Sunday, July 08, 2012


The next random board game from my collection is one I have had for a while, Ambush!  This is a solitaire game where you play against the game itself.  First published in 1983, I got this game as a present sometime during the early to mid '90s, though I can't remember exactly when.  The game is very unique in all of the games I have played.  The mechanics can take some time to get used to, but once you get the hang of things this game provides a fun (and tense!) simulation of man-to-man combat and tactics during WWII.

Set in the Western Front after D-Day, you are given a squad of 8 men to command through a series of 8 missions.  the game board consists of a hex map with a variety of terrain on it.  There are two phases to the game: Operations turns and Tactical turns.  You conduct Operations turn when no German enemies are on the map.  Every time you move a character into a new hex (unless it is marked otherwise with an Event counter) you look up the hex number on the provided matrix, and you will either get a result of "NONE," (nothing happens) "EVENT," (roll for a random event) or a three digit number.  If you get a number, you look it up in the Paragraph book and do what it says.

I realize that that description might be hard to understand and not sound like much fun, but what it means is that as you move around the map trying to accomplish your objectives (in the last mission I played, for example, my squad was scouting a small village, so I was slowly moving through each of the buildings on the map, knowing that there were Germans somewhere, but I didn't know where) the game will react to your movements.  Eventually one or more Germans will pop up (there is a reason this game is called Ambush...) and then you go into Tactical turns.

During tactical turns you stop checking the reaction matrix every time you enter a hex and instead focus on taking out the Germans before they kill your soldiers.  Each German soldier is represented by a small card, which contains a small matrix that you roll against to see what their actions will be.  Sometimes those Germans can be downright devious, and sometimes they are cowards; it all depends on how the scenario designer set them up.  There is a lot of tension in this game, as you don't  know where the enemy is on the map, so you try to move your soldiers in such a way that they can support each other when the bullets start flying without being all bunched out and taken out by a grenade.  On top of that, you roll for random events during all Tactical turns except the first one when a German appears, so you can have all sorts of unexpected stuff happen.  In one combat I had a pair of Germans manning a machine gun pop up on my flank.  I moved in to take them out, fully expecting at least one of my guys to get killed (we had to cross open ground to assault their position), only to have the German gun randomly jam at a critical moment.  Awesome!  Then while assaulting the machine gun position, a staff car with an officer in it broke out of a secret bunker and tried to drive away.  Then an American jeep with a machine gun on the back showed up on the edge of the map as reinforcements, and then a German plane took a strafing run at us.  All in one fight that started with a lone sniper in a small building on the edge of the town.  This game really tests your ability to react to unexpected situations and change your plans on the fly.

I have never played all 8 of the scenarios that came with this game, which is a terrible oversight on my part that I really need to rectify.  On top of that, the publisher published three different scenario packs to give players even more missions to try, as well as a separate game using the same system set in the Pacific Islands.  I never did pick up any of those back in the day, and now people on eBay want close to $100 just for a 4 mission expansion pack.  No thanks, folks, but I will happily play my base game when the mood strikes.