GMT games is clearly the leader in wargame publishing these days. Their innovative P500 system allows for games to be published after they garner enough support from potential buyers. A 2014 release through their system was a game called enemy Coast Ahead (ECA). ECA is a solitaire game that simulates the 1943 RAF raids on dams in the German Ruhr Valley. Historically these raids proved moderately successful. In the game, you get to try to do better.
The game can be played on three levels. Attack scenarios 1-5 simulate only individual raids on several of the dams. Flight scenarios 6-9 add the flights to and from the target areas and include the attack procedures. Scenario 10 is the whole enchilada where the mission is planned and pre-mission training activities are conducted.
It was written on the Consimworld discussion board that the game could be learned without reading the rules I had started reading them when I read this, so I stopped reading the rules. They are rather dry and do not really give a sense for how the game is played. The game includes 4 very well made player aid cards that in flow chart form, describe the action. This appealed to the engineer in me and this evening, I took up the challenge. I was successful! Using the rulebook only to clarify certain questions I was able to follow the flow of one of the attack scenarios and complete that scenario. I lost the scenario but more on that later.
The game is an interesting exercise. There is a lot of die rolling. There are a few decisions to make but this is primarily a game that allows the player to immerse himself in the narrative of the action. One of the reasons I like wargames is the narrative they provide, particularly if that narrative is historically feasible. The narrative in ECA is certainly that. There is a tremendous amount of research that went into the game. There is a great deal of historical flavor built in to this game. It was a labor of love for the designer.
I lost the game after I thought I had won. I was able to line up several of my Lancaster bombers and drop three of the dambusting mines (technically they were not bombs). Tw of the three detonated and caused the necessary number of damage points to breach the dam. There is an end game procedure that then determines the fate of the returning bombers (I was not playing the flight scenario) and provides a morning after damage assessment. There I lost two bombers and found out one of my damage values was reduced, causing a failed mission. All of this was completely random. Hmmm.
While I enjoyed the narrative of the game, I was a bit disappointed with the experience. Not winning didn't bother me. Rather, after a while, the game became a bit tedious. While the idea of the planning game has great appeal to me, the idea of then having to play out each individual aircraft flight and bombing run seems a bit much.
This one will likely go into the trade pile but I am glad that I was able to at least give it a shot.