Rampage

Out of the wrapper and on the table is Rampage, one of the two solitaire WW2 games included with the magazine World at War, issue 40, published by Strategy and Tactics Press, part of the Decision games stable.

The topic is the Allied campaign in Europe from August to September 1944. The player takes the Allied forces and has to beat the system operated German defenders. There is one scenario of five turns, with each turn representing about ten days of real time. Hexes are 16 miles (24 km) across, and units are almost entirely division sized.

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The map is half sized – the other half features the other solitaire game in the package: Stalingrad Cauldron – and there are about 140 15mm square counters, and an eight page rulebook. (The other game has its own rulebook, though the core systems are the same.)

System

The game starts with the front line marked with German control markers. Each time the Allied player moves into such a hex (and so pushes back the line) he generates random defending forces from a pool – a mug of defenders, as it were – according to a die roll. For example, west of the main line of resistance the die roll is 1d6-3 generating 0, 1, 2, or 3 defenders. East of that line the roll is 1d6, and in a Victory City it is 1d6+2.

The defenders come in two main flavors: regular and elite. Elite get to fire first and impose damage before taking any.

Combat is formation dice rolling (aka buckets of dice) with the USA hitting on 4-6, and the British and Germans hitting on 5-6. The Allies score two hits if they roll a 6. There are terrain modifiers. For example, attacking across a river gives the defender a one round +1, and armor attacking a clear hex from a  clear hex gets a +1.

Allied forces start as two steppers. All the German forces are one steppers.

The Allied forces, if they do not wipe out the defenders in the first round can, if it is available, spend another movement point for another round of combat.

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Pockets

The game starts with 22 German divisions caught inside the Argentan-Falaise pocket. If the Allies complete the trap, the Germans get one round to breakout. So all 22 divisions roll a die, and each 5 or 6 removes an Allied step. The average losses will be 7-8 steps. The maximum Allied stack can be 12 steps, so the pocket should fall – with the units being permanently removed from the game – but it is by no means certain.

During the game, the Allied player can create more pockets. This is to his advantage as each pocket only generates one die roll for the defending force, even if the pocket is several hexes in size. (The broad offensive is not deemed an effective measure here. It’s about drive deep, encircle, and wipe out.)

Play

It’s fast, easy, and light. It’s just the right side of ‘light’ for me, but I suspect for many it will not have enough meat to merit any play. And there is a lot of luck in the game play. For example, the Allies face a supply slowdown. It’s a 50/50 shot – apparently – whether the US or British forces suffer this. It can cripple your chances of winning. I understand why it has been done the way it has, but it doesn’t work for me.

There are some nice ideas. For example, I liked the continuous movement and combat integrated as one. I was glad I had a chance to play it through.

I have played it to completion twice and have yet to manage an Allied victory. I did also have a couple of abortive starts where I realized I had either screwed up the rules, or was doing so badly, I knew there was no point in continuing.

Complaints

How often do you hear about games being described as puzzles? Well, I cannot help but think that the producers of Rampage have taken that to heart as they continue the unfortunate trend of production goofs and less than stellar rules. It does seem that the resources at their call are overstretched, because the output is sure suffering.

For example:

  • The rules give the wrong color for the British Armor units.
  • The rules give the wrong color for the British Infantry units.
  • The rules give the wrong color for the First Allied Airborne Army.
  • This is the first game ever that hides the movement allowance of units in a Designer’s Note!

There are other issues I have with the rules. For example, I found it harder to extract the information I needed to play the game than I should have.

Then there’s stuff like this:

Rule 9.14 – At the very start of Turn 3, roll a die. On a result of one, two or three, the British army group will henceforth be considered the “fully supplied” one and the US army group is considered only “partially supplied.” Once determined, that status never changes for the rest of the game. The fully supplied army group continues to operate as did both groups during the game’s first two turns. The logistical situation is changed, however, for the other one (see below). Also note First Allied Airborne Army never becomes partially supplied (see section 13.0).

Spot anything missing? Well, what happens if you roll 4-6? Presumably it’s the US army group that is fully supplied, but why the hell doesn’t it say so?

And why the hell isn’t there a reminder on the game turn track?

Oh, and to add insult to injury, nowhere in the rules does it tell you what the US army group is or what the British army group is. You can work it out – see what I said above about a puzzle – but the omission is sloppy.

Incidentally, I am sure there are other goofs there that I missed above. I just got on with playing it, making my own decisions when necessary, and did not stop to take better notes.

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Finally

The game didn’t bring the historical campaign to life. It needed a different blend to do that.

As it stands, my overall impression is of a missed opportunity. Given a decent freshen up, and a bit more weight to the system, that would better match my gaming tastes. If you like light and easy games, go for it.