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Subject: A 5-hour wargame packed into a 45-minute two-player game rss

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Brian McCormick
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2 de Mayo

I'm a sucker for two-player games. After all, you need but one other person and then you're good to go. Some of my favorite games to play with me and one other person include Citadels, Agricola, Jambo, Pandemic, Dominion, and Settlers of Catan Card Game.

2 de Mayo (pronounced dos de Mayo; second of May) caught my eye simply because it was a two-player game. As I investigated the game, it really grabbed my attention once I learned that each person plays as a unique faction with several rules specific to each side. When I finally got the game in the mail, I eagerly tore into it and sat my girlfriend down for the both of us to learn and play it.


What were the first impressions?


2 de Mayo is a game from Gryphon Games, which immediately makes it stand out on my shelf full of Mayfair, Fantasy Flight, Z-Man, and Rio Grande games. The components include a small game board, colored cubes to represent the French and Spanish forces, 22 "event" cards (11 for each side), a card used for keeping track of the turns, two rule booklets (one in Spanish and one in English), and an empty pad of "order" sheets (explained later). For the $25 I spent on the game, I felt that the price was justified. I've spent more money on games that seemed to be worth much less (Race for the Galaxy...I love you, but I'm looking right at you). I've bought a lot of games in the $20 to $30 price range (such as games from the Silver Line series or Kosmos games), and I feel that the quality of 2 de Mayo matches - and in some cases exceeds - the quality of the aforementioned game lines.

The rules are very straightforward. Considering how the French and Spanish both have different rules governing their movement, their grouping, their victory conditions, their retreat conditions, and their order capabilities, the rules don't feel bogged down, and after learning the rules with my girlfriend, I only had to refer back to the rule booklet a handful of times. To me, the ease at which I can learn and teach a game is a big plus.


So, what makes it stand out?

Let me establish the fact that I am not a big wargamer. The closest thing I've gotten to wargaming (and this may make true wargamers cringe that I even consider these games "wargames" in part) is Axis and Allies and Warhammer 40k. With that said, 2 de Mayo feels like a trimmed-down war game. The rules are very logical and specific. Each side has distinct advantages and limitations. Also, there is no "luck" involved in combat (e.g. no rolling of the dice). This affords 2 de Mayo the same tactical feel usual found in games that take three times as long to learn and play.

I liked the tactical feel, but at first my girlfriend did not. In our first two games, I played as the Spanish and she played as the French. I won both times. Her comment after our two games was something along the lines of "I like the game, but it seems like it's impossible for the French to win". To a degree, I agree. 2 de Mayo does feel like it favors a Spanish victory (just for reference, for the French to win, they have to kill all the Spanish troops, secure four specific zones on the board, lose no more than three soldiers during the course of the game, and all within a 10-turn time limit. The Spanish win automatically if any of these conditions are not met). The Spanish simply have to "wait out" the duration of the game. The burden is completely on the French to achieve victory. However, as my girlfriend and I played more games, it was this exact thing which made me love 2 de Mayo. Plenty of games promise "vastly different" factions, but they mostly differentiate with some flavor text and a few special abilities. The two sides in 2 de Mayo are fundamentally different, which is a pleasant surprise to me and a treat to play. I like playing both the French and the Spanish because both offer their own experience.

In my opinion, the driving force of the game is the "order" sheet. Before each turn, the French and Spanish (secretly) write down orders for their troops. An example would be for the Spanish to order their troops in Area 12 to Area 13. The catch is that the French can only write down two orders per turn, whereas the Spanish can write down as many orders as they wish. This is why I feel the game favors the Spanish player, because you could just have your troops run around like chickens with their heads cut off and you'd perform pretty dang well, since the French would have a difficult time keeping up. As I said, the burden is almost entirely on the French to achieve victory. The event cards help balance out the order sheet. Each player can play cards to cancel an enemy's order, call reinforcements, restrict the enemy's movement, and so forth. But I'm getting sidetracked: the order sheet reminds me of Mr. Jack and especially of Scotland Yard and the Bioterrorist mode in Pandemic. Since you don't KNOW for certain what your opponent will do, there's a bit of guesswork and strategy involved in your choices.


What could have been better?

2 de Mayo is an accomplished two-player game. Yet, the scope of the game is limited. The victory conditions will always be the same. The event cards - while perhaps played in a different order in each session - will be the same, and since there are only 11 cards per side, you won't see much variety there. The map and the special rules governing the map are the same. Because of these factors, 2 de Mayo has limited replayability. Excuse me. That's the wrong term. I suppose the replayability of a game is in the "eyes of the beholder". What I mean to say is that the variability of the game is limited. I still love the game and I'm still glad I bought it, and I never expected the game to boast limitless variability. However, it still needs to be mentioned that at a certain point after many plays, 2 de Mayo will suffer from feeling like you're playing the same exact session over and over again.

Also, I do wish there were more event cards. Ultimately, this goes back to the issue of replayability, but I would have liked it if there were at LEAST three times as many event cards per faction to add some randomness and tension to the game.

The turn limit and order limit for the French also makes this game fairly short. You only have so many actions to perform within so many turns. Personally, I don't take this as a bad thing. I like it when a game has a tight focus, but some people may dislike the time and turn limitation built into the rules of 2 de Mayo. Finally, 2 de Mayo is a two-player game. There are no rules to allow for more players. I think it's silly to hate a game that limits you to two players when it was designed with only two players in mind, but hey, people hate games for all sorts of silly reasons. I hate Ticket to Ride for no other reason than I think trains are stupid. Sue me.


What's the verdict?

2 de Mayo stands out in the crowd for a number of reasons. For one, it has a tight, tactical feel while also only taking 30 to 45 minutes to play. For two, the secrecy of the "order" sheet adds a whole new layer upon the core mechanics of the game. Lastly, both factions are genuinely different from each other (not just with their own flavor text and a few special powers).

I would highly recommend 2 de Mayo to anyone who enjoys tactical games yet wants something that is quick to teach and to play.

Pros:

- quick to play and teach
- surprisingly tactical gameplay
- asymmetrical factions
- "order" sheet adds even more tension and tactics

Cons:

- two players only
- limited variation between sessions after a while
- fairly short game length due to turn limits and action limits
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Jorge Montero
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I'm surprised that you find the maximum number of orders is that big of an advantage for the Spanish: A Spanish player that writes lots of orders every turn is a Spanish player that can't win a battle!

If anything, The Spanish' biggest advantage is the ability to disengage their troops instead of staying until the end: A common way for the Spanish to win is to create a large mob, make the french run around struggling to make sure his troops don't engage the spanish mob until they are ready and then, when most french units are together outnumbering the Spanish, then the Spanish plays 'La Turba se Dispersa', Leaving the French stuck, having to spend a few turns killing the weakened Spanish army while the rest of the units run away.

I also don't see the French deck as superior to the Spanish: If anything, the French stop drawing cards mid game, to avoid drawing the two trap cards that help the Spanish. The French's biggest advantage IMO is their ability to execute the orders after the Spanish: They can leave units behind, and know exactly how many they should leave behind after the Spanish make their move.
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Brian McCormick
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hibikir wrote:
I'm surprised that you find the maximum number of orders is that big of an advantage for the Spanish: A Spanish player that writes lots of orders every turn is a Spanish player that can't win a battle!

If anything, The Spanish' biggest advantage is the ability to disengage their troops instead of staying until the end: A common way for the Spanish to win is to create a large mob, make the french run around struggling to make sure his troops don't engage the spanish mob until they are ready and then, when most french units are together outnumbering the Spanish, then the Spanish plays 'La Turba se Dispersa', Leaving the French stuck, having to spend a few turns killing the weakened Spanish army while the rest of the units run away.

I also don't see the French deck as superior to the Spanish: If anything, the French stop drawing cards mid game, to avoid drawing the two trap cards that help the Spanish. The French's biggest advantage IMO is their ability to execute the orders after the Spanish: They can leave units behind, and know exactly how many they should leave behind after the Spanish make their move.

Hmmm. Well, as far as the orders go, it's not as much that the Spanish have the advantage. It's that the French have a disadvantage: only two orders per turn. Including the card that allows for 5 orders that turn, the French have only 23 order for the entire game. The Spanish have more than that.

I agree that the French's best bet is to limit their own card drawing in order to limit the Spanish's. I don't necessarily see either deck as superior, though, so sorry if I implied that in the review, and I love this game a lot, so I'm also sorry if I sounded overly negative about the game. I just try to review the game from multiple perspectives (such as when I "complain" about the limit on possible players even though I personally couldn't care less).

Thanks for the comment!
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Nathan James
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Thanks for a great review. It was very clear what you think about the game, and you gave just enough info on the rules to let me understand your opinion.
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simon thornton
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Quote:
Yet, the scope of the game is limited.


I m not sure I agree , yes it is limited in that its always gets the same set up (but then so has does chess and no one says thats not replayable). But this is a minor gripe. I think the variety of strategies once the game commences is immence. Too many card options would I feel make it too chaotic and less chess like which is an aspect of it I love.

Great review otherwise and speaking as a wargamer I whole heartedly endorse this game.

Not sure about your title though in my experience I can teach and play the game in approx 25 minutes , 45 minutes seems a bit extreme.
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