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V-COMMANDOS: SECRET WEAPONS If you are unfamiliar with the core game, I'd suggest looking at my original review , before g...

V-COMMANDOS: SECRET WEAPONS V-COMMANDOS: SECRET WEAPONS

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

V-COMMANDOS: SECRET WEAPONS



If you are unfamiliar with the core game, I'd suggest looking at my original review, before going any further.  Otherwise, read on.  Perhaps, because V-Commandos up to now has largely been available directly from Triton-Noir, the publishers, it has created limited impact on the gaming scene.  This is a great shame, as the quality of production is excellent and I really don't think there is another game out there quite like it.  However, I've just received the good news [which you can read here] that it will be imminently available in the UK both through retail outlets and as always directly online.
An initial glimpse inside the box!

If you know the core game or have read my previous review, you'll know that Stealth is the key word and a significant aspect of play.  Going in hard with all guns blazing with immediately draw down on you a rush of enemy reinforcements and all too likely failure of your mission. 

However, as an expansion, Secret Weapons provides a new set of Operations thematically linked that will bring you more than a fair share of high octane, explosive action this time.  This fact jumps out at you as soon as you look at the sections in the Rulebook on Additional Equipment and Special Units.  Panzerfausts, mortars and gas barrels do not make for a quiet time!

When you look at the Operations themselves and the buildings related to them the prospect of dramatic action gets even more certain.  An airfield and two U-boat bases, along with a V2 rocket site and attempting to guard a stolen V1 rocket until an RAF plane can land to recover it, while blowing up nearby V1 rocket launch ramps as a distraction will truly set alarm bells ringing.

The whole expansion follows exactly the same format as the original base game, which is essential for play.  Every facet of the game is added to, starting with three new Commando characters: the Butcher, the Intelligence Officer and the Mortar Gunner.  Once again each card that outlines their special abilities and weapons is double-sided with modified or different elements on each.  As before, you can judge which side's strengths suits a particular Mission and also adds to the variety of the action.  The Mortar Gunner is perhaps the most conventional of the trio and the Intel Officer [the rather femme fatale figure on the box and rule cover] the most original in her specialities.
Though a purely cosmetic detail, I like the touch of signalling the character's nationality by the national flag edging to each card.  So, we discover that the Intel Officer is of Polish nationality.

Along w
ith three new characters come three new weapons: two of them, the panzerfaust and the mortar, add a hefty bang to the action, but the third I like even more and that's the smoke grenades and their effect.  These add to the signature stealth element of this system as they cause large tiles [where you are always visible] to be treated as small tiles[where you usually are able to remain hidden]; a very simple way of creating the concealing effect of a smoke grenade, though logically one that ought to generate more enemy attention rather than less! 

The final new piece of equipment, gas barrels, is not technically a weapon, but once you blow one up it eliminates all units on a tile unless they are wearing gas masks.  This point brings us nicely to some of the new enemy units - nine regular German soldiers with gas masks.  How convenient!  These nine replace nine of the original regular soldiers in the core set.  Also added to the German forces are a number of paratroopers, the Fallschirmjagers.

Representing all these items on the playing area are plenty of new tokens, as well as plenty more additions to those already provided in the basic game.  In fact, two sheets worth.
In the countersheet above you can see this mix of the old and the new.  The latter are the circular counters for gas barrels [marked with skull and cross-bones], panzerfausts and gas grenades, as well as two Goliath-nests for the other special unit, the Goliath - a mini remote-controlled tank packed with explosives.  The addition to already familiar counters are the grey oblong open/closed door markers and truck markers that indicate enemy entrance positions, as well as a few +1/-1 Action Tokens.

Beside the counters, there are plenty more Event cards which continue to add more colour and unpredictability to the action too.
Equally impressive are 13 more double-sided tiles for indoor/ outdoor locations.  
The set of 13 new tiles on their outdoor side before being pressed out of the sprue.
There are 5 new Operations presented, as before, not by a scenario book, but by a set of highly atmospheric cards, with plenty of sensationally dramatic scenes on them, like this one.
Each Operation's information is supplied by a set of two cards: one card gives the name of the Operation, its date and a map of Europe to locate it geographically.   
On the other side is a diagram of the terrains involved in this Operation and how they link up.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it's important to remember that the word "terrain" is not used of the individual tiles, but to describe a location created from placing a number of tiles.  To illustrate what I mean take a look at the next picture, which is the reverse side of the map for Operation Chained Eagle.


Each of the four areas seen above are what the game calls a "terrain", which then has to be created from a choice of tiles.  So, the Hangar is assembled following the diagram on the appropriate card, which also gives you information on the actions that have to be taken to complete this element of the Operation.
The other card provides an overview of the Operation.
and its reverse side gives specific supplementary information for added components, actions or restrictions relating to each terrain. 
So, here we see that the Commandos at the Hangar get extra equipment, while the Fuel Depot is set up with two reinforcement entrances removed from the terrain and the Test Facility has the awesome information that certain tiles are removed turn by turn to represent the building being swept by fire and any units on those tiles, whether the enemy or your own Commandos, are eliminated!!

However, as you can imagine, creating even one of these terrains takes up several tiles and a fair amount of game space.  This is fine for small Operations with only one or two "terrains".  But in this expansion, even the three smallest Operations involve three terrain and the other two operations are of four and five terrains respectively.

This can be dealt with by setting up one terrain at a time, completing the action on it and then moving on to construct the next terrain and so on.  However, as all five Operations begin with two terrain side by side, but with no ability to move from one terrain to the other, you're far better setting up each of those terrains immediately and playing them in parallel.  For realism, this should be how the action is executed.

This last suggestion also leads me to a factor which may influence your decision to add it to your collection.  First, I judge that it is very much intended for cooperative play.  You really want to be running two teams of Commandos controlled by a minimum of one player for each team.  That's not to say that you can't take on even the largest Operation playing solo, but it will take a significant amount of time.  The second point really amplifies that last statement; even if you do game with two or more players, be prepared to expend several hours for these are substantial scenarios.


It seems to me that the only reason why you might decide not to take the plunge with this expansion is if you have no access at all to a group happy to play for several hours.  Even with my preference for solo play in this type of game, Secret Weapons certainly convinces me that for this game multi-player has its appeal too. 

Everything in the package deserves your full attention and appreciation of the quality and the immersive game play.   These are richly rewarding, narrative-producing Operations.  I can't wait to see what the next expansion, V-Commandos: The Resistance brings.


Once again thanks to Triton-Noir for kindly providing a review copy.





V-COMMANDOS from Triton Noir A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations. ...

V-COMMANDOS V-COMMANDOS

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

V-COMMANDOS

from Triton Noir


A solo/cooperative game of small unit commando actions drawn from historical situations.




Hopefully you've seen the appetiser for the game and the linked contest to win a canvas picture of one of the stunning pieces of artwork from the game. Stunning sums up many aspects of V-Commandos.  The box art, which like many games is replicated on the rule book cover, sets the mood and game flavour admirably.  The comic book element inevitably took me back to childhood copies of the paperback series of Commando comic books and even W.E.Johns' Gimlet series, which featured one that I read entitled King of The Commandos.

Like Heroes of Normandie by Devil Pig Games, this is certainly Hollywood's version of WWII, but I'm glad to say that Triton Noir, the publishers of V-Commandos, have not gone the whole hog [no pun intended] for the total cigar-chomping cartoon style that Devil Pig opted for.  In fact much of the card artwork makes me think that the Noir from this company's name has had the stronger influence.


These Tarot-size cards could so easily have just been plain backed, but the choice to go with these scenic pictures adds substantially as always to the atmosphere of the game.  Equally effective are the many tiles that are used to build up the terrain for each scenario.


Here are two of the sheets of tiles [in this case, small and medium size] that you'll use to build up the terrain.  At this point, it's worth explaining the meaning of the word "terrain" in this game.  Terrain is a geographical playing area made up of several tiles - in some scenarios, the whole playing area may constitute as many as five terrains.  

In some cases, you will find your commandos having to split up in order to achieve objectives on different terrains; in others, you may have to work your way through a sequence of terrains achieving your objectives as you move from terrain to terrain.

Here is, chronologically, the first scenario, Operation Time Pencil.  The name on the map card of Bruneval and accompanying historical photo of the radar station easily identifies this first scenario as based on the Bruneval Raid in February 1942.

 The playing area is made up of three terrains: the Forest, the Radar Station and the Villa.  As you can see, each terrain has specific instructions relating to it, for this individual scenario.


Below are the cards for each of the three terrains, showing you how to lay out the tiles.  The darker panels with black edging are room tiles and the pale panels with faint grey edging are open tiles.



The next picture shows how you might build up the tiles to create the Radar Station.  The two lorry markers show were German reinforcements arrive and the two blue triangles indicate the location of the Commandos' Objectives explained in the Scenario cards.


In creating the terrain, you're free to use whichever tiles you wish, provided that they are appropriately open tiles or building tiles.  The one aspect that has drawn some criticism is that there are scenarios that involve as the terrain such areas as a battleship, a shipyard and dock, and bridges.  None of the tiles remotely resemble these and so you do have to employ what the old "willing suspension of belief ".  In other words, you've got to pretend that the tiles in front of you are a battleship etc. 

I can understand the limitations of the tiles might not be able to recreate some of those, but I would have thought at least a range of tiles could have been produced that would at least include enough to build a credible bridge!  Frankly, though, that is the only detail that doesn't match the otherwise excellent features of this game.

So, on to considering some more of these excellent features.  Certainly, the very good quality, circular, cardboard discs that represent the many single-man figures in the game are high on that list.  I had imagined buying and painting some commando figures [of which there are many fine products on the market], but soon decided that I much preferred what you see here.


These are your five commandos, drawn from different nationalities and with different attributes.  This base set comprises a scout, an officer, a sniper, a sapper and a medic.  My immediate reaction was to lament the absence of the French Resistance and hoped that Triton Noir would soon produce an expansion to remedy that lack.

You can guess my delight to find that just such an expansion is already available.  [I have yet to discover whether it might also contain some tiles that make a bridge!]

Equally effective are the many German soldier counters.  Here are the ordinary regular infantry, nicely done in different poses, some with helmets or caps and even a few bare-headed.  Small attention to varied detail like this is a big plus for me, instead of just churning out a generic image.


Added to these are a few regulars with sledgehammers [oh yeah!] and some special guys [identified by the black edge to the counter] and a few dummies.  Note that the number of white cube markings show the number of dice rolled when these units fire at your commandos.


Among the many other smaller tokens are equipment for the commandos, spotted tokens, 20 doors [open on side/closed on the other], the lorry tokens mentioned already that indicate where German reinforcements enter, objectives and alarms [crucial to all scenarios] and open/closed trapdoors.

Before we come to the reading material - the rules - there remain the 5 large cards, one for each of your commandos


and a handsome deck of Event Cards.



What amazed me was that the game contains dual sets of all the large cards and Event cards along with separate rule and training books in both English and French!

There isn't a single item that falls short of the highest standards of production and the rule book is no exception.  The 24 pages are more like glossy, thin card with a very durable and substantial feel.  They are easy to read and follow with plenty of illustrated examples and accompanying artwork. 

It's very well organised, taking you through the three Phases of the game: Event, Commando and German.  These are followed by information on Commando Selection and Commando Health - no, they don't have to have travel injections, it's about getting injured, critical condition and, gulp, elimination!  The good news [especially if you are playing a cooperative game] is that, if your commando dies, another commando is drawn from your reserves to rejoin the scenario.  Your new commando will have some initial limitations [like, no equipment], but you know how resourceful you are!

There are also sections on Equipment and Escorting a Character that occurs in some scenarios and one of the longest sections, called Play An Operation is on the process of setting up an Operation [i.e. scenario]

The rules pause at three points to direct you to the training manual that provides three mini-scenarios to help fix in your head the section you've just gone through.  Though very simple, I would strongly recommend following the format, as I found them very effective in achieving their intended goal of consolidating learning the rules.

At the very heart is the concept of STEALTH.  A commando counter will automatically be flipped to its stealthy side when entering a small tile where there are no German units and commandos may always enter a medium sized tile in stealth mode by using up two of their three Action pts.  However, commandos must always flip to their visible side when entering a large tile.

Whenever a commando in stealth mode enters a tile with enemy units on or vice versa, each commando must roll one die per enemy unit to see if they are spotted.  Roll 1 or 2 and you're spotted.  Though not wholly necessary, it's a nice touch that the twelve dice provided are customised with a partial eye symbol on the 1 and 2 faces.


Attention to small details like the dice all add to the sense that care has gone into producing a quality game.  Attention to detail is also a prominent factor in the rule book.  As I read rules, I have a bad habit of thinking, "... but what if?"  I failed to break this bad habit, as I went through the rules for V-Commando and each time the answer to my "What if?" was a few paragraphs later or clear in an example.  It was an object lesson in being more patient in my reading and testimony to just how good these rules are.  They are thorough, without being burdensomely lengthy, and easy to follow.

I mentioned earlier the value of using the three training scenarios, but that value is in helping you fix the rules in your head so that you have minimal reference to the rule book later, not because you need them to understand the rules, as is often the case with some rules sets.  What impressed me most was the section on the German A.I. that runs the Enemy Phase of the game.  Moving and shooting in games where your opponent is A.I. determined are often hyper complex and encyclopaedic in length.  In part, this is because the rules in V-Commando are well pared down. 

Remember stealth, well if your commando is in stealth mode, he can't be seen or shot at.  If visible, he is seen and able to be shot at, if he's on the same tile as the German unit or an open adjacent tile or a room tile that has an open door.   No arguments about line of site.   Movement is governed by equally straightforward rules that depend on only two factors: if any commandos are visible, then German units move one tile towards them by the shortest route - if all commandos are stealthy, then German units move one tile in the compass direction displayed on the Event card currently drawn for that terrain for this turn.

Perhaps this random factor may not suit some people, but, hey, this is the movies, haven't you seen the Germans in films from The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen to the more recent Inglourius Bastards rushing around while the good ole Brits or Americans sneak about, just out of sight from them?

Finally, the rules take us to Play An Operation.  In all other games that I own or have played, this would form part of a separate booklet that would also contain all the Scenarios.  Triton Noir have decided to go with the novel idea of providing the nine scenarios in the form of pairs of high quality, double-sided, cards.  This decision has added enormously to the already very satisfying ambiance of the game.

The first of each pair of cards names the Operation with an accompanying map and, on the reverse of the card, a background to and the objectives of the Operation.




The second card in each pair shows the terrain to be set up for the Op on one side and, on the other side, any Special rules that apply to a specific terrain and/or the initial Set-Up.   So to continue with the example of Operation Time Pencil, three terrain will be needed and each terrain has its Special rules, but in this case there are no Special rules relating to initial Set-Up.


Finally, the necessary terrain cards are placed out on your gaming table and the requisite tiles chosen to build up each terrain.


As you can imagine, with the biggest Operations involving five separate terrains, there aren't enough tiles to lay out all the terrains at one go.  The format for handling all the Operations is that the tiles for each terrain in the left most column are laid out.  Then, when the objectives have been completed on each of these terrains, the terrain card is flipped over to show completion and the terrain tiles are removed and the next column's terrains are built from the necessary tiles.

This whole process is, as far as I'm aware, wholly original.  The combination of the two pairs of cards for each Operation allows for great variety as, for example, though you may be operating in forest terrain in several Operations, the differing Special rules and objectives created for that forest terrain imbues the scenario with its own qualities. 

The cards are also a fantastic design feature for those who will soon want to create their own favourite Operations.  My own personal wish immediately turns towards Holland as, though a couple of the Operations included in the game involve bridges, neither are influenced by that epic bridge at Arnhem.  For others who like bridge scenarios, their goals might take them instead to Remagen. 


However, that's just a dream for the moment, as the nine provided in V-Commando will certainly task your skills.  Each terrain of an Operation forms its own mini-puzzle to be solved with the vagaries of the dice ready to throw a spanner in the works.  Just in case you turn out to be a prodigy of success, all the Operations contain one Veteran Special rule.  Once you have played Operations with the Standard set of Special rules, you can add in the Veteran Special rule which adds additional difficulty and always increases the number of German reinforcements you will have to face!

As a game that can be played cooperatively, it has a good RPG feel and, especially gaming with friends, it can be great to discuss what actions each commando will take and what order they'll activate in.  Outcomes and die rolls all become that bit more tense.  But, by preference [and perhaps sheer greed], I can't help saying that solo play is my favourite.  I just want to be the guy organising my team of commandos.

So, by now, I doubt that you need to be told that for me V-Commandos is an out and out winner in every category. And, please, if you need to ask the question [as has been asked on at least one game site] what does the V stand for in the game's title, just think Winston Churchill!  In fact, if you do need to ask the question, perhaps running a commando might not be your best choice yet!

Good luck and keep Stealthy!!!!

Does anyone else think the Queen looks like Cersei? Crusader Kings may be familiar to readers of this blog from a computer game of th...

Crusader Kings Crusader Kings

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

Does anyone else think the Queen looks like Cersei?
Crusader Kings may be familiar to readers of this blog from a computer game of the same name.  Free League Publishing and Paradox Interactive have tried to distil the essence of the long, expansive, crunchy computer game into a much shorter a play-in-an-evening board game.  Have they been successful? Read on…

The title ‘Crusader Kings’ is a bit of a misnomer for this game.  The whole Crusades aspect of the board game is largely abstracted away into a progress track at the bottom of the board.  What this game should be called is Family Fortunes – Medieval edition.  Your prime focus is making babies, marrying off your heirs and spares and expanding into rival territories, through subterfuge or direct conflict.

Four Player set up

At the start of the game, each player is given a historical family and King to rule over, for example, The House of Normandy led by William the Conqueror.  Managing your King and their children and siblings’ Traits (positive and negative); i.e. making sure your Dim-witted daughter marries the Lustful Son of an opponent, differentiates this game from the crowded medieval Europe dudes-on-a-map archetype.

Gameplay

The game is played over three Eras, each comprising three Rounds, which again have two turns…  This is fairly standard fare for most Euro gamers but is a bit of a departure from a wargamers UGOIGO experience.  In a turn, one Action Card per player is resolved and it is the selection and playing of these cards (during a Turn) which really drives the game forward.  The game will normally end after 18 turns for each player or if any player reaches the Jerusalem space of the crusade progress track before then.
The Crusade Track in all its glory...
The slowest part of the game, but arguably the most important, is the beginning of each round, where each player attempts to make a marriage for a member of their family and chooses two of the eight action cards in their hand to play on their turns.  They must also choose the order in which they’re played during the turn, which does have significant consequences.  Once all players are familiar with the different actions there is little down-time between your turns as every other player's Action card may also affect you in some way.  

Your starting King and family will have specific traits, but thereafter every character in the game, has a randomised trait that is either positive (green trait – example: Strong, Honest, Pious, Scholar etc.) or negative (red trait – example: Imbecile, Deceitful, Lunatic, Lustful etc.) which will gradually feed into your trait bag and are used to check whether any attempted action throughout the game is successful or not via a Trait Check.
5 Player - 2nd Era, things are getting busy

Trait Checks are the unique selling point of this game and provide the jeopardy and a lot of the story which this game tells.  A Trait Check is where a player draws traits from their bag hoping to draw a green (success) trait in order to complete the chosen action.  Every action also has a Critical Trait – if that particular trait is drawn during the check then a green trait is actually treated as a failure and red as a success. 

For me, the addition of Critical Traits provides thematic immersion and also an element of strategic thinking.  For example, if am attempting a Build Action which has Critical Traits of Humble (Green) and Ambitious (Red) and I draw any green except Humble I am successful and can plonk a castle down in a territory I control. If I draw Ambitious, which on any other Trait Check would fail, I can still build my castle as it is the Critical Trait for Build.
Invest to draw an extra Trait.  Lucky that a Critical Trait (Deceitful) was drawn

Aligning marriages to reflect the traits and critical traits that you want to further your families influence is where the strategic piece comes in.  Often you are desperate to make sure your ruler has an heir that any marriage will do, but it is a sweet feeling when you’re able to snag first player (by successfully crusading) and marry an available partner with the Cruel trait.  Although this is a negative trait it is considered critical for Crusading and Invading and you can choose more of those actions in future knowing you’re more likely to succeed.

I like games where I don’t have absolute control of the units in my command.  It seems fitting to me that even if I order something to happen in my territories, it doesn’t necessarily occur.  I wouldn’t appreciate this aspect in an economic game but where I am trying to control a lunatic son or imbecilic daughter as part of my dynasty it feels apt.  Often in this game, it is the memorable failures that develop the story of your dynasty more than an automatic Tax action for example.
Child  #1 needs to die

During each Era, every player will play 6 of their 8 actions cards.  The action cards are drawn from 5 decks and there are a specified minimum and maximum number of draws for each deck.  For example, you can’t just draw 8 Realm cards that allow you to Build/Develop on your turn.  The only mandatory card draw is at least one from the Crusade deck (which incidentally is a good way to kill your Drunkard King in favour of his Brave son).

Aside from the Crusade Deck, the other Action Card decks are the War deck (moving and invading with your army), Intrigue Deck (Plotting and Overthrowing other players control of territories), the Realm deck (building castles and giving your dynasty additional powers) and finally the Tax deck, which are the only action card which don’t require a Trait Check and provide the main source of income in the game. 
The box all packed up. Game will start in 30 minutes...
Each Action Card also has an event which will be triggered after the chosen action has been resolved. Generally, the events on the Realm, Intrigue and Tax cards are bad for the acting player or good to the other players.  Whereas the Crusade cards events are generally good for the acting player and bad for the others.  However, the risk of going on a crusade shouldn’t be underestimated. Your ruler could easily be killed triggering a succession, or crisis if there is no heir (a terrible outcome for your dynasty).
The 5 Action Decks
There are a variety of pitfalls in this game for the novice player and it does definitely reward repeated plays.  The game manual has even gone as far to advise new players not to crusade without an heir – which was something I didn’t appreciate on my very first teaching play through and immediately failed on a crusade.  I learnt not to do that again and we all agreed to reset the board state.  Don’t be like me, a Succession Crisis is not something you can come back from.
4 Player Initial Setup
In my very unsuccessful attempt to play the computer Crusader Kings II several years ago, I realised how important Casus Belli was in order to attack another kingdom.  The same is true in this game and War is an exercise in politics and logistics before actual combat, which is unfortunately abstracted out of the game to a quite disappointing Trait Check.  Albeit one in which the affected player(s) will invest in an attempt to sabotage the check.  In the plays I’ve had of the game, direct conflict almost seems like an after-thought.

The game provides six scenarios, the first five loosely describe a chronology of some of the notable crusades from history.  The sixth scenario is a tournament scenario designed for four players whom each starts with Casus Belli against another player.  This is designed for more direct conflict and succeeds to an extent but resolving battles feels almost as light as vanilla-Risk and consequently unsatisfying.
Rules book - is a little loose

Components

This game has come through a successful Kickstarter campaign and subsequently, all of the components and art look top quality.  I think the board and card art aesthetic is spot on.  The player boards are of normal card stock but are perfectly fine. The miniatures, although they are almost superfluous, look good albeit a bit large for my tastes.  And you get 6 good-quality drawstring bags in individual player colours. The level of quality in components is largely indicative of most Kickstarters these days in all but one area…
Lots of tokens and bits to play with

The tokens throughout the game were impossible to get out of the counter sheets without some tearing.  Some of the counter sheets were better than others but I had a distinct problem with two of the five sheets.  Even in the good sheets there was some tearing.  This was disappointing but I’ll put it down to a bad batch – glue running out, or punch out tool needed sharpening as the cause. As the rest of the components, even the insert, were of a high quality.

The rules provide a bot player to use when playing with fewer than 3 players.  Although I am pleased to see the inclusion of a bot for solo or 2 player use, due to the light tactical element and story-driven narrative I can’t see myself using or enjoying playing against the bots.  I just don’t think there’s enough mechanically to justify the time.  The game is best with three of four other opponents around the table and I hope that I can explore a bit further in those circumstances.

Criticisms

Mechanics are a little loose for my tastes and the combat is a bit disappointing.  I really like the theme and the story is, as other reviewers have suggested, really where this game shines.  The publishers have by necessity condensed the crunch and tactical weight of the computer game down into 2-½ - 3 enjoyable hours that can be easily finished in one sitting. 

The main strategic element of this game is building your trait bag.  This is a fun element and significantly drives the narrative, e.g. choosing the right spouse and murdering the wrong spouse to find a more suitable match but the strategy is limited in other areas of the game.  The crusades are more of a game timer than a viable strategy, although a successful crusade does provide additional powers.
Nice bags
The miniatures feel a little tacked on as well.  I imagine these were a stretch goal of the Kickstarter campaign, but in reality, the Control Tokens -represented by a large cavalry miniature serves to distract a little from the foot-soldiers of your actual army.  

Conclusion

This is a game that borrows my favourite mechanic from a wide variety of other games and remixes them into an enjoyable but less-coherent experience.  It takes the dual-natured action cards from Gloomhaven, the bag-building and chit-pull mechanic from Quacks of Quedlinburg, the pre-programmed movement from Colt Express and the theme of medieval European wars from so many other games.  If I had to pick a favourite element from those games then Crusader Kings has borrowed them all but unfortunately, it’s not quite the sum of its parts. 
Uggh - tear down is a right pain
The narrative arc that is played out is as good, and often as funny, as any I have experienced playing board games.  I will come back to this game and will enjoy subsequent plays of this for the story and inter-relationships that happen between mine and my opponents’ dynasties.  However, if I’m looking for a crunchy, tactical, bewildering experience that I experienced when faced with the computer game then this isn’t it but I am looking forward to seeing what the next video-game to board-game adaption is.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a plethora of board games be converted into digital form and come with companion apps, it is not so common for a computer game to make the transition into the cardboard world.  From recent memory, we’ve had Doom, XCOM the most successful mover has been This War of Mine.  However, I think we’ll continue to see more fusion between the two formats and I’m excited to see what that blending will look like in 5 years time.

Publisher:  Free League
BGG Page: boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/253574/crusader-kings
Players: 3-5
Designer: Tomas Härenstam
Playing Time: 3 hours


Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae  Wars Across the World is as hard to pin down as it is to herd Jello ...

Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae Wars Across the World by SAS Strategiae

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





Wars Across the World

by


SAS Strategiae






 Wars Across the World is as hard to pin down as it is to herd Jello or cats. It is certainly not Risk, but it is not as deep as other computer wargames either. The player uses cards, but it is not a card driven game. I guess I will just have to list the different aspects of the game and let the reader decide what this Jabberwocky is.




 We will start with the first thing you notice about the game, and that is the number of scenarios you can play. There are some battles here that have not even been done in board wargames, let alone computer wargames. Unless I counted wrong, right now there are thirty-nine scenarios or wars you can play (They call them all wars, but some are only battles while some are campaigns). These also go from the Ancient World to Modern times. So, you can see there is a lot of bang for your buck in this game. 





 The User Interface is very well done, and as long as you read the rules and play the tutorials you will not be at sea with it. The maps and colors are very well done with vibrant colors. It is extremely easy to look at your units and tell exactly what is going on at any moment. The music (which in most games I turn off), is actually pretty good and I don't mind at all listening to it while playing. The cards that you pull and use during the game are well thought out and remind me of  some of the best done boardgame ones. In all of the scenarios I tried, you could also play either side in the conflict. This is missing in a lot of games.





 The game is played just like most wargames in sequences. This is the sequence of play (not every scenario uses them all, naturally):

Card Draw
Reinforcements
Supply
Economic Phase
Naval Movement
Air Movement (Offensive)
Land Movement
Battles
Return to Base and Second Air Movement (Defensive)
Sieges
Construction Delivery
End of Turn





 Movement is done by areas. Supply is abstracted and mostly deals with the control of areas. This works fine for the scenarios of the last few hundred years, but doesn't make much sense in the ancient scenarios. There are numerous different types of terrain. The scenarios themselves from the maps to the units seem to be very well researched. Some scenarios play much better than others, and this is to be expected. Sometimes scenarios in wargames are just going to be one-sided. 




 Unfortunately we will have to deal with the bad now. The terrain is used in some scenarios to channel and hog tie the players' actions. In one example, Wellington with a small force sat right in front of Brussels in the woods. I couldn't use at least two thirds of my units to attack in this large area that certainly would have accomodated them. So, I was forced into a whack-a-mole situation with throwing dribs of units each turn into the fray. I understand the design decision behind the area rules in the game, I just don't agree with them. The AI has three levels of competency according to the game. Unfortunately, I really didn't see much difference on any of the settings. Some of the AIs moves are questionable to say the least. Take for example Waterloo: the AI used that choke point by Wellington excellently. However, the Prussian Army was never really used in the game by the AI at all. 




 The game has many good points to it, and the fact that you can play multiplayer and email seems to mitigate the AI troubles. It is deceptive in that the game is much deeper than it looks at first glance. Its main draw will always be the incredible amount of wargaming you can get on the cheap with the game. If you are looking to play it against another human, it is very easy to recommend it to the wargamer. If you are looking to play against the AI, I unfortunately cannot give it my full recommendation. From all of my reading the AI has gotten better, and the developer is still working on it. One thing that people complain about is the cost. With the base game and the add on scenarios the price is just under $100. While that seems like a lot, remember that would give you almost forty scenarios with which to play. That is the same price that one boardgame costs, which many times is about one battle. Here is a link to the game:



Robert
PixelPLaybox.co.uk