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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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I've been thinking of doing a set of reviews that illustrate how certain games simulate particular historical realities. One reason is that I'd like to write about why I like games such as Wilderness War, but seeing several good reviews currently devoted to the game, I feel I would not be adding anything new beyond my historical commentary. So here is my first review of this sort, and if it flies I'll do more of these. I must add I am not an expert on this war, but I've read a few books and I think I am qualified to make a few comments.

The Units and How They Interact
Indians, rangers, and coureurs des bois can ambush against line infantry, which vary from to colonial militia to Highland infantry, that lack these irregular troops. However, infantry are needed for sieges and are powerful in pitch battles, having a greater combat value. So the game encourages integrated armies, which was a vital lesson the British learned the hard way

Leadership Problems
Both sides had peculiar leadership difficulties. For the British they had a plethora of officers who served in the war, but only a few, like Wolfe and Amherst, were talented. Most were average to incompetent, and as the British player you have to wade through a lot of poor officers to get close to reaching a good leadership pool. For the French the problem is the in the cards, which can be capricious and display the command struggle between Montcalm and Vaudreuil or the corruption that became common in New France. Also by having fewer officers, their loss in battle is more catastrophic for the French cause.

If You Build a Fort...
Forts are strong and help secure an area but by building a fort you invite a possible disaster, because forts act a supply bases and symbols of power. By having the fall of any fort give you or the enemy victory points, the dual nature of these structures as assets and liabilities is well represented in the game.

French Strategic Difficulties
France had a more difficult time formulating strategy in this war. For the British it was a question of simply limiting French expansion and then hopefully capturing part or all of New France. For France though the path to victory was illusive and caught up in limitations of supply and army strength. The western frontier is fragile and both the Ohio Forks and Niagara are worth an extra victory point, so France must consider protecting these bases. Vaudreuil wanted to win by raiding, a strategy with dubious long-term potential, but which can gain the French vital victory points in the early years. Another path is by holding fortifications and inviting the British to battles they might not win. This was the strategy of Montcalm, and it failed after early victories because of improvements in British leadership, Indian alliances, and a steady stream of reinforcements. Any of these options are open, but the game shows that strictly following either of them will not guarantee victory, so France must be careful in planning. Of course there are other options, but I like how these historic strategies fit within the game.

Cards
The cards add flavor and streamline possibilities, but mostly what they do is add a reasonable level chaos from colonial politics to the desertion of Indian allies, both of which had as much to do with the fortunes or war as they had to do with the capricious nature of the auxiliary allies.

Victory
If the French fail to win a sweeping early victory, then it comes down to delaying the British and thus making the war too expensive. For those who might not see this as a real victory, consider that the expense of the war convinced Parliament to levy taxes on the colonies, which, combined with British arrogance in handling the colonial elite, caused the American Revolution. Well that is simplifying it, but clearly if the British have a hard time beating the French there will be negative consequences down the road.
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Well... As you might know XVIIIth century is my favorite period and more particularly history of Canada..
This being said, I enjoyed WW and I still play it time to time even if it is weak for me on the historical simulation and misses key elements of this conflict...
There are lot of things that could be said to illustrat my point as I already did on forums but there is not much point in going there unless you are very interested in historic accuracy... WW is a very good game to play as it is...

Quote:
The Units and How They Interact
So the game encourages integrated armies, which was a vital lesson the British learned the hard way

True in the game, false in reality.
French tried to avoid the mixed composition as they were behaving very differently and disturbed each others. The mixed composition is even sometime blamed for the defeat of Abraham's plain. Same for the English, particularly for Wolf, who did not want any colonial or irregular in his troops and only wanted regulars for his expedition to Quebec.

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Leadership Problems
... British player you have to wade through a lot of poor officers to get close to reaching a good leadership pool.

Yes but it is rather clumsy in the game, as they arrive randomly with cards and not according to what they did or did not do.
Quote:

For the French the problem is the in the cards, which can be capricious and display the command struggle between Montcalm and Vaudreuil or the corruption that became common in New France.

Well not sure what you are referring to here... Command was a real historic problem, but there is nothing about that in the game. France have good leaders in the game and can use them without limitation and usually the main army is under Montcalm leader and Vaudreuil is not used at all...
For corruption, yes, it became important and comparable to New England colonies but there is nothing to reflect corruption in the game as far as I can tell...
Quote:

If You Build a Fort...
By having the fall of any fort give you or the enemy victory points, the dual nature of these structures as assets and liabilities is well represented in the game.

I tend to agree with you here and it works decently in the game to reflect the importance of the forts...

Quote:
French Strategic Difficulties
France had a more difficult time formulating strategy in this war.

Not really, they had the experience of all the previous wars conducted from Canada in the XVIIIth century and had pretty successful strategies developed.
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For the British it was a question of simply limiting French expansion and then hopefully capturing part or all of New France.

... and not get too damaged by the French strategies and alliance system that bleed them during each of the previous conflicts.
Quote:

For France though the path to victory was illusive and caught up in limitations of supply and army strength. The western frontier is fragile and both the Ohio Forks and Niagara are worth an extra victory point, so France must consider protecting these bases.

In the game yes... Not at all in history... The French strategies were the usual ones : raiding from allied bases (Indians and Acadia on the land and Louisbourg at sea). Main theaters of operation for the French strategy: Nova Scotia and New England (Bay James and Newfoundland as minor side theater).

Quote:
Vaudreuil wanted to win by raiding, a strategy with dubious long-term potential,

In the game... But a strategy that was very successful for France during the previous conflicts...

Quote:
Another path is by holding fortifications and inviting the British to battles they might not win. This was the strategy of Montcalm, and it failed after early victories because of improvements in British leadership, Indian alliances, and a steady stream of reinforcements.

I agree, and the game is reflecting that quite well...

Quote:
...but I like how these historic strategies fit within the game.

The most important and impressive operation of the war was the attack of Louisbourg. The British spent several years organizing it and it was the largest sea invasion ever attempted up to that time. It is all the British strategy was about and entered history book. Because and as a result of that, 2 other facts entered history books as major features of this war : the deportation of the acadians (another impressive and large operation by the British) and the fall of Quebec. I think these 3 elements really define the conflict. WW only partially reflect their major historic importance...

I like the game especially for the synthesis of the conflict it tries to do and for the gameplay value it has. It has the advantage of letting a wider range of people know about this conflict... The cost for that success was to be a bite far from history but close enough to successfully flavor the game...
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Barry Kendall
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My thanks to the both of you. Both the points and the counterpoints are most informative. I know something about the conflict but as of yet WW awaits some attention on my shelf.

Your efforts here give me a better idea what to look for, hope for, and give up expecting from the game.

Again, the card-driven format appears to be a mixed blessing, reaffirm a longstanding doubt I hold about this particular mode of design.

Thanks guys.
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Richard Young
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Game design gets tricky when it uses actual history as its basis. Yet, Avalon Hill built an empire by inviting us to see if we can "change history" by giving us the situation and the units which were present but putting "you in charge." Where one goes next in the design requires a lot of considerations and, inevitably, trade-offs and compromises.

The trickyness is in deciding whether you want to build a simulator or a less ambitious recreation - just a "game." The best illustration of that was the tension between Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI) and Avalon Hill (AH) back in the day. Most of the SPI titles aimed at simulation but many weren't much fun to play, in my opinion. On the other hand, AH titles were often taken to task for their historical inaccuracies. But both had sizable followings as gamers have their own preferences in this regard. As for me, I would rather play a game that is well balanced and fun to play so I am willing to overlook some historical shortcomings.

Card driven games are great for creating the atmosphere of the theme they are presenting; but, more importantly, they also provide an opportunity to mix strategic level decisons into what otherwise would be simply operational level war games. But the success of this is entirely dependent on the quality of the deck design. In my view, Wildnerness War is a very good example of a CDG that is both an enjoyable and fairly well balanced game besides being a reasonably faithful depiction of the historical situation. It is likely that the designers had to sacrifice rigorous historicity in the interests of producing a fun game experience. It certainly works for me - I just wish I had more opportunities to play...
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Yan P.
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Yes, for instance in the game you are barred from invading halifax as the french ; yet the previous conflict there were numerous attempts to kick the english out of Acadia and Annapolis (Port) Royal.

What happened in 1755 was that the british succeeded in taking fort Beauséjour, the french's outpost on the mainland - but there was a sizable number of canadian, native and acadian troops who continued to fight until the fall of Louisbourg. In principle, there should be nothing stopping them from an overland invasion of Halifax except for numbers.

Oh, and the greater part of the deportation happened before the fall of Louisbourg - though they could continue doing mop-up afterwards because France's ability to project power in the region had essentially been destroyed.
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Bill Eldard
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gittes wrote:
I've been thinking of doing a set of reviews that illustrate how certain games simulate particular historical realities. One reason is that I'd like to write about why I like games such as Wilderness War, but seeing several good reviews currently devoted to the game, I feel I would not be adding anything new beyond my historical commentary. So here is my first review of this sort, and if it flies I'll do more of these. I must add I am not an expert on this war, but I've read a few books and I think I am qualified to make a few comments. . .


Great assessment of Wilderness War, Sean. The designer, Volko Ruhnke, is a big French & Indian War enthusiast, and this terrific game is a true labor of love. He's managed to capture the key factors in the war, and the cards add to the uncertainty that both sides encountered regarding support from the colonial governments and respective mother countries, Indian allies, and events outside the war zone, such as Quiberon Bay. Even details like the Massacre card -- in which the card holder plays it on the battle he just lost in order force the victorious Indians to go home -- are well-conceived.

If there was ever a conflict that was ideally suited for the CDG treatment, it was this.

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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True in the game, false in reality.
French tried to avoid the mixed composition as they were behaving very differently and disturbed each others. The mixed composition is even sometime blamed for the defeat of Abraham's plain. Same for the English, particularly for Wolf, who did not want any colonial or irregular in his troops and only wanted regulars for his expedition to Quebec.


I have to disagree, but I see your point - mixed units were not always a good thing. While mixed units hurt Montcalm at Quebec, his men were fighting on an open plain and his best troops were elsewhere. As for Wolfe he brought rangers with him and Amherst made good use of his Indian allies in the campaign aganist Montreal.

Quote:
Yes but it is rather clumsy in the game, as they arrive randomly with cards and not according to what they did or did not do.


Good point, but how would you improve it?

Quote:
Well not sure what you are referring to here... Command was a real historic problem, but there is nothing about that in the game. France have good leaders in the game and can use them without limitation and usually the main army is under Montcalm leader and Vaudreuil is not used at all...
For corruption, yes, it became important and comparable to New England colonies but there is nothing to reflect corruption in the game as far as I can tell...


There is a French corruption card and a card that allows the British to move a French general to another location. Both of these are frustrating.

Quote:
Not really, they had the experience of all the previous wars conducted from Canada in the XVIIIth century and had pretty successful strategies developed.


They seemed a bit disorganized in formulating a consistent strategy in this war. Also consider that the other colonial wars were relatively modest affairs with few battles or sieges.

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In the game... But a strategy that was very successful for France during the previous conflicts...


I doubt it would have worked in the French and Indian War since the British feed a lot of resources into this struggle, making it more of a traditional war.

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The most important and impressive operation of the war was the attack of Louisbourg. The British spent several years organizing it and it was the largest sea invasion ever attempted up to that time. It is all the British strategy was about and entered history book. Because and as a result of that, 2 other facts entered history books as major features of this war : the deportation of the acadians (another impressive and large operation by the British) and the fall of Quebec. I think these 3 elements really define the conflict. WW only partially reflect their major historic importance...


Louisbourg was the turning point, no doubt about that. In the game in order to take Quebec, the Brits have to first secure Louisbourg, so I'm not sure how the game fails to illustrate the importance of this operation.

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I like the game especially for the synthesis of the conflict it tries to do and for the gameplay value it has. It has the advantage of letting a wider range of people know about this conflict... The cost for that success was to be a bite far from history but close enough to successfully flavor the game...


I think it is close to history. Not a pure simulation by any means, but as both France and Britain, I can feel the dilemma and limitations that hampered each and the unusual nature of the conflict hits home in the rules for units, forts, and of course in the cards.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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The trickyness is in deciding whether you want to build a simulator or a less ambitious recreation - just a "game." The best illustration of that was the tension between Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI) and Avalon Hill (AH) back in the day. Most of the SPI titles aimed at simulation but many weren't much fun to play, in my opinion. On the other hand, AH titles were often taken to task for their historical inaccuracies. But both had sizable followings as gamers have their own preferences in this regard. As for me, I would rather play a game that is well balanced and fun to play so I am willing to overlook some historical shortcomings.


I have to side with AH. I t seems GMT has reached a true middle ground in this regard.

Quote:
It certainly works for me - I just wish I had more opportunities to play...


No doubt about that...

Quote:
Great assessment of Wilderness War, Sean. The designer, Volko Ruhnke, is a big French & Indian War enthusiast, and this terrific game is a true labor of love. He's managed to capture the key factors in the war, and the cards add to the uncertainty that both sides encountered regarding support from the colonial governments and respective mother countries, Indian allies, and events outside the war zone, such as Quiberon Bay. Even details like the Massacre card -- in which the card holder plays it on the battle he just lost in order force the victorious Indians to go home -- are well-conceived.

If there was ever a conflict that was ideally suited for the CDG treatment, it was this.


My thoughts exactly.
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The Units and How They Interact
So the game encourages integrated armies, which was a vital lesson the British learned the hard way

True in the game, false in reality.
French tried to avoid the mixed composition as they were behaving very differently and disturbed each others. The mixed composition is even sometime blamed for the defeat of Abraham's plain. Same for the English, particularly for Wolf, who did not want any colonial or irregular in his troops and only wanted regulars for his expedition to Quebec.



The game highlights the need for auxillaries, Indians or Rangers, for scouting and augmenting regulars in forest fighting. Less the divisions among Regulars and colonials which strategically was much less of a problem. This division was as much a command problem as anything between the two troops. The French and eventually the British understood the importance of Auxiliaries in protecting Regulars and always tried to have them together in any campaign.

Quote:
Quote:
Leadership Problems
... British player you have to wade through a lot of poor officers to get close to reaching a good leadership pool.

Yes but it is rather clumsy in the game, as they arrive randomly with cards and not according to what they did or did not do.


The game streamlines this for ease of play. But it would be interesting to have some events happen to get a change of leaders, like a loss of battle or a fort.

Quote:
Quote:

For the French the problem is the in the cards, which can be capricious and display the command struggle between Montcalm and Vaudreuil or the corruption that became common in New France.

Well not sure what you are referring to here... Command was a real historic problem, but there is nothing about that in the game. France have good leaders in the game and can use them without limitation and usually the main army is under Montcalm leader and Vaudreuil is not used at all...
For corruption, yes, it became important and comparable to New England colonies but there is nothing to reflect corruption in the game as far as I can tell...


This is captured by the game mostly as events. There's "Vaudureil Interferes", and a Bigot card, something like "Minister skims accounts" (rough guess)

Not sure what you mean by 'comparable to New England', but as I understand it New France was far worse. Most of the ministers were put on trial after the war, in Paris for their knavery.


Quote:
Quote:

For France though the path to victory was illusive and caught up in limitations of supply and army strength. The western frontier is fragile and both the Ohio Forks and Niagara are worth an extra victory point, so France must consider protecting these bases.

In the game yes... Not at all in history... The French strategies were the usual ones : raiding from allied bases (Indians and Acadia on the land and Louisbourg at sea). Main theaters of operation for the French strategy: Nova Scotia and New England (Bay James and Newfoundland as minor side theater).


I think the usual strategies' aim was just to wear out the english colonial goverments and people. Once Pitt came to prominence and London put money and manpower into this theater the usual French strategies were not going to work. For New France it became a purely defensive war. Before that there was some dissension, when Montcalm took Fort William Henry, Vauderuil wanted him to take Fort Edward only a few miles away, but Montcalm didn't, and possibly couldn't.

Quote:
Quote:
Vaudreuil wanted to win by raiding, a strategy with dubious long-term potential,

In the game... But a strategy that was very successful for France during the previous conflicts...


Before Pitt it was possible this strategy could be successful. But after, it became much more a European style of war, with the elimination of New France the goal.

Britain realized what could be gained, the North American interior, while France focused on the European conflict, and didn't seem to realize till too late that all of New France could be lost.

.

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