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Subject: Washington's War - A Review rss

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Joel Tamburo
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The following is a review of the new GMT release Washington’s War. In this review, I will touch briefly on the physical components of the game while spending more time in the area of gameplay and also historicity. I hope this review is of help to you when making decisions regarding this game. Thank you.

Components

Washington’s War comes in a very strongly built full color box with nice illustrations on front, back and sides. In that box you will find the following:

1) One full mounted linen wrapped 22 x 34 gameboard. The artwork on the board is both functional and (to me) pleasing to the eye. It is a bit muted, which works perfectly for the type of game. Functionally, this is what is called a point-to-point movement board, with paths leading to and from various shapes that the playing pieces move to and from. In a nice touch, the shapes are larger than the pieces, thus making it largely unnecessary to pick up pieces and look under them.

2) Two sheets of die cut counters. The finish is similar to regular GMT counters but these are twice the normal thickness. The artwork on them is very nice, again functional but also appealing. The pieces consist of military units that lie flat on the board and stand up pieces for the leaders. However, for those who do not like stand up leaders GMT also included regular “lie flat” leaders (use one or the other – not both).

3) Color rules and playbooks. Nicely laid out on both.

4) 110 cards. These cards have a durable feel and finish and good artwork. One think to note is that the durable finish makes them a bit slick when shuffling (although I expect that over time they will “roughen up”).

5) Dice, baggies for the pieces and a horde of plastic stands (many more than will be needed).

Game Background

One thing useful to know here is that Washington’s War is a descendant of THE original Card Driven Game – We the People. I say descendant because the state of the art (and per Mark Herman his thinking) has evolved over time, and Washington’s War shows that evolution. Here are examples of that evolution:

a) In We the People, the French enter the game via the play of a card, which can happen anytime. In Washington’s War there is a point track for French entry, with 9 points needed. The points are scored both for card play and for things that occur on the gameboard. As a result, the Continental player now must achieve results on the gameboard to get the French to enter.
b) The British seapower advantage is now more apparent. Basically any port is a potential place for the British to extend their influence from. This changes the game dynamic from We the People, where the Continental player could frequently lock our sections of the coastline.

c) There is no longer such a thing as a “dead card”. In We the People it was very possible to have your hand filled with cards for your opponent, which made it useless. Now, those cards have some function (they can be played for a small extension of your political influence). In addition, if your opponent uses one of your cards in this manner, you can pick it up by discarding one of your “Operation” cards and play it yourself later. This change is big and increases the historicity by increasing the chance that important historical event cards are played.

d) The end of turn “winter attrition” rules have been changed. Now all Continental armies with a strength of higher than 1 not led by George Washington attrite, regardless of where they are. This both highlights the leaders more and creates a focus on Washington as being THE Continental army.

e) And of course, no more Battle Cards. Some people lament this, I say good riddance. Not only did the Battle Card system take a lot of time for a little impact, it yielded counter-intuitive results. The new system is not only much quicker but gives a much more historically defensible result range.

Gameplay

Washington’s War has yearly turns for the years 1775 through 1783. Each of these turns will afford each player the ability to play up to 7 cards for either movement, the event on the card or expansion of their political influence through placing Political Control markers in spaces on the board. With this (definitely very brief) overview of play in mind, let’s take a look at how well Washington’s War reflects history.

First, the game does seem to drive play along roughly historical lines. For example, the British do wind up conducting a Hudson Valley Campaign. Even better, they do it not because of a special game effect but rather because the British need to seal off New England from the rest of the colonies. Otherwise the Continental mobility and advantages in troop raising and political support placement make taking and holding the New England colonies nigh impossible.

Second, the British wind up needing to open a Southern Campaign again for roughly historical reasons. Those same Continental advantages listed above make it necessary to spread the war out across the board in order to prevent the Continentals from concentrating on New England.

On the Continental side, the manner in which their armies raise up and melt away causes them to pursue the historical hit and run strategy. Also, the rules surrounding George Washington that basically make his army THE Continental Army encourage the Continentals to treat it as a “force in being” , while the victory conditions also mean they cannot hide it in the mountains. Basically, the Washington led army needs to keep the main British army fixed in place, while looking for opportunities to make a Winter Offensive.

Conclusion

In my opinion Washington’s War does much more than just refresh the original Card Driven Game. The changes do not make the game significantly more complex but do dramatically ramp up the historicity. It shows that it is not always necessary to have a complex game to have a historical game. I heartily recommend this game.
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Tom Volpe
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Nice review

Thanks
 
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Lee Massey
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Very nice review! I think Washington's War will play much more smoothly. I just punched out the counters and plan to play it this weekend.
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Joel Tamburo
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I was hoping the review didn't ramble, but I really wanted to get the point across that one winds up doing historical things in Washington's War for historical reasons. When you see that, in my opinion, the designer deserves special kudos.

Component wise, I did have to chuckle at the huge supply of stands.
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Jeff Binning
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Quote:
Component wise, I did have to chuckle at the huge supply of stands.


I've always dreaded cardboard game pieces that use stands. Very often they're ill fitting, you have to try to spread them to make them fit and get the cardboard wedged in without damaging it. Then, as often as not, the stand ends up covering vital information.

These stands are absolutely perfect. They glide into place with ease, and yet hold firm enough you don't have to worry about them dropping off as you move them. For me this is a subtle but much appreciated touch.

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Tom Grant
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I haven't played WW yet, but it seems as though the differences between how the British and Colonial players place political influence fall under the category of "subtle differences that matter a lot, in game terms." Definitely something that Mark Herman intended, since he wanted to make the game more asymmetric than We the People.

Good review, because it was an actual analysis of the game, instead of yet another pointless rehashing of rules and components.
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Joel Tamburo
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Good point Tom. The British and Continental players have different rules surrounding how they can place Political Control. And those different rules not only make the two sides play differently but again reinforce the history.

The British placement rules make them rely on the presence of military force and also the support of the port towns, while the Continental placement rules are more flexible, and show the way the rebellion draws its support from leaders (no troops needed) and sprimgs up just about anywhere.
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LEUNG CHI KEUNG
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Nice review.
 
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Severus Snape
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Someone said there was a review here. I came and found only a bunch of sheep braying, along with a lot of sheep dip. It seems the sound of the braying sheep is stronger than the effort at intelligent thinking.

goo
 
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Bartow Riggs
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bentlarsen wrote:
Someone said there was a review here. I came and found only a bunch of sheep braying, along with a lot of sheep dip. It seems the sound of the braying sheep is stronger than the effort at intelligent thinking.

goo


Some people will complain if you give them a $100 bill, "It's wrinkled."
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David Hughes
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bentlarsen wrote:
Someone said there was a review here. I came and found only a bunch of sheep braying, along with a lot of sheep dip. It seems the sound of the braying sheep is stronger than the effort at intelligent thinking.

goo


While I wouldn't have chosen quite those words, I absolutely agree with the sentiments. I have long since ceased to be amazed by how desperate many members are for the validation that comes from favourable reviews of games they themselves like. By the way, this is not a knock at Joel's review, even though I disagree with its overall thrust.

As for Washington's War...Quick verdict? Still don't like it, unlikely to play it again.

Don't get me wrong. I can see its virtues. Reasonably fast playing, great looking, well-crafted, well thought out mechanics, and a good, tight, balanced situation.

But for the life of me I cannot suspend my disbelief; it feels like no more than a history-flavoured toy, and those are not what I want to play with.

My last game - which went to the last card, and was tight all the way through - came to a head in the 1779 turn. My worthy opponent, playing the rebels, entered the turn down 6 states to 7, and found himself staring at a hand of a 1 ops, a 2 ops, 3(!) British events, the "game ends in 1779" card...and the single saving grace, a major campaign.

I suspected from his early focus on EXACTLY how many CPs were in each state that he had the 1779 card, so the turn played out like we were 21st century presidential campaign managers in the lead up to polling day, counting every vote in every precinct in every state. The final indignity was the final card play - the major campaign of course - which saw my opponent running around with Generals dropping precisely enough (primarily French) troops in enough spaces to carry the ballot, and swing 4 states for a 7-4 victory.

It was fine play, and a deserved result, but as a representation of the history it was rubbish, or so it seems to me at least.

So, fine game, no doubt, but historical outputs from historical inputs? Only with a hell of a lot of hand-waving rationalisation, and even then, it's a stretch.
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Mark Herman
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Scotty Dave wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:
Someone said there was a review here. I came and found only a bunch of sheep braying, along with a lot of sheep dip. It seems the sound of the braying sheep is stronger than the effort at intelligent thinking.

goo


While I wouldn't have chosen quite those words, I absolutely agree with the sentiments. I have long since ceased to be amazed by how desperate many members are for the validation that comes from favourable reviews of games they themselves like. By the way, this is not a knock at Joel's review, even though I disagree with its overall thrust.

As for Washington's War...Quick verdict? Still don't like it, unlikely to play it again.

Don't get me wrong. I can see its virtues. Reasonably fast playing, great looking, well-crafted, well thought out mechanics, and a good, tight, balanced situation.

But for the life of me I cannot suspend my disbelief; it feels like no more than a history-flavoured toy, and those are not what I want to play with.

My last game - which went to the last card, and was tight all the way through - came to a head in the 1779 turn. My worthy opponent, playing the rebels, entered the turn down 6 states to 7, and found himself staring at a hand of a 1 ops, a 2 ops, 3(!) British events, the "game ends in 1779" card...and the single saving grace, a major campaign.

I suspected from his early focus on EXACTLY how many CPs were in each state that he had the 1779 card, so the turn played out like we were 21st century presidential campaign managers in the lead up to polling day, counting every vote in every precinct in every state. The final indignity was the final card play - the major campaign of course - which saw my opponent running around with Generals dropping precisely enough (primarily French) troops in enough spaces to carry the ballot, and swing 4 states for a 7-4 victory.

It was fine play, and a deserved result, but as a representation of the history it was rubbish, or so it seems to me at least.

So, fine game, no doubt, but historical outputs from historical inputs? Only with a hell of a lot of hand-waving rationalisation, and even then, it's a stretch.


I respect your views and sorry you were disappointed, but you made one statement in your commentary that required some clarification.

You state that the Americans on the last card play dropped troops around the board to convert spaces and win. If that is literally what happened it was illegal. CUs (soldiers) alone cannot convert spaces only armies (rule 10.2.2).

At MOST a major campaign card set of maneuvers could directly convert three spaces. This is achieved by moving three armies to three empty or enemy PC marker spaces, which subsequently convert during the political phase. These conversions could set up a cascading set of PC isolations making this a devastating play, but it was not clear from what you wrote that this was the case.

Mark
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David Hughes
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MarkHerman wrote:

I respect your views and sorry you were disappointed, but you made one statement in your commentary that required some clarification.

You state that the Americans on the last card play dropped troops around the board to convert spaces and win. If that is literally what happened it was illegal. CUs (soldiers) alone cannot convert spaces only armies (rule 10.2.2).

At MOST a major campaign card set of maneuvers could directly convert three spaces during the political phase. Now subsequent PC isolations and such could make this a devastating play and that may be how it went in your playthrough, but I wanted to make sure that this was the case. If not you might have actually won not lost the game.

Mark


Dave (my opponent) insists that he only swung three states, and that it was all legal. He would say that, of course.
 
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Mark Herman
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Scotty Dave wrote:
MarkHerman wrote:

I respect your views and sorry you were disappointed, but you made one statement in your commentary that required some clarification.

You state that the Americans on the last card play dropped troops around the board to convert spaces and win. If that is literally what happened it was illegal. CUs (soldiers) alone cannot convert spaces only armies (rule 10.2.2).

At MOST a major campaign card set of maneuvers could directly convert three spaces during the political phase. Now subsequent PC isolations and such could make this a devastating play and that may be how it went in your playthrough, but I wanted to make sure that this was the case. If not you might have actually won not lost the game.

Mark


Dave (my opponent) insists that he only swung three states, and that it was all legal. He would say that, of course.


I am still unclear on one point. Did you convert any spaces that had CUs in them? Said another way, did he move an army (General plus CUs) and drop them like breadcrumbs in his wake to convert a swath of spaces? It is either yes or no. If yes it was an illegal play. If no then it was well played. I do not care who won or lost, but I do not want to have incorrect impressions made from illegal plays.

Mark
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David Hughes
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As I remember it, he converted three spaces with leaders. We had a discussion about dropping off troops to convert spaces, but it was not needed. If it had been we would have checked it in the rules, no doubt.
 
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Mark Herman
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Good enough, then it was a very close game if the outcome turned on three spaces on the last play.

Enjoy whatever it is you are enjoying these days.

Thanks,
Mark
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David Hughes
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MarkHerman wrote:

Good enough, then it was a very close game if the outcome turned on three spaces on the last play.


Indeed it was.

Quote:

Enjoy whatever it is you are enjoying these days.


Actually, it's The Battle for Normandy, which I'm enjoying more than I expected to.

However, it will be interrupted by For the People, which is scheduled for next Saturday.
 
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Mark Herman
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Scotty Dave wrote:
MarkHerman wrote:

Good enough, then it was a very close game if the outcome turned on three spaces on the last play.


Indeed it was.

Quote:

Enjoy whatever it is you are enjoying these days.


Actually, it's The Battle for Normandy, which I'm enjoying more than I expected to.

However, it will be interrupted by For the People, which is scheduled for next Saturday.


Sounds like my kind of Saturday... :-)

 
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Reinhard Mueller
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Joelist wrote:

Component wise, I did have to chuckle at the huge supply of stands.

Great, I need three more black ones for Successors.
 
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Joel Tamburo
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Snape's words were both ill chosen and incorrect.

The game does indeed do exactly what I posted, which is drive historical actions for roughly historical reasons. Indeed, in my most recent playing I wound up evacuating Boston as the British because I was looking at getting attacked by Washington who had the Massachusetts milita. The risk was too great of a military disaster so I naval moved out to New York.

I also wound up initiating a Southern campaign both to open up a new front in the war ( I was deadlocked up in New England / New York) and to spread the Continentals out.

Scotty Dave wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:
Someone said there was a review here. I came and found only a bunch of sheep braying, along with a lot of sheep dip. It seems the sound of the braying sheep is stronger than the effort at intelligent thinking.

goo


While I wouldn't have chosen quite those words, I absolutely agree with the sentiments. I have long since ceased to be amazed by how desperate many members are for the validation that comes from favourable reviews of games they themselves like. By the way, this is not a knock at Joel's review, even though I disagree with its overall thrust.

As for Washington's War...Quick verdict? Still don't like it, unlikely to play it again.

Don't get me wrong. I can see its virtues. Reasonably fast playing, great looking, well-crafted, well thought out mechanics, and a good, tight, balanced situation.

But for the life of me I cannot suspend my disbelief; it feels like no more than a history-flavoured toy, and those are not what I want to play with.

My last game - which went to the last card, and was tight all the way through - came to a head in the 1779 turn. My worthy opponent, playing the rebels, entered the turn down 6 states to 7, and found himself staring at a hand of a 1 ops, a 2 ops, 3(!) British events, the "game ends in 1779" card...and the single saving grace, a major campaign.

I suspected from his early focus on EXACTLY how many CPs were in each state that he had the 1779 card, so the turn played out like we were 21st century presidential campaign managers in the lead up to polling day, counting every vote in every precinct in every state. The final indignity was the final card play - the major campaign of course - which saw my opponent running around with Generals dropping precisely enough (primarily French) troops in enough spaces to carry the ballot, and swing 4 states for a 7-4 victory.

It was fine play, and a deserved result, but as a representation of the history it was rubbish, or so it seems to me at least.

So, fine game, no doubt, but historical outputs from historical inputs? Only with a hell of a lot of hand-waving rationalisation, and even then, it's a stretch.
 
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David Hughes
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Well, Joel, what you describe sounds to me very little like "historical outputs from historical inputs" and sounds very much like ex post facto rationalisation.

But each to his own. If you are convinced by the game's narrative then you're getting what you want out of it. Doesn't work for me, but I'm happy you are enjoying the game.
 
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