Ambush (Victory Games)
This game is ultra-tactical, 1 man per counter, the player's (USA) squad details being kept in pencil on a roster, soldiers have attributes that can change from mission to mission much as in RPG systems. German counters are handled by a card that also details what the counter will do in given circumstances, the same numbered counter will not represent the same soldier in different scenarios. After a scenario, if any soldiers are still alive in your squad, points are awarded 2 per soldier alive if the battle was lost 4 if won. For every 6 points, 1 rating of 1 soldier can be increased, naturally the ability of the squad increases with each scenario, unless like me you get wiped (twice) in the parachute landing game.
US soldiers are rated for perception (ability to notice things, see below), weapon skill, driving skill (not used much) and initiative, any of these may be increased after a mission. The Germans have no perception and possibly no driving skill. Intelligence is important in the sequence of play; a die is rolled for each side (not each unit) and compared to initiative ratings of the units. The result will allow the counter to perform 0 to 2 actions, if a counter is not stacked with other soldiers or is more than 2 hexes from a commander there is a greater chance of no actions being performed. All units with 2 actions perform their 1st before the 1 action chaps get a go; an action could be moving firing or a mixture of the 2. Actions include firing, moving or a mixture of the 2, it is sometimes better to snap fire twice than aim fire once in an action, check the table before you shoot. Firing is pretty final, if hit a soldier may be wounded but don't count on it, they usually end up dead or incapacitated (much the same effect). A quick D1O adjusted for weapons skill, range, terrain and stance (stood up, crouching) gives the result. At the ranges dealt with in Ambush, if you can see it you can probably hit it. A variety of weapons are available but some scenarios may forbid you taking the best of them, the BAR (a sort of mini machine gun if the Korean war movie on the telly yesterday was correct) is a real must, plus plenty of grenades.
The solo system is similar to the fantasy adventure gamebooks, a paragraph book is included, and a paragraph is consulted when a stack enters a hex or when some random or German action occurs. Victory do not trust gamers very much because to find which paragraph to look up a card crammed full of numbers is slid into a sleeve with holes cut in it, like the music card of a barrel organ. For each hex entered, the hex code is cross- referenced (letters and numbers, this is the AH hex code system) using the card to reveal a result in 1 of its holes'. This will either be nothing (rare), a paragraph number or an event. For an event 2 D1O are rolled, looked up using the card and another paragraph is found. Events can only occur once per hex, it is marked and that hex is not rolled for again. In every other case every hex is tested every time an American unit enters, this adds up to a lot of cross-referencing, definitely the big drawback of the game. Several hexes may give the same paragraph number, if you note what this says it can save a little time. A common result is a perception check, a D1O is rolled and if less than the perception rating of the soldier(s) in the hex, another para is looked up, it is usually bad news. The pace is quickened a little by important occurrences having sighting numbers, if sighting 3 has been triggered any para reference to S(3) can be ignored.
This is balanced, slowed down again, by other paras changing the condition of the game, the card in the sleeve is removed and replaced with 1 of the new condition number, any hex may now refer to a different para number. To summarise, the barrel organ device is going to be looked at a lot; this is without doubt the big minus of this game.
What all this means in playing terms is that the player's squad will plod around, often in 1 or 2 stacks, to cut down on paragraph checks, and if possible in cover or on the mapedge side of any hills. Sooner or later the system will generate 1 or more Germans whose 1st action is often to shoot, then drop prone (harder to hit). So the 1st time you find out where the enemy is happens when PFC Bill is lying on the floor, our squad then tends to drop and hug the cover even more than before. The solution is to work around the target to take him out. Frontal assaults are disappointing, a grenade is a good way to solve the problem but you have to get close to throw it while crouching, standing up to throw a grenade is a good way to get shot. The game makes things difficult because other Germans may appear while the 1st group is being sorted out. The above pretty much describes scenario 1, the later scenarios may (or may not, you have to find out) have some twist that makes things a little more difficult, the Germans may have a plan of their own, our squad can start with boats, a jeep or paradrop in. The parachute scenario is a real challenge, the landing will hurt some of the boys and the squad is scattered all over the map with the support weapons in a separate canister.
I cannot detail exactly what happens or the game is spoilt, it is the lack of replay value that holds the game back and explains why all those modules came out. The squad will trigger different events at different times on repeated playings but the Germans will always be in the same place and the surprises will not be the 2nd time. This does not make the game any easier on repeating a scenario but does take the edge off. There are 8 scenarios and if they are all played twice that is 16 playings before things get samely, I reckon that not a bad total of playings for a board game. If you have a large collection (and who doesn't) playing can be spread out between other games so that you forget how much of a pain the barrel organ is before you play again.