Dale's Wargames

My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rivet Wars Wave 2

Rivet Wars continues to be one of my favorite miniatures games and it continues to get a lot of play around here. The base game had infantry, cavalry, support weapons, tanks and heroes – basically one of each type – and it was asymmetrical, each side had its own feel rather than being carbon copies of one another. Here is a photo of what you got in the base set.



Now here is a photo of what I have to use to hold the base set and everything I got from Wave 2. (The base set pictured above can be seen on the left, crammed in this 106 quart (3' x 1 1/2') storage bin.)



The amount and variety I received in Wave 2 is just insane. I hesitated playing with any of it because the sheer magnitude of it all simply boggled my mind. Nonetheless, I eventually got over the shock and started using some of the new stuff. That is when the first issue hit.

There is too much!

That is right, there is too much new material and trying to absorb it all is overwhelming. It is like trying to eat one or two pieces of each type of candy on Halloween night; you are going to get sick. So, let's break it all down.

Variations on a Theme = Dilution?

The first thing the expansions did was add variations on a theme. For example, the Blight infantry was good against light armor while the Allied infantry was good against unarmored targets. Wave 2 added Blight infantry that is now good at unarmored targets and Allied infantry that is good against light armor. Wait a minute! The brilliance of the original game was the asymmetry built in between the two sides; an elaborate rock-paper-scissors. Blight infantry brought a response of Allies buying infantry (which are good at killing Blight infantry), so Blight bought cavalry (which are good at killing Allied infantry), which forced the Allies to buy their cavalry (which are good at killing Blight cavalry), but the Allied cavalry is vulnerable to the original Blight infantry ... so the whole cycle starts again. And when the dice go against you and you don't clear the enemy off the field fast enough so that they start to accumulate, the Allies bring out the artillery while the Blight bring out the machine guns. Both side had an answer to any given tactical situation, but it was not the same answer.

The variations do not completely break the "feel" of each faction, but it certainly dilutes it. Take the new Blight Trench Raiders. The original Blight infantry did 1 die against unarmored targets (infantry) and 3 against lightly armored targets (Allied Rocket Cycles). Their opposites, the Allied infantry, did 3 dice and 0, respectively. The new Blight Trench Raiders do 4 dice and 0, respectively. Yes, they have a compensating penalty (a very short range) for their increased dice against unarmored targets, but the point is that the new Blight infantry are not a variation of the old Blight infantry, they are a variation of the old Allied infantry.

However, all is not lost. There is one more factor that severely limits the dilution: the lack of new models. One of the limiters in the base game was how many models you had of each type. With only three Blight cavalry models you could not have four. What Wave 2 did was dramatically increase the number of models that were in the base game while only giving 1-4 models of the new units. So those four new Trench Raiders will only go so far, especially as we wargamers want to put all our models on the table. So we expand the size of the games and those new models get diluted even further. In fact, they start to become a distraction, as they act so differently from the original models. (Note to those that play Rivet Wars: my gaming buddy tends to want to always play Allies, regardless of the game, so I always play Blight / Germans / Confederates / "The Bad Guys". Because I don't switch back and forth between sides, I tend to think in terms of that one side, so anything that plays "like the Allies" is a distraction.)

In our last game, for example, I probably had purchased 20-30 Blight infantry over the course of the game. Only three of those were the new Trench Raiders. They had a specific mission to do and in the end that mission was largely frustrated.

The Air War

The big new addition to the game is adding air units. Air units had always been a part of the game design – the base game had references to the war in the air even though no units could fly – but it wasn't until The Battle of Brighton that the flying machines came out in full force.

The rules for air units are pretty clever. They make excellent use of the game grid and overcome a problem that typically comes up in board games: how to represent units in the air being in the same 2D space as enemy units on the ground. (They have ground units in the grid squares while the air units fly on the grid lines. Watch a YouTube video on the introduction of air units to Rivet Wars to see what I mean.)

Battling in the air is fun, but I think we all came to the same conclusion at once: it is a distraction. Let's face it, in Rivet Wars infantry is the King of the Battlefield. Only infantry can take strategic objectives, the primary means of scoring victory points. Air units cannot score victory points unless you add a scenario special rule that says otherwise. And air units are not really good at dealing with ground units. In fact, the air units on the board cannot replicate the effects of the Strafing action card, which does not require an air unit to play! (That is actually probably a good thing. The Strafing card can be tough.)

The primary issue is that air units typically have to keep moving and/or they have a limited fire arc, both of which work towards their not being able to attack every turn. It takes a lot of effort, and correct anticipation, to get into a position where you can fire more than one turn in a row.
But planes do look great! Here is my (unfinished) Allied ace model, Reme Funck (apologies to René Fonck, who this character is based after). It still needs insignias. I am debating about whether to use the decals that came with the set.



Conclusion

Wow! I don't want this to sound like a bad review, as that is not the intent. I really like all the new models and choices. I guess I am just a little disappointed that the new models are not variations on their own side's base models rather than variations on the enemy's.

I have found some cool combinations, such a Elsa Frost (Precision buff) and Jager Konig (Range buff). Put those two into a grid with infantry or an MG and you really have a surprise for the enemy. (Of course you will draw severe artillery fire for doing it too!) Although Don played the Rocketeer first, and wasn't impressed, I think he might be useful in a few specific missions. (His primary ability is to move three squares, leaping over enemy and obstacles with ease. He has a weak attack, however. And because he is not an infantry hero, he cannot take objectives.) In fact, the one area I really have not touched upon is all the new heroes. That is simply because there are way too many, and I have not played even 1/10th of them.

So, what are we going to do with all of this? Don and I have agreed that the best approach is to discipline ourselves and focus on maybe 2-3 new units or heroes to add to the base units each game. Once we get a feel for them, try something else. Pure and simple, all the new choices lead to Information Overload and Analysis Paralysis. (Never mind having to find the correct miniatures in the growing pile!)

As for air units, I can see allowing them every game, but not really spending as many points on them as I have in the past. They really slow the game down as it divides the combat and movement phases into two sub-phases each and breaks the flow of the game. I can see adding scenario rules that allows a air unit to score victory points by attacking the enemy bunkers – a variation on the factory bombing scenario included with The Battle of Brighton – as it would increase the roles of air units, yet not overpower the basic role of the infantry to win the game.

All in all I am very pleased with my purchase of Wave 2. We have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of this game and I can see it being one of the staples of gaming for some time to come. Very easy to teach. Generally very quick games (as long as you don't go crazy with the deployment points and victory conditions).

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").