My Little Man's first real wargame play: Barbarossa Solitaire
For the People Review, 2nd edition.
For the People is a card driven grand strategy game covering the entire Civil War from 1861-65. The game covers the struggle for independence (south) or preserving the union (north) depending on your point of view. Units consist of strength points with markers included for creating armies, generals, forts, and other items. Victory is achieved in the game by either surviving to the end(south) or conquering the south by capturing the rebel states or reducing the strategic will track to zero for the south.
Playing Time: This will vary depending on whether you play a scenario or the campaign game. A scenario (there are ones for 1861-64) can last several hours and the campaign game (in my experience thus far) will take about 4-6 hours. My gaming partner and I have been averaging about 30 minutes a campaign turn.
Map: The map is the ususal point to point one that is found in card driven games. The map covers all the south, the border states, and the northern states into the southern reaches of PA, IN, IL, OH, etc... The map also has distinct spaces such as pro-union southern spaces and southern resource spaces. The map also has tracks for the turn, strategic will, army strengths, army holding boxes for leaders, as well as the amphibious assault modifiers and blockade levels. The map also has the CRT (combat results table) and reinforcement information for both sides. The map is very easy to read, quite functional, and is not cluttered despite the amount of informational charts packed into it.
Counters: The counters represent strength points for military units as well as the leaders who led them. There are also counters for showing control of spaces, various Confederate items (ironclads, torpedoes) as well as forts for both sides. Each side also has four army markers for the players to build armies on the map a marker to keep track of the strength points for each army. The counters are very nicely done, especially the leader ones which have lots of information, but are not too busy. The counters are very distinct and one can easily ascertain what is what on the map with a simple glance.
Rules: The heart of the game revolves around the card driven system. Each card can be played in a variety of ways, either as an event, an operations, or may be discarded (however, there are several cards that cannot be discarded and must be played. These are clearly labeled as such). Other rules cover the usual fair (movement, battles, retreats, supply, attrition) while some cover distinctive features of the Civil War such as the blockade, river and naval movement, and the political impacts of generals to name a few. Players each turn receive reinforcements, play their strategy cards, check to see if the political status of any states have changed, and then check for attrition. The rules are nicely organized with timely examples, but the river control/crossing spaces at river points section will require several readings to wrap your head around. These are well thought out and do apply to the Civil War, it just takes a few readings to grasp exactly what is going on. The combat results table is based on the strengths of the units in battle, which can lead to a small, medium, or large battle. Both sides roll on the table, but the defender checks the attacker column to see how much damage he caused and the attacker checks the defender column to see how much damage he has caused. While this is a little odd at first, you get the hang of it rather quickly. Events in the game will impact the strategic will of both sides and here there is another little tricky rule regarding the fortunes of war. Again, once you get into the game it will come easily, but at first it will be a little choppy. The one draw back to the rules is a number of qualifiers which players will need to remember (for example, the general casualties do not apply to the attacker if the ratio is 3-1 to higher in a battle). Overall, the rules are well thought out and presented and reflect the Civil War time period well, IMHO.
Things I like about the game:
● The flavor. It captures the Civil War struggle at the grand strategy level well.
● The CDG system. I have played many wargames over the years, and there are few games that can match the CDG system for tension and fun!
● Difficult decisions abound! You really feel like Lincoln or Davis as you try to decide on whether to spend that 3 ops card battling for Tennessee or marching into battle in war torn Virginia!
● Simplicity. For a grand strategy game, this one plays well with a minimum of issues.
● Example of play in the rule book. This is well done and covers the entire 1861 turn. I recommend setting up and playing this after reading the rules. I found that it helped a lot to master the rules.
● The map is very nicely done!
● Players aid card is well organized and has lots of information.
● The cards are also nicely done. They are clear in their instructions for events and the red lettering makes it easy to remember which ones need to be removed from play after playing.
Things that can be annoying:
● The slit in the middle of the map. On a sturdier map (think here Twilight Struggle) this is okay, but on a map sheet it can be annoying as you try to make sure it connects properly before putting down your plexiglass
● The cards. There are the thicker type (ala 30 Years War) rather than the more pliable type (think Twilight Struggle or Shifting Sands).
● The river control rules. These are a little tricky
● Watch the exceptions for some of the rules! For the first few plays, keep the rule book within arms length!
● All those darned 3 value Union leaders! I know this is historically accurate, but it is still annoying, so if fits here!
● Getting the Emancipation Proclamation card to come up can be difficult. Maybe we are shuffling challenged, but it has never come up before 1864!
Overall Assessment: = I’d rather staple my tongue to the wall for a month. = Wargamer heaven!
Map: Nicely done, except for that slit!
Counters: Again nicely done. Easy to read and find on the map.
Rules: These are well done, although a few will be a bit tricky at times. Overall, they do a nice job of depicting the time period.
Playing Time: The scenarios are playable in an evening, but the campaign game will take awhile.
Ease of deploying units: Since this is the usual strength point type strategy game, it is quite easy to set up and tear down.
Overall Evaluation: This is another CDG winner by Mark Herman. The game plays well, is easy to learn (with a few exceptions) and plays is tense with a plethora of options!
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
This does seem like an excellent game (I'm still looking to get my first game in.) Unlike in some other CDWs, there are so many things you can do that it's almost never obvious what your best move is. I've been following the "World vs. Herman and Pei" game that's going on over at CSW and learning a lot that way:
Look for the post on October 9, 2006 at 9:24pm for the start of this match.
Great review Tim.
I especially like your use of dice in your ratings. Very nice.
As for the game, I'm having some difficulty trying to absorb the ruleset, but I will now try to play the game as per your suggestion, following the example of play..