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Subject: Ranks up with the best of the CDGs rss

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Brian Morris
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Shifting Sands » Forums » Reviews
Ranks up with the best of the CDGs
For the most part MMP has been known for classic Hex and Counter wargames such as the Civil War Brigade series, Standard Combat Series and of course Advanced Squad Leader. With Shifting Sands however MMP has stepped out of it's traditional hex and counter games into the area of the Card Driven Wargame and they've done it extremely well. Shifting Sands is a marvelous game that ranks up there with the very best CDGs.

Definitions:

The Card Driven Wargame is a term used to describe games descendant from the system created by Mark Herman for his Avalon Hill game We The People in the late 90s. Since then the game system has been used by a number of designers to cover a variety of historical conflicts at the strategic level. Over the last half a dozen years GMT has produced a majority of the CDG titles including such popular games as Paths of Glory, For The People and Barbarossa to Berlin.



Overview:

Shifting Sands is a strategic level game covering the battle for North Africa from 1940 to 1943. The game covers the entire campaign from the Italian invasions of 1940 to the American's entry into the conflict with Operation Torch. Even the famous generals make appearances with the Germans bringing in Rommel (Who can pummel the British pretty well) to Montgomery and finally Patton. The game truly spans the entire campagin with the map covering locations as far away as South Africa and India. Players must not only deal with fighting in North Africa but the Middle East and East Africa as well. Balancing your resources and having a good long term game plan is key to victory.

Game Mechanics:

The game mechanics for this game will be quickly recognized by those familiar with other CDGs, especially Paths of Glory and Barbarossa to Berlin. The game in fact uses the same combat system as those two earlier games and it's cards function the same as well. In fact if you are already familiar with either Paths of Glory or Barbarossa to Berlin then you already know 80% of the rules for this one.



The cards in Shifting Sands function in a variety of ways. Let's take a look at the card above as an example. This card can be used as an event by the British player to upgrade his tank units. The card can also be used for operation points aka OPs for selecting units to move and attack. The OPs number is the number in the top left. The card can also be used to strategically redeploy units. If used for that the player uses the same number as is used if the card is used for OPs. Finally the card can be used to give the player replacement points. Those are the numbers on the bottom. In this case the Allied player would get 2 replacement points for his British Units, 3 for his Commonwealth units and 1 for other allied Units such as the Greeks.

In terms of Combat rules the game is extremely simply. No huge counter stacks to deal with here. All a player does in this game for combat is add up his total attack points. Count up a few die modifiers and maybe one or two row shifts on the combat chart and that's it. Not a lot of heavy math or tall counter stacks to wade through so you won't be needing the tweezers for this one.



Components:

This is an area where Shifting Sands really shines. MMP has really done a knock out job on the components with this one. The counters are crisp, clear and easy to read. This is very helpful for those of us over 40 who tire of trying to read the small print we see on counters in some games.

 


As for the map it's very functional, colorful although a bit cluttered. My biggest complaint on the map is the huge space taken up by spots for the game's cards. The card slots take up a large amount of space and are a bit impractical as they are on the far side of the map from the German player. Far enough away that it's simply easier for the German player to keep all his cards on his side of the board someplace.

There is also a space for players to place markers on the board to help them keep track of how many and what type of actions they have taken each turn. The problem is once again the space for the Germans is almost all the way on the other side of the map making it's use difficult for that player. So all told while the map is esthetically pleasing it could have been made a bit more practical.

As for the cards...they're awesome. MMP did a bang up job on the cards for this game. The cards in this game are linen stock (I wish all card driven wargames used linen stock as it really adds a nice touch) and in terms of artwork on the cards...it's fantastic. From the colorful collage of Rommel and Monty on the backs to the nice historical photos with a touch of sepia tone tint on the front, these are the nicest cards I have seen for any card driven wargame.



Summery:

In the end if you are a CDG fan and especially one who enjoys WW II games then this is a game for you. The learning curve on this is not very steep, made better by the fact that the rule book is excellently written in terms of clarity and easy of use. Play time with 2 experienced players should be in the area of 3-4 hours making it a good evening's play without going into the wee hours of the morning.

I rate this game a 10
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I played it with my friend when it first came out. He loves PoG and loved this game as well. I liked it but as I don't know the PoG system it was too steep a learning curve. Neat stuff going on at Tobruk.
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Steve
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Lubbock
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Really, really close to buying this one, I'm head over heels for PoG. Thanks for the recommendation/review.
 
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William Crispin
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Wilmington
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Own it but have not gotten it on the table yet. Production values are top-notch. Rules are well written and clear. Looking forward to playing it. Thanks for the detailed review.
 
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Steve Bernhardt
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saratoga springs
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I'm not a fan of CDG's for the most part, but I really think this game is excellent. I retired Rommel in the Desert after finding this one! It has the advantage of having a reasonable play-time and lots of decisions. It has no effect on gameplay, but I think the art on the backs of the cards is really garish though. The counter-art and especially the pictures on the other "business" side of the cards are excellent.
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Jeffrey D Myers
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Los Ranchos
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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Note that a draft of the Living Rules should be up soon in the game's ConsimWorld folder....
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Tom Hudson
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There are two trends in CDGs. Games like Wilderness War and PoG are good games that happen to use the cards to add spice and tension, much like the roundel in Antike (use your turn to move/fight or produce something instead).

The other trend (regrettable in my view) emphasizes card play over everything else, which results in total chaos. Wellington comes to mind—

“POW, Wellington is superman!”
“ZAP, Wellington is a hopeless buffoon!”

To say “If you like CDGs, you’ll like Shifting Sands” doesn’t tell me much. Is this game closer to Wilderness War (the best of the CDGs imho), or Wellington?
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Steve Hope
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I think this is an excellent game. I haven't played Wellington, but I would guess SS is closer to WW and PoG. Having said that, the randomness of the card draw CAN significantly impact the outcome of the game--just not by turning leaders into supermen/buffoons. No moreso than WW, however, and probably less because of the separate decks.
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Jim Ruddy
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Thanks for the review, I've bumped Shifting Sands up in my wishlist.
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Mike Rinella wrote:
A good review, thanks. Not that anyone should be surprised I'd say that. laugh

The places on the map to hold the cards was a noble experiment. Many people complained about not having a place to put the card decks when PoG came out back in 1999. So SS originally had spaces on the north and south halfs (halves?) of the map for players to keep their cards. But mid-way through the map got redesigned and the resulting compromise is what you see in the published game. We realized it wasn't perfect, but felt it was serviceable. However, I do not intend to repeat this particular experiment on the SS sequel.

Living Rules: these will be posted by the end of March, absolute latest. The file is done, but some issue with image compression is making the PDF file larger than expected.

Michael Rinella
Designer, Shifting Sands


You're out in Albany, cool. I like your top ten list. You have excellent taste in games.

The production on SS is definitely top notch and I was drooling for this game with the years of advertisements that proceeded it. Just wish I had more time for gaming to master this one.
 
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Steve
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Lubbock
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By the by, you should ask an admin to give you the game designer badge here.

edit: grammar
 
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Bryan Spellman
United States
Fishers
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WOW, great review, it is on sale at MMP right now and I will pick it up and share with the group...

this site and you are terrible for making me want to buy so many games. In the past month I got ASLSK1,2,3 Wings of War, 3DoG and now Shifting Sands....shame on you ;-)
 
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Jeffrey D Myers
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We are but mere soldiers for the U.S. economy....
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Brandon Pennington
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Any news on the sequel to this? At least the subject?
 
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Michael Rinella
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I have been working on a sequel to Shifting Sands since 2007 but my rule of thumb is "one design to a publisher" and MMP has been in possession of an area-movement game of mine since shortly after Shifting Sands came out. So I've moved on, publishing games with ATO Magazine, Battles Magazine, and Worthington Games. I currently have works in the pipeline with with ATO and Worthington.

The sequel has the working title of Festung Europa: The War in Western Europe 1943-1945. This game covers the war in Sicily, Italy, and France after the fall of Tunis in North Africa. There is much more to it that that though. The map spans from Norway to Sicily, and from France to what will become East Germany. The design is about half finished. I am not sure if this will ever be finished, and if it is who will publish it. MMP has shown no interest in doing another card-driven game with me. It may have to be another publisher.
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Talorien
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Noooo now this is on my (ever growing) wishlist.
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Michael Rinella
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Which game: Shifting Sands or the sequel?
 
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Michael Rinella
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The sequel to SHS is currently under contract with Compass Games.
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Jeffrey D Myers
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"Always rely upon a happy mind alone." Geshe Chekhawa.
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Huzzah!
 
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