Recommend
50 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

Unhappy King Charles!» Forums » Reviews

Subject: GBG Speaks- Unhappy King Charles (GMT Games) rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andrew Young
Wales
Wellesley
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Unhappy King Charles is a card-driven game of low-to-medium complexity covering the English Civil War. It was published in 2008 and currently has 340 plays recorded on BGG.

This iteration of the CDG genre is very much like Hannibal: Rome and Carthage in The Second Punic War 219-202 B.C. in my estimation. Similarities include complexity, common draw deck, events only playable by owned side, large area control sub-game, etc.

However, the games diverge (understandably) in many notable areas. The presence of Local Notables (immobile generals operating in a limited capacity with limited range of influence) is one. LNs are a really cool design function stemming from the conflict and its flavor. The Evasion and Interception rules are a bit different as well. All good stuff though. UKC certainly has similarities with other CDGs, I just use Hannibal as its more widely known, perhaps.

1. Components (review of the board, aids and pieces)

MAP

I think the map for UKC is one of the best from GMT in recent years. I really like its employ of colors and graphics while being very functional. A shot below of a portion of the map.



The point to point map is divided into regions (control of which can and usually will determine victory in the game). The reddish halo around Truro indicates an Economic Region, which also factor into victory and game play.

COUNTERS

I've always taken to the aesthetics of GMT's games. Especially, post 2000. Not sure why but its just the way it is for me. I think at first, I had to get used to their diecut counters having been brought up on the Avalon Hill ones. It wasn't a problem just took some getting use too- GMT's were thinner and more white at the edges while AH's were a tad thicker and more greyish/cardboardy.



Not a big deal. Just some historical flavor. The counters for UKC are great, IMHO. I think the brigades are actual photos of the designer's mini's or something. But, anyhow, they look cool enough. B/c the movement and combat system is relatively simple the counters aren't adorned with hundreds of numbers or indicators.

AIDS

The map has a few very useful aids. The AIDs are justified so that they are readable to the players sitting at the table- i.e. they are pointed inward. This is very helpful for game play and fast reference. In addition, the game comes with two Force Displays, one for Parliament and the other for The Royalists. All brigades (except for unled ones) are kept on these displays and are secret to the other player. So, essentially you only have Generals and LNs on the map. Its a really cool system, IMO. Part of the fun of wargaming (or gaming in general) is the visuals and how they interact with the game mechanics, etc. At least, this is what I think. So, UKC delivers a different experience in this regard and it is a welcome one. On the back of the playbook are other charts and references. I would have been nice to have a 3rd loose aid with these charts, however. Call me greedy.



2. Rules (review of the rules and their comprehension, etc.)

The rules for UKC are well written. However, there have been many that have criticized their layout and comprehension. Rules writing is, indeed, an art and a science. I think it was wise to provide a general summary of gameplay as a sort of preamble to the specific rules. It allows the new player to conceptualize the game and its differences (recruitment) to other games. In fact, the design team suggests that one read the extended example of play in the playbook prior to reading the rules. That's too much reading for me. I just dove right in!

As indicated above the game is much like other card driven games. So, many of the concepts and mechanics are familiar. However, if one had never played a CDG I'm sure the rules would be tougher. Some of the concepts of evasion and the use of the generals' strategy ratings takes another read over to grasp. There are many easier concepts in the game, however: naval action (chit draw system) is largely abstracted affecting coastal sieges and recruitment.

The most difficult rules to grasp is Recruitment, IMO. One can recruit during the Action Impulses as well as during the Recruitment Phase. There are different rules governing the two players as well as the two phases (or times) of recruitment. But, like any of these games it just takes a bit getting used to as well as a bit of playing them. Recruitment, and its proper employ, are key to good game play, IMO. Why? Well, mainly b/c it is a huge decision point in this CDG. Forces start out smaller. Players need to develop their armies carefully as the game progresses taking heed of the upcoming Desertion Phase. The Desertion rules aren't difficult (set of if/thens) but one needs to understand them as they recruit so as to manage correctly.

All in all, however, I think the rules are fairly well done. Again, with the summary at the beginning of the rules and the vast playbook one should have the game up and running swiftly. Playing it well is another question altogether....

3. Thoughts after 1st Playing (how did we like, dislike it)

Marty Sample (Parliament) and I (Royalists) played a game at GBG May 2010. I think Marty had played once or twice before. I had done some limited testing for UKC but it was a long time ago, indeed. Our general impressions was that it is a very enjoyable game. I think it took 5 hours in total. We had to remind ourselves of some of the rules Marty was very understanding and a good sport. The one big mistake I made in the South is a huge lesson learned.... don't bring a knife to a gun fight. I let Marty chase me around the South. It was basically his region for most of the game. I did better in the North and in the West. The East was a strong Parliament redoubt for most of the game as well.

Marty managed the New Model Army well and seemed moderately positioned in its wake. NMA is an area that harbors some focus- a lot of good players think that an inexperienced Parliament player will botch NMA and thus lose the game in the long run. Essentially, NMA changes the board state quite a bit for Parliament as it restructures its army. So, you can be left with whole armies being removed in areas that you need a presence. This can open up a Royalist run on areas, etc.

Anyhow, the game ended on the last activation with Gerard interception Cromwell and giving battle. The only thing Marty could have done was win a major victory, draw a card for spoils and hope to be able to move again so as to take a last power base. Gerard and his troops fought off the advance well enough to secure a Royalist win.

I'll save some of my criticisms for a bit later.

3. Thoughts after 2nd Playing (how did we like, dislike it)

Rob Masson and I played UKC a few weeks after my first playing. I was eager to get back to it. I took Parliament (being the 'veteran') while Rob took the Royalists. Rob played very well for his first time. The details are sketchy but it ended with a Parliament win.

Managing recruitment and desertion in the different regions is key to playing a good game. Victory is about region control as well as economic center control. So, the game is, in a sense, an elaborate area control excercise. Some may find that funny or negative... "why do I need all these rules when the game boils down to simple area control?" I get this criticism to a degree but it comes down to whether or not you like the subject matter and the rest of the game. And, in any event, isn't every war game largely about area control?



Continuing my thoughts about game play... its so important to think ahead in this game. Recruiting forces that sit around are only good for one reason- setting them up to use against your desertion requirements. This is a good reason to recruit in and of itself. But, feels a bit gamey in some respects. Perhaps, to mitigate the gameyness while offering some historical flavor, the designer has a logic tree for who suffers desertion first and who last, etc.

5. Conclusion (pros and cons, with a GBG rating)

To conclude, I will state that I like the game. Its subject matter is very interesting, the mechanics and decision points are cool, and the aesthetics and production value are top (IMO). The playing time of about 3 hours is great too. The game does not captivate me, however. Few do, of course, but this game is a very solid offering for CDG wargamers looking to expand their 4 hour or less library.

Some are starting to worry that because of the New Model Army and its delicate management (Parliament has to worry about this a few turns in advance as well as fight an active Royalist player) as well as the arrival of Leven and the Scots (easy pickings for the Royalists to get extra cards in a Major Battle victory), the Royalists should be favored in this game. I'll trust the experts on that one.

I'd be happy to play this game again.

I rate this game a solid 7.

Overall GBG Rating (of owning members) is a 7.17
32 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
"L'├ętat, c'est moi."
Canada
Vancouver
BC
flag msg tools
admin
designer
Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
badge
Caution: May contain wargame like substance
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice review. UKC has become one of my favorite wargames. I love the political control process.

I bought some orange and blue bingo chips to replace the PC markers - they're transparent so you can read the names of the locales easily, which is a big boon for those of us who don't have a strong sense of the UK's geography.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jon
Canada
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Nice review. Thanks a bunch for putting it together.

I will second Roger's point regarding the bingo chips. It certainly helps me as my knowledge of British locales is a bit limited. Being able to see them through the translucent chips helps a lot.

Fun game. Lots of challenges since the player is hamstrung by several factors, especially recruitment. I like that lack of total control. I rarely play a card just to "do something"; rather each decision is important.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Young
Wales
Wellesley
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good points, guys.

arrrh
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Young
Wales
Wellesley
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
For the record, GBG is a gaming club outside of Boston, MA. Check it out here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/guild/33

devil
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Charles Vasey
England
Mortlake, London
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
leroy43 wrote:
Nice review. UKC has become one of my favorite wargames. I love the political control process.

I bought some orange and blue bingo chips to replace the PC markers - they're transparent so you can read the names of the locales easily, which is a big boon for those of us who don't have a strong sense of the UK's geography.


This is a most ingenious idea (I remember when it was first mooted by a BGGer), though in playing the game for design and test I never took any notice of the area names (the symbols warn you of important stuff). I was thus interested to read how many folks did like to know where they were going as it had not occurred to me that they needed or wanted to. Is this part of the narrative generation (that is, the story that your play tells) or to link in to reading books about England and Wales, or just how you key play in your mind?

How we each play and imagine games is an understudied area.
3 
 Thumb up
0.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael
United States
Harrisonburg
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While most of the time you don't need to know location names, there are a few times when a card event calls for a specific location that (at least in my games) results in a mass shifting of markers to find the city/town.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Young
Wales
Wellesley
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cathan wrote:
While most of the time you don't need to know location names, there are a few times when a card event calls for a specific location that (at least in my games) results in a mass shifting of markers to find the city/town.


I know where everything is everywhere.

robot
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Charles Vasey
England
Mortlake, London
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cathan wrote:
While most of the time you don't need to know location names, there are a few times when a card event calls for a specific location that (at least in my games) results in a mass shifting of markers to find the city/town.


I thought I'd caught those that did (usually Local Notables or the like that have a handy symbol).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh Foeller
United States
Auburn Hills
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmb
This game is a real brain burner.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
josh_foe wrote:
This game is a real brain burner.


Well that'll be a short and not all that bright fire in my case.

Is this game suitable for solo play?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael
United States
Harrisonburg
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Given that it is card driven, my vote would be no.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Charles Vasey
England
Mortlake, London
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sagitar wrote:
josh_foe wrote:
This game is a real brain burner.


Well that'll be a short and not all that bright fire in my case.

Is this game suitable for solo play?


You would miss the key feel of the game where you are locked into trying to unbalance your opponent while remaining stable. You can learn the game solitaire but not play it in its full flowering. Though some ingenious folks may have built a way to do so.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Card driven you say.

The only card driven war game I've sofar had a go at is Memoir.
So is it simular to that system (which I somehow can not imagine it would be) or is it a different kind of card.

I'll check the pictures for any images of the cards.
How big are these cards, and how big are the units - centimetres if possible-

How big is the map, and if I'm not mistaken it's a papermap? Is it good quality, no trouble keeping it flat?

I know I must check more threads, but these are just some questions that pop in my mind (room enough as said) before I have to rush off taking the kids to school.

But... growing enthousiasm for the game as you'll notice, allthough up to this point mainly caused by the subject.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Charles Vasey
England
Mortlake, London
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Not much like Memoir, and several orders of magnitude more complex.

Let's start at the beginning: which wargames have you played?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael
United States
Harrisonburg
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Components are the same as with Combat Commander. That's the closest comparison I can give you based on what is on your collection list. Not sure if you have ever seen CC:E in person. Typical GMT paper map (use plexi glass to keep it flat and safe), and good chits and cards.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.