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Subject: Divide and Conquer: Realizations and Strategies rss

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Steve Struebing
United States
Annandale
Virginia
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Divide and Conquer is an abstract strategy game where players move stacks of soldiers afield to seize 4 objective locations. The board is symmetric, so no player has an advantage of proximity to objectives over another player. You issue move orders secretly, execute them, and over the course of the game will typically have several small units in the field offensively attacking other players, offensively going after the objectives, or defensively muscling would-be attackers that their objective may not be so easy to grab.

Just to open, I have played Divide and Conquer many times. With a lot of games under my belt, its always interesting to see the evolution of a zero-experience player to a 3-game experience player. At first blush, the game can appear like the four players simply racing to their objectives. However, after that first game, the new players have the “Oh, NOW I see whats going on here” epiphany. It goes from a linear game of objective sprinting to a deeper, calculating, “who has the initiative in 3 turns”, “can I get three chips up there before he does in three turns”, “Please, buddy. See the fact I need your help dealing with green” kind of experience.

The Initiative:
When you've got it, attacking is bliss. When you don't, perhaps it makes sense to move a stack elsewhere on the board so that you don't waste a turn as your opponent inevitably grinds up your unit. Most importantly is seeing how the initiative will play out the next 2-3 turns so you can move that single unit first onto your objective. The down side of initiative is revealing first where you will be reinforcing.

Signal Variant:
GenCon 2009 was my first experience with the Signal Variant. From previous games, especially with people having little experience, or perhaps with younger players who may not have the depth of board-vision yet, there would be wide eyes around the table with massive thought-bubbles SCREAMING “You HAVE to move to block Yellow or he will win!” No table talk in D&C, so they have to remain thought-bubbles seen or unseen by the inexperienced player who marches to his objective linearly and allows Yellow to win. Signal changes that, to a degree. Now, at least players can offer a general consensus who is winning, and that allows for more complex strategies that would be difficult otherwise (example):
Battle to build reserves – In a situation where one player (Bob) needs to defend an objective from a winning player (Jane) with a larger stack, it may be prudent for a third player (Mark) to attack Bob else where to give him units in reserve. This would allow Bob to build up his defensive stack to prevent Jane from having numerical superiority and avalanching her way to the objective.

Holding Units In Reserve:
This was a realization that was had from a player at GenCon 2009. A duo of nice intelligent guys from the great state of Wisconsin. He had a unit in reserve and simply asked the designer “Do I NEED to reinforce, or can I hold this to see what happens”. “You can hold it”, replied the designer. Wow, in my previous games I had always dumped the new recruits back into the slaughter. Though an abstract game, I should have taken note from the pages of military history and kept reserves! This realization from the Badger-State Brain created a neat escalation of reserves vs. on-field units. It was almost like playing 2 games and revealed the “resource management” aspect of the game.

Summary:
The rules are simple, and the variants really do change the complexion of the game. I had the best game I have played so far at GenCon 2009 where there were 4 players who all could see at least 2-3 moves ahead. We were playing Commander's Choice (see variants), and Signal Variant. Having strong strategic players and the ability to validate our thoughts via Signal Variant made for a great medley of waxing and waning position, offense and defense, and excruciating decisions of reinforcing an undersized unit on the field vs. holding that unit in reserve for a bloody battle taking shape on the other side of the board. Great stuff!

Until the next board meeting,
Steve
www.polymythic.com

 
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A. B. West
United States
Beech Grove
Indiana
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Thanks for posting about this game! One of the things I love about GenCon is finding new games and new people. Sadly, it looks like I missed both on this one. Maybe next year!
 
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