Introducing 2 de Mayo
Let's begin with a trivia question. Q: What game won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 1983? Do you know the answer? A: Scotland Yard. It's the classic "cat-and-mouse" board game that has stood the test of time for over 25 years, and remains popular today. Scotland Yard is a clever asymmetric board game, where players representing "police" try to track down another player controlling a "criminal" around the streets of London.
But now Spanish designer Daniel Val has come up with a new gem, in the style of Scotland Yard, namely: 2 de Mayo
London has changed to Madrid, and the police and criminals theme has changed to a war theme where French troops chase vastly outnumbered Spanish revolutionaries through the streets of Madrid:
Like Scotland Yard, it's a cat-and-mouse game that is soaked with theme, full of tension, and plays quickly. In fact, 2 de Mayo was good enough to win Daniel Val the 2008 Jugamos Tod@s Prize for Spanish Designer of the Year. It's a terrific two player game, oozing historical theme, and if you enjoy Scotland Yard, you certainly should give it a try. It could even be said that while Scotland Yard primarily appeals to people who enjoy deduction, 2 de Mayo arguably has even a broader appeal.
So what's the game about? I'll unabashedly share with you the excellent synopsis from the back of the box:
So if that's what the theme is about, what about the game-play? We read on:
Intrigued? You should be! Even though the game has a war element as a result of a theme, it is has a cat-and-mouse element that will certainly appeal to gamers of all types.
The box is fairly small and nondescript, smaller in size than those in the Alea medium box line:
The cover uses part of a famous painting that memorializes the events of the Spanish resistance and massacre, namely Goya’s “The Third of May 1808.”
Some editions will have a lovely sticker on the shrinkwrap, proudly testifying to the fact that the game won an award for its designer:
The edition currently available is a bilingual edition, featuring both the Spanish and English languages, as is apparent already from the back of the box:
Let's open the box and find out more! Inside we get the following components:
● 1 map of Madrid
● 41 wooden cubes (representing the French and Spanish forces), as well as a turn marker
● 22 event cards
● 2 player aids
● 1 turn track
● 1 rulebook
● 1 sheet for recording "orders"
Let's check out the components a little more closely!
Components: Rule Book
The rule book is bi-lingual, with 20 pages of rules in English, and 20 pages in Spanish.
But don't be deceived by the length of the rule book! The first few pages describe the historical background of the game, and there's a lengthy section explaining the historical and thematic background behind each card - fascinating reading that really enhances the game! There's also a complete Example of Play that takes up another four pages. What this means is that the actual rules themselves take up less than five pages! So they can be mastered very easily, and explained to a new player in just a few minutes. Big kudos to the designer and publisher for including historical background information and a complete play example - these help new players learn the game and appreciate the historical flavour, and I very much appreciated these parts of the rule book!
Want to check out the rule book for yourself? Download it here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/file/info/32961
So let's check out the game board. It's an old map of Madrid, divided into 21 areas or zones:
The map depicts the city of Madrid in 1808 quite accurately. The arrows outside the city walls indicate four areas (1, 6, 16 and 20) that are entrances available for French troops to enter the city. Areas 14, 15 and 16 are darker in colour, and represent streets from which the French can execute one movement without counting towards their usual turn limit of two movements.
Components: Military units
There are 30 blue cubes which represent French troops, and 10 red cubes which represent Spanish civilians and troops:
The red and blue colours were apparently the colours used to identify each of the contending armies in the first war themed boardgames of the 19th century. Another interesting historical note is that every French cube represents about 1000 soldiers, whereas every Spanish cube represents between 300-500 civilians. Yes, the Spanish are far outnumbered! This is an assymetrical game, it still is very balanced because the win conditions for the French are much harder!
Components: Event Cards
All the cards come packaged in a simple deck wrapped in brown paper:
Altogether there are 22 event cards, 11 for the French (blue-backed), and 11 for the Spanish (red-backed). The artwork on the back of these cards is absolutely stunning:
As well as Spanish and English text, the front of the cards features lovely artwork too. Here's an example of the card, "The Mob Breaks Up" (French player):
My only regret about the cards is that I find it unfortunate that the names of the cards are only in Spanish, not in English. But I particularly like the historical flavour of the event cards. In this instance, this card reflects the unpredictable behavior of the mob.
Consider also this example, "The Inmates of the Court Jail" (Spanish player):
The rule book provides this fascinating historical note about this card:
"Fifty-six out of the ninety-four inmates of the Court Jail wrote their Warden asking for permission to go out “to risk our life against the foreigners and for the benefit of our country” and gave their word to return to jail once the combats had ended. Quite exceptionally, permission to leave the jail was granted. The capture of one French cannon in Plaza Mayor stands out among the great deeds performed by this remarkable group. Operated by the inmates, the cannon actually fired grapeshot at some bewildered French soldiers. All of them went back to prison on the following day, with three exceptions: one inmate had been killed, another had been wounded and yet another was declared the sole fugitive of the group. They were men of their word after all."
Similar historical information for every event card in the game. The solid historical theme behind cards like this is a real strength of the game!
Components: Turn track
The turn track card also features lovely artwork on the reverse side:
You may have noticed the single plain coloured cube in an earlier picture - this is used on the turn track to indicate the current turn:
The game lasts 10 turns altogether. An interesting note is that each turn represents about 30 minutes of real time, since the actual historical rebellion lasted from around 10am until 3pm (5 hours).
Components: Reference Cards
There is a reference card for each player. One side lists the four phases of each turn, whereas the other side shows the 21 regions of the map:
Components: Orders Record Sheet
A sheet for recording the "orders" each player gives to move their troops is provided with the game:
Using this sheet is optional, because it's just as easy to write down your orders on a blank or lined paper. But if you do want more copies of the official score sheet, the game publisher makes a special note that the orders record sheet may be freely photocopied, and there are also several versions that can be downloaded and printed from BGG:
The setup is the same at the beginning of every game. Single Spanish forces (red cubes) are placed in Areas 4,8,9,10,12,15,17,20. French Forces (blue cubes) are placed as follows: 1 in Area 10, and 2 in Areas 1,6,11,19. Five French forces are placed outside Madrid, adjacent to Areas 1,6,16,20, and these can not move into Madrid before Turn 3. The resulting set-up will look like this:
BGG user duchamp has created a lovely setup aid that can be printed out, in order to quickly illustrate the starting setup:
Additionally, each player gets one starting Event card. The Spanish player always gets Jose Blas Molina y Soriano:
The historical notes inform us that he was the locksmith who started the revolt, by crying "Treason! They are taking away the son of the King! Treason!" when attempts were made to take the remaining members of the Spanish royal family to France.
The French player may select from one of two starting cards, Artillery, or Marshall Joachim Murat:
The turn marker is placed to Turn 1, and the game begins!
The complete set-up should look something like this:
Game-play: Win conditions
To win, the French must satisfy all three of the following conditions:
1. All Spanish forces (red cubes) must be eliminated.
2. All access areas to Madrid (Areas 1, 6, 16, and 20) must be occupied by at least one French force (blue cube).
3. The French player must not have lost four or more forces (blue cubes).
For the Spanish player to win, he must simply prevent any of the above three requirements from happening. In other words, the Spanish player will win if any of the following conditions apply by the end of Turn 10:
1. There are any Spanish forces (red cubes) remaining.
2. The French player does not occupy Areas 1, 6, 16 and 20.
3. The French player has lost four or more forces (blue cubes).
Clearly the military might is stacked in favour of the French, and the game reflects history in that the Spanish forces never had any real chance of besting the French in battle. But the assymetrical win conditions are beautifully balanced. The game has been created so that it reflects the historical record - if the Spanish can stave off the French long enough and create a result that is an improvement on the historical record, the Spanish win. This reflects the fact that in reality, the revolt only lasted for about 5 hours - thus in the game if the Spanish can resist longer than five hours, it can be considered to be an improvement on the facts.
Game-play: Flow of Play
Each of the ten turns in the game consists of four phases, as listed on the reverse side of the player reference card:
Phase 1: Preparation
Each player may draw one card from their Event card deck. As an interesting balancing mechanism, you can prevent your opponent from drawing a card if you have three or less cards than him.
Phase 2: Orders
Each player secretly writes down the movement orders for their forces (i.e. "4 -> 5" would represent a movement from Area 4 to Area 5). These orders are then revealed simultaneously in the Movement phase. Some of the basic rules governing movement are:
● Groups can only move to an adjacent area on the map
● Spanish groups can't split into two groups and move to different areas; French groups can (although this counts as two separate movements).
● Spanish groups may all be moved; only two French groups may be moved each turn. French groups moving from Areas 14, 15, 16 don't count towards this limit.
● An area with units of both players is a "contested area". French groups may never leave a contested area; if a Spanish group leaves a contested area, it must leave at least half (rounded up) of his cubes in that area behind.
For example, orders might look as follows:
10 -> 17
8 -> 9
14 -> 12
16 -> 15
11 -> 12
7 -> 9
Phase 3: Movement
Both players simultaneously reveal their orders. They may play Event cards at this point, if they wish. The Spanish orders are usually implemented first, since the French player can decide how many cubes actually are moved (a minimum of one, because all written orders must be fulfilled with at least one cube) after the Spanish movements have been executed.
For example, the orders listed above might result in movement that looks as follows:
Phase 4: Resolution
If an area has both French and Spanish cubes after movement, it is considered a "contested area", and casualties are calculated and eliminated. The strength of a group corresponds to the number of its cubes (possibly modified by event cards), and the weaker group loses cubes as follows:
● If you have the same strength as the opposing force: no cubes are removed
● If you have more strength than the opposing force: 1 cube is removed
● If you have double the strength of the opposing force: 2 cubes are removed
● If you have triple the strength of the opposing force: 3 cubes are removed
This is important for both sides, since the Spanish can win by finding a way to eliminate just four of the French units!
In the example pictured above, there are three contested areas (9, 12 and 15), which would result in two Spanish casualties and one French casualty as follows:
The game is based carefully on events that took place in Madrid on May 2nd, and although the game is not intended to be a precise simulation of the events of that day, it does closely reflect the historical record, without sacrificing game-play. In fact, all of the events in the cards are real, and beautifully provide a sense of historical accuracy as well as enhance the game play. In this respect the event cards really add to the historical flavour of the game. Altogether each side has 11 cards to work with.
The French event cards:
● Marshall Joachim Murat (Napoleon's son-in-law) - move up to 5 French groups
● Napoleon’s Orders (Órdenes de Napoleón) - recruit a unit
● Artillery (Artillería) - strengthens & protects French units in Zone 10, and limits Spanish movement into French controlled zones 15 & 16
● Cavalry (Caballería) - extra movement from zones 14, 15 or 16
● Elite Troops (Tropas de Elite) - adds +1 to a French group
● Collaboration with the French (Colaboración con los franceses) - forces Spanish player to immediately discard a card
● Fire On My Order (Fuego Cerrado) - repeats Resolution Phase in a zone
● The Mob Breaks Up (La Turba se Dispersa) - allows Spanish group to split in two on next movement
● Executions by Firing Squads (Fusilamientos) - makes easier the reduced Spanish win condition of capturing 3 French units
● Disorder (Desorden) - cancels a Spanish movement order
● “Peace, Peace, Everything’s Been Settled” (“Paz, paz, que todo está compuesto") - cancels a Spanish movement order on Turn 10
The Spanish event cards:
● José Blas Molina y Soriano (the locksmith who started the revolt) - Spanish group avoids resolution phase, and can move contested zone next turn
● Luis Daoiz (Artillery Captain) - adds +1 to a Spanish group
● Pedro Velarde (Artillery Captain) - recruit a Spanish unit in Zones 2, 3 or 4 (requires: unit present)
● Jacinto Ruiz (Artillery Lieutenant) - reduces Spanish win condition to capturing 3 French units (requires: Mayor card)
● The Mayor of Móstoles (El Alcalde de Móstoles) - needed for Jacinto Ruiz to be played for reduced Spanish win condition
● The Inmates of the Court Jail (Los Presos de la Cárcel Real) - cancels effect of Artillery for a Spanish group
● Soldiers Flee Their Barracks (Los soldados se escapan de sus cuarteles) - recruit a Spanish unit before Turn 7
● The Manolas in Puerta de Toledo (Las “Manolas” de la Puerta de Toledo) - cancels a French movement to Zone 20 from outside Madrid
● A Flowerpot Kills the Son of General Legrand (Un tiesto mata al hijo del General Legrand) - French group required to leave one unit behind during movement
● Intercepted Orders (Órdenes interceptadas) - cancel a French movement order before Turn 10
● The Heroines of May 2nd (Las heroínas del Dos de Mayo) - allows Spanish to cancel one of his own movements
The rule book provides excellent comments about the historical background of each card, as well as other aspects of the game. This is well worth reading, and enhances the game significantly. For example, the card Executions by Firing Squads (Fusilamientos) refers to the events of the third of May. Francisco Goya's famous painting "Executions of The Third of May 1808" (Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo) picturing this is also featured on the cover of the box:
Game-Play: Example of Play
The rule book contains an example of play, to illustrate how the game of 2 de Mayo works. Since the example is mostly text, it can be difficult to follow at times; moreover it contains a couple of minor errors. I have reconstructed, corrected, and edited the example of play, and with the help of my camera and photo editing software, created a pictorial illustration of the game-play, with the aim of helping new players follow along and get a sense of how the game works. You will find the pictorial illustration of a sample game of 2 de Mayo here:
Pictorial Illustration of Game-play: A sample game of 2 de Mayo
The asymmetrical nature of the game inevitably raises the question: how balanced is 2 de Mayo? Does it favour the Spanish or the French? This question has stimulated several discussions already, and if you want to read more, start with this thread. A poll will also give you some indication as to what others think:
Many report that with first plays the Spanish seem to have the advantage, but that with experienced players it's the French that are hard to beat. As you gain new insights about gameplay and learn different tactics and traps, the balance might appear to switch from one direction to another. This is a reflection that you're learning more about the game, and if anything, a testimony to the fact that the game is more than sufficiently balanced for significant replayability.
What do I think?
2 de Mayo certainly deserves a wider audience. It's a great cat and mouse type game with many strengths:
● lovely artwork
● quick game-play (20-30 minutes)
● historically rich and very thematic
● tense simultaneous movement
● asymmetrical but very balanced
● event cards enhancing replayability and strategy
● simple rules
It reminds me a little of games like Scotland Yard (but less deductive, and arguably more thematic) and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (but with simultaneous movement and cards that work as events rather than combat strength), and yet is outstanding in its own right.
What do others think?
But don't just take my word for it! What do other people think about the game? Here are some comments from those are are particularly enthused about 2 de Mayo:
"Haven't met a person who doesn't like this. Simple, engaging, highly replayable, tense to the finish. All within 20 mins." - Ethan Tan
"Very nice and fast filler, it can be played in less than 20 minutes. Beautiful components, specially the board and the cards." - Jacoba Ca
"A near perfect mix of abstract 2-player and historical combat. Asymmetrical, brain-burning, quick. Outstanding game!" - duchamp
"Great game packed with historical references. Short playing time, easy to learn. High replayability factor." - Tony Kerkhove
"Amazing little game! It is filled with theme and there is an extensive description of all the real life events on which it is based. Even though it looks like a small game it is very clever and gives the players many options. I also love the fact that is asymmetrical (different armies/win conditions for each player)" - Sneaker
"An unusual piece of history packaged in a short game that packs a punch. The general mechanisms are abstract, but grounded and contextualized by the event cards." - Jason Matthews
"Is it possible to create a military simulation using very simple rules, but without making it an abstract game? If so, is it possible to limit gameplay to 30 minutes and still get an interesting game? Yes. Yes." - Walter de Vor
"This is a very cool little game of cat and mouse. I feel like there are lots of opportunities for clever play. The Spanish player in particular can really do some cool stuff to avoid being smashed. The small decks of cards add just enough variety and historical theme." - Justin L
Is 2 de Mayo for you? As always, that will depend on your personal taste. I hope that this pictorial overview has helped you learn how the game works. For a quick two-player game that is dripping with historical theme and gaming tension, I think Daniel Val has got the mix just right. Bravo!
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
- Last edited Fri Mar 5, 2010 3:00 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Wed Feb 4, 2009 3:42 am
Handsome devil huh?
Awesome review! The pictures really help. I'm regretting not buying this at Spiel '08, and will pick it up as soon as it becomes available at one of my
pushers friendly, online, game stores.
The game companies should pay you for this. Awesome review, count me as a BUY!
Veni, vidi... put in an order!
This should be the benchmark by which all reviews are measured. Superb review Ender. This is a must have for me.
What can I say?
Thank you so much for this awesome review!
The Problem with reviewing games now on the Geek (as I did for 2dM) is that you end up having sleepless nights and waking up in a sweat, wondering when The 'Enders' review will turn up and make yours look that little bit inferior ( OK a lot!)
They should also carry a BGG health warning for your wallet, as every time I read one it makes me rush out and buy it. EVEN when I've already got it.I was on the way to the game shop when I realized I already posses the game. Shame on you sir!
Keep it up
An excellent review, as always, I am actually having a lot of fun reading your review and adding games to my wishlist (2dM, Roll through the ages, Glory to Rome....) but... (and it is a minor but) there is a mistake on your review.
When you talk about the card "The Inmates of the Court Jail" the card that appears below is "Soldiers flee their barracks".
In both cases you have people scaping but they are different people (although soldiers in their barracks may sometimes feel as inmates in a jail)
1) Mr. Ender, you have personally persuaded me to purchase this game solely on the strengths of this review. No man should have that much power and control over another.
2) When I opened my copy and perused the rules, the designer has published your entire account of the play example that you provide. Are you aware of that? He has graciously mentioned you by name and personally thanked you for your generous contribution! Way to go, Ender, I knew it was only a matter of time before these reviews would get you that kind of notoriety.
- Last edited Sun Jan 3, 2010 5:47 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Jan 3, 2010 5:47 pm
Good news for those interested in 2 de Mayo! The pictorial review above is based on the original Gen-X edition of 2 de Mayo, but Gryphon Games has now published a new edition of the game. The game itself is unchanged, but some of the components have been improved. For an overview of the upgraded components that come with the new Gryphon Games edition of 2 de Mayo, and a comparison with the components of the edition pictured above, see here:
So you're wondering about the new Gryphon Games edition of 2 de Mayo: A Definitive Guide with Pictures
This is hilarious. I literally (and I do mean LITERALLY) *just* published my own review, and seconds later saw your comment and realized that you just wrote a comparative review between the old and new printings of the game. Kinda makes me want to undo that now, especially knowing that my review is definitely going to pale in comparison with yours.
The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
Excellent review job, as per usual but heaps of thanks for the rule book's example cleanup/redo! That's tremendously helpful.
Thanks for this review, Ender -- acquired the game a bit ago because of it and have really enjoyed the game so far!