley Geek Annual Reader / Listener Poll!

Hey folks!

Please help start our second year off with a bang by taking a few minutes to fill out the 2014 Chippewa Valley Geek Annual Reader / Listener Poll!  It's right here.

It's a great chance to give some feedback on the blog and the podcast and let us more about your wants and needs.

Everybody's doin' it.  You don't want to be left out, do you?


I didn't think so.  

You want to be cool.  I want you to be cool.  

Consider clicking on the link and giving a few minutes of feedback and stories about you.  Then you'll be cool.

Thank you for your support.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monster Mike's Geek Reads: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

No doubt you boycotted the film and you are probably ready to scream foul invective at me for giving that blankety-blank homophobe Orson Scott Card a nickel in royalties for the privilege of reviewing his book.  So before we go any further in this review, let's clear the air:

I stole this book.

We here at the Chippewa Valley Geek hold no truck with homophobia, racism, sexism, or any other sort of -ism.  Geeks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  We recognize that geeks share their geeky love as The Force moves them, and we think that's awesome.  However, my purpose here is not to critique Mr. Card and the repugnance of his publicly stated views, but instead to review this important and influential work of science fiction that he wrote nearly forty years ago on its own merits.  So take some deep breaths, throw a few karate chops at the stuffed Pikachu next to you, and recite the Green Lantern Corps Oath until your mind reaches a Zen-like state of calm.  Then read on.

The story takes place in a hypothetical future where humankind has overpopulated the earth, space travel is becoming commonplace, and we have begun to get serious about expanding to other planets.  However, about eighty years prior, humankind was attacked by an utterly alien species known as The Buggers.  The first Bugger war forced all of the disparate human governments and cultures to unite and took all of humanity's resources and courage under the leadership of the legendary hero Mazer Rackham to drive the mythical beasties back to wherever they came from.

Eighty years later, Earth finds itself politically divided and desperately seeking the next Mazer Rackham to defend them from the inevitable second invasion.  Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and thousands of other children like him that are identified for their intelligence and potential at a very young age and are sent to Battle School.  Ender is a "third" - an outcast third child on a world with a rigid two child per couple policy.  His older siblings Valentine and Peter are every bit as bright as Ender, but are deemed unsuitable:  his sister Valentine is too compassionate, and his brother Peter is too cruel.

The bulk of the story is about Ender's development as he progresses through Battle School and eventually moves on to Command School.  Battle school looks rather like a four-year long game of organized team laser tag in zero gravity, and Ender quickly proves to be brilliant at both the tactics and strategy of this game.  His keen observation, intelligence, and judicious ability to be violent in the right amount at the right times see him through all the challenges that the school can throw at him.  Since many chapters of the book are prefaced with a private dialogue between Colonel Graff and Major Imbu - the manipulative leaders of the Battle School -  discussing Ender's progress and latest challenges, the reader gets insight into the invisible hands pulling the levers in Ender's world.  And in the remainder of the narrative, a lot of the action takes place inside of Ender's head.  This gives the reader a clear view of the thought processes of the world's next great tactical and strategic genius.

By the time Ender is ten, he is moved to command school, representing the step up from leading a squad to commanding the strategy of a large group of squads.  Though the games grow increasingly intense, Ender also gains a mentor.  And I don't want to say too much more about the plot of the book beyond this point, because there are a few great twists at the end that should not be spoiled.  You'll just have to read it for yourself.

So what we have here is a story about the personal growth and development of one exceptional individual in a military society with the horrible bug alien space menace serving as the threat that lurks just over the horizon right up until the very end of the book.  In this sense, Ender's game very strongly mirrors Starship Troopers.  The writing is gripping, and the book is hard to put down.  At the same time, I could not help but feel a certain queasiness with the ironclad moral justification for every immoral action in the book.  For example, at several points in the book, Ender is forced to defend himself violently and does so, never learning that he actually killed his assailant.  The operators of the battle school are given complete moral justification for what amounts to psychological torture of children.  At the end of the book, Ender has to make choices with staggering moral consequences justified by his ignorance of what he is truly doing.  And the reader is left squirming uncomfortably, hoping that everything works out all right in the end.  Reading this book may leave you feeling rather squicky when it's all done.  Yet I also think this kind of boundary-pushing is exactly what science fiction is for.

out of 5.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Of Kids and Canon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season One

One of the joys of being a geek is being able to spread the revolution.  That is to say, it's an immensely satisfying experience (usually) to share something you love and dig with someone coming to it with new eyes. You can share the word about something you dig on, as well as vicariously re-experience the thrill of seeing it for the first time yourself through that person.  Being a geek parent is an even more special case.  As I experienced a year or so ago when my daughter flat out told me not to worry that Vader was lying about being Luke's dad, because he's just too mean, watching beloved media for the first time with a junior geek-in-training can be a particularly rewarding way to experience things you know backwards and forwards with a fresh and clearer perspective.   As such, in the interests of posterity, I plan to use this particular series of posts to document, as well as I can, the passing of the torch to a new generation.

So a little while ago, I decided to break my 6 year old daughter's regular entertainment diet of Doctor Who, Spongebob and My Little Pony to introduce her for the first time to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season One.  She's definitely taking on more and more complex and ambiguous material already, as far as I can tell, and my hope is that she's old enough now to recognize Buffy as a truly badass role model of sorts, and also that the show can serve as an intro to a later discussion of all things Whedon-y as she gets older. Plus we have seven seasons to work with, so it should occupy her for at least, what, a month?

While the first hour was a bit wobbly and hit/miss (but let's face it, so is the pilot, am I right?), she definitely dug the premise and quickly demanded more.  We blasted through the three Season One discs in just under two weeks, between homework and trips to the park, and in the brief pause after the Season Finale (before I was emotionally bludgeoned into getting out the Season Two discs asap), I managed to document the following thoughts and opinions on what we had just come through...

Me:  So did you like BtVS?

R: Ohhhh yeah.

Me:  What did you like about it?

R:  That there were like vampires and stuff.  Cause I think like vampires and like zombies and stuff like that is cool.

Me:  What was your favorite part of all the episodes we watched?

Oh HELL no.  Go to your room til you're 27.

R:  In the episode "Angel" it was really weird, 'cause Angel hasn't been seen as a vampire by Buffy before, but then they just kiss, and then they stop kissing and he's like a vampire, so I don't get how that works.  Is it like whenever he kisses a girl he starts looking that way?  I don't get it.  But I really liked that part.

Me:  I think it might just be a high school thing.  Do you think any boys you kiss in high school will turn into monsters like that?
R:  I don't think so.  But if they did, it would be really cool.

Me:  What was your least favorite part?

R:  I don't really know one.  I thought it was all cool.

Me:  Do you have a most favorite or least favorite character?

R:  My most favorite is Giles.  It's so funny how in the last episode, Buffy just goes, "huh" and he just goes "huh", you know?

Me:  Sure.  I thought Cordelia was pretty mean this season.  Now that she helped them fight off the vampires in the last episode though, do you think she's going to join the "Scooby gang" and be nice now, or just go back to the way it was before and keep being mean?

Master?  Master of needing moisturizer maybe...
R:  She's probably going to keep being mean because at the very end, one of her boyfriend peoples was asking if she was hanging out with them and she was like "Nooooo."

Me:  If you had to take a guess what sorts of things would happen in Season Two, what would you guess?
R:  That even more hard stuff to fight than the Master is coming up.

Me:  Did you think the Master was a scary villain?
R:  No.  He was kind of boring.  But the scariest monster...  I can't remember what the episode was called... was the invisible girl.  Stuff that scares me too much are things I start thinking it's real and I try to be really quiet when I'm alone and stuff.

Me:  So if you were going to join the "Scooby gang", which way would you most want to help out?  Be a cool kick butt girl who fights things, be someone who knows a bunch of languages and can read a lot of old books, be someone who knows tons about computers, or be the one who says funny things?
R:  Be a girl who kicks butt.  Cause I'm really good at fighting.  So good I'm like a ninja.  So it's like...  (a demonstration of punches and high kicks ensues here).
Velma, Daphne, Scooby, Shaggy and Fred in repose
Me:  Are you taking any tips from Buffy's moves?
R:  Yeah, that's how I learned to do that flippy thing on my bed.  I was trying to practice how Buffy was doing it.  You know how in that first episode of all the seasons, it's the first time you see that girl vampire (Darla), and you know how they were in that ancient thingy, and there was that thing in the middle that she like flipped over and stuff?  So I learned that from her.

Me:  So are you excited for Season Two?

R:  Yeah, I think it's gonna be way better.  Like I said, there may be monsters that are more powerful than vampires and monsters that are more powerful than the Master that they have to fight.

Me:  Do you think anyone is going to die in Season Two?  Any of the good guys?

Really.  We're not blaming her or anything.
R:  Maybe.  Maybe at least one.  Cause I don't remember which episode it was in... ("Prophecy Girl") but remember when all those guys were watching a little tv show thing and then they were all dead?  Many people have died in the first season...

Me:  So of all the good guys...  We'll say Buffy and Giles and Xander and Willow, and Miss Calendar and Cordelia... and Buffy's Mom and Angel.  If one was going to die next season, which is your bet?  If any... Maybe none of them will.
R:  It would probably be Willow, cause she like never fights.  She like mostly is like "Uhhh, I should stay inside" or "Mmm, I just don't want to fight tonight guys".  And then she just doesn't do it.  I think she's kinda scared to do it.  I don't blame her... It's kinda scary to fight monsters you don't even know.

Me:  Alright, well - we'll see how it goes.  Thank you!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Battlegame Book Series #3 of 20: The Wild West (Vol. 1) – Red Cloud's War

Narration from a Scottish redhead...
When I was a little boy I had one of the five volumes in the Usborne Battlegame Book series by Andrew McNeil. It was called Fighting Ships (#5) and it was published in the UK in 1975.  It was chock full of pictures and helpful information on the inside, and contained four complete wargames (with pieces, rules and gameboards in the book) that could help your imagination travel anywhere in time and space. This year, I decided to (re)collect and (re)play the entire series. And we've been playing ever since...


Being fairly far behind on the Battlegame project, Donny and I scheduled a double header last weekend, the first leg of which came from the inaugural volume in the series:  The Wild West.  The selection I picked out for our first foray from this book was a two-player option called "Red Cloud's War" - an example of a type of game that seems to crop up repeatedly throughout the series, and which I've been calling, for lack of something more appropriate, a "caravan management" game.

The scenario is set in Wyoming and Montana in 1866.  One player, as the Federal Goverment (Donny), must run supply trains from Fort Laramie over the Bozeman Trail, through the mountains to Fort Keogh before the stores there run out and disaster enues.  While the wagon trains themselves are relatively pokey and are confined to movement on the trail however, substantial cavalry is provided as an escort, which can roam the mountains both freely and quickly.

The other player (me here) represents the combined Lakota Sioux and their allies, defending encroached territory.  These forces consist of five different warbands, which begin play at individual camps spread around the periphery of the board.   When "eliminated" in a combat, the units just return to these camps and begin anew the following turn.  The Federal player place
s two units of any type in Fort Laramie at the beginning of the game and each following turn, including any units which are removed from the board during play (either through combat or successfully resupplying the fort).

Starting positions

A counter is set at 20 before play begins and is reduced by one after each of the Federal player's turns, as Fort Keogh depletes its limited supplies.  Each wagon that successfully reaches the fort increases these stores by 10.  The ultimate object of the game is simple enough.  If the supply counter is ever replenished up to 25, the Federal player has successfully resupplied and wins the game.  If the counter ever reaches 0, Fort Keogh is lost and the Lakota Sioux player wins.

Combat is a relatively simple affair requiring a single d6 throw by the attacking player, with odds determined by the ratio of combat values. (A warband should easily be able to pick off a wagon, but is at even odds vs. any lone cavalry.)  Units losing a combat will either be eliminated from the board (or returned to camp) or be forced to retreat down the trail (or be forced to return to the rallying point).

The initial strategy decisions are left for the Federal player, trying to decide which pieces to "develop" on the board first.  Bringing the cavalry on right away can lose precious time needed to get the wagons down the trail, but bringing too little of the cavalry out can leave the supplies dangerously exposed once the Sioux warbands actually get within range of the trail. There are forts along the trail, the sole purpose of which is to double the value of any Federal unit occupying them at the time of combat. The only incentive the Sioux player ever has to occupy one is simply to block the trail and deny the Federal units access to them. But this strategy becomes progressively less feasible as the game goes on and the numerical disparity makes itself felt.

Donny's use of the cavalry screen tactic in action
Through a bizarre wrinkle in the rules, the Lakota warbands must return to their camps after every attack, whether it is successful in eliminating the defender or not. Given the time required to bring these units back to bear on the trail once more, this makes it very difficult for the Lakota player to develop troop concentrations of any significant duration. In addition, it forces a cost analysis which must be thought through with any even odds attack vs. cavalry. Given the cyclical nature of the game (wagon caravans being restarted on the trail in waves), even a successful result can end up repositioning an eliminated cavalry unit closer to the new center of activity on the following turn than the warband's own new position. A “retreat” result, which would send the warband to the much closer “rallying point” instead, is only possible when defending from an attack.

The game tips recommend use of the cavalry to provide a screen protecting the wagons, and this ultimately turns out to be a very effective strategy, which can be useful to both players in differing ways. The Federal numerical advantage certainly allows for several cavalry units to be devoted to blocking out each individual warband, but by the same token, a crafty Lakota player can use this to tie up a disproportionate amount of the escort, leaving the caravans exposed to other attackers. The upshot, once all the pieces are developed onto the board, is a bizarre game of cat and mouse, wherein the Lakota units spend much of the time attempting to draw off the cavalry and perhaps provoke an attack, while staying close enough to the trail to be able to strike at any outlying wagons that offer themselves.
Red Cloud's hit & run meets Golden Dragon beef w/ mushroom

Once it kicked off, our game developed quickly.  Donny opted for speed and brought out mostly wagons on the first few turns. There were some cavalry units in place by the time the warbands made first contact, but on the whole I was able to swarm the caravan pretty effectively. Unfortunately, my results in the first few actions were dismal, and I had very little to show for results besides needing to start over from camp. By the time my units got close enough to be a threat towards the latter half of the trail, the Federal units had regrouped and reorganized themselves into a sufficiently defensive posture, so that, while I was about to knock out several wagons, one did successfully reach the fort, extending the game and forcing us to turn our attentions to the “second wave” of wagons departing Fort Laramie.

Unfortunately by this time, Donny had worked out the use of the cavalry screen pretty effectively. It was progressively more and more difficult for me to get clear avenues of attack at the supply trains as they meandered down the trail, and while I was able to pick off some here and there, ultimately one wagon reached its destination, later followed by another, the last wagon left in the caravan. With this the fort was successfully re-supplied and the game was over. The white man was free to live unmassacred in Montana, for at least a few more years anyway.

The Last Gasp - Keogh gets its supplies
Here is how Red Cloud's War fared in our scoring:

                                      Donny         Brian
Quick to lean           5                  4
We both hit the ground running with this game and thought it was quite easy to pick up.  I did have a minor quibble with a couple of the weirder rules that took me most of the game to be mindful of, like diagonal movement only being allowed on the Trail itself, and the annoying habit of Lakota units of returning to camp even after a successful attack.

Cool factor               4                  5
Red Cloud's War was a home run (or at least a triple) for both of us.  Donny was particularly impressed how well the rules ensured the historically-accurate usage of hit-and-run raids and ambushes by the Lakota, whereas I totally fell in love the various possibilities of the countdown and resupply mechanic constituting the object of the game.

Replayability            4                 4
We both felt very strongly this is a game that we both could and would play again, given the time and opportunity.  Donny's only reservation was that the "waves" of wagon trains could be reduced to pure mathematical strategizing (Only one of the first wave needs to get through,  and in such a way as to require only two of the second wave, and so on), rather than being more immersive in its overall strategic and historical paradigm.

Balance                    5                 5
Not only did both sides have a pretty equal chance of winning Red Cloud's War, a lot of the seeds of those victories were laid down early in the game.  So while the outcome could be construed on some level to be the result of random dice (say me shanking on my first few wagon attacks), it's in such a way that a player has more than ample time for planning to recover (or not) from the hazard of the die (i.e. - There is far less chance of the game feeling like it was decided by a final dice roll at the end of the game).

Overall                     4.50           4.50

A few relevant pages from Volume 1: The Wild West