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Ondřej Vašíček
Czech Republic
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I did not expect much from this game, since it has relatively average rating here on BGG and many players complain about rules. I also focus mainly on ww2 period; 18th century and Napoleonics were only minor periods for our gaming group. So, I like to say, that this game is a great surprise, it hooked me completely to 7th year war gaming (I am looking forward for some GMT games from this era) and persuaded my friends, that this period is very interesting.

Components
They are almost perfect:
Map - nice hard-mounted map in ideal size (relatively compact, so it can be placed on regular table, but sufficiently big to put blocks on it)
Blocks - standard-sized, each colour has one block in addition, these are wisely used as „administration counters“ (counting VPs, turns, years)
Stickers – also nice; I prefer schematic pictures of infantry, cavalry and coats-of-arms (representing leaders and artillery) in this game, instead of NATO symbols or something like that used usually in wargames. All statistics on blocks are easy visible, so final blocks are nice and functional.
Cards – OK, functional, with fine pictures from this period, so they improve atmosphere.
The worst (but still good) component is battle-board. While functional, not so nicely done...

Rules
The worst flaw of the game. They are really badly written: using inconsistent terminology, with not wisely chosen and sometimes confusing examples. Rules are hard to understand, after first play, I strongly recommend to reread the rules and avoid misunderstandings in the next play.

The system
PDS is standard block-game wargame with its fog of war and multistep units. PDS is also card driven game in which each card can be used for two purposes: for special action (most of them are battle effects) and for “orders”. The game is divided into years 1756-1763, each year (expect the first) is divided into 5 regular and 1 winter turns. In each turn, both players can play a card for “orders” or “replacements”. On each card is a number of orders, that can be used for moving armies or building new units. Some cards have special action of replacements, which can be used to heal steps of reduced units and leaders.

Battles are a little more complex, than usually are in block games, and have good feel of 18th century.
Battle is played on battle-board and is divided into as many rounds until one player retreats or is destroyed. Leaders (in this case in role of “artilery”) fire first, then infantry fire and lastly cavalry can charge, but can be saved for later use (after first round of combat, cavalry is placed to melee, where is much less effective). Each round a card can be played for its special action; wisely played card can turn lost battle into a victory.

The system includes a very simple grand-strategy of recruiting units, which looks on first sight very simplistic, but works well.

The system is simple, but with good feel of the era: players usually manoeuvre with 2-3 big armies each, trying to force enemy to accept a battle not favourable for him and destroying its army. There are also besieging and assaulting fortresses, cutting supply lines and even winter quartering. A portion of chrome is added by
1) Cards, which improve the feel of battles and have nice pictures.
2) Frictions of war – every turn 2 dice are thrown and random event occurs (usually one of commanders cannot move with its army)

Balance
Small flaw of the game is its balance. For Prussian player it is really defiant stand... Prussia has +/- equally big army as Austria (in 7th year war, Austria had even bigger army than Prussia), but there are also French-allied army, Russian army and small Swedish force waiting to backstab Prussia from north; and if this is not enough, the allies can easier muster forces. Yes Prussians have the best troops in game, battle cards and frictions of war favorize them, but it is still not enough. One bigger mistake done by Prussian player = lost victory, while Allied player can do several mistakes and still have a chance to win the game...
Bad balance may be flaw, but to say the truth – it is great fun to play as Frederick against Marie-Therezie, Luis XV and Elizabeth of Russia, even if you have smaller chance to win. “Small victories” like conquering Prague or defeating Russian horde are satisfactory and the game is fun.

Conclusion
The game was a great surprise for me and become one of my favourite wargames. It can be hard to learn and understand badly written rules, but when you came through them, the game will reward you with great experience of 18th century warfare feel. If you like lighter, fast-played wargames, than I can recommend PDS. But if you prefer high complexity wargames, that game is not for you.
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Ron Draker
United States
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Thank you for the review and I'm glad you enjoy the game. I believe you'll find with more play that the game is actually very balanced. The Prussian's are very tough to beat if you play them right. I actually prefer to play them. The allies have a very difficult time coordinating a massive attack on Prussia because of the FoW table.

I hope you get more chances to play.

Best,
Ron
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William Crispin
United States
Wilmington
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Bivoj wrote:
I did not expect much from this game, since it has relatively average rating here on BGG and many players complain about rules.


I would call its rating very good. It was hampered in its initial release by poor rules probably resulting in some initial poor reviews. Then it was some time before cleaned up rules were posted which I think left some owners disgruntled.

The current versions of rules and aids that are posted on the Worthington site are much better. I think this is a great game.
 
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Josh Luub
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Yes, I definitely would not recommend this as a first block game. If you've played Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex (or other similar block games), you can probably figure it out. Make sure to read the latest rules and the rules threads here on BGG.

I've played one (incomplete) game, and while we did have some rules questions, they were fairly minor. We had a lot of fun with it and will definitely play it again.
 
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Stan Hilinski
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Laurel
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One mistake that novices sometimes make when playing the Prussians is being too defensive. It is far more fun and productive to aggressively move south against the Austrians. It can also create some wild moments where Frederick is at the gates of the Austrian capital but Allied units are moving onto Berlin!

Two other pieces of advice. The French are brittle and will not hold up well against Frederick. If the Allies carelessly move the French north, pounce on them with Frederick's army. You can often eliminate the French as a force in the game. Second, abandon East Prussia before the Russians arrive. You will do better with those troops nearer Berlin.
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Don Cooper
United States
Syracuse
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Game Subject or Game Design
The Seven Years War is one of those topics that is tough to design on a a solely European strategic scale. Prussia wins the war by surviving, often assisted by special events, or in other words by not losing by so much (what is odd is the French and Indian Wars, considered to be part of this European conflict, which has been rarely designed and is an interesting game subject where both sides have a chance for total victory or total loss). Historically, Prussia's capital was captured and King Frederic lost on the battlefield in some must win battles, like Kolin. The Prussians survived by the death of Czarina in Russia, which is one of those inexplicable historical events that is hard to measure in a game system. That said this game shows how Prussia had to defend itself from several fronts with limited armies. Clash of Monarchs I think suffers from the same problem, far more event orientated and detailed, that game centers around Prussia not losing by so much. I think a lot of gamers play these games thinking they are off to conquer Europe as Frederick, when in fact they would be lucky if their capital, Berlin, isn't occupied.
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Mark Buetow
United States
McHenry
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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Does anyone have any thoughts on the comparison between this and Friedrich (which I enjoy immensely) and Clash of Monarchs (which I am on the verge of learning)? Seems like there's three contemporary treatments of the war and it would be interesting to see how they match up.
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Ron Draker
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Friedrich is a brilliant design and I really enjoy playing it when I can get enough players together. The combat system is very abstract with suits of cards which creates interesting situations and decisions for where to fight. I think one could play this game dozens of times and still find it tough to master the subtle strategies. The fate cards add a nice element of uncertainty to the game where no one knows exactly when the game will end.

That said, I would not consider it a wargame and the quality differences in leaders and armies is not apparent.

I have not played Clash of Monarchs, but I read the rules when it was in draft and it looks similar to Wilderness War, PoG, etc... with a lot of detail. CoM covers more of the Seven Years War in Europe with more historical chrome. I imagine it takes longer to play too.

PDS sits in the middle of these two games as far as detail and playing time. It has more combat detail than Friedrich, but not as much as CoM.

For those who have played CoM, I'm curious what you think?
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grant wylie
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I think Ron has done a great job of getting the feeling just right for the period. We've had a problem getting him the rules when he's asked for them as they are on a different hard drive that we do not have with us so getting it to him has been a problem.

It was great fun playtesting and had me reading on a topic I knew little on before the game came to us.

Grant Wylie
 
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Dan Zachary
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Ron D wrote:

PDS sits in the middle of these two games as far as detail and playing time. It has more combat detail than Friedrich, but not as much as CoM.

For those who have played CoM, I'm curious what you think?


The designer's goals for PDS and CoM are different. Besides the points listed above, CoM is surprisingly complex for a CDG. Leaders have lots of different ratings, the game tries to simulate the attempt by both sides to lay waste the opposition's lands, has tactics chits to simulate the differing characteristics of each army, etc. Thus, it really attempts to act like a simulation unlike most CDGs.

CoM also allows for five players whereas PDS is definitely a 2-player game.

I personally found CoM unworkable. I'm normally pretty patient with reading and re-reading rules, but this game caused me to throw up my hands. I then sold it on Ebay.

PDS can be played in a (long) evening (unlike CoM)and is obviously simpler. Last, the designer has done a pretty good job of rewriting the rules so that its holes are pretty much filled.

As of this date, GMT is working on a new version of CoM built more along the lines of Napleonic Wars. I suspect that it will be simpler and, thereby, more accessible than CoM.
 
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