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Subject: Cruel Necessity: well within the Pale of fine games rss

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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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Introduction:

In my typical "Johnny-come-lately" manner, I am going to give a review of Cruel Necessity. In it I will try to state my opinionated opinion by stressing what I like, possible areas for designing the game according to my individual tastes, and that sort of thing. There are excellent videos on Youtube that feature complete play-throughs of the game. I found them helpful in teaching me the rules, Ricky Royal's being the best.

I have purchased around six to eight VPG games over the years, almost always coming away disappointed, particularly with the quality of components and the design-depth, so often thinner than the paper used for the rules. Cruel Necessity is THE exception. It is a great game in all aspects.

Components:

As anyone who knows anything about this game knows, he or she knows that Cruel Necessity comes in a box and not a bag; and VPG bags are often a tad small, making the exiting and entering process wearing and tearing on the plastic bag itself. Cruel Necessity's first quality touch comes with the slip-on cover. The front shows images of King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, perhaps the two most "notable notables," to borrow from Charles H. Vasey, of the English Civil War. The back shows clear and colourful images of the game's components.

The red box is the type VPG reserves for its 1st tier games. Calandale, in typical Calandale fashion, calls it a "pizza box." I would not; I think it is better than that, and I am not known to mince words when it comes to what I feel are poor or shoddy components. This box is fine and sturdy and who cares if you have to slip it off, rather than take the lid off, say as with GMT, etc, type games?

Counters:

I always have mixed feelings about laser-cut counters because of the potential mess. Mine came out fine, with no burnt edges--or none I noticed--and hardly any mess at all. They look sharp, feel sharp, are sharp.

Rules:

An index or cross-reference would help, and in my first plays I found myself omitting rules or misplaying them. Most, perhaps all, of this was because I was eager to play it, being a fan of the ECW, and having watched several videos. Another Calandale quirk is his dislike of how the colour scheme is used as headers, and what not, in the rules' layout. As a teaching tool, I think it is fine. I agree with those who have asked that the images be made clearer; they really are too fuzzy and I am somewhat surprised that these inadequate images made it past VPG's quality control, given the high standards in this game. The rules are not difficult to comprehend and the layout flows well; it helps to have a university professor writing them.

Maps and Player-Aid:

The player-aid is perhaps a bit too crowded for the best ease of use. Spreading things out to two sheets could only help, and only increase the cost of the game, thus going with one card is understandable. I like the maps. The are clear, functional, interesting, attractive. I would not mind if they were larger, with more "things" on them, but then it would be a different kind of game with a different cost.

The Cards:

Here I agree with Calandale: the cards are not up to, say, the quality of a GMT CDG deck. I am not sure whether to sleeve them or not. There is so much information on some of the cards they that titter on the edge of the precipice of incomprehension, but then, at the last moment, pull back from the edge with sensible clarity. Of course, I would like a larger deck, but I have said this about every CDG or card-assisted game, other than Amateurs to Arms, with its 150 count of War of 1812 joy.

In Cruel Necessity, you get an historical overview of the three Civil Wars: England, Scotland, Ireland. The irony that the cards only hint at some of the barbaric savagery found in some of the events--Cromwell in Ireland, anyone?--won't be lost on those who have done their homework.

My bias is towards the Royalist's side; probably it is the fault of my conversion to Roman Catholicism, but even the (sometimes) devout Protestant that still lurks within would be most uncomfortable with the likes of Oliver Cromwell as God's Englishman. When I play the game, I want to beat the system, which means playing the Roundheads to the full, while trying to push Cromwell out of my imagination. I do think it is silly to NOT get this game because one has to play the side of Parliament; this is a game, after all, not a trip in the TARDIS to relive the good, the bad and the all-too-ugly of the ECW.

The System and how it works:

This is my first "State-of-Siege" game, so I am less than useless when it comes to comparing CN to others in the line of gaming succession. I would consider getting other SOS type games if they are up to the same quality as this one.

Conducting Battles:

This might be the weakest aspect of the design, for me; but others might place it at the top; to each his, or her, own. The cards pull the player by the nose as to when, and how many, battles take place. I wish there was some sort of option where the player could call the tune of a good fight a few times in the game. When the Scots, Irish and Royalist forces are coming at you, like the four points of the compass, one would imagine one's self stopping the campaigns to deal with at least the worst threat on the board. Yes, one of the options is to use a zeal point to try and push the opposing forces back, but this is not the same as dropping the gloves on the ice to have a heave-ho at the baddies.

A few odds and ends I have learned at this point:

First, at the risk of having a headless Cromwell--did they ever find his head?--come out of his grave--or graves? is he all in one headless piece these days?--come out to cheer me on, keep the Irish down and away from stirring up the pot of "Irish troubles." Such an ironic phrase if one takes the view of Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú and his book, God's Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland, that around 25%--25%?!--of the Irish population was killed for their "troubles." There is a fascinating two-part documentary you can watch on Youtube, if you are interested.

EDIT: Dr. O Siochru says that starvation, exposure and disease was, along with the New Model Army, responsible for these deaths.

Nevertheless, returning to the GAME, if the Irish run amuck, as they are apt to do, time and again, sober or not, the Rouhdhead's chances of success are severely threatened. Try to take Dublin, if you can, because this slows down the Irish even more.

Two, whenever you get a DRM bonus on the three tables, consider using all your zeal points to move your side up, while trying to push the Royalist' side to lie on their heals. Obviously, you must take into consideration other goals, or, more likely, threats, facing you in the game; but I have found, for example, that it is worthwhile to push the Catholics back to square one in order to try and get that zeal bonus as a reward. Keeping those Papists down is another matter.

Three, deal with military matters and push the opposing armies back from your strongholds--duh! This is no huge secret; lose these places and you lose zeal points, and your ability to do "stuff" disappears like the wind. It is all a matter of timing; when do you stay on the defensive and when do you choose to attack? Given that fate is ultimately decided by the dice, there is no equivalent to the mythological beast known as the "Halifax Hammer"--surely, there must be a good drink by that name.

And what about those 1,357 die rolls found in the average game?

The die rolls will make you, or mar you, no matter what "cunning plans" Tony Robinson provides you as Baldrick. If you do not enjoy games with larger than life amounts of luck--Cruel Necessity is such a game--then this is likely not for you. If you enjoy getting beaten by a pizza box eight or nine times out of ten, then this could be just the slice of gaming life you are looking for.

Is this more Euro than Wargame?

I do not own enough Euros to know; but I have sure played many a wargame in my onehundredsix years of gaming existence. My feeling is this is a Euro-type, whatever that means, game with a firmly applied historical theme. The history is solid, even if the design is not firmly found in the wargaming camp, whatever that means.

Playing this makes me want to bring out Charles Vasey's excellent The King's War for another go--one of my top-ten games on my homepage. I find CN to be a great deal of fun, and certainly a challenge; but if I want to explore the ECW in more depth, then I have to pull out something that has more wargame depth, such as TKW.

Conclusion:

I feel Cruel Necessity is a great game. I hope VPG will design others with the same high design and physical component standards.

goo

Edited for clarification, and for the usual suspect of an array of errors.



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Joseph Betz
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Yes this is a great game but very tough to beat.
Most of the games VPG is pushing out now has the components that are the same as this game which is a big improvement over their earlier releases.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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I enjoyed Cruel Necessity. I gave it away as a gift to a friend.

However, it is one of if not the best SoS game in the family.

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Wes Erni
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My only major disagreement in your fine review, is in the role of luck in Cruel Necessity. Yes there are hundreds of die rolls, but that sheer number combined with the lack of any "big" single die tosses, combine to reduce luck to a mere "mischievous bystander" (usually). Which actually makes your "euro-like" assessment even more valid.

Cruel Necessity has proven to be a very challenging game...UNTIL...the "truth" of the game is divined. What "looks good", often isn't what "is good". There is no "Halifax Hammer", but players are a clear favorite to win (albeit unimpressively) if they maximize their efficiency (which I admit involves many minute chances of instant defeat). Cruel remains an engrossing game to play (it is VERY easy to play imperfectly), and striving to "better" historical results IS quite challenging.
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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Thank you for your curtesy and your insight. I wondered about using Pale at all. The last thing I want to do is offend others by an inappropriate use of a cultural and historic reference.

goo
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Dennis Ku
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CN is a fantastic game and very, very tough to beat. I love it. VPG puts out some amazing solitaire games.
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David Oldster
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A very nice review.

leroy43 wrote:
I enjoyed Cruel Necessity. I gave it away as a gift to a friend.

However, it is one of if not the best SoS game in the family.



Agreed. I put it and "Malta Besieged" at the top of the SoS games I own and have played. The SoS game where you are playing Japan in WWII trying to stave off disaster also sounds like it might be a cut above, based on reviews I've read, but sadly, it is out of print.
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David Boeren
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We Must Tell the Emperor?
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Dave Daffin
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Leonithic wrote:
A very nice review.

leroy43 wrote:
I enjoyed Cruel Necessity. I gave it away as a gift to a friend.

However, it is one of if not the best SoS game in the family.



Agreed. I put it and "Malta Besieged" at the top of the SoS games I own and have played. The SoS game where you are playing Japan in WWII trying to stave off disaster also sounds like it might be a cut above, based on reviews I've read, but sadly, it is out of print.


Yes, Steve Carey had the SoS engine down perfectly with Malta Besieged and We Must Tell the Emperor. I'm lucky enough to have both, along with Cruel Necessity. Great games.
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Jim F
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Who knew trench warfare could be such fun?
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Bearing in mind your day job, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that Cromwell's head (or a photo of it) is put to good use by appearing on the front cover of a textbook used to teach history in British Schools!

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David Oldster
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dboeren wrote:
We Must Tell the Emperor?


That's it! No chance of a reprint, but I can dream.
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."--Pascal
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Ashiefan wrote:

 


Bearing in mind your day job, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that Cromwell's head (or a photo of it) is put to good use by appearing on the front cover of a textbook used to teach history in British Schools!



How witty: a cover such as this could knock one's block off, so to speak.

goo
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Pieter Vermeersch
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A nice review. I also find Cruel Necessity a great game.

I agree with Erni Wes that the sheer number of die rolls (combined with the possibility to gain extra zeal at crucial moments via movement of the tracks) limits the role of luck in Cruel Necessity.

I won my last 4 games (3 decks) with at least a moderate victory. My last game was a substantive victory +27 with 10 achievements. Luck does influence the moment you can besiege Oxford and which achievements you can buy (combining achievements with similar requirements). Particularly the early achievements can end up in the discard pile before you can buy them. Some bad luck here means you can't obtain a substantive victory any more.

In order to win, you need to calculate your every move. There are a lot of meaningfull decisions in cruel necessity. Some good strategy tips are available on the forum. I did some further analysis and I can tell you (without spoiling everything ) that , if you follow a good strategy, you should only have to spend approximately 1,50 zeal point for each AI action (flag on the card) by combining a number of actions against an army/city or to obtain an achievement.
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Jake johnson
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Ecw? Gmt? Cdg? Very good review but why the abbreviations? I dont know what they represent which takes much away from the review. Why has our society gotten so lazy with this trend of abbreviating everything?? Ugh!!
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Brian S.
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mjc1975 wrote:
Ecw? Gmt? Cdg? Very good review but why the abbreviations? I dont know what they represent which takes much away from the review. Why has our society gotten so lazy with this trend of abbreviating everything?? Ugh!!
It's not laziness. It's insiderness. You will find TLA's in every niche. I too prefer longform.
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Peter
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mjc1975 wrote:
Ecw? Gmt? Cdg?


English Civil War; GMT Games (the board game publisher); Card Driven Game
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Jake johnson
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Thank you sir!
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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"The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of."--Pascal
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mjc1975 wrote:
Ecw? Gmt? Cdg? Very good review but why the abbreviations? I dont know what they represent which takes much away from the review. Why has our society gotten so lazy with this trend of abbreviating everything?? Ugh!!


I am sorry for the confusion. Please feel free to email me in the future and I will reply. I only check the threads in my reviews from time to time.

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Ashiefan wrote:

 


Bearing in mind your day job, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that Cromwell's head (or a photo of it) is put to good use by appearing on the front cover of a textbook used to teach history in British Schools!




Reading this comment made my day! I'm a history teacher and I have a set of that rather obscure textbook!
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