My review can basically be summed up with the heading... if you are thinking about trying the Musket & Pike Battles Series then I STRONGLY recommend that you start with Under the Lily Banners [ULB]... or at least until Nothing Gained but Glory is released at which point possibly it. Why, you ask? Basically because of the Mergentheim 1645 scenario, or as the description puts it...
This is the smallest battle in the series and is included as a learning scenario.I like the rule design for this series... there is a lot going on for both players at any point. Even when your opponent is moving there is a lot to consider... hmm... his cav unit is moving towards some of my infantry.... should I try for an intercept with one of my nearby cav units... if I can intercept should I fire pistols... or should I not move my cav but instead have my infantry fire on him... and if so at what range... or should I try to have my infantry take a defensive formation... or would they be better off staying like they are no to avoid the risk of being disorganized when the cav arrive? In other words... you have LOTS of decisions to make [or at least that you can make] at any point in the game... each with their own set of follow-up implications and further decisions to make. The result is a very engaging combat system that can lead to all sorts of results.. for example you cav charge worked wonders and routed the enemy.. but your unit chases them off the board [woo hoo! [rolls dice] D'oh!]. The downside of this rule system when learning it is that there are a LOT of potential decisions to make, general sequences of events to learn, and a lot of information markers to keep track of. This is where the Mergentheim 1645 scenario comes into play.
The Mergentheim 1645 scenario is really small, with something like 12-18 units on a side... a mix of cav and infantry for both sides. In other words, no where near as large of some of the other scenarios, no long infantry units. I am just guessing, but I think if I had tried playing one of the larger scenarios in ULB or any of the other games in the series it might have overwhelmed me. I have played a lot of wargames, but it still took me a little while to be really comfortable with the rules for this series. Its not that they are poorly written or too complicated... in fact I find them pretty clear and concise. It is just that there are a lot of points where you have to stop and think about them and the actions you can take until you have really have them easily at your command. In a large scenario, I fear that doing this might prove to much the first time you play [or at least I fear it might have been too much for me]. Mergentheim gave me a chance to get to really learn the rules in a setting where I could fairly quickly go back and replay the battle a couple of times in a row as my grasp of the rules improved and I became more aware of what tactics worked in certain situations. It also was nice that it only took a couple of minutes to setup and there were a limited number of pieces [both units and info counters] in play so I was better able to keep track of what was happening.
I am sure many others will disagree with me, having learned to play on the previous 2 games in the series, so my concerns are possible overblown. That is a very valid argument, one that hopefully someone else [who started with any other scenario from any game in this series] will make to balance out my opinion [a .05 GG tip for whoever posts the first rebuttal in this thread that I consider good]. If you really prefer one of the other games' topics to this one, then perhaps you should go ahead with it first. Still, although I didn't have an overwhelming interest in Mergentheim, I am very glad that there was a scenario like it because of the way it eased me into the system. Oh, and the other scenarios in ULB are also quite interesting, the counters and maps look nice, the rules [as mentioned above] are clear and concise. But really... Mergentheim. Can't stress that enough.