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Swamp Hamster
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Title: Mrs. Thatcher’s War: The Falklands 1982

Basic information: Designed by R. Ben Madison, White Dog Games, 2017.

Overall Evaluation: This is an excellent solo game with great replayability. It offers an interesting system partially based on the author’s American Revolution game (“Don’t Tread on Me”) which in turn borrows from David Kershaw’s “Vietnam Solitaire” (both from White Dog Games). The game is advertised as the third in Ben’s trilogy on British wars with “N: The Napoleonic Wars” completing the list.

Background Theme: The game covers the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982. The military junta of Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands in April 1982 and the United Kingdom responded with an invasion force that battled the weather, a long tenuous supply line, and the Argentine military. The game itself begins with the arrival of the British Task Force and ends when the capital of Stanley falls or the severe winter season begins.

Mechanics: This is my personal opinion...but the game is a very interesting and successful hybrid of systems in earlier games designed by Ben. It is played on two separate maps. The first is a strategic map of southeast Argentina and the Falkland Islands with insets for South Georgia and Ascension Island. It also includes Ground Support Tracks, Repair Pool boxes, and a Weather Table. Argentine aircraft are shifted from other areas of the country and based along the coast from which they are then assigned a specific sector for deployment over the Falkland Islands. This strategic map tracks these aircraft as well as the general location of British forces. This strategic system within the game reminds me of Ben’s game “Don’t Tread on Me” which borrows many of these mechanics from David’s game “Vietnam Solitaire”. These mechanics include the random assignment of reinforcements to specific sectors and the solo player’s ability to reduce the build up via offensive action.

The second map is tactical in nature and features East Falkland Island on which the ground war was conducted. It also includes special boxes for the Argentine air bases at Pebble Island and Goose Green as well as British naval gunfire support. The solo player must land British troops at San Carlos on the western end of the island and march them across three paths (point-to-point movement) to the town of Stanley in which the bulk of the Argentine ground forces are based. Air power plays a prominent role with Argentina attempting to interdict the British naval vessels and ground troops and the British air power attempting to secure and maintain air superiority to protect the naval and ground assets. At this stage, the game reminds me of a “reverse ‘States of Siege’ (VPG)” style system. Instead of defending Stanley from three marching columns, the player is marching in three columns to the objective. Ben co-designed the excellent game “Mound Builders” in the ‘States of Siege” system for VPG. Thus, I can see his ideas flowing across both games.

Each turn includes play on both the strategic and tactical maps. Thus, both game mechanics are effectively integrated into the action.


Components:
The game includes the 11 x 17 inch tactical and 8 ½ x 11 inch strategic maps printed on card stock; two 8 ½ x 11 inch player aids; 88 counters; a six-sided die; and a 16 page rule book (12 pages of rules and 4 pages of designer notes, credits, and photos). It should be noted that Ben traveled to the Falkland Islands as part of the game research.

The counters are thick, well illustrated, and pop out of the holder easily and cleanly. Great counters with only one slight disappointment. A two row section of my counters were slightly misaligned and noticeable when removed. Thus items are off centered with some minor bleed over from other counters. Again, only two of my rows and so minor that I’m OK with them. But I note this for others who purchase this (or similar games) so you can check your counters upon arrival. Most companies are good about replacing them if they are significantly out of alignment. I have to also add that I love the thick, sturdy counters.


What I like about this Game:

1.This is a great solo system that combines strategic and tactical action. At the same time, it includes the political factors behind the event. BBC news coverage and its impact on the civilian population of the United Kingdom is a major factor in the game. The player must balance offensive action and casualties with public morale to win. UN diplomacy and Papal intervention can play roles as well. Other interesting factors in the game include the Argentine Exocet missile count. There is a finite and small number of Exocets. Random selection determines the starting number and use as well as possible SAS raids then reduce them. Also, SAS raids can be against numerous objectives. But once utilized, the SAS then stand down for a couple game turns to reorganize and prepare for the next mission. One must select the targets carefully and use the SAS wisely. No mission is guaranteed to be a success.

2. The game does a great job managing military, political, social, and weather factors in order to demonstrate the multiple issues impacting the conflict.

3.The game is manageable and the rules are well written. For the most part, the player just follows the Turn sequence and its phases which are explained in the same order within the rules.

4.The system is pure fun. I have thoroughly enjoyed this game.


Potential Issues for some Gamers:

1. Some of the rules may need careful rereading (perhaps more than once). Like many games, the best way to learn is to check under the hood, kick the tires, and give it a spin. I had some trouble sorting out two options in the rules for employing British naval and air assets against air bases on within Argentina. However, I felt better when I later read in BGG that others had similar issues with the same points. Ben cleared this question in the BGG forum. Thus, one might want to check the BGG forums for any updates reference rules explanations.

2. Some gamers might prefer a hex-based style rather than point-to-point system. I enjoy the latter but realize there are gamers who view hexes as their only prefered system. I would like to add that if you have never played a point-to-point system, this is a good game for your first taste of the mechanic.

3. In the same light, I know of a number of gamers who prefer on the ground slug fests between counters. Ground combat (and air combat) is a bit abstract but works really well following the two systems Ben implemented into the game. The Falklands was a different type of war and Ben’s mechanics do justice in its interpretation in my opinion. I suggest any gamer to give this one a try but understand some would prefer a type of company (for example) based system with more developed battle rules.


Replay Value: Great. The game includes many random elements that alter play each time.

Bang for the Buck:
Great. Lots of replay value in an interesting game on a fascinating topic. Even bigger bang when purchasing the folio style which is cheaper than the boxed version.

c The Swamp Hamster
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Stanley Hubble
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Spot on. I really like this game. Thanks for the explanation of how the two systems are used in this game.
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Robert Madison
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Hey Swamp!

Thanks for the positive review of the game. You correctly saw that I was trying to incorporate a whole lot of different elements and I'm glad you enjoyed how I chose to balance them. As I explained in my notes, this is a conflict that I approached with a great deal of passion, not only for the war itself but for the politics that surround it. I'm very glad that you enjoyed the game and it's great to see such a positive review.
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Andy M
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Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.
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Paul C
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moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


It wouldn't have happened without her.

Presumably you raise similar objections to Churchill's appearance on game boxes, he's another whipping-boy* of pseudo-political indoctrination.

(* obviously this includes Mrs T, as she had bigger balls than her contemporaries of all parties)

There won't be many non-tactical wargames that don't prominently feature individual leaders or regimes that don't have the approval of everyone in the wargame community. It would be pretty tedious if every thread about a WWII East Front wargame had to include posts about the key protagonists being not very nice people.
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Simon Blackwell
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moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


Easily solved. Put on Maggie by The Exploited, while setting the game up.
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Swamp Hamster
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Talossa wrote:
Hey Swamp!

Thanks for the positive review of the game. You correctly saw that I was trying to incorporate a whole lot of different elements and I'm glad you enjoyed how I chose to balance them. As I explained in my notes, this is a conflict that I approached with a great deal of passion, not only for the war itself but for the politics that surround it. I'm very glad that you enjoyed the game and it's great to see such a positive review.



My pleasure. This is a great game with the blending of the systems.
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Pete Belli
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Mrs Thatcher's War: The Falklands, 1982 needs a microbadge.
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Dave Daffin
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Excellent review
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Dave Daffin
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moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


Even though she is quite widely despised by many in the UK (I cheered loudly when she departed No.10), it would be wrong of anyone to dismiss this excellent game just because of the use of her name and image. You can't ignore the fact that her steely resolve (like Churchill's in WW2) was a factor in the conflict.
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Swamp Hamster
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Dave in Ledbury wrote:
Excellent review


My pleasure. Really enjoyed the game.
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Andy M
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capracaligo wrote:
moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


It wouldn't have happened without her.

Presumably you raise similar objections to Churchill's appearance on game boxes, he's another whipping-boy* of pseudo-political indoctrination.


You wrote that sentence in all seriousness, read it back, and then still didn't realise I was just having a bit of fun? I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear my opinions on Churchill or the British Empire, but I certainly have no objections to either or Thatcher being on game boxes or history books.
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Paul C
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moss_icon wrote:
capracaligo wrote:
moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


It wouldn't have happened without her.

Presumably you raise similar objections to Churchill's appearance on game boxes, he's another whipping-boy* of pseudo-political indoctrination.


You wrote that sentence in all seriousness, read it back, and then still didn't realise I was just having a bit of fun? I'm pretty sure you don't want to hear my opinions on Churchill or the British Empire, but I certainly have no objections to either or Thatcher being on game boxes or history books.


Erm... it was your microbadges for Anarchy, Marx and Lefty that made me think you were serious. I've no intent to deny your beliefs, no matter how much I disagree- I was reacting to the apparent dismissal of this interesting game because of them, and to balance any impression that people might get that hatred of Thatcher is the norm in the UK.
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Robert Madison
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moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


I've learned my lesson... Don't worry, my forthcoming game on the civil war in Rhodesia won't be called "Ian Smith's War" (or "Robert Mugabe's War" either)!
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Robert Madison
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capracaligo wrote:
Erm... it was your microbadges for Anarchy, Marx and Lefty that made me think you were serious. I've no intent to deny your beliefs, no matter how much I disagree- I was reacting to the apparent dismissal of this interesting game because of them, and to balance any impression that people might get that hatred of Thatcher is the norm in the UK.


For what it's worth I'm a soft-core Marxist myself but I take the same position on the Falklands as Michael Foot did. To quote the Labour MP I met in college and whom I described in my designer's notes, "It is the duty of HM armed forces to free HM subjects from fascist tyranny wherever it may be found."
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David Griffin
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It occurs to me that if the "system" knows where you are landing (in other words if the game fortifies San Carlos as though it knows you have to go there) that would be unhistorical since the Argentines were pretty totally surprised.

This was the only war that happened when I was in the military (though I was in the USAF, not the British military). Still we all listened thoughtfully to the news of the war. I remember (I think) Time Magazine's "The Empire Strikes Back" headline. My wargame background was more air and sea games (not land combat) so I payed attention more to the naval and air battles. Which is why "Where there is Discord" was such a perfect fit for me (though it's so long and anxiety inducing that I only actually played it once). That game is all Air and Naval with just a bit at the end for the land combat.

Naturally, the land combat was just as important and I'm glad to see this game give it its due.

One thing that would seem to make it hard to game this out is that the British army and navy weren't fighting both sides. What I mean is that a MAJOR component of the war was the "quality" of the forces, not just the numbers and statistics of the forces involved. The Argentines were a good army/navy/air force for what their local area, but the British were among the best, most professional military on the planet. Much as we see in the Arab Isreali wars, just using the weapon statistics makes it look like a slam dunk for the Argentines (or the Arabs) but curiously this doesn't happen (though it could have had things gone a little worse for the Brits).

I have bought other Falkland games and they always seem to play out more in favor of the Argentines because it assumes that each side is equally professional (plus they are typically horrible games).

I'd like to see some pictures and a little narrative for this one before I consider buying it! Thanks for the writeup.

By the way, here's the competition, Where there is Discord "in flight". I had to stop playing about every couple of hours to let my heart return to normal. HIGH stress for the british commander.
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Ron A
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Simonsmrt wrote:
moss_icon wrote:
Potential Issues for some Gamers:

The game has Thatcher on the box and in the title.


Easily solved. Put on Maggie by The Exploited, while setting the game up.


Let's not forget "Stand Down, Margaret" by the Beat



This video was from a performance just a week before the Argentine invasion.
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