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Richard III: The Wars of the Roses» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The king's name is a tower of strength: a review of Richard III rss

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Severus Snape
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Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York
; Act I, Scene 1

Introduction:

Richard III is Columbia Games’ take on The Wars of the Roses, which lasted roughly 1449-1487, depending on who is doing the math and why. Being from Columbia, it must be a block game; and it is. A block game, that is.

To like this game, it helps to have an interest in one or more of the following:

Jerry Taylor’s previous fine work
The stolid and solid block “wargame”
The historical period
A design that seems rather simple without being simplistic

Otherwise, this might not be a game you will enjoy.

Because others have done it often, and done it well, I am not going to describe the basic mechanics of the game, and how it works, except when I offer my Mandarin-like opinion, when needed, upon said mechanics. For what has to pass as a book review, designed as a game review, and one that both inspires and annoys, check out http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/468642/so-youre-wonderin...

It is one of the best reviews ever done, if not the best ever, on BGG. One cannot hope to top it in terms of helpful content. The only reason for me, or anyone else, to write a review on Richard III is to offer my own view of the game.

What were you snarling all before I came,
Ready to catch each other by the throat,
And turn you all your hatred now on me?
Act I, Scene 3

Components:

1) Map[/u]

The images on BGG do not do the map design justice. I am a fan of both hex-grid maps and area maps; I’m rather “map-flexible,” you might say. That being said, this is perhaps the finest area map design I have ever seen; given the quality of maps in recent years, off-set by some lu-lu’s, that is saying something. Having said something, it is an amazing combination of artistic beauty and game functionality. I would consider using it with Charles Vasey’s Unhappy King Charles, but given Charles’ penchant for shooting his critics, even when they are constructive and love his designs, he might just fly to the New World and do it. Shoot me, that is.

2) Blocks

The blocks are your standard Columbia set of wooden blocks, with one block extra for each side. It used to be you would get two extra blocks, but, hey, times are tough these days, and what’s the harm in putting a wooden block maker out of work, now and then, if it keeps the profits rolling in, and the designs churning out?

3) What goes on the blocks—the stickers

The stickers, which represent the nobles, as well as other forces, are mostly bright and colourful, adding good, functional, flair to the game. Are the stickers representing the different noble houses accurate? That is for someone else—someone who knows his or her business—to say. But I doubt that Jerry Taylor would allow anything to just be slapped on. Tom Dalgliesh might. But Jerry Taylor would not.

4) The Rules

Rulebooks have always been a strength and weakness in Columbia designs. Always. In order to keep it short (cheap) and simple (cheap), Columbia keeps it . . . cheap. Eight pages are never, never, enough to cover the situations gamers will entail. And we are not talking wacko, one in a thousand type situations, but things that you will find in your first, second or third play. There’s not enough space for examples or explanations. Here’s an idea: how about if less space is used for pen & ink drawings of historical characters, and more space given to rules and examples?

Despite these criticisms, the game is playable out of the box, if you are willing to be patient, and look at the rule threads on BGG and elsewhere. And what is true for Richard III is true for many (how many?) wargame designs (which ones?); but this should not be used as an excuse to continue making the same eight-page mistakes, design after design.

But, soft! here come my executioners.
How now, my hardy, stout resolved mates!
Are you now going to dispatch this deed?
Act I, Scene 3

The Mechanicals

1) The Cards

If you have read the reviews that cover the gameplay in detail, you know how the cards word, with each player being dealt seven, etc. The cards are among the most boring to date; I guess I am spoiled on GMT CDG’s and their colour-coated goodness. The event cards, taken on their own, make The Wars of the Roses out to be a terribly drab affair; my theory is Jerry Taylor had someone by the name of Mark Herman do the cards. That’s how dull and drab and historically lifeless they are. From the moment you deal them, historicity goes on life-support.

Setting aside that nagging aspect, do the cards work to make the game a game? Yes. The game is fun to play, in spite of the cards, not because of the cards. Your choices are limited. The cards are numbered (in more ways than one). The events matter, drab though they are at dragging in any accidental history. If both sides get roughly even hands, the excitement builds because of the order in which each side choose to play the cards. Mulligans are a possibility, but you can be one point shy of being allowed to call a misdeal and get hammered by your opponent.

One has to learn to make the best of the hand one is dealt. Given the card design and card designs, one has been forewarned.

To thee, that hast nor honesty nor grace.
When have I injured thee? when done thee wrong?
Or thee? or thee? or any of your faction?
A plague upon you all!
Act I, Scene 3

2) Combat

Only those who live in caves, or who don’t play Columbia games—take your pick—are not familiar with Columbia’s fighting alphabet system. If your unit is rated an “A,” it goes before those rated “B,” and so forth. Defenders rated “A” go before all other attackers. It is a simple way to reflect the quality and type of units available to both sides.
Along with the fighting alphabet comes the requisite “bucket-o-dice” system loved and hated by everyone since the beginning of time, or the creation of RISK. But whose counting? The dice. That is. Columbia blocks, having four sides—it’s funny how they always have four sides, isn’t it—allow for up to four dice to be rolled. I sound like a rulebook now. Don’t I? A sarcastic rulebook, but a rulebook nevertheless.

The main reason why I am telling you what you already know, unless we go back to that cave or those who don’t play Columbia games’ thing, is this “tried and true” formula for combat in Columbia games is as wooden as the blocks themselves. “Tried and true” has become “tired and don’t ask me for fresh ideas as long as people continue to buy my games.”
It is time to blow up this formula and blow it up. Real good. Perhaps the wheel cannot be reinvented. But what about the block?

So wise so young, they say, never do live long. Act III, Scene 1

3) Supply & Movement

These are both bones, or boneheads, of contention, depending on who you ask. Or read, if you’re on BGG.

Supply rules are so simple as to be either a stroke of genius or a stroke of lightning. Any more than four blocks in an area will cause attrition. Now, given this game’s scale—it has no scale; it’s an area map, and there is nothing remotely resembling a calendar for turn keeping—it makes sense to make it simple. Anything more than four and your troops start to go hungry. On the other hand, you have barren, if beautiful, God-forsaken areas, and rich areas, yet each can only supply four. How hard would it be to give each a number of units that can be supported? If this were done, how likely would it be that all the fighting take place in those areas, to the virtual exclusion of the others? Thus, there is a downside to not keeping it four. Still, could it be done as an optional rule, and then will see what happens?
Columbia movement has always been a bit whacked since Moses came down from the mountain with his two blocks. You can either move over a border four, three or two blocks, all based on the terrain. This can work in Eastfront or something on its scale, but, remember, Richard III has no true scale beyond the areas representing shires and the blocks representing heaven knows how many men; time is only measured by and with the cards. I can understand the frustration of those who would argue that if you can move it there, then move it there; forget the border baffiness. Yet, there is a method to the Taylor madness because that which defies logic, or history, works well in practice, otherwise known as Richard III.

Clarification Areas that contain cities can supply five units; there are seven cities on the map.

Off with his head! Act III, Scene 4

4) Those nasty, no-good, two-faced rat-pack of nobles

When it comes to those nobles that can switch sides in a battle, yes, it can be decisive, fun and annoying. But don’t expect for history to be repeated (more on that later). If Edward IV, the Earl of March, becomes Edward IV and acts like the historical Edward IV, it is only a matter of time before Warwick discovers his “inner-Lancaster,” or finds what he once had, once upon a time, before he got greedy. But then he was born greedy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Warwick; who cannot love him? My point is that historical reality is most unlikely for this cast of characters. This is not a game-breaker unless you want a replay of the history books, rather than a game. Speaking of matters historical . . .

Richard III and Questions of History

An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told. Act IV, Scene 4

So, Jerry Taylor, far from an illiterate fellow be he, reads his history books. And he reads one history book in particular on the subject in question; the book in question being Christine Carpenter’s The Wars of the Roses: Politics and the Constitution of England, 1437-1509, and shazaam! One book from 1997 overturns decades of previous historical thinking. Combine this one discovery-between-the-pages with Taylor’s other moment of epiphany—that Richard III is not Avalon Hill’s Kingmaker—and we have his take on the Wars of the Roses.

Jerry Taylor clearly has not learned the most important lesson of history and wargame design, which is that history is written by Mark Herman, and everybody else. Along with this gem of insight, let’s toss in a few more caveats. First, be cautious of Carpenter in the same way that you would be cautious of any other writer who claims to overturn the past. Thank goodness new history books continue to be written or life would be even more drab than the cards in Richard III. But there are other voices in the mix dealing with the question of was the tail (the nobles) wagging the dog (the Yorkist or Lancasterian king or wannabeking)? It is a role ideally suited for the likes of a Warwick, or so it seems to me. I still need to return and read my Hicks, both pre and post Carpenter, for his take on bastard feudalism and the like. Taylor needs to read his Hicks and maybe his view of Henry VI—Taylor takes the popular view that Henry is, for the most part, a write-off—will find a epiphany fit for a king looking for his proper place in history books and game designs.

If you are wondering whether Richard III is an accurate simulation of the Wars of the Roses, you can either take a driving tour, as a couple of BGG geeks did, and, who, much to their dismay, found that the tour was nothing at all like the game. Or was it the other way round? Or you can read any of the fair to middling books that cover the whole history. Or you can read any of the excellent books that cover the history in parts or people, with either of the recent books on Warwick the Kingmaker as good places to start. Those and some of the battle books—it is a piece of English history that seems neglected compared to other parts—will tell you in no time at all that Richard III is not a historical simulation of the Wars of the Roses. But, then, it was never designed as such.

What Richard III is is an enjoyable and challenging game. The historical theme is tacked on in broad strokes, beginning with that beautiful area map, and adds to the enjoyment. Don’t play it for history; don’t criticize it, too much—okay, criticize it some—because it does not match up to what it could be as history. Just get in to the dice fest, hold your seven cards close to your vest, and have fun.

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! Act V, Scene 4

Play Balance

Once you realize you are not reenacting the Wars of the Roses, more practical questions arise for those who want to actually play and enjoy the game. Questions like, is the game balanced between the forces representing Lancaster and those representing York? Read some of the threads on BGG. Based on my take of the discussion, this seems to be the question. Can both sides win at this? Does Lancaster have a chance? Or is this the most lop-sided loopy campaign since Richard H. Berg’s latest design on Alexander the Great versus the Persians? Or any of his Alex designs, for that matter.

My short—short?!—answer is that the York forces have a definite edge at the beginning of the game. However, whether this edge will be decisive enough to make for a York victory depends on how the rest of the game plays. Have a strong advantage at the start is not the same as having the stars set the Earl of March’s destiny. It is sort of like fate and freewill. Fate leans in one direction, but freewill can overturn things, and do it in a jiffy. Or, fate can roll the wheels of destiny and crush the red roses underneath.

For those of you chirping over Richard III’s apparent lack of history--I cannot believe the guy who rates it a six, in part, because it has several “fiddly rules that provide chrome/historical flavor.” What are they putting in German beer these days? Must be more than hops. How about if he sends me his copy of Richard III because it is clearly a different game from the one I bought—it is historically accurate to give York this edge at the start of the game. Any player who is exiled has a critical advantage over his or her opponent: invasion! You can land almost anywhere you want because your opponent cannot set up any sort of Festung Englander against you.

York and the white rose begins the game united in France and Ireland, with the capability to land strong forces on any coast. The Lancaster side is spread out because the nobles are in their shires. It sounds much like the history. Chase out Lancaster, and the roles are reversed (though York has the ability to make London, or any royal area, much stronger than Lancaster can at the beginning of a campaign; but the game is more than London).

You can be York and roll lousy dice. You can be Lancaster and get a hand one short of a mulligan. You can find all sort of reasons to whine about Richard III. But don’t make a lack of play balance one of them. Play knowing who has the edge. Play smarter.

Addendum:

One of the nifty things about the game is what happens during the Political Turn. During this part of the game, a Usurpation check is made based on each sides total number of nobles, with churchmen and London counting as one each for the controlling side. Either York or Lancaster goes in to exile. Both sides have to move their nobles to exile, crown or appropriate shield areas. This is neat because it helps prevent one side from keeping his or her forces in a totally "ideal" set up. It allows each side a fighting chance, helping in play balance.

A last word, of sorts

I have been burned by block games as of late. Hellenes and Athens & Sparta are both disappointing duds. Richard III is neither of these major misses. Despite those things that annoy me, as mentioned above, it is fun to play and replay. We await a design on the Wars of the Roses that combines both solid history with solid enjoyment. In the meantime, we can just settle for the fun part of the equation, and Richard III is that. And besides that, it is pretty; don't forget the map. Now, where did I leave my copy of Charles the V's Unhappy King Charles?

edited for clarification and addendum material.
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micah qs
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Just in case anyone takes him at his word - Hellenes is not a disappointing dud.

Looking at bentlarsen's comments for Hellenes we find some interesting contradictions to his view of Richard III. He calls the cards in Hellenes "dull and predictable" even though Hellenes offers more variety and more choice when compared to Richard III's cards. He also complains about "historical fuzziness" in Hellenes while the historical problems in Richard III shouldn't be criticized too much. Finally he knocks Richard III for reusing the same old Columbia battle resolution and wishes someone would change it up - but in Hellenes which adds a routing mechanic and different rules for siege combat, he complains about these additions.

I am confused by what bentlarsen really wants from a good block wargame.

Interesting review, it was a good read but I couldn't help but be bothered by your unnecessary putting down of Hellenes and seeming disparity between your opinions on these 2 games. Don't view this as a personal attack - if you are going to make such strong statements and opinionated postings then you should expect strong opinions in return.
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Jay Sheely
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I played it once at the wargame club a couple of weeks ago and head a great time. I picked up a copy shortly after. Not perfect but good enough for some good replayable fun. (Edit: played Richard III, not Hellenes)

It's extremely similar to Hammer of the Scots, only I liked it more. I felt like it was more fluid and not entirely dependent on holding certain areas.

Anyways, I dig it. It's simple and looks good.

Thanks for the review! Great game.
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Jon
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Very good review, Prof Snape. It is always a pleasure to read your work.

Given my experience with the game, which is unfortunately limited, I would agree with much of what you said. Especially when you mentioned the invasion capability. I think that the flexibility which this mechanic provides drives the narrative of the game and sustains its replayability. It is, for me, the best feature of the game.

I tend to place RIII in my beer and pretzels category of games. I know that people define that term differently. For me, it means relatively simple turns, quick playing and just enough chrome to make it fun. The key is "fun". If I want something edging towards the simulation side of the sliding scale, I can always drag out one of my La Bat games. If I want something where I can just pin my ears back and roll some dice, RIII fits that bill nicely. Given that I can play this game in an evening without any problem, all the better.

I see the block "issue" as one done for simplicity's sake. Gotta fit the rules into eight pages after all. However, sometimes I do emit a quiet sigh when I open up a new Columbia Games product and see the all too familiar combat mechanic. I suppose the twist in this game lies outside of the alphanumeric conjuring, but rather with the potential for nobles to stab one in the back during the fight. Oh, and the ability of heirs to target their victims.

The homogeneous nature of the supply ability of the regions does not bother me. I can see the limitation on movement into those areas to not just reflect the physical issue of moving an army, but also the difficulty of moving supplies in there to sustain the troops. So, you might be able to get four blocks into Upper Codswallop, but it will take two turns when doing so from Lower Coswallop. Or some such...I also like to drink scotch when I play....it helps to smooth things out and keep everything "good".

I am curious about the upcoming Crown of Roses as it too uses blocks, but I believe in a different manner. I might be wrong about that. Time will tell. I do suspect that it will be a more accurate, if one can apply that word, simulation.
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Jon
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Man or Astroman wrote:
...It's extremely similar to Hammer of the Scots, only I liked it more. I felt like it was more fluid and not entirely dependent on holding certain areas....


I get the feeling this comparison will turn into the Columbia Games version of "Betty or Veronica?".



Actually, I think all lighter CG games will be judged as to how it compares to HotS eventually.
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Paul Kemp
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I love to play these games...but have to agree that things are looking a little repetitive with a tweak. Some of the tweaks are great, but something is missing. Maybe Columbia game owners are longing for something with a bit more depth, I can say.

Played Julius Caesar two weeks back and that just reiterated to me that I will play these variants of HoTS but owning them is less appealing. I really enjoyed JC and like & own RIII, but am less inclined to buy another game in this vein.

Despite this, the lack of upcoming games from Columbia is disturbing.
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St.John Wright
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I have found the over-dependence on pure luck in combat to ruin the game. Without a CRT to moderate the outcome of a battle, it is perfectly possible for a stack of strong forces to be decimated, destroyed and even annihilated by a weaker force at little cost to itself whatsoever.

And that's why I tore up my rulebook, which was a shame.
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Michael
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Capt_S wrote:


I am curious about the upcoming Crown of Roses as it too uses blocks, but I believe in a different manner. I might be wrong about that. Time will tell. I do suspect that it will be a more accurate, if one can apply that word, simulation.


While I can't speak to the most recent playtest versions, but I wouldn't describe Crown of Roses as a simulation at all. It may turn out to be a fun game, but don't get your hopes set that it will be an accurate simulation of the WoR.
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C Sandifer
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Pulinski wrote:
Despite this, the lack of upcoming games from Columbia is disturbing.


Shiloh was just released, of course. And according to the Columbia games forums, Shenandoah is the next release. Hopefully we'll see Shenandoah in late 2011.
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Severus Snape
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"So teach us to number our days, that we may get us an heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 RV
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quietstorm wrote:
Just in case anyone takes him at his word - Hellenes is not a disappointing dud.

Looking at bentlarsen's comments for Hellenes we find some interesting contradictions to his view of Richard III. He calls the cards in Hellenes "dull and predictable" even though Hellenes offers more variety and more choice when compared to Richard III's cards. He also complains about "historical fuzziness" in Hellenes while the historical problems in Richard III shouldn't be criticized too much. Finally he knocks Richard III for reusing the same old Columbia battle resolution and wishes someone would change it up - but in Hellenes which adds a routing mechanic and different rules for siege combat, he complains about these additions.

I am confused by what bentlarsen really wants from a good block wargame.

Interesting review, it was a good read but I couldn't help but be bothered by your unnecessary putting down of Hellenes and seeming disparity between your opinions on these 2 games. Don't view this as a personal attack - if you are going to make such strong statements and opinionated postings then you should expect strong opinions in return.


No, I sense no personal attack. My inconsistancies--apparent and otherwise--between Hellenes and Richard III have to do with space considerations. I believe my Hellenes' comments were stuck within the short span of a ratings' box. If, or when, I write a full review of Hellenes I would explain my take on the pros and cons with more depth.

In complaning about Hellenes' historical fuzziness, did I go too far? Certainly, Richard III is as fuzzy as a Georgia peach when it comes to any semblance of historical accuracy; once you get past the names, place and proper, what do you have left?

I will post my comments about the Hellenes' combat system on the Hellenes' page, lest it overtake what I hope will be a discussion about Richard III.

For a quick reply to "what do I want in a blockgame?" how about EastFront II? Of course, it sets a bar for what follows is, and this is both good and bad because we seemed to be locked in to a formula for Columbia block games.

One fundamental difference between Richard III and Hellenes is that the former if fun and the latter is a duddly disappointment of dullness.

Great designers like Craig and Jerry will always carry the masses, no matter what they put on the box. They have earned a loyal following; they could put turds in a box and sell it as turns in a box and some fruity geek would run a twenty page review, complete with photos. Then someone would come along and add optional rules. And still more photos.

goo
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Severus Snape
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"So teach us to number our days, that we may get us an heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12 RV
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SommeGrandads wrote:
I have found the over-dependence on pure luck in combat to ruin the game. Without a CRT to moderate the outcome of a battle, it is perfectly possible for a stack of strong forces to be decimated, destroyed and even annihilated by a weaker force at little cost to itself whatsoever.

And that's why I tore up my rulebook, which was a shame.


Adam, you should have better access to the sources and answers for my question, but in the Wars of the Roses are there examples of smaller forces defeating larger, or significantly larger, ones? Is it possible for the weak side to win a battle because there are examples in the history of the Wars of the Roses?

The roll of the dice always adds the luck element; and, boy & howdy, has this been debated on BGG. It does add fun to Richard III, as well as frustration.

Can Lancaster win without the better dice?

goo

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Severus Snape
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Quote:
I tend to place RIII in my beer and pretzels category of games. I know that people define that term differently. For me, it means relatively simple turns, quick playing and just enough chrome to make it fun. The key is "fun". If I want something edging towards the simulation side of the sliding scale, I can always drag out one of my La Bat games. If I want something where I can just pin my ears back and roll some dice, RIII fits that bill nicely. Given that I can play this game in an evening without any problem, all the better
.

Jon, some folks have talked about the "tactics" in Richard III. What do you see as tactical about the game? Second, how would you define "strategy" for what you call a beer and pretzel game? Last, how tactical and strategical does a game have to get, short of the La Bat series, to take it out of the realm of Canadian beer and Penn pretzels (the thick, hardy, jaw-breakers)?

goo



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Gilbert Collins
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Richard III: The Wars of the Roses » Forums » Reviews
Re: The king's name is a tower of strength: a review of Richard III
For the 'War of the Roses' I'm completely out of my comfort zone here. I don't have any interest in the period. I do think that the reviews here are very well done, concerning the game though.

But I couldn't help but chime in a bit, since some of the criticisms, suggestions or threads, whatever, concern the Columbia games in general and their 'systems' which are becoming a little generic.

True, there have been improvements over the years in some areas. After all the system has matured quite a bit from "War of 1812" and "Quebec 1759". For my part though, I was about ready to leave the Columbia Games for good after the release of "Athens and Sparta". (No, I did not do a review of it). That game had many of the problems that have turned me off from the Columbia games over the years.

One of the problems that keeps recurring in all of the titles are the maps, which are too small for the number of blocks used in a typical game. This was a problem as far back as "Bobby Lee", where the Army of Northern Virginia couldn't even fit into a hex. This recurred again in 'Liberty' and once more appeared in "Athens and Sparta". It was after that title that I decided to chuck all of the Columbia Games.

When "Julius Caesar" came out, I couldn't resist the title, so I gave them one more chance. I'm glad that I did. It is a terrific game. The 'block clutter' could be better with a larger map but it doesn't look like any time soon that Columbia will be changing their policy on that.

As a curiousity how is the 'block clutter' in Richard the III?


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Severus Snape
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Quote:
One of the problems that keeps recurring in all of the titles are the maps, which are too small for the number of blocks used in a typical game. This was a problem as far back as "Bobby Lee", where the Army of Northern Virginia couldn't even fit into a hex. This recurred again in 'Liberty' and once more appeared in "Athens and Sparta". It was after that title that I decided to chuck all of the Columbia Games.

When "Julius Caesar" came out, I couldn't resist the title, so I gave them one more chance. I'm glad that I did. It is a terrific game. The 'block clutter' could be better with a larger map but it doesn't look like any time soon that Columbia will be changing their policy on that.

As a curiousity how is the 'block clutter' in Richard the III?


Gilbert, thanks for the reminder of a nagging aspect of the usual Columbia design: the hexes are too small for the number of blocks. This is true even--especially--with EastFront.

However, because Richard III uses an area map, block clutter does not appear to be a problem.

goo

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Jon
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Now you are making me think a bit and it is early in the morning here and I have not had my tea!

I like your line of questioning as it is always good to self-examine one's position. Unfortunately, the questions lie in that fuzzy world of defining tactics and strategy. These definitions are easier for me in something like La Batt where I can differentiate between the terms with some comfort. But where does that line/wall lie in a game like RIII?

Hmmmm...well, I suppose one could have a very narrow definition for tactics in RIII as any action that takes place within a combat/battle sequence. Since you are quite restricted in what actions are possible given the alphanumeric methodology employed, are there any real decisions to make once battle is joined? I suppose using heirs to go after specific units is a battle tactic as would bribing. I also would count knowing when to skedaddle as a tactic. None are really that interesting or involved though despite being kind of cool.

Rather, I think that in a game like this much of the tactical nature of it resides at a higher level. This is due to its scale and overall design. Here, tactics lie more in the realm of area control and timing. It actually sounds weird to me when I type this, but that is where my thoughts lie. What solidifies this in my mind is the lessons I learned from my first playing of the game. I was York and I was shellacked. Big time. I took the game home and spent the next week or two trying to determine what went wrong and how to go about a feasible York strategy. (Aside: It is a sign of a good game that an initial beating does not discourage a person and taint their view of the product, but rather elicits a deeper interest in it). That meant rereading the rules and realizing such things as the importance of denying area access to the enemy (to prevent his acquiring powerful nobles and also blocking access), targeting rose nobles (they cannot return to the fight), heir removal, general block placement, etc..

Well, that was certainly a big bag of wind!

If strategy is the plan to achieve a goal and tactics are the means to implement that plan, then I would state that:

Goal: To become Le Roi by the end of the third campaign.

Strategy: To be crowned King no earlier than the end of the second campaign, but preferably only the third. To use the early turns to take away the opponents ability to fight/resist by denying his access to areas where he can recruit nobles while at the same time securing my strongest areas. Also, to target enemy rose nobles and heirs.

Tactics: The nuts and bolts of implementating the strategy. Determining which areas to take over and when, where to invade, which blocks to group together and move, which nobles to target, battle actions, etc..

For me, "beer and pretzel" is not a denigrating term. Far, far from it. To broaden my definition, it is a relatively brief game which you actually play more rather than refer to rules constantly, is not overly taxing in its mechanics and is fun whereby there is enough chrome and thought required to be entertaining. Yep, I would put RIII in that category as I would also place a more straight-forward ASL scenario. I do not think strategy would differ much in a b&p game over a heavier game given how I see the terms. Rather, it is the tactics that would be different. A b&p game would allow for quick analysis of the map situation and the application of the tactics to employ. In a heavy game, this is a much slower, time consuming and fatiguing operation.

And I think that answers your third query also. It is not really the level of strategic thought that lifts a game out of the b&p category for me. Even in some ways it is not the tactical "eureka" that you come up with during play. Rather it is the means to perform the tactics that is the determining factor. Mechanics in other words. If the mechanics/rules get in the way of quick tactical implementation, then 'tis not a b&p. Also, the size of the game, which dictates the number of actions needed per turn, would be a factor. Terrible Swift Sword has relatively simple mechanics, but the sheer size of the game means it is not a b&p.

Sorry for the long winded response, but I enjoyed the yammering. Except that my fingers hurt and I still haven't had my tea.

How would you answer those same questions regarding RIII?
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...I will post my comments about the Hellenes' combat system on the Hellenes' page, lest it overtake what I hope will be a discussion about Richard III...


Just a quick dip into that pool.

I found that the seven cards employed during a RIII campaign gives the game more flexibility. In "Hellenes", you have five cards per year, one of which is a tosser so really just four to implement your plan. When viewed within the microcosm of a card hand, this is a big difference between the two games. But, they are unique entities and different strokes for different folks.

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I have found the over-dependence on pure luck in combat to ruin the game. Without a CRT to moderate the outcome of a battle, it is perfectly possible for a stack of strong forces to be decimated, destroyed and even annihilated by a weaker force at little cost to itself whatsoever.


Luck in and of itself does not bother me in any wargame. The degree to which luck determines a result can. If a small force always had the same chance to defeat a large force in RIII, I would have a problem with that. Since that is not the case then I am happy. For that matter, I would not enjoy a game where there was no chance for a smaller force to defeat a larger one.

The alphanumeric combat employed in RIII means that a smaller yet better force versus a larger but poorer enemy approaches a more even fight than if the smaller force were equally poor. RIII also includes the ability to change the battle's result by bribery and unit targeting.
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Quote:
Hmmmm...well, I suppose one could have a very narrow definition for tactics in RIII as any action that takes place within a combat/battle sequence. Since you are quite restricted in what actions are possible given the alphanumeric methodology employed, are there any real decisions to make once battle is joined? I suppose using heirs to go after specific units is a battle tactic as would bribing. I also would count knowing when to skedaddle as a tactic. None are really that interesting or involved though despite being kind of cool.

Rather, I think that in a game like this much of the tactical nature of it resides at a higher level. This is due to its scale and overall design. Here, tactics lie more in the realm of area control and timing. It actually sounds weird to me when I type this, but that is where my thoughts lie. What solidifies this in my mind is the lessons I learned from my first playing of the game. I was York and I was shellacked. Big time. I took the game home and spent the next week or two trying to determine what went wrong and how to go about a feasible York strategy. (Aside: It is a sign of a good game that an initial beating does not discourage a person and taint their view of the product, but rather elicits a deeper interest in it). That meant rereading the rules and realizing such things as the importance of denying area access to the enemy (to prevent his acquiring powerful nobles and also blocking access), targeting rose nobles (they cannot return to the fight), heir removal, general block placement, etc..


Jon, you have some interesting things here. How can something be not interesting or involved, but still be "cool"? Is it in the graphics, the subjective, overall feel of Richard III? Playing with a first class board and sturdy wooden blocks help add flavour, but the cards detract. How does this equate with cool?

Given its strategic nature, the area map, the things you describe as tactics would be . . . what? Strategy, given the map scale? But it is legitimate, and practical--otherwise, how could we find the terms with which to communicate?--to describe these broad strategic strokes in terms of tactics.

That being said, what "strategy" does each side employ, from campaign to campaign, as king or exile?

goo
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How can something be not interesting or involved, but still be "cool"? Is it in the graphics, the subjective, overall feel of Richard III? Playing with a first class board and sturdy wooden blocks help add flavour, but the cards detract. How does this equate with cool?


I fear that I did not explain myself well. By "uninteresting", I was referring to the Defender A, Attacker A, Defender B, etc. alphanumeric combat that this game and many others have. Familiarity can breed not contempt in this case, but rather "meh". The "cool" I was alluding to was the little bits of chrome that RIII has in its combat to jazz it up a bit. That is, the heir targeting and the betrayal possibilities. I do not think RIII is uninteresting overall; not in the slightest.

Since you mention the blocks, I must admit they look rather sharp. Especially the white ones for some reason (probably because they are only in RIII that I know of and also my odd interest in 18th century Hapsburg white uniforms...love my BAR games...).

Quote:
Given its strategic nature, the area map, the things you describe as tactics would be . . . what? Strategy, given the map scale? But it is legitimate, and practical--otherwise, how could we find the terms with which to communicate?--to describe these broad strategic strokes in terms of tactics.


You hit the nail on the head. I think defining just what is tactics and what is strategy is the tricky bit with this game and others like it such as HotS. In part this is due to scale, in part due to using area movement as a design feature and in part due to the mechanics. I think you could have 50 wargamers in a room debating these terms in general and you would end up with 50 different opinions, at least in the details.

I think that this game jolts both terms up a notch into a higher or broader outlook than they normally live in. The strategy sort of rests in the area of what one might term "grand strategy" in other games whereas the tactics are a blend of genuine tactics (the combat decisions) and strategic movement (I am moving this block to Wessex).

For example, I might say that my strategy as York is twofold: 1) Secure London and establish a footing in the south during the first campaign. 2) Expand from there to deny Lancastrian recruiting areas in the second and third campaigns such that I have enough support to be named King by the end of the game.

I think this can resonably be called a "strategy" or "grand strategy" or whatever. Implementing this plan would entail the tactical level which in this game would mean picking landing areas, determining block arrangements, actions during combat, etc.. Tactics are a "smushing" of tactics and strategic maneuver.

At least that is how I see the terms in reference to RIII. The nitty gritty of moving Block A to Wessex is a tactical maneuver given the scale and the area movement.

Another thing to consider is just where does card play fit into this schema? Does card play entail strategy or tactics? Hmmm...I think I will err on the side of tactics. Determining when to play a card and how is just too entwined with the board machinations. However, the overall card hand in and of itself bears a direct impact on your strategic plans. Could a bad hand drastically impact your strategic goals? Yes.

Just one person's opinion...

Quote:
That being said, what "strategy" does each side employ, from campaign to campaign, as king or exile?


You are asking the wrong person....I struggle to win with York, the supposed favoured side in this game. LOL!

Honestly, I wish I knew. When I first delved into the game I pursued the strategy mentioned above to devastating effect...on me. I am of the thought now that York needs to go about a northeastern strategy that takes advantage of not only the naval movement, but also his strong noble support in those areas. It also puts his forces in range of some strong Lancastrian recruiting grounds, which with some clever tactical maneuvering could be denied to the King. Then build support and deny areas to the false King over time, I would not aim for York to become King in the first campaign (not realistic) or the second (too soon), but rather the third and final turn.

In general then, either side should aim to deny areas of support for the other side. I think this is the key to winning the game. I think attempting to kill off the opposing heirs would be extremely difficult.

So says the guy who never wins....



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Been mulling. How does this sound?

In the game of RIII:

Strategy - The campaign plan as formulated from the card hand in total.

Tactics - The actions taken through play of an individual card.

This would modify my previous position regarding strategy. Still thinking it over.
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Capt_S wrote:
Quote:
How can something be not interesting or involved, but still be "cool"? Is it in the graphics, the subjective, overall feel of Richard III? Playing with a first class board and sturdy wooden blocks help add flavour, but the cards detract. How does this equate with cool?


I fear that I did not explain myself well. By "uninteresting", I was referring to the Defender A, Attacker A, Defender B, etc. alphanumeric combat that this game and many others have. Familiarity can breed not contempt in this case, but rather "meh". The "cool" I was alluding to was the little bits of chrome that RIII has in its combat to jazz it up a bit. That is, the heir targeting and the betrayal possibilities. I do not think RIII is uninteresting overall; not in the slightest.

Since you mention the blocks, I must admit they look rather sharp. Especially the white ones for some reason (probably because they are only in RIII that I know of and also my odd interest in 18th century Hapsburg white uniforms...love my BAR games...).

Quote:
Given its strategic nature, the area map, the things you describe as tactics would be . . . what? Strategy, given the map scale? But it is legitimate, and practical--otherwise, how could we find the terms with which to communicate?--to describe these broad strategic strokes in terms of tactics.


You hit the nail on the head. I think defining just what is tactics and what is strategy is the tricky bit with this game and others like it such as HotS. In part this is due to scale, in part due to using area movement as a design feature and in part due to the mechanics. I think you could have 50 wargamers in a room debating these terms in general and you would end up with 50 different opinions, at least in the details.

I think that this game jolts both terms up a notch into a higher or broader outlook than they normally live in. The strategy sort of rests in the area of what one might term "grand strategy" in other games whereas the tactics are a blend of genuine tactics (the combat decisions) and strategic movement (I am moving this block to Wessex).

For example, I might say that my strategy as York is twofold: 1) Secure London and establish a footing in the south during the first campaign. 2) Expand from there to deny Lancastrian recruiting areas in the second and third campaigns such that I have enough support to be named King by the end of the game.

I think this can resonably be called a "strategy" or "grand strategy" or whatever. Implementing this plan would entail the tactical level which in this game would mean picking landing areas, determining block arrangements, actions during combat, etc.. Tactics are a "smushing" of tactics and strategic maneuver.

At least that is how I see the terms in reference to RIII. The nitty gritty of moving Block A to Wessex is a tactical maneuver given the scale and the area movement.

Another thing to consider is just where does card play fit into this schema? Does card play entail strategy or tactics? Hmmm...I think I will err on the side of tactics. Determining when to play a card and how is just too entwined with the board machinations. However, the overall card hand in and of itself bears a direct impact on your strategic plans. Could a bad hand drastically impact your strategic goals? Yes.

Just one person's opinion...

Quote:
That being said, what "strategy" does each side employ, from campaign to campaign, as king or exile?


You are asking the wrong person....I struggle to win with York, the supposed favoured side in this game. LOL!

Honestly, I wish I knew. When I first delved into the game I pursued the strategy mentioned above to devastating effect...on me. I am of the thought now that York needs to go about a northeastern strategy that takes advantage of not only the naval movement, but also his strong noble support in those areas. It also puts his forces in range of some strong Lancastrian recruiting grounds, which with some clever tactical maneuvering could be denied to the King. Then build support and deny areas to the false King over time, I would not aim for York to become King in the first campaign (not realistic) or the second (too soon), but rather the third and final turn.

In general then, either side should aim to deny areas of support for the other side. I think this is the key to winning the game. I think attempting to kill off the opposing heirs would be extremely difficult.

So says the guy who never wins....





Jon, there's a lot here to digest; this is good, we just both wish others would join in the discussion.

First, thanks for the clarification of what is or is not "uninteresting" and what is or is not "cool." I agree: the combat system, having been repeated since the dawn of time, or the creation of Columbia games, is old news and in need of fresh blood. I also like the bits of "chrome" that you like, though, surely, they are not so chromatic as to fall in to the too complex arena.

The white rose, the white labels and the Hapsburgs is rather strange and nifty, because, when it comes to the Napoleonic Wars, after Nappy himself, I am a huge fan of Archduke Charles and the Austrian forces. But that's for another discussion on another thread.

Your response to my questions about strategy and tactics fit well, in my experience, with games of this "scale," and are one reason why Richard III is fun. Since you mention Hellenes in another thread, why does what works for Richard III not work, or seem to not work, for Hellenes?

Lastly, how does Richard III rate compared to Kingmaker, once you "subtract" the multi-player aspect? In terms of history, as you, bright Canadian that you are, know it, how has the better grasp? This is a question I should raise as an independent thread.

Thanks, Jon, for making life and gaming a better experience.

goo


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Thank you for the kind words, but there is really no need to thank me as I enjoy a good discussion.



In Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War, I think experience is the key to appreciating it. True for any game, but if one comes from a background of playing Richard III: The Wars of the Roses, then adjusting to the former may not be that easy and potentially quite negative. In my opinion, this primarily falls into the lap of the number of cards playable per turn. There is a big difference between the seven allowed in RIII and the four in Hellenes. I think that can throw people off. Indeed, it felt suffocating to me in my first go around.

Oh well, I prefer to look at it as another challenge myself. Then again, I tend to see both games as dynamic puzzles. Making fewer cards means dealing with less grandious strategy perhaps? Sounds logical.

I won't even touch on the sacrifice aspect of that game. Indeed, that is for another thread.

I can only wish I had the experience with Kingmaker that would be required to answer your last question. I had a bid on a copy at a small convention, but lost out. Rats! I have played Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs. York...does that count? Ha! It is interesting that there are a number of games that have or are coming out dealing with this conflict. There are the three mentioned in this thread and also Sun of York, but the latter is battle specific and a reprint.

As an aside, during the last "The Messy Game Room" podcast, the hosts questioned which game they preferred, RIII or HotS. The section was brief and did not go into detail (they may have done so in previous episodes), but one liked HotS whereas the other enjoyed RIII more. Not sure why...
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Capt_S wrote:
There is a big difference between the seven allowed in RIII and the four in Hellenes.

You are dealt 6 cards in Hellenes. Of those 6 1 is "pre-turn" and one is "wintering". This however is not the same as getting 4 cards as Capt_S keeps implying. Each card also gives you the option of using ops points OR an event, while Richard doesn't give any choice for your cards. Isn't there a known problem with Richard III where if you get too many event cards in your 7 card draw you are basically forfeiting the game because you have no chance at keeping up for that round?
 
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Actually, I said five. And I wasn't implying it, I was stating it directly. I was also wrong...you do get six cards, not five as I mentioned.

However, the important part of my message was that I felt very restricted in the number of operations I could use. You only get to play four cards during the course of the year to carry out the actual move/combat of your plans as the first card is event/tribute and last is for the restrictive Winter phase. This latter is the one I had forgotten about. Four cards to "get it done" is not a lot if you are used to RIII, especially if you start to use those same Hellenes cards for Events and not OPs.

The overall effect on me, the first time Hellenes player, was one of restriction. As compared to RIII where I felt I had more ability to plan for more widesweeping campaigns. This is not a negative criticism of Hellenes (as I tried to state), but rather simply an observation via comparison. I like both games despite their differences.

The "bad hand" is a problem in most CDGs and can be exacerbated to some degree in those that use cards for just OPs or Events. In RIII. this is nullified in part by the mulligan rule.
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I have a Hellenes' review in the works, with maybe five pages completed. It goes into more detail, the kind I should have put into Richard III. Perhaps the difference is in liking one game and not liking the other. Life is in the way, but I will finish it.

goo
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While I accept that Columbia Games has a certain market they aim for I am not sure it is a market I am part of. I decided against buying RIII because it seemed the game had to be heavily scaled back and after reading the rules, which seemed to have been jammed in to a given space and compromises made, it just seemed like another generic game.

However the loss of me probably means three others who did buy it so its not a criticism. There is also a good chance I will buy this one day anyway, purely as a good game rather than a historical game.

I wonder if there is any room for a historical expansion.

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