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Subject: My first play of a CDG - fast and fun rss

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Warren Bruhn
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This will be an extremely abbreviated review, as the five reviews so far are quite excellent. This is really more of a comment.

I've never played a card driven game before. I'm a very old school grognard who switched to playing miniatures for most of the last decade. I did buy a copy of For the People some years ago, but sold it because I didn't think it would please me as much as VG's The Civil War. And I own a copy of Paths of Glory which remains unpunched.

Looking to get back into cardboard wargames in order to experience some strategic depth after years of playing purely tactical miniatures games, I wandered into a Euro game event at a local game store hoping to find somebody playing a wargame. The closest thing to a wargame that was available was Washington's War. So I sat down with the guy who had the game and we played it. I had been wanting to try a CDG anyway to see what all the fuss was about.

This game was a blast to play! We took about 150 minutes to play, including set up. We called the game after Washington was captured. It was very simple and fun, though there were many times when I had to stop and think about the choices available based on the cards I had. The combat in particular was extremely easy and fast. The maneuver was reasonably easy too, although I'm going to have to buy a copy myself to really understand the implications for military maneuver of all those PC markers. Still, I didn't feel too disadvantaged by not being the one who had read the rules, since my British won the game!

I'm really looking forward to playing this again, even though it's hard for me to describe it as a wargame. Being the British, I often didn't have the OPS cards to move my big ops value leaders. Frequently I was spending all my cards to remove or place PCs, waiting for Washington to make his inevitable winter attack -- every winter! Still, the strategic thinking was nice. And this game plays extremely fast. The 90 minute estimated playing time is probably very easy to achieve with players who are experienced with this game, or with CDGs in general.

Things I found a little odd:

British navy -- this has been so abstracted that I felt like it wasn't really there. Being an old school wargamer, I was used to having actual units, as in 1776 or Liberty. I thought Liberty made the British navy too strong, and that 1776 had it just right. But in order to produce a 90 minute game, something must go, I suppose. This is not really a complaint about the game, as it's very fun, but as a wargamer I missed being able to move a navy unit. I also didn't see how the British were supposed to be able to invade coastal regions, but I guess I'll have to get my own copy.

Washington's winter attack -- found it really wierd that this happened EVERY WINTER, instead of being some kind of special campaign card. That did not feel very historical at all.

The point to point map -- I realize this style of point to point map is very much in vogue, especially with CDGs. The map was quite functional. And the background around the points was very pretty. However, I will never like the look of these things as much as I like big hexes (as in some of the Columbia Block games) or big areas. By big I mean big enough to put the units and markers of both sides into the area or hex. Fortunately, the game played so well that I didn't have time to be too disappointed that it was a point to point map, with mostly ugly round points. I will probably never see the point of having those circles or squares, as opposed to some better looking stuff around the point, such as a graphic of a town or village with the necessary info. The old Columbia block game Napoleon at least made the points more attractive than this modern penchant for putting a big round or square thing out in space that seems so disconnected from the terrain around it.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this game.
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Mark Herman
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Being the British, I often didn't have the OPS cards to move my big ops value leaders. Frequently I was spending all my cards to remove or place PCs, waiting for Washington to make his inevitable winter attack -- every winter!...I also didn't see how the British were supposed to be able to invade coastal regions, but I guess I'll have to get my own copy.

Thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience with Washington's War. I thought I would offer some quick answers to the two questions that you raised. When either side gets a hand with OPS cards that are insufficient to move a General there is an OPS Queue rule that allows a player to place a series of OPS cards (marker is supplied to keep track) until the value of the Queue equals or exceeds the value of the General that you wish to activate. So for the British who might get a collection of 2 and 1 OPS cards that are insufficient to move Howe, you could play a 1OP into an OPS Queue and then on the next card play play the 2OPS card for a total of 3OPS and move Howe.

Invading Coastal regions is done in one of two ways. The most important thing to remember is that all ports are adjacent for the British, assuming the British control one port on a discard you could remove an American PC marker in any port. Also, if the British draw a campaign card you can use one activation to perform a landing party followed by a British naval move with an Army. There is also a card event (e.g., Lord Sandwich) which also makes this kind of move possible.

Washington's winter attack -- found it really wierd that this happened EVERY WINTER, instead of being some kind of special campaign card...We called the game after Washington was captured.

This is a kind of situation that is indicative of my style of design which is to avoid special rules and legislating correct play through the rules. The Winter Offensive rule can be abused, but it has a downside, which your opponent experienced. Washington is very valuable, but if you do not take care you can lose the Continental Army. For example to conduct a Winter Offensive the Americans have to play the last card and move Washington. To pull this off every turn requires that the Americans concede the first move to the British. Therefore Washington at some point will be in a vulnerable position, which is where the British ability to force going first on a Campaign card is the antidote to an overly aggressive use of Washington. If the Americans decide to go first to withdraw an exposed Washington they are unlikely to go last preventing the Winter offensive. In either case the extreme downside of over using Washington is what trains American players to eschew your opponents love for the tactic.

Thanks again for sharing you gaming experience.

Mark


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Warren Bruhn
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Thanks, Mark, for the explanations and tips. I'm not sure my opponent fully understood the game. I wanted to just start playing before trying to get him to explain everything and read every rule. Next time will pay more attention to the coastal stuff and naval invasion rules, and will make sure I understand it before starting. I never got a campaign card for the British the whole game, as best I recall, and didn't understand how to flip an American PC on a coastal hex except by one special event that I got to play to remove a couple of them. At least I did get to send a couple of substantial armies south by means of putting British reinforcements on British coastal PCs already placed.

My strategy was to control the South, and I never pushed into New York or New Hampshire. Eventually, I lost New England completely, but I controlled every colony from Pennsylvania south at various points, and it seemed I was going to win that way.

The ops queue was very useful. Although one of my hands was virtually all 3 ops (5 of them!), another hand was all 1 ops (five of those)! Used the ops queue to move the 2 ops Cornwallis a time or two, including that ugly turn when I had only 1 op cards, and really appreciated being able to do that.

The winter offensive did bite Washington multiple times. My opponent used it EVERY winter! He lost EVERY battle! That cost him a lot of rebel CUs. And he ended up not in a winter quarters point one winter, costing him more CUs. But worst of all, he was too desperate for the one victory he needed to bring France into the war when he was at 8 on that 9 square track at the end of one year. So he sent Washington on a long march deep in a zone of British PCs to attack Cornwallis, his best shot at a field battle victory, and lost again! And Washington was captured because there was nowhere to retreat to. Game over!
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Mike Windsor
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I posted this in the GMT folder on CSW, and I'll see what response I get:

(After quoting Mr. Bruhn's observation about the map)

Quote:
This raises a point that I agree with, but haven't articulated. There is just something I don't like about the point-to-point maps (and I will add that I think GMT makes them as attractive as anyone). To me, they have wonderful graphics with something that looks like a design for a molecule superimposed over the map. Every point-to-point map ends up looking like a bunch of red, blue, green, purple, and orange circles and squares plopped onto a map reminiscent of the period depicted in the game. The whole thing ends up oddly anachronistic. Is there another way to accomplish the point-to-point graphic in a more subtle manner that helps to keep the period look of maps, while at the same time quickly conveying the necessary information? (I realize that it a tall order and an awkward sentence.) I'm not endorsing the Columbia Games model (I'm not that familiar with most Columbia Games), but I think that Mr. Bruhn has a point.
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Tom Grant
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mwindsor wrote:
I posted this in the GMT folder on CSW, and I'll see what response I get:

(After quoting Mr. Bruhn's observation about the map)

Quote:
This raises a point that I agree with, but haven't articulated. There is just something I don't like about the point-to-point maps (and I will add that I think GMT makes them as attractive as anyone). To me, they have wonderful graphics with something that looks like a design for a molecule superimposed over the map. Every point-to-point map ends up looking like a bunch of red, blue, green, purple, and orange circles and squares plopped onto a map reminiscent of the period depicted in the game. The whole thing ends up oddly anachronistic. Is there another way to accomplish the point-to-point graphic in a more subtle manner that helps to keep the period look of maps, while at the same time quickly conveying the necessary information? (I realize that it a tall order and an awkward sentence.) I'm not endorsing the Columbia Games model (I'm not that familiar with most Columbia Games), but I think that Mr. Bruhn has a point.


Not to discount the possibility of an innovative approach to point-to-point maps, but it seems as though there's a lower limit on how much the "molecules" can fade into the map background before becoming unusable. Middle Earth Quest, for example, is very true to the look and feel of Tolkien maps, but at times, it's tough to scan to find a specific location.

Sure, you might pick a graphic design design that makes the circles and lines look as though someone from that time period drew them. People in the late 18th century never drew point-to-point maps, however, so in the case of Washington's War, the map will always look as though someone superimposed 21st-century wargame mechanics on a relief map.
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Warren Bruhn
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The Columbia block game Napoleon was first published in the early 1970's and it was a point to point map. The wooden blocks moved along the road connections, and fought at the crossroads, which are points. But the map didn't have squares or circles or whatever. The map had a little cluster of buildings around the crossroads, or perhaps a fortress. It looked far more natural, like an actual map. And it was just as functional as these big molecular things now in vogue. There were multiple editions of the game. Here's the link to the first edition on BGG, with several images of the map:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/535454/napoleon-the-water...

I really don't see why point to point maps can't be made to look more natural, more like a map of a road net.

There are alternatives to circles and squares and other geometric shapes. I really liked the city symbols on the Empires in Arms map, which was good looking, yet conveyed good functional info. Those city symbols don't work for AWI, but something else would work, surely.
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Steven Mitchell
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On the p2p/area thing: I think p2p can work for many CDGs, particularly those with a large number of points (thinking of B2B, PoG/PuG, CoM, etc.). But for something like Washington's War, I would have liked seeing areas. Particularly because there are a number of different types of counters in each space, each of which is nice to see all at once. Instead, as it stands, oftentimes the PC marker is below the CUs, and not always visible. Additionally, with the generals-in-stands, these usually have to sit next to the point in an occasionally ambiguous fashion; either that, or sit on top of the CUs, so that one cannot see the CUs either. Just my two cents.
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Mark Herman
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patton1138 wrote:
On the p2p/area thing: I think p2p can work for many CDGs, particularly those with a large number of points (thinking of B2B, PoG/PuG, CoM, etc.). But for something like Washington's War, I would have liked seeing areas. Particularly because there are a number of different types of counters in each space, each of which is nice to see all at once. Instead, as it stands, oftentimes the PC marker is below the CUs, and not always visible. Additionally, with the generals-in-stands, these usually have to sit next to the point in an occasionally ambiguous fashion; either that, or sit on top of the CUs, so that one cannot see the CUs either. Just my two cents.


For the record, all of the games you cite copied We The People, which Washington's War is the redesign of. I was just sticking with a winning formula, but thanks for the input.

Mark
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Steven Mitchell
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MarkHerman wrote:
For the record, all of the games you cite copied We The People, which Washington's War is the redesign of. I was just sticking with a winning formula, but thanks for the input.

Mark


Absolutely. I don't fault you at all. And I normally do prefer points to areas. I'm just saying that games with fewer points on the map - such as WaWa - might be able to benefit from the aesthetic and practical advantages that areas can bring. (And perhaps areas might have given the game even more appeal to the game's intended wider audience, since points can come across as a bit more wargame-y.) Most other CDGs aren't able to do so. Something to keep in mind with future designs.
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