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Well, it's the end of January and I'm working on my resolutions. The two that affect my wargaming life are as follows:
1. New podcast each month (check! - Episode 43 of Point 2 Point is available at point2point.libsyn.com) - And I'm well along in working on ep 44 for February - a good news segment, some good feedback, playing some games...
2. Learn a new game each month - And I've learned TWO! Caesar XL, which I'll talk about after I finish my PBEM game with Tim Allen, and (I know, I'm really behind on this one) Up Front. Let me talk a bit about this one.
All of this will probably be discussed on the podcast, so read on at the risk of being exposed to this info twice!
TJ came over on Tuesday night to teach me Up Front, and to knock the rust off before Prezcon, where he will be entering in the Up Front tournament.
Give me a second to describe TJ. First of all, the guy knows everyone. He is the one who got me in contact with Ron Draker, designer of Prussia's Defiant Stand, who now is able to make our irregular group gaming sessions. When we were discussing Alan Moon's revelation on GeekSpeak years ago that Up Front was a different, more abstract game when it arrived at Avalon Hill, TJ commented, "I need to ask Alan about that." He is one of the few and the proud with an invitation to the Gathering of Friends. And, of course, he has an annual invite to Pseudocon, the most exclusive of cons! He is gregarious, witty and a very pleasant opponent. People like him. Consequently, he knows, as I said, everyone.
He is also a game collector. He has said that his nighttime reading for years has been rulebooks of games that he never thought he'd play. Other friends have told me about mentioning an upcoming Fair Play Games order, and TJ asking to "add a couple of things to the order," and those "couple things" adding up to well over $100 of material, both on the Euro and Wargame Fronts. He has 100's of games in his collection, and has admitted that, at times, he thought he would never get to play them. And what Up Front products has he collected? Well, he calls it one of his favorite games, so, being a collector, he has everything.
Up Front, because of the MMP Limbo that the reprint is in, has become something of a Holy Grail to game collectors and Ebay game purchasers. The base set itself was listed at over $50 on BGG when I was entering my plays last night. It has two official expansions, the rare Banzai! and the extremely rare Desert War. So the effect of TJ opening his bag of goodies last night was a bit overwhelming for me. There was Banzai!. There was Desert War. So already the collectible value was probably (I haven't looked on ebay in a while for this, so I'm not sure) over $200 (I saw Desert War itself closed an ebay listing at over $80). But, of course, stopping there would be amateurish for TJ. He had an Italian published expansion called Folgore that was an adjustment of the much-maligned Italians. It was self-published, surprisingly enough, by an Italian. He had every issue of a self-published Up Front magazine called Relative Range. It was pretty impressive. I have since learned that there are a number of independently published expansions that TJ may not have, but in my Up Front infancy, I was impressed!
The other overwhelming effect that I felt was that I was back in the 1980's. Here were counters and personality cards that were just above cardstock quality. Here were cards that were about the quality of playing cards. The information was busy and hard to read without a rulebook for translation. The drawings were at best shadow figures and in black and white (except for the green concealment cards and the terrain). Everything was of a quality that spoke of a simpler time when the game's chrome was high and it was more important to pack information on the playing surfaces than it was to have minis or "linen finish" on the counters. Okay, with all that information and chrome, maybe it wasn't a simpler time.
On to a short AAR (again, a lot of this will be covered in the podcast):
TJ explained the rules very well and surprisingly quickly. This was aided by my having read them a number of times before and having tried to play onling via a text interface years ago. So we were able to get started within an hour of his arrival.
Our first game was the meeting of patrols scenario. We felt each other out, my Germans cautiously advancing and finding themselves "fouled" in every way possible. One group was caught in a stream. The other group was caught with two wire cards. TJ creeped his group forward to location 3 and I thought he was playing for an AV where four of his good order units were in good terrain at location 4. So, after clearing the wire, I moved one of my groups to location 2 to block him. That squad was promptly cut apart by his Americans. We played through three decks and, because of the high attrition I had taken, I lost rather handily. But it was quite a bit of fun.
We played a second game, using the City Fight scenario. The Germans still had their nice machine gun, so I fired on his troops at range 0. Red 6. and my machine gun was broken. My first repair attempt removed it from the game. When he quickly killed one of my men, I conceded, deciding it was better to play another game than to limp forward for the rest of this one without the experience to work my way out of my crappy situation.
So, we reset City Fight. It was a back and forth game, with each of us moving forward into buildings (the way to get VP at game's end), and, admittedly, my having some real runs of luck. But I won in the end and had a great time playing a game I had never played before. So, still on track for my 2011 resolutions!