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Field Commander: Alexander» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Kevin's Fun-Filled, Five-Point Reviews rss

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Kevin Garnica
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FIELD COMMANDER: ALEXANDER

1 Player
90 Minutes per campaign
By Dan Verssen

Background:


My reviews will not focus on the rules of the game. There are better reviewers on that format than I could ever contribute. The purpose behind my reviews are to highlight one, and only one, overriding aspect of any game: fun. That’s it. As a big kid at heart, I play games in order to have a good time. In the end, all I really care about is if I’m going to want to play the thing again, and will anyone else. Hence, I’ve chosen five areas to highlight that are all aspects of the game’s funness. Examined from this paradigm, these are all aspects that I believe should be enjoyed during the whole experience of playing board games.

All right already, enough philosophizing, on with the review…

1. Out of the Box:

Knowing what I’ve heard about “wargames” being on the lower end of production quality, I wondered why the box was so darn heavy. I thought, “Dang, there must be a million counters in this game.” To my delight, I was wrong when I discovered that it’s because the boards are even better than most eurogames out there! Four, delicious and beautifully MOUNTED boards come with the game, and they are wonderfully made, truly. The counters are fewer than I thought, but they are just enough for any campaign. They are also laminated, making them pretty durable, I’d say. The game also comes with a handy-dandy player log. However, if you’re like me, you want “permanence” – so I reduced the size, color photocopied it, and then had it laminated and use a dry-erase marker when needed. There are also some useful files in the files section for other substitutions. The single die that comes with it is a little odd, so I use a different one, but it’s no matter. Overall, this is a very well-produced game.

- MOUNTED BOARDS!
Fun-o-meter: 5/5

2. Rules:


The rules are pretty good. They’re written in a more reader-friendly manner, not proper “outline” format like wargames ought to be, but that’s okay, they’re still clear enough. It could have used a table of contents, but once you read through it, you pretty much know where to look for things when needed. On thing that wasn’t exactly clear to me, however, was whether the enemy’s battle plans (the one during battle) are supposed to be used up on their first die rolls or whenever I choose, as it best benefits me. Other than that they’re fairly clear. The sample turn included is VERY helpful. Another helpful tool are the charts that are printed right on the map. They literally walk you right through the set up and certain steps during each turn. Hooray for reference thingies! I freaking love them, man.

- Clear rules and reference charts
Fun-o-meter: 4.7/5

3. Ease of Play


At first, the “ease of play” seems daunting, but that’s coming from someone who has never even touched a hex & counter–type wargame before in his life (even though there aren’t any hexes, technically). After the first couple of turns I began to understand how to play these games, and a solitaire one at that. Again, I will bring up the marvelous fact that the reference charts are the most helpful things when treading through your first couple of plays. The first campaign I played was the Issus campaign. I happened to have won, but I’m sure I must have gotten lucky, along with a couple of rules wrong. In any event, the feeling I had afterwards was indescribable. I honest to god felt like I was really Alexander and I just successfully conquered a piece of the known world. I felt exhausted after battles, and rejoiced in my razing of strongholds, and even started to detect a kinship with my fellow comrade counters, even pretending to talk to them – “Don’t worry, Archer, I will purchase you again during my Resupply phase. Your sacrifice will not have been in vain!”

- Very user friendly for a “solo” wargame
- A big “plus” if used as an introduction to this subgenre
Fun-o-meter: 5/5

4. Weight/Length Ratio


The box says it takes about 90 minutes per campaign. Maybe. My first game took somewhere in the vicinity between 3-4-hours, but then again, I didn’t know that Issus was supposed to be a somewhat harder campaign. But remember, I’m “new” here; I know it will get faster with each campaign I play. It was nonetheless absolutely a blast. I felt like the “scales had fallen” and I could now appreciate this type of game. There are plenty of meaningful decisions to be made. The game setup alludes to, perhaps, the way the campaign would have started out in history, but that’s as far as historical accuracy will go, because every decision made thereafter by YOU, the player, will affect the outcome in a completely different and unique way. And since you would never play the game the same way anyway, replayability is quite high. There are even enough tactical decisions that balance out the high degree of dice rolling to resolve battles – both before and after the battles. Every option you have with every step you take alters the outcome and has an effect on your strategy during the game. It’s simply wonderful. I can’t say it any other way. Even your actions for the enemy are random. The steps are always the same, but you never know which counter will be pulled for those steps, and so you try to prepare for certain future outcomes, but there is always a nice state of flux between your decisions and what ACTUALLY occurs when performing the enemy’s actions. It’s like you’re playing against a giant computer and it’s name is “randomness.” But I swear to you it doesn’t feel entirely random, and that’s the beauty of it all. I can’t describe it.

- The steps are always the same, but the randomness of the enemy + your individual decisions = freshness every time
Fun-o-meter: 5/5

The “F” Factor:


The game is definitely fun. Period. Not to be crude, but this game “deflowered” my wargaming innocence, and she took me in and led me by the hand with all of her wonderful reference charts and showed me what a good time could be had by getting to be “king” for a day. kiss It was gentle with me, and then proceeded to kick my a** with each game I played after. Whether I win or lose, the experience is always enjoyable. And my god, the theme works exceptionally well for a light game of this sort. I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear after my first game. I seriously can’t freaking wait to play it again.

- An unforgettable experience for a noob
Fun-o-meter: 5/5

Overall: Highly recommended

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Daniel Walker
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Thank you for the great review. I am also looking for a first wargame to try and I think it just may be this one. Because I don't anticipate wargaming with my wife (my usual gaming partner), a relatively easy-to-learn solitaire game may work well for me.
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Kevin Garnica
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Yeah, I figured I wanted to ease into wargaming without the embarrassment and effort of having someone else teach me all of the basics, concepts, terminologies, etc., and so I thought it would be best if I sort of taught myself, you know? I don't regret it.
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Nuno Fragoso
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MHO: this is a wondefully simple game, that never fails to give you some sense of enjoyment and acomplishment. And as far as solitaire boardgaming goes, i think its better to keep it simple and enjoyable than profound. FC: Rommel is also really nice, and feels much more "wargamey", but I prefer Alexander because its a game not about beating the system, but about beating youself. Unlike FC:R, Alexander is quite easy to beat in any scenario, but after some plays you´re looking to beat your own scores, not the system. FC:R is much harder in that respect.
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Kevin Garnica
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Thanks for the insight. I'll have to look into FC:Rommel. I'd heard of it and seen it in my FLGS as well, but simply opted for the other one first. In all likelihood, I'll probably eventually end up with them both anyway.
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I have enjoyed my plays of FCA, but really am look forward to Napoleon.
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Erik Nicely
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Good review, gotta love the fun-o-meter. I'll be playing the game for my first time very soon.
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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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Your review made DVG's newsletter! Congrats!
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Kevin Garnica
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Wow! Are you serious? I'd love to get the link to that...
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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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pacman88k wrote:
Wow! Are you serious? I'd love to get the link to that...
Your review is the last item under 12-23-09.
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Kevin Garnica
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Hey, cool! I've "arrived!"
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Dan Verssen
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Thank you Kevin for a wonderful review!

Ultimately we all play games for the enjoyment. True, getting the design smooth and the historic details right is important, but in the end, the fun factor of a game is vital.
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Kevin Garnica
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Thanks for the "endorsement?" I'm glad to hear that we're on the same page about a game's FUN. However, in the case of your game, it doesn't hurt if all the other stuff (design, historicity, etc.) is pretty good on top of that...
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