Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Battle of the Alma

The next game in my collection that I am writing about is an old one, but one that only recently made its way into my collection:  The Battle of the Alma.  First published in 1978, this game covers the first major battle of the Crimean War, with British and French forces (aided by a couple Ottoman units) facing off against the Russians.  While the British and French generally have better units, the Russians have command of the heights.  The allied attackers have 10 turns to get units to the bottom center of the board.  If they do, then the allied player wins.  Otherwise, the Russian player wins.

This game is very straight forward, and anybody with board wargaming experience should be able to learn the game quickly.  Each counter provides the fire combat ability, melee combat ability, and movement ability of each unit, as well as the morale rating and the division that unit is a part of (for the allies).  Most units have fixed starting locations on the map, so setup is pretty quick.

Combat is also pretty quick.  Fire combat makes use of the attacker's fire factor, and the defender's melee factor, along with the roll of one six-sided die, to determine the results of the fire.  Multiple units can fire on the same target, but a target can only be fired on once per turn (i.e., you can't have unit A fire, check results, then have unit B fire; units A and B have to combine their fire into one attack roll). You might eliminate a target this way, but more often than not the combat result is a number, which you then compare to the target's morale rating.  If the fire result number exceeds the target's morale then it routs, and starts running away.  Melee combat is a little different, and more like standard wargames of the era, with the use of a basic Combat Results Table (CRT) allowing for the attacker or defender to be eliminated, routed, or retreated based on the result of the die roll.

Game play is straight forward.  The allied forces attack the Russian formations to try to break through.  The allies have some options for attack zones here, but both sides are spread out across most of the board length, so it is generally charging at the enemy positions.  The allies can try to take advantage of roads and bridges to try to quickly charge some Russian units, but that runs the risk of ruining the allied divisional formations, and allows the Russians to try to pick off units one or two at a time at the "tip of the spear."  However, the allies only have 10 turns, so you can't just sit back and trade artillery fire to try to soften up your intended attack points.

The game itself is pretty simple, with the rules covering a total of 8 pages, some of which are just explaining game turns.  This game was part of the "Series 120" game line, with the intent of providing a game playable in two hours or less.  I think this game meets that goal, but I have to admit that it leaves me kind of cold.  The fixed setup means that the game lacks replay value, and I just don't find the tactical situation to be that interesting.  I have this game in my collection because it is the only Crimean War game I own, but I don't think I'm ever going to play this again.  There are other games I have that I find more enjoyable and interesting to play than this one.

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