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Subject: Dos de Mayo: An Uprising of Spanish Design rss

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Jason Matthews
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Alexandria
Virginia
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I must start with a disclaimer. About two years ago, Dani Val contacted me on the Geek and mentioned that he was a fan of Twilight Struggle. By a happy coincidence, Dani was posted to DC from Spain through an intergovernmental fellowship with the National Institute of Health. During his time here, we became friends. I have know him to be one of the most genuine, thoughtful people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. To the extent that my personal friendship with the designer colors this review, so much the better.



Like a fair number of people I know, I got into boardgaming through history. Its probably not the standard route these days. You almost need a formal introduction to join the wargaming hobby now. But when I found gaming in the early 80s, Axis and Allies was everywhere. Toys R' Us still had Avalon Hill games on the shelf. Serendipity could get you where you needed to go.



Over time, my interest in history and my interest gaming have both evolved and broadened. When I was a boy, I was gripped by my grandfather's stories of World War II. Being captivated by that conflict, I was doubly excited to discover games about it. But as I got older and fatter, I turned out to be a dilettante where history is concerned. I enjoy knowing a little bit about everything, and the more obscure the better. I am much more likely to be drawn to some well written book on an odd ball historical subject than I am to read the current best seller on World War II.



So too have my tastes in gaming broadened. I started out as someone who would not consider playing anything that was not a "wargame." 1830? Blech. Merchant of Venus? Who cares? Mercifully, circumstances forced me to abandon such small-minded snobbery. I learned to appreciate a game for what it is; to evaluate the experience on its own terms. Now, the game is the thing. Whether it has tanks, dragons or little wooden cubes is ultimately immaterial.



My broadened interests have created a broadened perspective on gaming. Now, I enjoy watching the cross pollination of ideas from one element of the hobby to another. You can begin to see trends and understand how they interrelate to what has come before. One of the most exiting hobby trends for me, is the way historical gaming is interacting with Euro Games. Traditionally, Euro Games are known for their relatively shallow interplay between theme and mechanics. Additionally, they tend to eschew direct confrontation -- such as battles and wars. However, a few new designers seem to understand that a game about history does not need to be a wargame per se. Furthermore, plenty of Euro mechanics mesh perfectly well with actual historical situations. Take for example, the recent offering of Nexus Games of Italy -- Garibaldi. It is not a game about the Wars of Italian Unification, rather it is about a more ignominious time in Italy's path to independence. It covers Garibaldi's covert attempts to escape from Austrian authorities. The theme is historical. The detail and chrome is all educational, but the mechanics come straight from the Euro classic, Scotland Yard.



That may have been the world's longest wind up to begin discussing a game, but it gives context to Dos de Mayo. Dos de Mayo (DdM) is illustrative of the new trend. It is about a relatively unknown historical event. It has direct conflict, and if not war -- at least armed resistance. Yet, no one will mistake the Euro influence in this game. DdM is a two player game simulating the City of Madrid's resistance to the shadowy replacement of the Spanish monarchy to one more to Napoleon's liking. While those of us in the English speaking world usually view this as the kickoff of the "Peninsular War," for Spaniards everywhere, this is the equivalent of Lexington and Concord. It marks the beginning of the Spanish War of Independence.



However, in true Latin fashion, the origin of the Guerra de guerrillas did not begin with the optimism of Concord, but the tragedy of Madrid. For as word of Napoleon's maneuverings began to spread, the citizens of Madrid took to the streets, and then engaged in open rebellion. On May 2nd, 150 occupying French troops were killed by ordinary citizens. The double tragedy was that Spanish troops, paralyzed by uncertainty, largely stayed in their garrisons. Worse still, when Murat and his Mameluke troops brutally suppressed the rebellion and then engaged in bitter reprisals, the Spanish troops remained there. Oh yes, there were individual instances of uniformed bravery by the Spanish army, and they are commemorated in the game. But by-in-large, this was common people versus the full weight of Europe's most feared army. Yet, the month of May, whether in Puebla, Mexico or Madrid, Spain is not an auspicious month for French aggression against Spanish speaking peoples. The bravery of the citizens of Madrid, in the face of French brutality, set Spain ablaze. Not only was the Second of May the road to Spanish independence, it also proved to be the road to Waterloo.



DdM as a game, is a very elegant affair. No session should run longer than 30 minutes. A completed game in 15 minutes is not beyond imagination. One player assumes the role of the citizens of Madrid, the other plays the French forces. The board is an aesthetically pleasing, and era appropriate, map of the city divided into 21 zones. In a nod to the Euro world, the French troops are 30 blue cubes. The Spaniards are represented by red cubes. Yes, we know that red cubes around these parts means Englishmen, but context is everything. Each player also has 11 beautifully illustrated cards representing actual events and a few "what ifs" from the uprising. Play is largely simultaneous, which contributes to the speed. Both players decide whether or not to play one of their event cards, then they secretly write down movement orders for their troops. They reveal their cards and resolve any fighting. This continues for 10 turns. If the Spaniards can keep a cube alive at the end of the game they win.



While DdM provides plenty of thematic color through the event cards and the terrific graphical design, the soul of the game feels more like a classical abstract game than a Euro. Essentially, you move pieces according to a couple of simple, but very important rules. If your pieces end up in a zone with your opponent's pieces, you resolve combat with a very simple, but important rule. And that is about it. Another attractive element of the design is that it is completely asymmetric. Playing the Spaniards feels very different than playing the French. In that sense, it is much less like an abstract or a Euro, and more like an American wargame. There is no doubt as to which side has the military muscle in this game, yet the ability to bring that muscle to bear on the point of decision is always in question. The first major difference between the player positions is the way they move. All clusters of troops move one space per turn. Spaniards have to stick together. They are a mob. So, special events notwithstanding, once red cubes are co-located, they will be moving together to the same destination. On the plus side for the Spanish, every one of their groups gets to move during the turn. The French are the mirror to this. The French can split a group willy-nilly, BUT, with one zone based exception, only two French groups get to move per turn. You might imagine this involves a lot of messy record keeping, but it does not. The game includes laminated cards that allow you to chart the movement of your groups right on the card. But even without such a card, I found the order writing very de minimus, and a lot lighter burden than say Diplomacy orders.



The other important piece is combat, what happens when two cubes meet in a dark alley in Madrid? If one side has an advantage, but not double the other side's cubes, the weaker player subtracts one cube. If a side has double the strength of their opponent, two cubes are subtracted -- triple advantage, three cubes etc. The problem for the French is that they refuse to run away from a fight with a Spaniard. So, whatever the odds, if they meet Spaniards they will stay and fight -- and perhaps die. Spaniards can bolt from a fight, but they have to leave some of their comrades behind. Its a very clever rule that also gives the two player positions a lot of their character. The Spaniards basically have two strategies before them: consolidate into one big block and try to pick off Frenchmen before their columns can consolidate. Alternatively, they can scatter to the four winds and hope the game ends before the French to catch them all. You will not be surprised to learn that the event cards break all of these rules. Suddenly, a Spanish group breaks in two; the French can move more than two groups; you inflict double casualties on your opponent. You get the idea.



For the French, there is also an important deduction element to the game. They need to get their forces together, but they also need to coral the enemy and force him to fight the larger consolidated force. This requires some insight into where the Spaniards are going, and then cutting them off at the pass. For the French to win, they have to eliminate all Spanish troops, post "cubes" on the access spaces to Madrid, and keep casualties below 4 cubes. If anything else happens, the Spanish win. This is a very enjoyable little game. DdM explores a notion in historical game design that I think deserves some more mining. If you want a short game, consider a small event. This was a sharp, short uprising. It received a sharp, short treatment. There are a lot more events in history that fit that same bill. I am confident that if more designers used such an approach the appeal of historically based gaming would expand with our new found accessibility.



In summary, DdM hits a real sweet spot for me. Its short, its clever, and its about obscure history. Additionally, the game was published to commemorate the 200th Anniversary Dos de Mayo. That's right, its commemorative as well. Dos de Mayo is a game that is very consciously small in scope, but manages to deliver some meat in game play. Dani Val and the entire team at Gen X games are to be congratulated. This is a superb first effort, and can only leave us looking forward to more. Dos de Mayo has earned a place on my shelf, I hope it will find a spot on yours.
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Juan F. Santana Miralles
Spain
San Juan de Aznalfarache
Seville
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Excellent review!

Really nice to read.. I´m willing to put my hands on this one.

Thanks for the review!
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Barry Kendall
United States
Lebanon
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Very helpful review, Jason, thanks for putting this one on the radar.

It sounds like a very creative representation of a very significant set of events. It also looks to be a great game to pull out when time is short but the mind is sharp.

I see from the BGG site that there is a bilingual Spanish/English edition. Does anyone know a US seller?
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Daniel Val
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Jason,

Thank you so much for your kind words about me and especially about 2 de Mayo.

I am really glad you liked the game and it means a lot coming from one of my favorite game designers of all times, one of the coolest gamers out there and a true friend.

Thanks again and I hope we can sit down and play some games better sooner than later.

Dani
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Daniel Val
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Barry Kendall wrote:

I see from the BGG site that there is a bilingual Spanish/English edition. Does anyone know a US seller?


Barry,

The bilingual edition is the only edition there is for this game.

Our distributor in Spain also works in the USA. It's called Devir, and they opened their office in Seattle a short while ago. Their website is

http://www.devir.us/

I think they will need at least a couple of weeks to get the games over there.

I guess there's also the option of online spanish stores which also sell 2 de Mayo but I bet shipping will be expensive.

Thank you for your interest in the game and we will work on having the game well distributed in the U.S.

 
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joe quintana
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Hi there Daniel.
Any idea where I can buy this in spain?
All my family live there and they could order it for me.
thanks

moti
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Daniel Val
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Moti wrote:
Hi there Daniel.
Any idea where I can buy this in spain?
All my family live there and they could order it for me.
thanks

moti


Well, the game should be available in any game store in Spain. In Madrid there are several like Excalibur, Generacion X, Atlantica,...
There are several threads about game stores in Spain. Here's the link:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/120302

Thank you for your interest in the game!

Dani
 
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joe quintana
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Gracias Dani.

I'll get someone in Madrid to pick one up for me, sounds a great game.

moti
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Andre Oliveira
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Congratulations to Jason on a great review and to Dani on a great design.
This thread has just led me to import one unit to Brazil. Hope it doesn't take too long to arrive!
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