Friday, 28 December 2012

Decision Games: 'Border War Angola Raiders'

Part of the map - the top is west
Border War is part of the Commando mini-game series. Once a battlegroup is organized, you move it across the border. When a force enters certain points an Event Card is picked. Events can include anything from special intelligence information to the appearance of major enemy forces. There’s a range of foes, from SWAPO insurgents and Angolan government regulars to powerful Cuban armored formations. Combat is resolved via a quasi-tactical procedure in which both tactical superiority and firepower play their parts. There are special rules for helicopter reaction forces, PSYOP, and leaders.

The above is from the blurb on the Decision Games website and it's all true. This game, and another in the same series 'Congo Merc', were waiting for me when I returned form holiday today. There had been a bit of a hiccup in them getting here - I originally ordered and paid for these games back in August and when they hadn't arrived by November I contacted Decision Games. Anyway, after a bit of tooing and froing they finally got here.

The games are specifically designed to be played solitaire in about an hour. My original motives for buying them were that I might be able to take them away with me when I'm travelling with work and secondly, I may be able to adapt the system to allow me to play a campaign that would add a bit of structure to the narrative of my alternative timeline and tabletop games.

On opening the ziplock package, I thought the map will be useful if nothing else. It's part of Southern Angola from the Atlantic Coast in the west to Jamba in the East and extends as far north as Caconda.

I've played one game and read this quite critical review: It's hard to knock a US$13.00 game and the only criticism I agree with is that the victory conditions are a bit bland - 'recover x number of "real objectives"'...

What this means in practical terms is that you move one of your 'forces', which can be made up of one or more company sized units, onto an objective marker and, depending on how lucky and/or successful you are in dealing with the card generated events that subsequently occur, you get to see if it's 'real' or a dummy. The card generated events may mean you have to fight off SWAPO or FAPLA or the Cubans (you're commanding the SADF troops here...) and that can be bloody.

If the designer had taken the trouble to add a bit of flavour to the objectives - for example, defining these as PoWs or simply trashing a SWAPO base then it would be more believable. It is a mini game though and the system is applicable to the other game in the series, 'Congo Merc', and maybe there are more to come?

My other criticism is that I'm commanding the South Africans - and this is a bit creepy given the repugnant political system my boys are fighting for. And while I'm at it, the rules do nod towards the 'unsavoury' nature of what 'my' commandos are up to in this and 'Congo Merc', but what about a solo game where the player is the FAPLA  or SWAPO commander/ I appreciate that neither of these organisations fought for a completely noble cause either but they were, on the scale of things, fighting for something better than the Apartheid regime.

Anyway, back to the game...

I played out Operation Reindeer form 1978 and dropped a battalion of paras on Cassinga, supported by airstrikes and helicopters as well as sneaking a special forces unit across the border at Ngiva. The Ngiva operation was a success - SWAPO base destroyed, lots of prisoners taken, documents captured inciminating the Soviets and Cubans - but the Cassinga airdrop turned into a bloody disaster. The objective turned out to be a dummy so the paras had to fight their way to Caconda where they did succeed in neutralising the SWAPO base (I'm editorialising here - in game terms it was merely a 'real objective'...) but were wiped out in the process.

This was good fun and gave me plenty of ideas for a table top game or three and was all over in less than an hour so it does have potential to fill in the odd bit of spare timeif I want to generate some ideas or just have a game.

The solitaire system works quite well and their appears to be enough variety in the scenario generation system to keep things interesting for a while. So, on balance I'd say 8/10 - after all it was only thirteen bucks...

1 comment:

  1. Looks like an interesting purchase. I'm interested to here how the solo play system works out in.