Review – Successors

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I had an opportunity to acquire 3rd edition Successors in mint condition. I have been looking for a long time but always found either prohibitively expensive or just not available. Since it is very likely that Successors will not see another reprint in it’s current form – which happen to be the form I do like it, and I would not like to have the opportunity passing me. There are four card driven games that  need to be in every gamer’s shelf. In mine they are: Pax Romana, (which is not strictly card driven, but close enough), Wilderness War, Hannibal and Successors.

Successors is a weird piece of game. Something akin to Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. One could argue that it is four player take on it, but H:RvsC is a quite bit more sensible and serious. Pax Romana would probably lend some of the insane chaos to it, but then Successors is not quite Pax either. Very seldom do you find yourself chasing dead body of Alexander around Middle East (or any other body in that matter, game or otherwise). It would be hilarious, if it would not be true. Successor wars were probably the most bizarre sideshow that ancient Macedon/ Greece put up. A pretty good act considering the theatrical history of Greece and not forgetting the fierce competition.

There, a fantastic topic to draw inspiration for a game. But then, how do you execute such a game? There are times that I do not appreciate Berg’s design philosophy (RAN for the fact that it really makes you think seriously about seppuku (with a wooden spoon I might add) when you know you’re losing, but also know that it will take another two hours or more to get there). Then in other times, like Pax Romana he has done things right, and the product is outright brilliant.

I have to admit that I was somewhat perplexed to see Berg’s name on the game designers. Then thought that since the style of the game is closer to Pax Romana than Ran, I would probably be safe. Not a mistake there. Successor is a little gem, a piece of art that has been just under the radar for a long time. There is strong theme to go about, and the act of balancing out the chaotic situation to functional factions is fantastic one. It is one thing to design a game where you have to allow people to gang up on one player, but it is entirely other matter to design a game which positively encourages people to do so. Without breaking the system, or making the game dull. Successors map.png

Successors is a card driven experience, and cards are used in similar fashion to other games, such as Wilderness War. It is a game where each of the four players (optimum group size) choose randomly two generals. Each general then has a bit of region and position. Goals are either victory points which can be obtained by conquering and several other means. Alternatively players can aim for legitimacy which can be obtained by being the good guy (and marrying & sheltering Alexanders relatives as much as possible). Prestige can be used to modify certain aspects of the game. Each faction has a satrap and some amount of armies associated with them.

Successors is not a war-game. It is not about fighting, and fighting will not take you very far. You only make yourself a lot of enemies by waging war. Armies do not really care about allegiances and battles are brutal. Every time you fight, you take substantial risk to your leader, and to the army. First sign of trouble and you no longer have an army. And you may not have general either. So an army is a device to impose power, but in reality lacks the power to execute. This brings a point about the cards. There are many, many ways to affect the gameplay by positioning armies in clever places, and by playing events that drive your benefit, but just tiniest of margin not to make you the Usurper – the target of everybody else. Then, when the time is ripe, you can strike for a victory.

So, in order to win in Successors, you have to be like Seleucus. Cunning, devious and when the time calls, tactically sound – although the last bit is not that important. Overall, if at all interested in the intricacies of this period, and have any inclination to backstabbing, diplomacy and other neat things, but are not really into fighting a prolonged war, you should give Successors a chance. If you can find it.

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Hauling a coffin, and looking into a sewer

Had an opportunity to haul Alexander’s coffin around Syria some time ago. Unfortunately only by two people, but sufficiently to get an idea how the game mechanics work. No game which features marriages, murder and stealing Alexander’s (or anyone else’s, but especially his) body can be inherently bad.

Successor test - 2

I had by far the better set of generals, so the game was sort of unfair. Nevertheless, on we went, and my opponent tried to get to the victory before me.

Successor test - 1

Funeral procession started moving towards Pella. It did end up buried in right place, and I had the legitimacy victory but it was much more tough than I thought it would have been. 

Good grief I like that board. It is by no doubt one of the prettiest boardgame piece there is.

On same token, we also had an opportunity to play Astral Alchemy scenario from 2nd ed. Mansions of Madness, Streets of Arkham expansion. We quite did not make it, but I did almost win because of insanity condition. Unfortunately that was not to be though and I was ousted from my activation by my fellow gamer. Not to give out too many spoilers, it is a scenario set in the Miscatonic University grounds where some more or less odd things happen, and to prevent them from culminating to something less than favorable certain things need to be collected around the campus.

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Monsters anywhere? Any other useful stuff? No? Keep looking. Where does this door lead, he thinks. Nothing bad has ever, ever happened in the sewers. Never.

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Moments before the great fire erupted (and consumed most of the board…). At least it was not dark, if that helps.

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Our Magician dies in unfortunate circumstances, and well, I draw out the worm while my colleague fails repeatedly to do what he must… So close to making pact with the Cthulhu, right there, right then… darn.

Posted in AAR, Ancient warfare, Boardgames, Fantasy, Successors | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acquisition – X-wing stuff

I noticed recently that factually I have to little stuff for X-wing to play any meaningful games. X-wing, B-wing, Y-wing for rebellion, and little better for Empire in form of 2 Tie Interceptors, Tie Bomber, Tie Advanced and 2 Tie Fighters.

x-wing acquisition - 1

So regardless, I expanded the fleet with 2 A-wings, a B-wing, HWK-290 (a borderline case wether I care about it or not) and one Tie Bomber. I have some idea what to do with them, but mostly what to do with them to make Decimator suffer a bit ;). We shall see how that goes though.

Generally, I don’t really  like the direction X-wing has been heading for some time – eg. trying desperately to scrape the empty barrel for  yet another piece that can be converted to money. Another matter are some players, like a a religious fanatics:

“I thought of getting X-wing, just for the classics. Just for fun.”
“Really? It’s really cool game! <blaa, blaa>, [until] You have to get K-wing, slam is a real killer <replace your favorite here>”
“I don’t really like that, it’s pretty weird and not really my alley. I don’t care about competing”
“I know some really good tricks about K-wing you can beat heck out of your opponent in tournaments.”
“Really, I don’t care about tournamets, nor K-wing in that matter.”
“You know, this list with K-wing <shows favorite tournament setup> is really good. It won X Y and Z. You could get to our tournament…”
“What’s wrong with you? I said I don’t care about tournaments. Nor your K-wing… “
“Tournamets have such a …”
“Really? Which part you do not understand?”
“But everybody plays tournamets and you have to have K-wing, it’s super cool. It’s the greatest fun, all the meta and…”
“I don’t care. REALLY, I DON’T CARE”

Anyways, Tie bomber is there, well, because, I like Tie bombers. Not sure why, but they have some weird design appeal. Not that they are particularly useful – just like the rest of the things I got.

While talking about upgrading the Rebel fleet, Tantive IV would probably be interesting acquisition at some point.

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Signal Close Action – Tactics

Age of Sail naval games often enough assume one side to be superior to other. Mostly by providing arbitrary bonuses to certain nationalities, or certain wind conditions, taking the decision and sense of discovery out of the player and reducing the games down to a dull and meaningless slugfests. It took a very long time to find a game which essentially provides player an engine, or a model of physical reality (oddly, a bit like Fighting Wings series in fact), which player then have to exploit to his own benefit.


In Signal Close Action rules provide you no dice, or other bonus for being on the windward side to the enemy. Neither it is always the place you’d like to be in. It all depends on your ability to read the situation, understand the force composition and the weather. What are the weather advantages of your fleet? Do you have coppered ships, or are they slow and foul? How good are the crews manning the ships, and what kind of tasks can be given and reliably executed in the heat of the battle? How strong is the wind and the sea state? How strong are the drifts and tides? Are there shallows and reefs in the vincinity to pay attention to? When strategic moves are used and scenario is not preset, player must be able to correctly judge the situation.

Not only weather is important, but so is the potential chance. Should the wind force or direction change, fleet may find itself suddenly in dire straits.

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Confusion reigns and disaster about to happen. French maneuver about to go terribly wrong.

Leadership matters in many places, but mostly (and most often forgotten at) it matters in signaling. Not only admiral is able to announce general orders, better captains are able to pass the messages forward more efficiently than poor ones. Imagine an situation where you have to rely incoming signal to other half of the fleet, but fail to do so. In an game where timing is everything, that delayed signal could cause the entire fleet to be thrown off course.

Understand the composition of the fleet, varying qualities of those in charge have to be taken account in the timing of signals and complexity. Figure out position for each ship in the line, should the line sail in convenient order of speed to retain agility, but risking separation, or wrong force composition in van, or rear? Should fast and foul ships intermingle, as to everyone set pace by the most foul and perhaps sacrifice the agility? Most importantly, if the range of ships vary from very foul to fast, consider complex evolutions carefully – and consider fighting from the leeward side.

Nevertheless, once fleet order is established, there is rather little one can do to remedy it later. If you have strong van, and weak rear, consider the possibility you have to wear together, when your weak rear suddenly finds itself to be the weak van.

Another matter is the crew that has to attend the ships. Leadership helps, but one has to consider that there are very important tasks needing attention. Not only crewing the guns, but also cutting away damaged rigging, plugging holes, doing repairs, and actually sailing. Say you’d wish to wear or worse, tack. You would have serious problem if you’re planning to man the guns at the same time – assuming you have any intent to actually succeed in the tack. Managing the crew efficiently is very important indeed.

Every action comes with delay, sometimes without good estimation of the length of the delay. Factor in some margin and sailing goes smoothly, but it means you may miss a critical point that could turn the tide. Fail this, and you may find yourself in not at all welcomed, but interesting situation.

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Well executed evolution together, focusing towards the rear of the French fleet.

Average captain may produce fine, complex order, but then the recipients fail to interpret the order as intended. Send signal – realize it is too complex – anull signal – repeat anull signal – send a new one – repeat. How much can happen during the time of simple signal correction? It may be the decision point that tips certain victory to a catastrophe. After it all has been sorted out, your whole fleet, or worse still, part of it may have sailed an nautical mile with unwanted course.

What do you do with the ship’s boats or other small craft not directly involved with the battle? Have you got a brig or a frigate unfit for the battle? Would you benefit from signal repeater?


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Who’s who?

Fighting from windward may be preferred, because it allows you to choose the time and place of the attack. Especially so if fleet is faster (coppered), and hauling as close to wind as possible. Then, well maneuvered attack against the van of the enemy will guarantee that the rear will not be able to come to aid without significant disorder. Aggressive attack can be good, but push it too vigorously and you will end up in disordered state with incapacitated vessels blocking your own advantages. One has to be able to count crews to do commanders pid.

That said, leeward side provides you option to fall out of line, and preserve too damaged ships from being captured or from surrender. Additionally, leeward provides a way to reform, if things go wrong.  On the other hand, wear the fleet together and you can present fresh broadside to the enemy, or slip away. Try to do that by tacking in an engagement.

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Line of battle, and poor quality of command results a scrambled line at the moment of attack. French van is in grave danger.

Planning maneuvers is easy, doing so without risking fire on your own fleet may be tricky. Judging wrong, or being hit by ill timed breeze, your bow may be pointing to a completely from angle, just for that single moment when you have ordered the guns in action. Changing course abruptly in a line of battle is nearly always invite to disaster. Even well timed maneuver can go wrong and in compact line that single wrong maneuver could be source of collisions, misfire and other mishaps. Not only colliding is bad because of damage it causes to the participants, but also because if foils your ship to the other and both become out of command. All those resources needed to separate the ship’s rigging from each other means that they are not doing more important tasks.

Does your fleet include frigates not being able to stand in the line of battle? Consider to utilize them for towing and assisting damaged ships worn off the line. Dismasted, or struck ship in a tow is not lost cause.

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Mansions of Madness, Streets of Arkham

momSoA2nd Edition of Mansions of Madness has a potential. In fact, there has been quite few surprising, and enjoyable scenarios. Most recent addition to the collection was Streets of Arkham. Rather on the pricey side, it has few updates, such as puzzle (could have been easily done digitally without tying it to hardware product), claim that content becomes more flexible (also not dependent on the hardware product), and then three scenarios – which incidentally also are not dependent on boxed product. All else included are fluff. New tiles (given the amount amassed so far from various sources, there is significant lag finding the needed tiles), items cards, and then again – new investigators. – The ones published in previous expansion were anything but such a rubbish. In my opinion, the best suite of investigators were the originals from 1st ed remade to fit for 2nd ed. In fact, because each was different, and required different play style.

My real incentive to buy in was because of the promise of flexibility and potentially greater chance to replay the existing scenarios. Nothing else. That promise is yet to be seen. What the game system really needs, is more content. Yes, digital content. Apparently the hardest kind to produce.

Streets of Arkham was published with three scenarios (which appear nice) and more everything else. Interesting considering that pretty much everyone voiced the opinion that scenarios are needed over anything else. More everything else may be the doom of the game system. More “stuff” does not make the game better. It makes the game worse.

For example, there are quite few things which can be used to improve character stats – eg. make everyone equal. I’m a bit afraid that this is the X-Wing way where it all started fine, but then really weird upgrades and ships started to appear which reduced the gap between quantity vs. quality model. For Mansions of Madness, more characters, character “updates” etc actually makes the characters more similar to each other. At the end, because everyone is a superhero, monsters need to be upgraded accordingly. A pity.

In fact, the new characters that are included in Streets of Arkham are, well, not so much uninteresting as factually much too “good”. High stats on the most commonly used things, special abilities that grant free actions and in fact, one associated firearm. And so on. Why?

Why it is so hard to do the right thing, and just build good scenarios on the existing material. The potential is not even half used. Anyone would pay quite decent money from a pack of, say 10 scenarios which have few different layout versions depending on the group size and maybe few different goals.

I don’t personally care about map tiles or the “stuff”. I don’t care about including more and more stat-increasing cards and spells. I don’t care about pointless characters (superheroes). I care about proper content. Good content. Scenarios. Please save the game system before it goes too far into MoM 1ed, or X-wing road. Please. Anyone?

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ASL – Again

aslWell, yes, I should have seen this coming. Mailman just dropped a packet to my front porch and what else could it possibly contain but a brand new 3 ring binder? Mind the previous one was already seriously out of date by any measure, not to mention about the physical distance. I really need the chapter dividers to make a game, and the notes, ah the notes.

The Pocket Edition does have its uses – excellent reading for the journeys to work, or whenever there is nothing else to do (rarely). However, the best use is to use it as reference in a game.


But it was not left to that alone. Something else was in the box as well – yes Yanks, 3a. It is not only revised Yanks, it is revised, and seriously upgraded Yanks. The new Yanks that has, hmmm, let’s see, for starters 40 scenarios… 40.

And then, did I ever mention that I actually like PTO and North Africa (would GMT one day release Panzer North Africa, that would be super nice)? At least some parts of them anyways. Even though every opponent I’ve played against over the years have either developed, or have had some kind of serious fear of the “notorious” PTO rules, I still find the theatre enticing and interesting. Not sure why that is, but perhaps I am not as much for optimizing gameplay for certain European fronts, but like to experience the variety and completely different mindsets that is needed in PTO or North Africa. Not that I am particularly good in any of them – I certainly aren’t.

ASL To the BridgeHowever, no Rising Sun I’m afraid. I think for that I have to pay visit to home sometime in coming years. Instead, as a gesture of wishful thinking I got “To the Bridge!”. And why in a earth that, one may ask? Probably because British vs. Japanese are not the most common occurrence, and I’m dying to find out how that looks like. 😀

Yes, whenever I manage to recover Gung Ho! and the rest of the things such as West of Alamein, I will definitely have some fun with British in Burma. It may be years from now, considering that my attempts to recover ASL has been moving almost the same glacial pace as the MMP production cycle.

Anyways, it is important that the games are back on table.

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Holiday Fire in the Sky

Once again there was an opportunity to play Fire in the Sky, my so far favorite take on the Pacific War. As I have pointed out before, I’ve had a though time winning as USA, and my Japanese opponent appeared always to hold the edge over my ops. During the holidays however, we got two games in and I think I figured out how to beat the Japanese. Given the right circumstances. Photos from the latter.


First game did not really go to my way – in fact far from it. We did call it when it was quite evident that US could not muster sufficient victory points to the end – and on the other hand, because we had to clean the table. Anyway, victory to Japanese there then.


Second game around was, let’s say, a tad bit more interesting, and although my opponent did surrender shortly after losing last significant carrier, VP wise he was not beaten. Indeed, he still had a lead of over 10VP at the time, and I guess the biggest contributing factor to his surrender appeared to be the loss of player morale. Indeed it is tough, to say the least, to put up a good resistance without carriers. However, not impossible – and to that end, my ops in India were in serious trouble – and could have – given right circumstances, delay the eventual downfall enough for Japanese to gain VP victory.


My strategy then? I did opt for rather aggressive central Pacific push towards Japanese Home Islands, and not caring too much about soon to be isolated pockets of tough resistance. It could have been a mistake, but raiding the Japanese Air Umbrella here and there, and launching operations to harass the Japanese, I did manage to draw away his initiative and strike where his Flat Tops were not. Shuffling ships back and forth and readying reactionary force did indeed consume his resources from the all vital offensive operations.


Southern front was active but only in sense of limited irritation. British fleet is rather feeble, and after Japanese repositioned his Yamato and few other escorting ships in Singapore to act as last ditch reaction barrier, my willingness to carry on with naval operations diminished somewhat. But not before I tried to take on Yamato and her escorts.


Ending up a few ships out of action and several sunk I decided that airpower is needed to eradicate the threat – and for that I’d have to wait. An afterthought, Yamato is so expensive to operate that free oil which is granted by the resource locations is not a bad way to utilize the ship. In any case, British are the only viable target with limited air capacity. Against Americans, Yamato would have shared the fate of her historical counterpart quite quickly.


It was very good time and great opportunity to play FitS again. I really like the system.

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