Valor and Victory pre beta vid! Valor and Victory pre beta vid!

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Strategic Command WWII:World at War by Fury Software Matrix/Slitherine  Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Calling all would ...

Strategic Command WWII: World At War by Fury Software&Matrix/Slitherine Strategic Command WWII: World At War by Fury Software&Matrix/Slitherine

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Strategic Command WWII:World at War

by

Fury Software

Matrix/Slitherine








 Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Calling all would be strategists; there is a new sheriff in town. You can now play with Takagi, Yamashita, Balbo, Graziani, Kleist, Busch, Alexander, Dempsey, Clark, Hodges, Vatutin, Rokossovsky etc. The units are armored trains, battleships, tanks, planes, rockets, any armament that played a role in World War II. I didn't mention the big names because you are in charge of your nation's destiny. The scenarios go back to 1939. Hopefully we get a DLC or a mod that allows players to go further back in time to build up their nation as they want. With these scenarios only Japan really has enough time to alter their force make up. So let us look at what scenarios come with the game:

1939: World At War
1942: Axis High Tide
1943: Allies Turn The Tide
1942-45 Race To Victory
1943-45 Race To Victory




 Without rewriting the entire list of the sales pitch, here it is:

  • New Features! From limited naval repairs to Kamikazes.
  • Take command of the Axis or Allies, and re-fight the whole of WWII!
  • Let the computer take control of some of your allies so you can concentrate on your favorite theaters.
  • Play on a top-down hex based map spanning the entire globe.
  • In addition to the Grand Campaign starting in 1939, Strategic Command WWII: World At War also includes shorter scenarios.
  • A realistic Fog of War simulates the historical atmosphere where you have to make decisions with only partial knowledge of your opponent's intentions and dispositions.
  • Play with a choice of 3-D unit graphics, or NATO counters if you prefer a more traditional wargaming experience
  • Research and upgrade your units with a unique level of choices! Infantry Weapons, Rockets, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Amphibious Warfare, and more!
  • Use Diplomacy to win over new allies and use your intelligence to undermine the enemy!
  • Contains a large number of strategic level Decision Events for you to choose your path to victory.
  • Very easy to use Editor to make your own “what-if” scenarios or create new maps and campaigns from scratch. Modders will be glad to know that this game can have 10 Major powers.
  • Very active modding community eager to share their developments with other players, whether it be changing the look of the map or designing new campaigns, even covering conflicts in other time periods, there is a lot there!






This is the first release in the SCWWII: World at War series (hopefully). So there are not many scenarios to choose from. It is my hope that we will see DLCs that encompass some larger maps and separate campaigns like Fury Software did with their earlier games. As I mentioned, I would like an early pre-war scenario to guide your nation or nations.




 At the start of the game you can choose to play the Allied or Axis nations. However, you can also turn over the nations that you do not wish to play during that game to the AI. This leads to a more sandbox approach to the game. The AI is competent, but might throw you a curve ball on occasion. Speaking of the AI, the Strategic Command series has, since its inception, been beleaguered by some players about the Naval aspect of the game. Submarines and other naval units with zero supply has been one of the major gripes. This has been looked at by Fury Software, and the game has had these improvements:


"While not a complete overhaul, there have been quite a few changes, listed below, which have been reported as nice improvements to the overall game during testing.

- supply rule changes:
- subs can no longer dive at 0 supply.
- all raiders can no longer raid at 0 supply.
- defending units at 0 supply will receive 50% more damage from a successful attack against them.
- fighters and carriers cannot intercept/escort when at 0 supply.
- maximum reinforcement points is now 5 strength points per turn for all naval units except Motor Torpedo Boats.
- naval units positioned top of a small island sea enemy hex will no longer be fully revealed under FoW.
- neutral majors can no longer load units onto Amphibious Transports.
- defending subs at zero supply, or defending land units defending from ground attack at zero supply, will now have their morale fully recalculated after any defending strength losses are applied.
- subs will now have a 25% chance of receiving at least a single strength point loss when diving from attack.

We've also added a change to Special Forces, i.e. US Marines and Japanese SNLF which especially help with island hopping in the Pacific. A few other island hopping related changes are listed below here as well:

- Special Forces units, after amphibiously unloading, now maintain supply for up to 5 turns with a drop of 2 supply points per turn.
- minor nation Capitals, Fortresses with 3 or more adjacent enemy units will now have their supply reduced by one strength point per turn.
- Ports no longer provide supply to land units if there is an enemy land unit adjacent to the port.
- abandoned Ports adjacent an enemy City/Town will now switch to enemy control."





 So, as you can see, the game has been worked on. For those of us who own the older versions we do notice the difference. According to Fury Software these changes will also appear in their last game, Strategic Command WWII: War in Europe.





 For those of you who did not buy SCWWII: WIE, the biggest change in these new games is a return to hexes (Please flash the applause sign). I could never get used to the diamond shaped pseudo-hexes in the other games. The scale of the game opens up the modder community to use the entire world or make their own scenarios as they wish. 


Closest Zoom

 Besides being larger in scope than the last game, there are other things to induce a new player. The scripts that pop-up during the game for each country can be turned off and on in the advanced options screen. So, if you do not agree with the historical or non-historical actions, just remove that script. 


Farthest Out Zoom

 The game play is easy to pick up and the user interface is very intuitive, as it should be. The scale of the game is mostly corps and fleets. As in all the games of the series MPPs (Military Production Points) are at its core. You need these to do reinforcement, diplomacy, or research, you name it, you need them. Each country  has a set number of them at the start of scenarios, but you can increase a country's amount each turn by conquest. All of your units in play use APs (Action Points). These are used to move, fight, or do what the player wants. Each nation starts each scenario with some pluses and minuses in the make up of the armed forces. Germany begins with some better numbers in ground warfare, where Japan starts out with naval ones. If playing just Italy, it might behoove you to stay out of the war for as long as possible to build up your might. The Allied nations, as they did historically, have tremendous production capability, as long as they can stay in the war long enough for it to count. You can try Operation Sea Lion, attack Spain (as either side), or go for Churchill's Balkan gambit. If it happened in World War II it can happen here, or even if it was only thought of during the war.




 



 As I have stated, the game has a very long pedigree, and it shows. The game just has a very polished feeling to it. I can easily recommend this to anyone who wants to fight WWII globally on the computer. The very large modding community and the fact that Fury Software is always working on DLCs, paid and otherwise, is just an added plus. Thank you Matrix Games for the chance to review this newest iteration of the series.


Robert

SHIPS OF THE LINE : TRAFALGAR from TRAFALGAR EDITIONS Having dallied at Waterloo with this company's most recent ga...

SHIPS OF THE LINE: TRAFALGAR SHIPS OF THE LINE: TRAFALGAR

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

SHIPS OF THE LINE : TRAFALGAR

from

TRAFALGAR EDITIONS




Having dallied at Waterloo with this company's most recent game, I've now returned to their first production from which the company takes its name.

Despite, its title specifically containing the word Trafalgar, the assumption with naval games tends to be that they will be of a more generic type. But this really does give you the battle of Trafalgar, with a set-up map in colour to denote the positions of all the ships and two and a half pages of stats.  It was this factor that first intrigued me as to how so many ships would be handled, especially as all that I'd seen and read about this a game suggested a miniatures treatment not unlike Waterloo 1815, except with plastic model ships.


Here they are en masse, red British, blue French and yellow for the Spanish.  These are accompanied by sets of three masts and sails for each ship.  There is a substantial amount  of work to be done here if you are going to move beyond the simple basic form.that you see below.


There is also one more physical problem that I have encountered that is illustrated here too and that is the masts.  First of all the size of everything is small -from tip of the bowsprit to stern, each ship is a mere three and a half cms long.  So, handling is a delicate affair, with the masts as the obvious point to pick the ship up by, but these are meant to remain simply pushed into the small retaining holes in the deck.  There is an excellent reason for this: namely that combat can cause individual masts to be damaged and laid to one side of the ship or the other as seen in the picture.  Rules cover this, including the effect on the ship's speed and the ability to carry out repairs later. 

The concept is first rate - very visual, very emotive, but - for me - very impractical.  I've met with a series of problems. Unpainted I've found some masts too loose and some too large to fit into the holes.  Consequently, masts topple, ships can't be picked up safely by their masts. Just fitting all three masts into a ship without causing one of them to fall out has eluded me. Solutions have been suggested, including using microscopic amounts of blu-tac and infinitesimal enlarging of the holes - none of these have I found adequate in dealing with the problem.  Painting the ships simply added to the number of ships and masts causing me problems.

Finally, to add to these physical difficulties is the stability of the ships themselves.  They easily fall over, especially when you are manoeuvring so many in close proximity to each other.  Excuse the pun, but all is definitely not plain sailing.  For me the solution has been to adopt two modifications: the first is to base the ships that gives them immediate stability and makes them easy to pick up and move and adds a further level of visual appeal.  It also allows you to fix the crucial adhesive flags [seen below] that display the ships nationality and the all important number for identifying each ship.

The second is to glue the masts permanently onto the decks.  This latter action  may come as heresy to some gamers, but it instantly removes all the physical problems and the use of small numbered counters [borrowed from the many other games I own] is a simple substitute to keep track of damaged masts.

Here you can see what I mean thanks to the efforts of Clay Stretch  who has courteously allowed me to use his photograph displaying his far superior ability in painting and mounting the ships in the manner that I've chosen to do.

This concern is the only one that I have about the contents of the game.  As with Waterloo 1815, the physical components are very  nicely done with a vast array of markers and a superb set of player mats that present all the ships in the game with their related tracks on which to mark everything from hull damage to type of shot be loaded in the cannons.
As you can imagine with the playing area plus the room needed to display all the ship displays, the footprint for this game is rather large.  Not having a convenient games room, it takes my dining-room table fully extended to 1600 mm x 1010 mm to accommodate everything.

With the number of ship displays comes a fair amount of book keeping, though handled very attractively and elegantly as illustrated by the one above.  When playing the basic game, this involves very little per ship, but grows in complexity with the inclusion of the advanced rules.  What surprised me, as this was the first of Trafalgar Editions games, is that the rule book is far better than the one for Waterloo 1815.  The layout makes better use of white space, layout and font size, adding greater clarity to a set of rules that in themselves are very clearly explained. Complementing this is a separate booklet of examples with ample, if rather hazy, colour shots that takes you step by step through three turns of the basic rules pitting 4 ships per side.  These basic rules consist of initiative, combat and movement.
A page of the very useful Examples Booklet

As with Waterloo 1815, movement is measured using small in increments of 1 UM standing for 1 Unit Marker.and, as I find with most naval games, this is extremely easy to handle, there being no considerations of terrain to take into account.  Inertia, drifting, movement against the wind and the effect on speed because of compass bearing relative to the wind  are covered well and for any that want a very simple start elements can be omitted.  The one factor left out is changes both to wind direction and wind strength, which is understandable given the period of hours over which the battle plays out.  However, to my satisfaction I quickly found that the Advanced Rules section included just that possibility and its minor effects coming in to play.

 Combat too is delightfully straightforward.  A basic to hit number depending on range and if successful, roll on a damage table which gives Hull damage on rolls from 1-5 while a 6 lands a critical hit.  Typical here are such hazards as a wounded officer, the rudder shot away, fires and damage to a mast.  Boarding, grappling, ship surrender and capture all feature with straightforward economy of explanation and clarity giving a very playable set of basic rules.  
As always a shed load of markers, plus the firing template

In the Advanced Rules are many small extras that I think many players will have little difficulty adding in almost from the start including collisions - highly likely with the many ships and especially if you can muster separate players for the French and Spanish ships.  Variations in the wind I've already mentioned and is a must for me to use as is the option for different kinds of ammo loads covering the familiar grape-shot, chain shot and double rounds.  Though not needed for the play of the game's battle, Trafalgar, I was pleased to see the inclusion of harbours and coastal batteries too, as I'm certain many of you will want just those very rules for your own scenarios.  In fact, what I love to see from Trafalgar Editions would be some small expansions with other ship mats and scenario details.

All in all Trafalgar 1805 is a very good addition to Napoleonic naval warfare with a strong touch of the miniatures world without some of the more complex and at times baffling elements that I've encountered in dense many paged rule books.  The only downside for me has been the physical difficulties with the ships and masts already covered and I know that Trafalgar Editions are planning a set of resin ships which may just help,me out.

Once again many thanks to Trafalgar Editions for the review copy and my apologies for the gremlins which every so often play havoc with the physical layout of the text!

Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division by GMT Games   Fighting Formations ...

Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry division by GMT Games Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry division by GMT Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!





by










 Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Infantry Division was supposed to be the start of an ongoing series of wargames at platoon and squad level. It was released in 2011 and the series was only added to in 2018 by an add-on named Fighting Formations Grossdeutschland Division's Battle for Kharkov .One of the main pulls of the series was that it was going to spotlight different combat units from both the Axis and Allies. Its design was pretty innovative and people have been waiting for other releases. The game was designed by Chad Jensen, which should speak for itself. 



Box Contents



 Let us have a look at what comes in the box:

4 back printed 22" x 34" maps
5 die-cut counter sheets
2 Player Aid Cards 8.5" x 11"
55 Playing Cards
1 Track Display, 2 sided
24-page Series Rulebook
64-page Playbook
10 dice
10 wood cubes
1 wood pawn

The scale, as mentioned, is platoon and squad. Each hex is 75 meters across. The turn time is five minutes.
Some Cards

 It's coming up on the holidays, so it seems appropriate to open up this heavy box, and see what is stuffed inside. Stuffed is the right word for this game box. I do not know if you could incapacitate a burglar by hitting him with it, but you could sure stun him. First the box itself; some people were put off by the understated cover art. I actually kind of like it. It definitely says to me that here is a wargame, and not a Euro etc. The maps are very well done, and it is easy to distinguish terrain. They also have over sized hexes at 1.5" by 1.5".  The counters are a bit subdued in color, like the box. However, this also makes them easy to read. It also helps old eyes that the infantry counters are also large at 5/8" by 5/8". The tank and artillery counters are even larger at 1 1/4" by 5/8". The information markers are the usual counter size.These counters do show a side view of the weapon in question instead of top down. Some people have stated that they would have preferred to have top down views, but I think that would make them harder to distinguish from each other. The cards are very well done, and easy to read and understand. The ten die are different colors to help you with picking the correct numbered ones. The pawn and small wood blocks are red and not fancy. You also get enough small plastic counter bags for probably two games. 




Game play Picture



 The game's complexity is listed as a six, while the solitaire suitability is listed as a five. Myself and others have found solitaire gaming to be higher in reality. As mentioned, the rules are very innovative. The game borrows on the designer's earlier games, but are not a copy of them, and go to a new level. This does not mean that they are obtuse or hard to understand. It helps that the rule book has eighteen full page, and in color, examples of play. The game comes with ten scenarios, and one introductory one. Two scenarios are half-map size, six are full-map size, and two are double-map size. It is good to see a tactical game not only played on small maps.



Players Aid Card


 I'll try to explain the game's mechanics. Rest assured that I will probably make it sound harder than it is. The game play revolves around the 'Order Matrix', seen below. The scenario information will tell you where the red 'Order Cubes' are to be placed. The red pawn shows which side has the initiative and its placement is also shown in the scenario information. You can see that the Order Matrix has numbers descending on both the German and Russian side. Likewise, the initiative track is numbered with zero being in the middle of the track, and has ascending numbers going both right and left. To start a turn, the player with the initiative gets to pick an orders cube equal or less than where the red pawn is on his initiative track. Here is where it gets a little tricky. Let us say the German player has the red pawn on on number 7 on the initiative track. He then can choose to use the red cube on the order matrix that has 'Sniper' next to it. The German player then moves the red pawn toward the Russian direction of the initiative track seven spaces (it would now be at '0'). The German player can then perform the order on number 7 the 'Sniper' order, or he may choose to do any of the orders below 7 all the way to #1. Whatever he chooses as an order, he must always move the red pawn the number of the red cube that he chooses. In explanation, the German player has taken the #7 red pawn, but only chooses to do the 'move' order that is next to the #3. He still must move the red pawn the 7 spaces toward the Russian side of the initiative track, even though he has only used the #3 order. The results of these innovative rules are that a player is constantly trying to use orders, but he will also be trying to keep the red pawn on his side of the initiative track. So the player is forced to juggle between what he wants to do and what he doesn't want the other player to do.  



Order Matrix


 The turn sequence is:

The player with the initiative performs any order 
At the end of every order players check to see if the turn ends
Whoever has the initiative performs the next order
If no cubes are left on the Order Matrix the turn ends
Advance the turn forward one space
Check for 'Sudden Death' (where it is placed is in the scenario
   information)
Remove depleted Smoke Markers
Sniper Activity (the player with the sniper marker attempts to 
    destroy one of the other players 'Command Markers')
Regroup (flip Command Markers per the rules etc.)
Reinforcement
Reseed (each player rolls one die10 for each of the ten red 
     order cubes for the next turn)


                                        Counter Closeup




 The game also give each player, depending on the scenario, Command Markers.  These may be placed at any time during the turn by either player. These markers have two sides; one is named 'Mission Command', the other 'Tactical Command'. When placed the Mission Command side is used first. During the Regroup Phase of the turn, all of the Mission Command Markers on the board are changed to their Tactical Command side. Both sides of the Command Markers drop the initiative cost to activate the players' units. 









 The wargaming world was surprised and very happy with this very innovative game in 2011. The only thing that has led to any gripes was the lack of follow up games on other famous fighting units. The 2018 add-on for this game (soon to be reviewed), was the only new piece added to this gaming stable since it first came out. It is very surprising, seeing as the game is very good and was very well received. There is so much more I can talk about in regards to this game. It has air strikes, entrenchments, close assaults, and so much more. The play of the game flows very well for a tactical game with this much inside it. The rules are easy to follow and it plays  much simpler, in gaming terms, than a tactical game like this usually does. Thank you GMT Games for the chance to review this great game.

Robert

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games   This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. ...

Julius Caesar by Columbia Games Julius Caesar by Columbia Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



by









  This is a rough game for me to review. I do not like Julius Caesar at all. Every Ides of March, I drink a toast of something to the fact that he was assassinated at the foot of Pompey's statue. I am a teetotaler so nothing special. I consider Sulla the greatest Roman general followed closely by Pompey. Caesar is most highly thought of because of his own propaganda writings. Remember that Caesar was the head of his faction while Pompey was actually representing the legal Roman Senate and also had to take their views into account. Caesar had said Sulla was a fool for giving up his dictatorship. He was not a fool, but a Republican. I guess I should dispense with my personal views now. So the game is about the Roman Civil War between the Roman Senate and a megalomaniac (sorry I had to). The Civil War between Pompey and Caesar. Let us see what you get with the game.



Front And Back Of Box


Game Map(17"x 33" with 13 victory points)
63 Blocks ( 31 tan, 31 green, 1 blue)
Label Sheet (for the blocks)
Cards (27)
Dice (4)
Rule Book




Map


 The map is the usual well done Columbia Games type we have come to enjoy with their block games. It is a map that is used to be gamed, and not be hung on the wall as art. The map does get a bit crowded at times with the blocks. However, for a small fee you can buy a PDF file of the map and have it printed out to pretty much any size you want. The labels are well done. They are aesthetically pleasing, and easy to understand and read. The cards are very well done and add some flavor to the game. There are twenty Command Cards and seven Event Cards in the deck. The rule book is only eight pages long. This is also standard fare for Columbia Games. Their games are meant to be played, not argued over. After one or possibly two games, you will have the rules down pat.




Stickers For The Blocks
  

  The game is card driven, and is played in these three phases:

Card Phase
Command Phase
Battle Phase


 The event cards are self explanatory. The Command Cards are read by the banners and medals below the banners. On each banner will be a number. That number is the moves a player can make that turn. The medals are the amount of levies that player can produce that turn. At the beginning of each year (or turn) of the game the cards are shuffled, and each player is dealt six cards. Both players then have to choose one card to discard, bringing their total to five cards each. Each player then puts down one card. If one player chooses an event card then he is Player one. If both players put down command cards then the player with the higher movement on his card is player one. When both cards have equal movement points then the Caesar player is player one. If both players put down an event card they cancel each other out and that turn/year is over. The event cards seem to be pretty overpowering compared to the command cards. One has to remember that if you play an event card that is all you can do that turn. No movement, or levies, can take place if you play an event card. 

 Your Navis(naval) units are incredibly powerful if you know how to use them. You can use three Navis units in adjacent sea areas to move your troops an incredible distance. The rule book gives an example of Caesar being able to move two legions from Rome to Antioch because the three seas (Mare Tyrrhenum, Mare Internum, and Mare Egypticum) all have Caesar Navis units in them and are friendly. You cannot conduct amphibious invasions as we think of today, but you can keep your enemy on their toes, and upset their plans with amphibious movement.                                   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
 The historically important Roman roads are also very important in the game. A Major road allows four units to move together from city to city. A Minor road only allows two units to travel together. 

 The game even has rules for the Cleopatra unit (blue block). She can change sides numerous times during the war. 

 This is the map showing all of the places that troops can be levied by Brunoc from BGG.








 The battle rules are simple and yet full of strategy and chance. A unit that has the higher combat rating, an A against a B unit, is always the first unit on each player's side to roll for hits. If both sides have the same highest rated unit (both A's or B's etc.) the defender is the first to use his unit to roll for hits. A unit may only fire, retreat, or pass each battle turn. Retreats can only take place after one round of combat has happened. There are rules for pinning enemy units as well as to have reserves for your battles.

 Victory goes to the first player who can get ten victory points. Each main city is worth one point, with Rome and Alexandria being two each. You also get one point for killing an enemy leader.
 


                                                  Cards


 The game has been a favorite of people who play Columbia games since it was released. The rules are simple and easy to understand, yet the game is deep enough to keep you enthralled with it. The relatively quick play-through times make it easy for players to give it one more go. The game also lets the player try so many different strategies to try to get to ten victory points. Historically Pompey fled Italy and went to the East. Caesar then cleared out Pompey's legions in Spain, leading Caesar to say "I am going to Spain to fight an army without a general, and thence to the East to fight a general without an army". Many historians feel that Pompey should have gone to Spain to fight with those veteran troops in a country that was difficult to campaign in, and that Pompey had fought in before (against Sertorius). One of the strategies I keep reading about for the game is for Caesar to capture Italy, but also to attack down the Adriatic coast to Greece, and capture Athens etc. I have noticed that not only does the map have the battles listed from the Caesar and Pompey Civil War, but it also lists the battles from after Caesar's death until Actium. I wonder if an add on was planned for the game at some time. The only two knocks on the game are the Octavian block in the Caesarean army and elephants being included in the game. Octavian was sick anytime he came anywhere near a possible battlefield, and I do not believe elephants were used by any Mediterranean nation after the Mithridatic Wars. I will have to check on that. I was wrong, Metellus Scipio used them at the battle of Thapsus. I assume these were the smaller North African variety that Hannibal also used.

 This a picture of all of the command cards posted by EndersGame on BGG.




 There are also many player made cards to replace the ones from the game. The ones I saw have excellent artwork on them.

 This is a fun and pretty furious game that will find its way back onto my table for many years.


Robert
 

Overview Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will qu...

Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers) Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers)

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



Overview

Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will quite a strange review as it will be impossible to review it without some minor spoilers - reader beware. Also, the nearly-unique selling point of this game is that every box, or at least the components within it are unique to that copy. My game will have a different mix of cards, terrain, explorers than any other Discover game. I find that individuality quite compelling.

In this game, you're given 5 different scenarios with which to explore, survive and ultimately reveal the underlying story of the game, your game. Scenarios 1-4 are fully co-operative and should be played in order, in which your characters/survivors are working together to reveal a mystery story whilst battling thirst, hunger and monsters. During these set-up scenarios, you're being drip-fed a story by revealed cards and objectives that lead to the final and fifth scenario which you can replay as many times as you would like

Each game comes with 2 different terrain types, I had the Badlands and the Island terrain types and 12 different characters, out of a possible 36, each with their own strength and weaknesses. Items, monsters and even the storyline are also variable between boxes. I shudder to think what steps were taken to try to balance the number of different possibilities.

If you're curious to see the contents of my game then you can watch my unboxing video (~9 mins).


Gameplay

The scenarios start with your characters waking up at a campfire of an unfamiliar land. Each particular terrain will have a different counter-mix and different cards. The placement of terrain is also randomised so if you're replaying a scenario and are trying to find a particular landmark and advance the story it will most likely not be in the same location.


The game itself felt well balanced.  you cannot just go for broke and fight every single monster or just search out landmark features. You'll need to care for your survivor making sure they've got adequate supplies of food, water and resources from which you can make useful items. If you're not careful then you'll likely take damage quickly and you will lose the game which will happen after you've taken 4 damage.  If your survivor is eliminated the remaining players keep trying to beat the game so you best have something to do whilst you wait.

The unknown awaits
A turn consists of a day and a night phase. During the day phase, you'll take actions up to your stamina limit or whenever you decide to stop.  Most actions cost 1 stamina and there are 10 different actions available to you. Each night you'll recover some stamina so that you can function again the next day. However, as you'd expect, during the night phase your survivors have to deal with some threats.

Whilst trying to survive you're trying to meet scenario objectives or 'stages', these are sequential, the first stage has to be complete before revealing the next and scenarios have 3 or 4 stages. Only the active stage is revealed to players. If you complete all stages, then you've won the scenario and can play the next.

You survivor will inevitably take damage as they explore the terrain, from monsters, dirty water, events or from the night terrors. Damage is tracked on a nifty tracker with 3 damage wheels and 1 stamina wheel. Damage can be either physical, poison, hunger or thirst but at the point where you need to take a 4th damage, you're done for and out of the game. You can spend resources, to recover from damage which you'll need to do very regularly.

Falling like flies
You'll encounter monsters quite regularly, you can normally avoid them if you want but they do provide relatively large numbers of resources, e.g meat and hides, so killing them is often in your best interest. The combat system is very simple, which is both a good and bad thing. You'll roll 2d12 and compare them against the numbers on the monster's card. If you beat the grey number with the grey dice you cause one damage to the monster, if you beat the red number with the red dice the monster hits you for one damage.  Combat can be altered by other survivors combat support cards, if they're near enough, or by the items you've crafted.

The game is driven by flipping resource tokens and investigating landmarks. Normally you'll flip a token and just reveal a resource of that type, however, sometimes you'll reveal a number which will require to draw the same number from the Exploration deck. Investigating a landmark will also require you to draw the corresponding numbered card from the Exploration deck. The 'story' is largely told through the stage cards and accessing the 'right' exploration cards. Some exploration cards have pre-requisites before you can flip them over or allow you to draw an exploration card 2 higher when resolving a token for example. This was a clever system and I thought, good design, similar to 7th Continent.

Rulebook and excerpt

After all players have used as much stamina as they want, night falls. The night phases get worse, the longer players hang around and as resources are of a nearly finite supply, eventually your survivors will succumb and lose the game. It's in your best interest to do things quickly, however, sometimes you'll find the right landmark on the very last tile, which can be hard to recover from.
 
Components

The art on the box and the character cards has a nice clean aesthetic which reminded me of Herge's Tintin series. The cards are simple but nice and everything is of the excellent quality that we expect from FFG.  The cardboard wheels have stayed quite tight which is a good thing when you're tracking vital statistics...(nod to Underzo), you don't want them moving without intention which can be the case with similar components from other games. I would have preferred wooden meeples instead of the plastic but that is a trivial gripe.

Maybe expansion space?


Criticisms

The story did not come through as much as we'd like. Often we were left wandering and wondering where to go next. The narrative felt a little loosely tacked on and only revealed by two or three sentences before you're off and trying to complete the next stage. This may be indicative on the uniqueness of each box, the designer(s) would have had a torrid time crow-barring the story into every different version of the game box. I would like to know if the story in my box is the same for all other boxes that contain the Island and Badlands terrains.

The story could be better told if you were able to keep some knowledge or item bonuses from one scenario to the next. Instead, you've got a completely blank slate for each scenario making you feel like you're playing in a vacuum and your choices, or even win and lose, have no bearing on the subsequent scenario. 

Lots of goodness here
 The OCD gamer in me is worrying that maybe I don't have the best mix of components, I have to trust FFG, and I'm sure this is the case, that each game feels approximately the same and my game is neither inferior or better than all the other 'Discoverys' out there.

The fifth scenario plays a little differently from the first 4 and isn't really part of the story. But what it does try to do is done far better in other games. This game really is just 4 scenarios in one base box and I'm not sure you're getting gameplay value for money with this.


Conclusion

This game does lots of clever things that I like but a game about exploration and survival should tell a good story and this one fell a little flat for my group. I like the idea of a unique game box and the game underway looks lovely on the table. It plays in about 100 minutes, which is probably half an hour too long per scenario considering this game's complexity. I'm sure there is a very good game inside and I'm sure we will see other publishers try similar gimmicks, (a-la Keyforge) but I don't think we've reached the pinnacle of unique games design with this title.

I thought the damage mechanism was good, supported by a component of excellent quality, and I liked the simplicity of the combat system if not its' randomness.

I  would like to play another copy of Discover as I'm intrigued, how the designer managed to balance lots of the different elements in each game; are the stories different? do they link together in some way? etc.  Some game groups, or even couples, could really enjoy the open-ended nature of this game and will re-play scenario 5 again and again, but I don't want it to be my group. Sorry FFG.
 
This game has a huge distribution and you'll still be able to find it in almost every game store; find your nearest Friendly Local Games Store at http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/.

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Website: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/discover-lands-unknown/
Players: 1 - 4
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Playing time: 1-2 hours
RRP: £57.99