Saturday, September 29, 2007

A review of Tannhauser.

Tannhauser is a French boardgame newly translated to English. It is available at the Fantasy Flight Games, sells for just about 60 bucks.

I'm rather a novice gamer, so take that into consideration with my review.

I love it.

Should I make my review more detailed? Ok, will do....

First off, the setting is just right for me. It's an 'alternate' universe where the Great War never ended. The forces of the Reich have continually been at war with the forces of the Union for 30 years. It isn't strictly an Alternate WW2 game, I suppose to simply to keep those nasty Nazi's out of it. That makes sense on a global sales scale. (Germany for instance bans any display of a swastika). But, make no mistake, the Reich is filled with characters right out of an Indiana Jones movie.

The gameboard itself is a thick, folding piece of card pre-printed on both sides with different game maps. One map is the first floor of a Keep, while the reverse is of the Crypts below, where the Reich have been up to no good. They have found some 'should've remained buried' secrets. My board is a bit dark, and unless you have good lighting can pose a challenge to see all the glorious detail.

The key feature of the board, is the Pathfinding system. This feature, which basically consists of multi-colored rings or spaces, allows you to determine line of sight, movement and range quickly and easily. There are a few flaws in the system. A few areas are not so easily discernible, but working these kinks out fairly and quickly has not been a problem for us.

Each side, which consists of 5 characters, is kept track of by a very nice 'character' card, with a neat system to easily track wounds and other stats during the course of a game. Each character is allowed 'slots' to carry equipment, weapons, and special items. We've only done limited experimentation swapping around the characters 'kits' but it seems a small kit change can make for quite a difference in game play.

The 10 minatures come pre-painted, and I wasn't disappointed in the quality. Of course, they are not as nicely painted as one could do with a bit of effort , but if I had to paint them, I doubt I would have even played a single game yet. If I had my druthers, I'd have them all painted up like this:

That is the 'Strossentruppen' (affectionately known as Stabby Stabberson in our games) painted up by Spacemunkie, a good friend of mine from Cool Mini Or Not. Damn that dude can paint, but I digress... You can buy unpainted versions of all 10 minis on the French site Take On You. The quality of the pre-paints is more than adequate for our needs though.

The game can be played several different ways, with a story themed 'objective', capture the flag, or our favorite, straight up deathmatch. The difficulty levels simply equate to Easy= 2 reinforcements, Medium=1 reinforcement, and Hard, where reinforcements are shit out of luck. You cannot call in reinforcements (which are always 'troop' types not heroes)until one of your troops die off, so there is never more than 5 characters per side, regardless of the difficulty.

The story mode, while seemingly interesting, hasn't captured enough of our attention yet, so I will have to pass on reviewing that until we log some more time at it. Same goes for the Capture the Flag element. Deathmatch, well...that's pretty much all we want to play. Play is fast and furious, with a decent game taking about 1 hour. Automatic kills are not uncommon, and while it's a bit discouraging, I like the 'realness' it brings. It also makes you think twice before charging into an area. You may not survive the round if you do. There are items such as grenades, smoke grenades, health packs, etc. that can be strewn around the board in 'crates', giving a very nice computer 'first person shooter' feel.

The weaponry seems nicely balanced, although it does favor the Reich for close in fighting, and the Union for a more ranged approach. So, if you are a 'in your face, close and personal' type of player you may want to lean towards the Reich.

The two game boards actually bear this out as well. The Keep game board has lots of tight corners and closed off quarters...which could be why (at least in our games) the Reich dominates the board. The Union only once looked like it was going to win handily, with 'Ozo' left by his self for the Reich. But, the sneaky little bastard kept hiding behind doors, firing his 'ghost bullets' which can track around corners. He ended up killing four of the remaining Union's characters, snatching victory from the proverbial jaws.

The more open-spaced Crypt board has some seriously long ranges which allow Barry Daniel Brown (the heavy gunner black man in the picture to the right) to use that piece of stellar piece of hardware. Oh and a beauty it is. On his full strength, you roll 6 dice to see if you can hit your opponent. A roll of 9 or 10 is an INSTANT KILL, unless your opponent can roll a at least one 10 on his 'shock' roll. The opponent can counter the big gun, because it has to be at least 4 'circles' away to use it....If you can keep him close, he is no where nearly as effective (ie he can't fire!!). But the Crypt level has long stretches of open line of site. Posting Barry along those paths will ensure the enemy doesn't pass least not unscathed.

So as not to favor any one player, we have been playing randomly, letting the roll of the die determine not only which team you'll use, but also which board we will play on. It seems to have worked out, but I do prefer to play as the Union...even though I regularly lose!!

Although the game says it's designed for 2-10, we have only played with 2. Quite frankly, any more than that would have lots of guys sitting on their hands until it got back to their turn. But, on the converse of that, as quickly as it plays, and as easy most of the rules are to grasp, this makes for a perfect beer and pretzel game. Maybe the camaraderie of sharing a frothy brew will make the wait worth it...

The game box is a bit misleading, indicating that there are only 2 10-sided dice included. Mine had a nice compliment of 6. I assume that is just a misprint on the box. The box itself is a lovely piece of work, with solid cardboard and great cover art.

Most excitedly, for me, is the 'future expansion' this game will see. There already is a 'Russian' expansion pack in the works that will introduce new locales (via another gameboard) but also some more characters. Character packs, such as the 'Wolf' mercenary (he can fight for either side) will add some interest to not only the ongoing story, but to some of the tactical decisions you will need to make. Wolf was made available as a promo freebie to buy Tannhauser, either via pre-order, or at Gencon. There are several more in the works.

Support for the game, via Fantasy Flight Games is lacking at the moment. Although there is a nice discussion group on the FFG site, there is not the incredible range of information that is available on the French language site. It's too bad, because there are some errata that needs to be defined more clearly. But, it is still a very new product, and we will see how they respond.

The price, 60 bucks, seems about right. For all the components, boards, cards, etc. I don't feel I overpaid in the slightest. I compare it to the price of a new X-box game, or any other of the 'toys' I find myself wanting. Hopefully new expansions will be a bit cheaper, and the character packs will fall in the 10-15 dollar range, making them an excellent value (all things considered) in my humble opinion.

Another exciting idea is to come up with some home brewed rules. We've a firm enough grasp of the rules to be able to add some features in without killing the balance. I've already started converting over a few minis, and just need to draw up some stats and a proper back story.

So, to sum up, I heartily recommend this game. It has enough ease of play that allowed us to jump right in, but also enough depth to get us excited about future sessions....if we can get past our love for Deathmatch that is.


Scott said...

Cheers for that!

Might get myself a copy now.

Got a few more of those figs on the go at the moment. Can't find the time to finish any of them with Halo 3 and Rainbow 6 constantly calling me though!

mik said...

Well, I was on the fence, but now I think I'm sold. Nice review...

CCotD said...

Thanks, now I have to spend more $$$..... LOL


Bexley said...

Glad to hear that you like it! Yula, the next figure, should be out very soon.