Thursday, April 13, 2017

(Review) Lettow Vorbeck by Decision Games

It has been the bugbear of my blogging for months, but I'm happy to say that over this past weekend, I took some time to go over and play Lettow-Vorbeck: East Africa 1914-18, and gosh darn it, I'm disappointed in myself for not making time earlier.

Lettow-Vorbeck is a Mini-game Series game from Decision Games covering the Great War battles in East Africa from 1914 to 1918.  It's a mid-sized zip lock game with only four pages of rules, one sheet of chits and and 11" x 17" map to play on.

The rules system is from Decisions the Hand of Destiny series of rules and it looks ridiculously simple.  While the single stat on a unit's chit helps determine combat resolution, all other rules are affected by the campaign cards for each side.  Campaign cards are drawn each round an determine reinforcements, movement, and any other special situations which could completely screw up your plan of attack.

Combat focuses on two separate actions:  Tactical Advantage, then the combat resolution.  Tactical advantage is essentially an opposed die role, modified by troop status, terrain, etc.

Combat resolution is rolling a number of d6 equal to the units number.  Results of 4+ may panic some units (unable to attack if they had yet to go) or even eliminate them from the game.   As combat alternates between players one unit at a time, winning initiative allows the first player to attack with their more powerful units and knock the enemy out before they have a chance to counterattack.

With some actual time to sit back and relax, I broke out game and attempted a solitaire run through the scenario playing both the Germans, as well as the British and her Allies.  I had a little confusion as to the definition of turns (individual vs 2-player turns) and misread some pretty obvious rules, but that's player error, not writer/editor error.

In my solitaire run, halfway through the 14-turn game, the Germans were in control.  Most British units had been eliminated trying to take the coastal cities and I was wondering what went wrong.

Then the British finally drew back to back campaign cards bringing in their South African reinforcements, followed immediately by the Belgian Congo's introduction to the campaign.  By turn 12 the remaining Germans were surrounded on a mountain smack dab in the middle of the colony.

Overall I'm quite satisfied with the product.  I've never bought any Decision Games products before, and starting with a period piece I had decent familiarity with was a great way to go.

That being said, I would try other games in the Mini-games line.  There are two dozen of them, ranging in price from $9.95 to $12.95.
British reinforcements have finally arrived...
The alternative option I thought of was to use the game map to manage a miniatures campaign, moving the chits and resolving the combats with the miniatures ruleset of your choice.

I know, I'm not the first person in the world to think of that great crossover from chit-based wargames to historical miniatures, but easy to utilize maps of German East Africa aren't usually available in the same distributor catalog as Pathfinder books or Reaper minis.

Overall, in the Gaming with the Gnomies 5-Gnome Rating system, I'm going to give Lettow-Vorbeck 4.5 gnomes.
Plus a half....
Production and play value are exactly what I want in a thirteen dollar game,  My only wish is that a new generation of wargamers become editors of these lines because there are just certain things that a long-time chit wargamer just assumes as right and if I initially misinterpretted them, I worry what a gamer on an impulse buy does with them.  Yes, chit-based wargames aren't usually impulse buys at a FLGS, but $10-13 is pretty close to that demographic.

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