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Subject: The Best Introduction to Block Wargaming rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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War of 1812 is the second Columbia block game, the first being Quebec 1759. Like Quebec 1759, War of 1812 is steeped in Canadian history and the title is a bit of a misnomer, for you will not be able to blockade the coast, burn Washington, defend Fort McHenry, or refight the Battle of New Orleans. Instead, the game is set entirely the Great Lakes region, which saw America's failed attempt to conquer Canada.

Gameplay (24 out of 28): The players fight a series of rounds in the years 1812-1814, building or moving navies, and moving ground forces, which do not have a fixed step up at the game's start, which increases the tension. Movement order is determined either by who wins the initiative, or, if the set up tension is not enough, written secret and simultaneous orders in the tradition of Diplomacy.

The battles are your usual Columbia fare, with the defender firing first and each unit having various battle ratings. What makes this part of the game so tense is that losses are permanent. This is an aspect unheard of in other Columbia Games on a grand scale. While increasing the tension, the tendency for luck to devastate your forces is a bit high. One disastrous battle will pretty much decide your fate, and this aspect makes me feel conflicted. I love the thrill of the risk, but I'm not sure it makes for a consistently fun gaming experience.

Perhaps my favorite part is the naval contest for the Great Lakes. Like the real war, both sides try to build fleets and control the lakes to support their military operations and reap victory points. This part is simple but I feel it captures the history best of all and without too much fuss.

The New Units:


Strategic (3 out of 5): The victory points for the lakes and towns are accurate enough and encourage the taking of territory. However, you receive victory points for fielding units, so there is a lot of head hunting aggressive action or fleeing from a fight. This also means that losing territory can be doubly bad, as you'll lose both the victory points and the army. So this game is less about taking territory, than it is about smashing an army, and preferably in a key location. Or you can choose to flee and trade space for time. Thus the action is more fluid than the real war, and there is a higher tendency for battles like Austerlitz, both in conception and effect. This game, by having an open set up and cataclysmic battles, will test your nerves.

Accessibility (5 out of 5): Of all the Columbia Games, this one might be the easiest to get on to the table and play right way. The rules are brief and a model of clarity. The historical notes are excellent, if understandably a bit biased for the British side of the struggle.

Components (5 out of 5): I only played with the remake and I was impressed. The blocks are given the names of various commanders, which usually correspond to their skill, from the Great Brock and Scott, to the dismal Hull. The map is possibly Columbia's finest to date, and it has a colorful hand-drawn quality that one usually sees from Clash of Arms.

Slice of the Map:


Originality (2 out of 2): As a game that came out when block wargaming was new, this helped define the system by giving units different firing abilities and introducing new unit types. However, it will hardly seem fresh to our eyes. Still, this was an evolutionary design, because it took a tactical system used in Quebec 1759 and modified it to fit a grand campaign.

Historical Quality (2 out of 5): This is the game's weak point. It just did not feel like the Great Lakes Campaigns. For one, the likelihood of cataclysmic battle seems to fly in the face of history. The Americans lost the early battles at Queenston Heights and Detroit, yet we managed to stay in the fight. In War of 1812 the unit numbers are abstracted, and both sides are roughly equal. So in order for America to say in the fight, the game assumes a defeat such as Queenston Heights and Detroit will only cost America one or possibly two blocks. So whereas these battles sent shockwaves throughout the American military, here they'd only be considered set backs. Simply put, I think the Americans should greatly outnumber the British in the beginning, but have a poor army, but then they can receive more regulars as reinforcements. Some of this is simulated, such as the prevalence of questionable American militia, but it does not feel like there is enough. This might make the game more scripted but it would add some sorely needed history. Another problem is that you receive victory points for the number of blocks you have at the end of the fighting. This encourages battles of annihilation or grand retreats, and I'm not sure Brock or Brown were running around looking for Austerlitz or attempting to emulate Barlclay de Tolly. Otherwise, I think War of 1812 is a good simulation, particularly through the importance of naval combat. The game can be used in the classroom and if nothing else you might find yourself looking up names such as Riall and Wilkinson.

Overall (41 out of 50): I don't think this is as good as Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 or Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, but it stands as among the best titles from Columbia Games. While it lacks thematic touches and it doesn't really give one a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of each side, it is filled with nail biting tension. In fact I'd say this is the most tense of all block games because setup is not rigid so you really don't know how strong the enemy is on the other side. My final verdict is that this is a flawed simulation but a damn fine game.

A Solid VASSAL Module is Available:
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C Sandifer
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I do like War of 1812, but I prefer Quebec 1759 myself. A quick comparison, for those who are interested:

http://fortressat.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=the-f...

Regardless, a good block game is a good block game. Nicely done.
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Michael Ziegler
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I own a few Columbia Block games now and I like the systems of play and components. Hammer of the Scots, Richard III, Julius Caesar, Crusader Rex, Athens and Sparta and Napoleon.
I would like 1812 but I have yet to win any bids on used copies. Your coverage here is appreciated.
 
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Quote:
I do like War of 1812, but I prefer Quebec 1759 myself. A quick comparison, for those who are interested:

http://fortressat.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=the-f...

Regardless, a good block game is a good block game. Nicely done.


For now I prefer War of 1812, but I've only played Quebec 1759 once.
 
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Steve Bachman
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gittes wrote:
...the title is a bit of a misnomer, for you will not be able to blockade the coast, burn Washington, defend Fort McHenry, or refight the Battle of New Orleans. Instead, the game is set entirely the Great Lakes region, which saw America's failed attempt to conquer Canada.

Considering the scope of the game, what name do you feel would be more appropriate?

Although fought elsewhere, Madison's vision of how the war would progress was that the US would quickly take southeastern Canada and Britain would then negotiate a peace favorable to the US. The fact that the scope of the war went beyond what is portrayed in the game is largely due to the failure of the US as invaders, leading to a prolonged war. Also, the only piece of land that changed hands is shown on this gameboard.

Excellent review of an excellent introductory war game. I look forward to getting a copy of it to teach my young son to hopefully pique his interest in more strategic gaming.
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Mark Mahaffey
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Who drew the new map? It's lovely.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Considering the scope of the game, what name do you feel would be more appropriate?


If you are going to call it War of 1812, let the scope be the entirety of the war. It is sort of like calling a game on the Virginian theater "American Civil War."

Quote:
Excellent review of an excellent introductory war game. I look forward to getting a copy of it to teach my young son to hopefully pique his interest in more strategic gaming.


Let us know how it goes. I think this game is so simple and fun I might use it in class sometime somehow.
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Steve Bachman
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gittes wrote:
Quote:
Considering the scope of the game, what name do you feel would be more appropriate?


If you are going to call it War of 1812, let the scope be the entirety of the war. It is sort of like calling a game on the Virginian theater "American Civil War."

I understand your point completely, but you didn't really answer the question did you?
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Grant Dalgliesh
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Re: 1812 Map
This map was painted in 1985 by Eric Hotz. Its 25 years old this year!
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Mark Mahaffey
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Thanks, Grant. It was absolutely gorgeous work.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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I understand your point completely, but you didn't really answer the question did you?


The Niagara Campaigns or War of 1812: Struggle for Canada
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Thanks, Grant. It was absolutely gorgeous work.


I'll second this. In fact, I'd say it is the best looking wargame map of the 1980s.
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