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Subject: Manoeuvre: Hard to spell, great to play. rss

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James Smith
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The Game:
Manoeuvre is a light wargame for two players by Jeff Horger. It is set in the Napoleonic Era and takes around 60-90 minutes to play. The premise of the game is simple either eliminate five of the opponents eight units or control the most uncontested squares in the opponents half after each player has exhausted their card deck.

Comments about the components:
I generally couldn’t give a second thought to the component quality in a game, I always play a game for its play and its system (dexterity games of course are the exception). I will say for people that don’t like strong odours there is a potent smell coming out of some components in this game, I think it is the ink, but I am not sure. Yes the cards are a little small and are a bit to stiff to shuffle. However I think the chits are great at one inch square and the pictures on them remind me of Britain miniatures and each unit is depicted with its flag behind it. I don’t mind that the components are not at the high end of quality, because the gameplay makes up for it. Plus the classic game Go could be played on a sketched out grid in dirt with rabbit droppings as stones, so does that make it a bad game?



Basic Setup:
There are eight armies to choose from each with a different flavour and each requiring different skills to utilise them. Each of the eight armies has eight units which are a mix of infantry and cavalry and a deck of sixty cards. The sixty cards have 5 cards per unit and the twenty other cards are made up of cards that benefit the player but are not specific to any unit such as leaders, skirmish and supply cards. The brilliant thing about the armies is that some are easier to use than others and some are a bit more powerful than others too, which means that a player of twenty games can introduce a new player to the game and handicap themselves by taking a weaker force.

The game is played out on a board that is the same size as a chessboard 64 squares in an 8x8 configuration. The board though is made up of 4 4x4 squares laid out. There are 24 of these squares each with different terrain to make your own combination for the battle to take place on. These vary from boards that have very few landmarks and are predominantly plains, which give no bonus to combat, through to ones with a heap of forests for a +2 modifier and a couple of cities which give a +3 modifier.

The playing of the game is simple enough. First discard unwanted cards in your hand. Second draw cards from you deck until you have a hand of five cards. Third move one single unit their compliment of movement either one orthogonally adjacent square for infantry or two squares for cavalry. Fourth initiate and resolve combat if you want. Fifth is an optional restoration phase which can be used to play supply cards, play a card corresponding to a specific unit to restore that unit or play a leader card to attempt to restore a unit, you can also play a card to build a redoubt to increase a units combat value by +3. The game is very simple and the first few turns will go quickly as they generally only involve moving units into positions.

Combat:
The combat system is very good in this game, each unit has two combat values shown on its marker a value when it is full strength and a value on the reverse side when the unit is reduced. These values range from 8 for the strongest units to 2 for the weakest reduced units. To initiate a combat a player must play a unit card that corresponds to a unit that can attack in the turn. The card is played face up and will have an attack modifier in dice on the card e.g. 2d6. The defender has the option to play cards to bolster the defense of their unit or play a withdraw card, or alternatively they can choose not to play a card. Then the attacker has the option to play additional cards to boost the attack. Then the attacker rolls the dice and compares the values of the dice and adds them to the strength of the unit and any modifiers that may have been played and compares it to the modified defense value. If the attack total is less than the defense the attacker takes a hit. If the attack total is greater than the defense value but less than double the defense value the defender chooses whether their units retreats or takes a hit. In the event of the attack value being more than double but less than triple the defense value then the attacker makes the choice as to whether the defending unit retreats or takes a hit. If the attacker manages to get an attack total greater than triple and less than quadruple the defense value the defending unit retreats and takes a hit. Finally, if the attack value is greater than quadruple the defense value the defending unit is eliminated.



There is also a second type of combat, which involves cards with volley or bombardment on them. These cards are played as an attack, a bombardment has the added bonus that it can be played two squares away from the defending unit. The attack only compares the result of the dice roll which is typically a d10 roll and compares it to the defense value of the defending unit plus any terrain benefits, no additional cards can be played by either player. If the attack value is greater than the defense total the defending unit takes a hit. This opens up more decisions as a bombardment or volley is typically found on unit cards that also have a regular attack modifier, so the decision becomes do I use the card as a bombard, which typically has a wild swing of results, or do I play the attack value on the card and see what the opponent can do to defend against an attack.

The combat system deliberately favours the attacker, and a good player can pick battles that they are statistically going to win, more often than not. This may cause some problems for people, but remember combat in chess always favours the attacker. The system allows for many tough decisions for both the attacker and the defender. The attacker has to weigh up whether they want to use a card in an attack and then after that whether they want to add more cards to increase the likelihood of success but also that may not allow them to press on in the next turn with the same unit. The defender has to think whether they have the cards to defend and whether they want to use a card to defend, or to hope that the attack is not too successful and to use that same card in a counterattack in their turn. The decisions can cause much consternation and the player who can best manage these combats situations will ultimately be the victor.



My Thoughts:

This game is fantastic and what is amazing about it is that it is themed around the Napoleonic Era which is the period of time where military history gets boring for me as it is the introduction of mass produced firearms. Having said that though the theme does not really add or detract to the gameplay, it could just as easily been a game about weasels trying to invade another clans burrows and I would still enjoy the game. Who am I kidding? I would probably like the game even more!

I have only played this game a handful of times, but that has not stopped me from thoroughly enjoying each tense moment that I have encountered. The game is a cinch to learn and to teach as well, but to play well it requires a lot of thought and tactics. I have played C&C ancients and Battlelore each a couple of times, but neither game left me feeling as intrigued and excited as I had when I played Manoeuvre. After playing Manoeuvre when you make a bad decision or end up losing you feel that it is due more to your own choices than it is to the luck of your rolls. The greatest thing about this introductory wargame is that my head hurts whilst playing and after playing, not due to trying to remember rules and exceptions to rules, but from trying to outwit and out manoeuvre my opponent. The best player will be the player who wins the majority of the games, not the player who knows the rules best

If I met people who wanted to delve into wargames I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this game as it plays you directly against the opponent, not against the game. This is not just an excellent introduction but I can see it being used to hone skills required for much heavier games.
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Mark Buetow
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generalpf wrote:
Great review, the game sounds really interesting.

Were your boards warped as badly as those in the pictures?


I'm not sure "warped" is the best adjective. The boards are thick paper and they are "curved" as if they were on a big roll when printed. They flatten easily enough and the simplest solution, like so many other games, is a cheap sheet of plexiglass to lay over the board (which also helps keep the boards from sliding around. (See this thread: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/301002 on plexi for ideas)

As for the review: Excellent! You've written a comprehensive description of the game's mechanics while injecting your overview with personal comments on how you like the game. And, best of all, you haven't criticized the game for not being some other game (an all too common downside to many Geek reviews).

I agree on the comparison to C&C (and I haven't played BattleLore). I didn't care for Memoir at all. C&C:A I thought was much better, but still not entirely compelling. Manoeuvre I find very compelling. The theme does it for me, though; Napoleonics is my favorite era. It think Napoleonic warfare is the height of skilled warfare: Men, Horses and Cannon (and ships!): make it work! I guess that probably extends about as far as the American Civil War...then war begins changing rapidly a sthe technology begins leaping ahead.
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Dan Conley
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Enon
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GREAT review, James! I'm ready to break this one out for the first time this week. I also appreciate the fact that you reviewed the game for what it IS, not making comparisions to existing games with the same theme. This one looks like it will get some regular play here!

My boards are all curved as well, but they seem to flatten out okay upon demand. I'm not too worried about them...

Thanks for a nice review!
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Brad Hurst
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Fantastic review. Agree with the last couple of comments.

I've mentioned before, but for those who think they will play this often, an investment in a thick piece of custom cut glass 12"x12" with polished edges only set me back 7 dollars, and really helps keep these map pieces in place and flat with authority.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Comparison to C&C: Ancients is interesting. C&C:A is far more historical in the way it plays out; games follow lines that are perfectly reasonable for battles of that era.

With Manoeuvre, it would require a great deal of imagination to link what happens in a given game to any historical battle. There is much Napoleonic flavor in the details, but the large scale game play is more like Shogi or Navia Drapt than a wargame.

Manoeuvre can't compete with C&C:A in terms of historicity, but it fares well when taken purely as a game.
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Mark Buetow
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FWIW, George, I don't compare the two on a historical basis but on a purely fun basis. C&C is a good game, but there are just far more interesting games that I like to play. Personal tastes, of course.

Part of what I like so much about Manoeuvre is the way in which cards have different uses and therefore a great deal of the strategy is in playing the deck as well as the battle in front of you. This is similar to Combat Commander, which is probably my favorite game.

And, I'm a fan of Napoleonics in general. I agree that Manoevre could be any time period, but it's Napoleonic. So I like it even more!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Malacandra wrote:
FWIW, George, I don't compare the two on a historical basis but on a purely fun basis. C&C is a good game, but there are just far more interesting games that I like to play. Personal tastes, of course.


I feel exactly the same. But I think it's important to point this out, because I've known Napoleonic enthusiasts who might be attracted by the theme but would absolutely be put off by the non-historical game play.
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James Smith
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generalpf wrote:
Great review, the game sounds really interesting.

Were your boards warped as badly as those in the pictures?


In answer to the questions my boards are the ones in the pictures, so yes. However that was straight out of the box, after a couple of games and a couple of rolls in the opposite directions the curves have been greatly reduced. It doesn't affect the gameplay as the counters will still sit steadily on the curve. Of course you could use plexiglass like others have wisely suggested here.


Thanks for all the encouraging comments guys. I have tried to write reviews that are neutral in the past with a few of my thoughts, but ultimately if I like a game, why not shout about it, chances are others will like it too.
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Brian B
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Nice review, my copy is on the way! Command and Colors Ancients doesn't get as much play as I would like due to it's set up time. It seems natural that a lighter game that plays quickly should set up quickly as well. It seems like Manoeuvre can be set up and taught very quickly, making it playable as the mood strikes.
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Mark Buetow
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Sphere wrote:
Malacandra wrote:
FWIW, George, I don't compare the two on a historical basis but on a purely fun basis. C&C is a good game, but there are just far more interesting games that I like to play. Personal tastes, of course.


I feel exactly the same. But I think it's important to point this out, because I've known Napoleonic enthusiasts who might be attracted by the theme but would absolutely be put off by the non-historical game play.


You're definitely right there! Although we had fun playing Manoeuvre and seeing some familiar Napoleon's Triumph faces make their appearance as leader cards!

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Dan Conley
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Finally had our first session tonight and had a BLAST! We like the theme and especially the nice, light gameplay. That first game probably clocked in at close to 2 hours with all the references to the rules for clarification. We agreed that a 60 minute playing time (as indicated on the box) would not be out of the question. Things really sped up for us as we went. And, of course, we started to catch on to strategies as the game progressed!

LOADS of fun to be had here, that's for sure!
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Jeff Coon
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You sold me. Thanks for the review.
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Julio

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Great review! Finally, the Napoleonic game I was looking for. I was waiting for a Napoleon battlelore game and this is the one. Also it sounds kind of "Star Wars Epic Duels" which is great after all.
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frank rozum
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Looks like a good game, but I have a question. When a leader card is played and he commits other units to support an attack, the rules say that if the attack fails, supporting units take a hit as well as the original attacking unit. Do ALL supporting units take a hit, of just any one of the them?
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robin goblin
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If the attacker loses a battle, all attacking units take a hit....don't let it happen!

Robin
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:D.a.n:C.a.s.e.y:
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jrescan wrote:
Also it sounds kind of "Star Wars Epic Duels" which is great after all.


That's exactly what it reminds me of too. With about quadruple the playing time.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I find Manoeuvre far richer and more interesting to play than Star Wars Epic Duels, which I traded a couple of years back. But if somebody was a Star Wars fan, and had no interest in Napoleonic combat, I can see why they'd prefer Epic Duels.
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