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Subject: First Impressions rss

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John R
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The Background

I got Manoeuvre as a Christmas present this past year (2008). Unfortunately, it sat in my game closet for three months as I played the heck out of Twilight Struggle! With the Easter break approaching, I finally read the rules, called up my dad, and set up a game. He played the British, and I played the French. This game ended up in a win for him. I also played against my wife; she doesn't really like wargames but was willing to learn "something easy." I won this won playing the Ottomans against the Austrians. On Easter day, we played again, and she killed my Prussians with her Russian forces. Three plays in one week isn't bad, and it's allowed me to form some first impressions.

Components

This game comes with 20 map quadrants which are colorful and easy to understand. Unfortunately, they are also bowed, which necessitates some "high impact gaming plastic". Laying it over the board works just fine. The unit counters are of thick cardboard, easy to pick up or slide across the board. Each country deck is made of thick, glossy card stock. Although these decks are about 1/2 the length and width of a normal deck of cards, they work pretty well. My only complaint is that they are somehwat difficult to shuffle the first time around. This game also comes with two double-sided player aids (helpful), a small rulebook, and several six-, eight-, and ten-sided dice. These are made of pretty low-quality plastic (hey, I'm a roleplayer and I likes me some cool dice).

Rules

The rules can be read in about 10-15 minutes, after which it should be very clear as to how to play. Several examples illustrate movement, combat, etc., and the exceptions to each rule are few. I think what I like about these rules the most is that, in reading them, I can understand why certain rules were written in here. Everything seems to hold together logically, which makes it really easy to teach it to someone who is unfamiliar with wargames.

Gameplay

Okay, now for the good stuff! Gameplay here is fast and furious. After setting up the board and pulling your starting hand, you begin by discarding any cards you see fit and filling your hand with five cards. Then you move one unit, resolve one combat if necessary, and use a restore phase to heal a damaged unit, build a redoubt, etc. Pretty simple. Combat is resolved with the attacker rolling a certain number of dice (as indicated by the unit card he plays to initiate combat) and adding any appropriate strength and terrain modifiers. The defender responds by adding up his defense total, the sum of unit strength, card plays, and terrain modifiers. What's nice about this is that the attacker is the only one rolling dice. The defender has a fixed number. This keeps the game from avoiding the "buckets o' dice" label.

Each country gets eight unique units, some mix of infantry and cavalry, and each country's deck gives the nation a unique feel. The Ottomans, for instance, are a very fast-moving cavalry nation, while the Russians have many lumbering infantry units that are fiendishly difficult to kill. It's clear that there are some countries that are weaker than others, but with repeated plays, I think one can easily learn what countries match up best.

Your goal in the game is to either eliminate five enemy units (pretty rare, I think) or have undisputed control over as many squares on your opponent's side of the board as possible. The game ends immediately if you kill five enemy units. The other way the game ends is pretty interesting--when each player reaches the bottom of his nation deck. If one person reaches the bottom of it first, he reshuffles and keeps playing, which means he has just ceded control over the end of the game to his opponent. Between my dad, wife, and I, we haven't yet figured out whether it is best to burn through your deck quickly hunting for powerful cards or to work slowly and let your hand dictate your strategy.

Likes

There are several things I truly enjoy about Manoevure. The inclusion of so many map quadrants and unique nations gives this game a lot of replay value. Also, it is a light wargame that can be played in 30-60 minutes. It can be taught easily to newcomers, children (age 9 and up, perhaps?), etc. I also like that with a few small purchases, you can really get two, three, or even four boards up and running at once. We've already talked about getting together a bracket and playing throughout a whole day!

Gripes

Besides some small component issues, I have a few gripes. First, if you're looking for a realistic "age of musket" game, you'll not find it here. This game is a lot more like chess than your average wargame, and some things will make your head spin. For instance, you have the ability to "bombard" your opponent, which will reduce a unit to its damaged state, or cause a damaged unit to be removed from the board. However, because of the way the numbers play out, it's almost always better to bombard a unit which is already damaged. And any good wargamer knows that you want to use your artillery as a preparation for an infantry attack, not a follow-up!

My other problem is actually more of a question than a genuine gripe. It's unclear to me after three plays how much luck is a factor in this game. The deck and the dice lead me to believe that this is a pretty luck-based game, which may frustrate some. However, I think the national character of each side may mitigate this some. But it's still unclear to me whether one can view the board and plan out a true strategy, or if one is reduced to just attacking in sort of a random manner. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Final Thoughts

This is a light wargame with a really high replay value and a good potential for tournament play. It can be taught in 10 minutes and played in 60; if you're looking for something light to offset your copies of Wilderness War, Afrika Korps, etc., this is a great addition to your game collection! This would also work as an excellent "gateway" wargame.

7/10

John,
Margin of Victory blog
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Choubi Gogs
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BeatGuy wrote:

My other problem is actually more of a question than a genuine gripe. It's unclear to me after three plays how much luck is a factor in this game. The deck and the dice lead me to believe that this is a pretty luck-based game, which may frustrate some. However, I think the national character of each side may mitigate this some. But it's still unclear to me whether one can view the board and plan out a true strategy, or if one is reduced to just attacking in sort of a random manner. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
Now this is what I really want to know....

Once you figure it out, tell me!
 
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Mark Buetow
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Choubi wrote:
BeatGuy wrote:

My other problem is actually more of a question than a genuine gripe. It's unclear to me after three plays how much luck is a factor in this game. The deck and the dice lead me to believe that this is a pretty luck-based game, which may frustrate some. However, I think the national character of each side may mitigate this some. But it's still unclear to me whether one can view the board and plan out a true strategy, or if one is reduced to just attacking in sort of a random manner. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
Now this is what I really want to know....

Once you figure it out, tell me!
I've got about 25 plays in and here's my take...

There is certainly a lot of luck between the dice and the cards. However, you will mitigate the luck by careful play. In other words, since this is an attacker biased game (by that I mean the attacker mainly controls the battle) the reduction of the effects of the luck comes with carefully setting up certain situations.

The terrain is important in the game, but not as important as multi-pronged attacks using leaders and careful use of bombardments and volleys and ambushes (if available).

IMHO, Manouevre is a game that has a good deal of luck but generally speaking, the better player will generally win. (Not always, sometimes a series of bad rolls is a series of bad rolls!). The proper use of the decks is also important, playing to the strengths of the nation and avoiding situations where their weaknesses are easily exploited.

Manouevre is great for what it is: a light, high-replayability, relatively quick wargame.
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Choubi Gogs
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Malacandra wrote:
something interesting
Thanks for the insight!

This is a game I really want to try out... I'm still looking for this simple wargame that could appeal to my gf...
 
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