Given the disruption on all home fronts, gaming has very much been off the agenda. When I did get some peace and quiet and free time, I didn’t have the stamina to do other than mess about with Tide of Fortune. I managed a couple of turns, restarted, then another couple of turns, and finally gave up. The game is probably OK, but I just wasn’t in the mood to expend the required energy, and muster the intellectual application to master the quirky beast that it is. I should have probably been trying something much easier.
I put it away, and put The Dark Valley on the table. This is Ted Raicer’s much acclaimed WW2 in the East, chit driven game. It is published by GMT.
Well, if Tide of Fortune is quirky, The Dark Valley is fiddly and quirky. Essentially, there are a lot of things going on that are dependent on the turn being played. For example, weather effects, reinforcements, replacements, unit conversions, available chits and so on. The presentation of the information is nowhere near as good as it should be. Worse, there is counter and setup errata needed to get going. I was not a happy bunny when this became clear. But I persevered, and have found some online resources – some of which should have been included in the game, for sure – to help me manage the project.
It’s not a complex game at its heart, but keeping it on track as the designer intended, is more challenging than it should be.
For example, never mind the counter errata, the border between the various Soviet Military Districts (used for setup) is invisible. Not good. The errata cures this, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. How can you get something so basic, so wrong?
As another example, some counters come with the campaign setup by way of hex numbers printed on the back side of the counter. So far, so good. But there are two maps. Both maps use the same numbering sequence, so you have two of each hex number. Therefore, the placement of these units – east or west map – should have been specified. It wasn’t. Somebody’s thinking cap fell off, methinks.
Another example is the discrepancy between some of the game data. The game turn track uses numbers. Turn 1, turn 2, turn 3 and so on. The time represented – June 1941 for example – is also displayed, albeit given lesser prominence. Now look at replacement points and reinforcements. These are tied to game turns specified by the game turn number. Fine. Now look at the available action chits (which are the core of the game system). These are tied to game turns specified by the date. Aaaargh! Why should I have to contend with this? Sloppy quality control and development.
Of course, the true irony is that those who play the game are fanatical fans in the main. So, I assume it is a good game. I just hope I can get through the barriers, so as to be able to confirm the general view.