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Subject: [Roger's Reviews] Washington's War: Fast furious fun rss

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Introduction

I've never played We the People, the game this is based on, and the American Revolutionary War isn't my usual area of gaming interest; however, given its pedigree, I really felt I had to take the opportunity to get this game.

This review is about Washington's War from GMT Games. The game was designed by Mark Herman, who has a storied career in game design with well over 60 titles to his credit (including expansions and modules). I find it not a little ironic that despite my over three decades of gaming that this is the first time I've either owned or played a Mark Herman design!

The advertised playing time is 90 minutes. This is the first GMT game I can recall with the estimated playing time on the back of the box. I applaud this move from GMT and hope they continue this with future releases.




Theme

Washington's War is a card driven game about the American Revolution, with the forces of King George III fighting American colonists fighting for independence.

Components

Let's have a look inside the box.



The game features a gorgeous linen finish mounted board depicting the eastern portion of the United States (and a small piece of Canada).





The counters are nice and thick, reminiscent of GMT's recent Deluxe Twilight Struggle. It has British and American forces, in a similar style to the unit counters of Here I Stand. In addition, there are leader counters (both standard sized and stand up sized versions so the decision of which one to use is up to the individual players).

There are a large number of political control markers to show which side controls any specific area on the map. The state abbreviations are inside the circles, so for those who aren't as familiar with US geography as they might like, I recommend the solution Scott Muldoon introduced me to for Unhappy King Charles! of using bingo tokens which have the benefit of being transparent.



The cards are of the standard excellent quality we've come to expect and enjoy from GMT. The deck is roughly 50-50 events and ops cards, with the ops cards being divided into 1, 2, and 3 ops point cards.



The dice are perfectly functional, but not as pretty as the dice I'm used to from GMT.

The rule book is clear and concise, and in keeping with the latest releases such as Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War is in colour and full of examples. In addition, there's a play book and 2 copies of an identical double sided player aid.


Rules and Game Play

Victory Conditions
Winning can happen one of two ways. First, elimination of all enemy combat units on the board (British win = all American and French in US and Canada are eliminated, American win = all British units in the 13 colonies eliminated). Second, after the North's Government Falls - War Ends special event strategy card, in which case a political control victory is determined. In a political victory, the Americans win if they control 7 or more colonies, and the British win if they control 6 or more colonies. Canada is included in the colony count. Control of a colony depends on political markers - whoever has the majority controls the colony. Note that if both sides are tied, or "both sides win", then the British win.

Ok, now that I know the victory conditions, how do I play?

Washington's War begins with both players placing their starting forces and political control (PC) markers on the map as per the scenario instructions. Then the American player adds 1 PC marker in each of the 13 colonies in any space that's available. Then the British add 2 more PC markers with certain restrictions.

Once the board is set up, play begins with the following turn sequence:
- reinforcement phase
- strategy cards
- strategy phase
- winter attrition phase
- French naval phase
- political control phase
- end phase

Reinforcement Phase
During the reinforcement phase, generals in the captured general box is moved to the reinforcement box, and reinforcements on the turn track are deployed on the board.

Strategy Cards
Each player is dealt 7 cards for the coming turn. The American always get the first card, and reshuffles occur as needed. There are some cards which are added at specific junctures in the game.

Strategy Phase
The American player decides who will go first in the turn, unless the British player preempts this by the play of a major or minor campaign card (see "What can I do with my cards", below). Players then alternate until both are out of cards. It's possible that one player may run out of cards before their opponent thanks to events, in which case one player will have the benefit of playing out their turn uninterrupted by their opponent.

Winter Attrition Phase
During the winter, all units are checked for attrition. The French, Americans and British all have different attrition conditions.

French Naval Phase
After winter attrition, the American player relocates the French naval unit to any blockade zone they wish.

Political Control Phase
The American player returns the Continental Congress to play if it was dispersed, players place PC markers under their combat units, and isolated PC markers are removed.

End Phase
This is a bookkeeping phase. If the French Alliance is triggered, there are some consequences for the British. Automatic victory is checked for (elimination of all units from one side).

Unless the "Lord North's Government Falls - War Ends" card has ended the game, or it's the end of 1783 (the final turn), the turn marker is moved forward and the turn sequence begins again.

What can I do with my cards?
As with all card driven games, hand management is one of the keys to success. There are several kinds of cards in the game:

- 1, 2 and 3 ops cards
- minor and major campaigns
- mandatory events
- event cards specific to one side or another
- battle cards

Operations Cards
Operations cards let a player activate a general with a rating less than or equal to the ops rating of the card, take PC actions, or bring reinforcements into the game. Operations cards make up a touch over half the deck.

- Activating a general allows him to move up to 4 spaces and bring up to 5 CU with him.
- A PC action is either adding 1 PC marker to the board, or flipping one of your opponents PC markers to your side.
- Reinforcements can also be placed as per the reinforcement rules.

There is also the option of creating an "operations queue". It allows you to play an ops card to be queued for future use - say you have a 2 rating general and only 1 ops cards, queuing would allow you to play one of the 1 ops and then the other so that you could eventually activate your general.



Major and Minor campaigns
A minor campaign allows you to activate any two generals sequentially, and a major one three. These are very powerful and important for military actions.

Mandatory Events
Mandatory events are cards that must be played by the holder of the card, and the text of the event is executed. Once played, they are removed from the game.

Events
Events are cards which have text describing the outcome of playing the card. However, event cards can only be played by the player's side - events for your opponent must be discarded. Events that benefit you may be discarded.

If you discard an event card, you can do one of the following:
- do nothing further, the card is just in the discard pile
- place or flip one PC marker adjacent to an existing friendly PC marker
- remove an enemy PC marker adjacent to a friendly PC marker, provided said PC marker is not occupied by enemy combat units.

Here is one of the subtle gems in this game - if your opponent discards one of your events, you may, at your option, discard an ops card of any value and take it into your hand before taking your turn!

Battle Cards
Battle cards are essentially event cards (can be used and treated as above), but have some important differences. If used in combat give you a +2 bonus to your die roll. As a nice benefit, if you use them in combat, you get to draw a replacement card. You can discrard regular events to get a +1 drm, but you don't get to draw replacements.

Battles
Battles in Washington's War are straightforward affairs. Total up your combat units, add up your modifiers, apply battle cards if any, and roll a die. Loser rolls a die to see how many combat units they lose, and then the loser must retreat. If they cannot retreat, they surrender.



Did I win?
As stated previously, victory occurs one of two ways. First, you win automatically if all enemy units are eliminated. Second, by a political victory, with the British winning by default if the Americans don't win.


Exploring Further

Movies
I have two movie recommendations to get you into the mood for this game.

The first is the musical, 1776, and then there's the Mel Gibson flick The Patriot.

Books
One of the things I appreciate about this site is the depth of knowledge amongst the grognards about any particular wargames underpinnings. As I've mentioned before, I'm not deeply immersed in American history, but this book has come highly recommended to me - Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the American Revolution

Games
Obviously, if you're a fan of the American Revolutuionary War, you'll very likely enjoy the game this was based upon, We the People. However, it's long out of print.

If you're looking for a card driven game that has a very similar feel, I highly recommend Unhappy King Charles!


Where to Play
If you are looking for to play Washington's War, at the moment there isn't much out there. GMT has released a Cyberboard Gamebox for this, but given GMT's track record of supporting their releases, there's probably also a VASSAL module coming.

Conclusions

Postive Things
I really like the nice simple flow of play in Washington's War. There are lots of interesting decisions to be made, and there's plenty of opportunity to decide whether you want to press for an outright military victory or the more subtle political win. One particular highlight for me is the ability to retrieve discarded events in exchange for ops cards - this simple yet elegant rule might be worth tinkering with in my next game of Unhappy King Charles! The ability to build up an operations queue is also a nice way to plan ahead and possibly make up for a bad hand.

Negative Things
There are five North's Government Falls - War Ends special event strategy cards in the deck, each with a different year on the card. The war can thus end as early as 1779 or as late as 1783. This adds a certain tension to the game because, as these cards are a mandatory event, the game can end by "surprise". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can understand that it might bother some players.

In Conclusion
Coming with the pedigree it does, shouldn't surprise anyone that this is a well designed wargame. I think between the relatively low complexity and quick playing time that this game will see a lot of play on gaming tables. If the American Revolutionary War is a period of interest to you, I have no reservations recommending Washington's War.
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Aaron Cappocchi
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leroy43 wrote:

I've never played Axis & Allies: Europe, the game this is based on, and the American Revolutionary War isn't...


Now that I didn't know! You've got a 520 instead of a 620 there in your code.
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David Cameron
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This is a great review, tons of pictures and good comments!

I second the OP's suggestions people who enjoyed WW try out UKC. It has very similar mechanics and is great for people who want to try out a the earlier revolution of Parliament against the King. It has a bit more chrome and a bit more rules but comes highly recommended.

My one criticism of WW is I felt it should have taken more from Wilderness War - the time-honored classic on a earlier war in this region. I feel WW compromised some of its historical chrome for playability. WW I feel is a meatier game than WW and the good news is that it is being reprinted in June.
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Fred W. Manzo
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"I've never played Axis & Allies: Europe, the game this is based on,"

Good review, but don't you mean "We the People."
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Piero
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Fred 100 wrote:
"I've never played Axis & Allies: Europe, the game this is based on,"

Good review, but don't you mean "We the People."

Gosh, I thought that was being ironic, somehow.
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Mark Herman
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Thanks for the kind remarks and all the very cool pictures. As noted this game is based on my earlier We The People game and has no connection to or pedigree with Axis and Allies.

I would also note that Wilderness War is a derivative design of We The People as are all of the CDGs. So once again thanks for taking the time to review my game.

All the best,

Mark
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I am glad that Johnny Jaws is my friend.
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This is by far one of the best reviews I have read since being a geek. Thank you.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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agentzen wrote:
leroy43 wrote:

I've never played Axis & Allies: Europe, the game this is based on, and the American Revolutionary War isn't...


Now that I didn't know! You've got a 520 instead of a 620 there in your code.


It's a good thing they don't take away one's reviewer license for typos.
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Bill Wood
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Quote:
Negative Things
There are five North's Government Falls - War Ends special event strategy cards in the deck, each with a different year on the card. The war can thus end as early as 1779 or as late as 1783. This adds a certain tension to the game because, as these cards are a mandatory event, the game can end by "surprise". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can that it might bother some players.



This is similar criticism of the Peace Die Roll in TNW, Wellington, etc.

'Damn Peace Die Roll' is a common refrain from a friend of mine.

It is a needed mechanic, or you will find folks just building up sitting in some corner somewhere waiting to do a mad rush for the last turn.

The Real combatant's did not know when the war would end, so they always had to be ready to get the best terms all the time.

The Washington War Event mechanic solution is a great solution, though it might be even better if it was tied to a Patriot or Royal Will tracking mechanism.
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Brien Martin
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Well done, sir! Excellent review!

Brien
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Steve Hope
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One quick question as I wait for mine to arrive--the Brits don't actually win by default if the Americans don't win, right? If neither side satisfies their victory condition it's a tie, right (e.g. if both sides have control of 5 colonies)?

I'm not clear on why the victory conditions don't simply say "Check control of the 13 colonies plus Canada. If the British control 6+ of these they win. If the British don't win and the Americans control 7+ of them, the Americans win. Otherwise the game is a draw." I don't know if that acdcurately describes the win conditions, but if it does it seems cleaner to me than saying "Here's how X wins. Here's how Y wins. If X and Y both win, Y wins."

EDIT: Oh, and great review by the way! I'm very excited to get my game and devouring the threads in anticipation. Thanks!
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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stephenhope wrote:
One quick question as I wait for mine to arrive--the Brits don't actually win by default if the Americans don't win, right? If neither side satisfies their victory condition it's a tie, right (e.g. if both sides have control of 5 colonies)?


No, the rule says, and I quote: "If the British and Americans both achieve victory or neither player achieves victory, then the British win by default."

So the onus is on the American player to win outright, otherwise, the British win. It makes sense because the British player really only has to better the historical result.
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Karl Schmit
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1PrimeMinister wrote:
WW I feel is a meatier game than WW and the good news is that it is being reprinted in June.

Right.... this is why you use a different acronym for Washington's War...
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Tom Duensing
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Nice review, thanks.

Maybe someday GMT will ship my copy to me--I've been waiting for a couple of weeks now...sigh.
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Greg Lott
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Gah, stop already! The itch to buy this game is already too great, awesome reviews like this are making it unbearable.

soblue

It's been a while since I've looked forward to a game this much.
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Guy Riessen
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Wilhammer wrote:
Quote:
Negative Things
There are five North's Government Falls - War Ends special event strategy cards in the deck, each with a different year on the card. The war can thus end as early as 1779 or as late as 1783. This adds a certain tension to the game because, as these cards are a mandatory event, the game can end by "surprise". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can that it might bother some players.


It is a needed mechanic, or you will find folks just building up sitting in some corner somewhere waiting to do a mad rush for the last turn.

The Real combatant's did not know when the war would end, so they always had to be ready to get the best terms all the time.



nail
on
the
head!

Excellent summation.

Excellent review as well--easy to read and decide how well the game will fit for you!
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Brian Morris
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Great review. I expected a good game out of Washington's War but the game has exceeded my expectations.
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Andy M
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tc237 wrote:
WWR is GMT approved.


I'm still pulling for WaWa.
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Christopher Hill
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I received my copy of Washington's War and read through the rules. I am very pleased with my purchase and want to thank Mark Herman for an excellent follow up to We the People. The rules are very clean and can be compared to the Combat Commander rules for presentation and clarity. The components are top notch and the mounted board is awesome!

To the OP, thank you for the well written review.
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Nice review Roger. I haven't even read the rules yet. soblue Too busy with other things.

(Umm, what am I doing reading BGG? Back to my reading...)
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Doug Epperson
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Quote:
Negative Things
There are five North's Government Falls - War Ends special event strategy cards in the deck, each with a different year on the card. The war can thus end as early as 1779 or as late as 1783. This adds a certain tension to the game because, as these cards are a mandatory event, the game can end by "surprise". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I can understand that it might bother some players.


I agree with you assessment on these cards. They are dreaded especially that they are Mandatory Play actions which could limit your actions for a turn. This could be devastating if you draw more than two in a turn. BUT, you have to know they are ever present in the draw deck and must plan accordingly.

Also, having the game end sooner than what you would expect, well that happens during wars. Know one ever really knows when an engagement will terminate. Politicians usually decide the fate of nations and not include the input from field commanders (go figure).

Great Review!!!
Epp
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Sylvain Martel
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leroy43 wrote:


Where to Play
If you are looking for to play Washington's War, at the moment there isn't much out there. GMT has released a Cyberboard Gamebox for this, but given GMT's track record of supporting their releases, there's probably also a VASSAL module coming.


Great review As for Vassal, actually, the vassal module was released even before the game was shipped and is present on GMT website for download.
https://www.gmtgames.com/t-GMTVASSAL.aspx
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Gene Baker
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My wargaming group has really enjoyed the CDG The Napoleonic Wars and we’ve just started trying out Wilderness War. I don’t know if Washington’s War will be as great as Wilderness War but two things are obvious 1) I really want Washington’s War and 2) Mark Herman should be in the boardgame hall of Fame – if there is one.

Thanks for the review.
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gbaker59 wrote:
Mark Herman should be in the boardgame hall of Fame – if there is one.


There is (well, at least a wargame hall of fame) and he is. "Inducted" 1991.

http://www.alanemrich.com/CSR_pages/Articles/CSRclausewitz.h...
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leroy43 wrote:
stephenhope wrote:
One quick question as I wait for mine to arrive--the Brits don't actually win by default if the Americans don't win, right? If neither side satisfies their victory condition it's a tie, right (e.g. if both sides have control of 5 colonies)?


No, the rule says, and I quote: "If the British and Americans both achieve victory or neither player achieves victory, then the British win by default."

So the onus is on the American player to win outright, otherwise, the British win. It makes sense because the British player really only has to better the historical result.


Thanks, Roger. Then I wish the rules said, "If the Americans control 7 or more colonies (including Canada) and the British control less than 6, they win. Otherwise the British win."
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