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Thinking Out Loud

Monday, June 05, 2006

Forged in Fire >> First Look, Initial Thoughts

A little while ago I mentioned that for some unknown reason, I've found myself interested in wargaming more than any virtually any point in my gaming life (with the exception of college, during which I played quite a bit of ASL with one of my roommates). I recently special-ordered a series of wargames from my FLGS, including A House Divided, and Crusader Rex.

Sadly, they're having a hard time tracking these games down, since they fall outside their normal purview. I could just order them online, but I'm really trying to "train" the hobby shop so I have a reliable brick n' mortar place to go.

Oddly enough, though, despite the spartan collection of wargames they carry, they had a copy of Worthington Games' Forged in Fire, an American Civil War game based on the peninsula campaigns in Virginia in 1862. There's very little information on the game on BGG, since it's so new, but that didn't deter me. Essentially, it's a "block game" using the same sort of block system like Wizard Kings or Hammer of the Scots, but with a small battle map for zoomed in conflict during combat resolution.

I've read the rules, downloaded a great player aids from BoardGameGeek, and am really psyched for this. I really enjoy the American Civil War setting for wargames, before aircraft, armored units and massive (reliable) guns. I find it a more visceral and personal timeframe.

For a full "first look" synopsis, read my initial reaction review over on BGG.

Forged in Fire has a much more interesting supply chain mechanic than Gettysburg 1863 or Sam Grant had, two other American Civil War games I played which just fizzled horribly. The Confederates have a strong supply chain stemming from Richmond, while the Union has to maneuver a supply depot and supply train to help provide a mobile source from which to trace their supply chain.

While the Union juggles its supply chain, the Confederacy has its ironclad, the Virginia, parked off-shore, ready to disrupt any Union amphibious landings or assaults they may be planning. It's the only ship physically represented in the game by a unit, and it creates an interesting game of "chicken" between the Union forces and the Virginia... The Virginia slowly repairs damage from turn to turn, but is removed permanently if destroyed. But the Union may end up wasting precious actions trying to activate amphibious movement, only to be thwarted by the Virginia showing up and making the way impassable.

My favorite element so far is probably the "confidence track" for McClellan. It's a long track denoting McClellan's confidence in himself, as well as the Union's confidence in the success of his campaign. Different game elements will make his confidence rise or fall (such as winning a battle, losing the supply train, sinking the Virginia, etc.) Different confidence levels may trigger the availability of certain reinforcements, or endgame conditions. For example, in one scenario, the Confederacy can win if they can drive McClellan's confidence to -4 or less on the chart.

I'm eager to try Forged in Fire out with a live opponent. The rules are interesting and lightweight enough to keep from being intimidating, while still detailed enough to provide what appears to be a nice, tactical experience. I really like the Confidence track dynamic, and the Union's need to keep its supply chain mobile. Forged in Fire looks like it might offer just the right balance of complexity and accessibility I'm looking for in a wargame.

Gut Reaction Rating: 7/10 -- hopefully moving up after a few plays.

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