Ambush!: maybe I was wrong about this game…

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Well, now there’s this.

In order to win this mission, you have to satisfy several victory conditions. Among them is the following:

“At least one active US soldier is in any hex of the heights in the southeast corner of the map (defined by the elevation change running from Q-19 to Y-13) from which he can see all the road hexes on the map.”

After the jump, there’s just one little tiny problem.

This victory condition is impossible. There is no single hex in the aforementioned heights that has line of sight to all the road hexes.

This demands an investigation.

The mystery of the unwinnable Ambush! mission has been discussed on BoardGameGeek, but without reaching a satisfactory conclusion. The prevailing opinion seems to be, “Eh, whatever, bro. As long as you have guys stationed in various places, and they can collectively cobble together a piecemeal view of the entire road, such that no one guy sees it all but every road hex is seen by somebody, you’re good.”

I beg to differ. Someone, presumably John Butterfield, the accomplished game designer who made this mission, worded this victory condition in a specific way. It’s not ambiguous. It refers to one soldier and one hex. If John Butterfield had wanted that sentence to mean anything else, he would have written a different sentence.

“So maybe it’s a typo,” people say. Or, rather, a series of typos that reiterate the same point in three different ways. If this unlikely scenario were true, Butterfield had ample opportunity to fix it. Ambush! was in print from 1983 to 1989, and as it got reprinted, new editions were corrected. The game was also popular enough to have three expansions. I own all three. The first, Move Out!, has a page of errata for the base game, most (if not all) of which have already been corrected in my copy. None of these errata mention the impossible victory condition.

Having exhausted all other options, I had no choice but to ask Bruce Geryk for John Butterfield’s email address. Here, reprinted with his permission, and edited to remove references to victory requirements that are not in dispute, is what Mr. Butterfield had to say.

Hi Tony —

The actual answers to your question and those in the thread you posted are lost in the mists of time. In other words, I have no memory of the issue and no definitive ruling. I agree with some of the posters that a typo is likely the problem. My unofficial suggestion is to say that … every hex of the road must be in sight of any combination of US soldiers.

Good luck!
John

Huh. In other words, “Eh, whatever, bro. As long as you have guys stationed in various places, and they can collectively cobble together a piecemeal view of the entire road, such that no one guy sees it all but every road hex is seen by somebody, you’re good.”

Okay.

Am I allowed to rewrite victory conditions for subsequent missions, or just this one? I guess we’ll find out!

Let’s close up the investigation, boys.

In spite of that little hiccup, I still love this game. And there’s definitely still a market for this kind of thing. So why did Victory Games, and its parent company, Avalon Hill, go out of business? The name “Avalon Hill” still exists, but it seems to be an “imprint” of Hasbro rather than an actual company. Why can’t this hobby sustain the most legendary name in wargaming? I almost launched another Quarter to Three Investigation, but then I caught a glimpse of this product catalog inside my Ambush! box.

Well, there’s your answer. R.I.P., Avalon Hill.

Tony Carnevale’s writing and videos have been featured by BuzzFeed, McSweeney’s, National Lampoon, MTV, VH1, and many other fine media outlets.

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