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Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
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Red Poppies is a tactical level WWI game. One player plays the Central Powers (Germany); the other player plays the allies ( England, France, Belgium). The game is played on a typical map overlaid with hexes. The units are represented by counters. 8 scenarios are included in the game.

Components:- Box- this is roughly the size and quality of the ASL SK boxes.
- Map Boards- 6 double-sided 11" x 17" maps of heavy card stock (i.e. Twilight Struggle)
- 7/8" Counters
- Player Aid- 1 for each player, double-sided; heavy card stock
- Scenario Cards- 4 double sided; heavy card stock
- Rule book- 16 pages, color
- 2 6-sided dice

Structure of the Game
Without regurgitating the rules to make for a laborious unnecessary review, I will try to keep it short and just try to focus on important aspects of the game.


Each side sets up per scenario instructions. There may be a set number of turns played depending on the scenario. A game turn consists of a number of Command Couplets. During a Command Couplet, each player gets to activate a number of units or do some other action. The player with initiative performs his half of the couplet first. To determine how many couplets there are in a turn, each player rolls a die at the beginning of each turn. The number of couplets is the difference between the die results; the highest roller gains the initiative (ties result in 2 couplets with the Central Powers gaining the initiative).

During his half of a Command Couplet, a player may:
1. Activate all friendly unspent units in a hex (stacking limit = 2 units per player)
2. Activate up to 12 identical formed (see below) units in the same or adjacent hexes
3. Order an Off Board Artillery (OMA) strike which will usually occur on a later turn
4. Pass

-When units are finished with their activation they become Spent, meaning they cannot do anything else until the next turn.



Note: units are double-sided. They are Formed on one side and Dispersed on the other. One interesting thing about this game is that either unit side may have certain advantages and disadvantages. As outline above, formed troops are easier to activate; however, they take damage easier. Also certain units such as MG and mortar units cannot fire unless dispersed, yet they cannot move unless formed.


Things a unit can do when activated:
1. Move (note: units may get lost when traveling in the deep woods, in enemy trenches or at night).
2. Fire: as with many war games, you have to account for terrain, LOS, range. No fire groups can be formed; units shoot one at a time. Melee can occur (useful for attacking heavily defended units in a trench). Op fire (called Reaction Fire) can occur. This spends a unit. However MG units are never spent by Op Fire unless doubles are rolled.
- When fire occurs, you can Area Fire (shoot at all unarmored units in a hex) or anti-tank fire, which is firing at one armored unit in a hex (assuming the firing unit has anti-armor capability)
3. Deploy: as its activation, a unit may flip from its dispersed side to its formed side, or vice versa.
4. Dig in: foot units may do this in order to gain a defensive bonus.

Cohesion Checks
This is how attacks are resolved. When attacked the defending player rolls 2 d6 against his unit’s Cohesion number. If the result exceeds the cohesion number, that unit is dispersed and spent. If the modified result is 11 or 12, the unit is destroyed. Other game aspects may result in having to make a cohesion check, such as checking for getting lost, vehicles making bog checks etcetera, though 11 and12's won’t destroy units in these other cases.

OMA
Another aspect of the game is Off Map Artillery (OMA). I won’t go into a bunch of detail but suffice it to say, you basically use your have of your half of a Command Couplet to select a target hex. A certain number of turns later, you start to roll for signal success. The delay in turns to do this is called the Signal Delay; the delay length depends on the mode (aircraft, runner, telephone etc). When the turn for the OMA battery in question comes into play, you then roll for signal success. This is an automatic action you take before you perform your half of the Command Couplet. If signal success fails, you wait and try again next Command Couplet. If it succeeds, you then roll to see if the barrage hits the target hex, or if it misses and hits a surrounding hex instead. OMA batteries can also fire gas and smoke.

That’s the main aspects of the game.




My Overall Ratings
Theme 9: I like the theme, and the game play matches the theme pretty well

Mechanics 8: I really like the unknown number of command couplets each turn. I also like the features of formed verses dispersed units. OMA batteries are pretty cool too.

Rule book 8: The rules are pretty straightforward, though I did have a couple little questions. These were promptly answered by the game designer here on BGG.

Strategy 8: Pretty typical for most hex and counter war games.

Aesthetics/ Quality of Components 8: I really like the artwork of the maps. The counters are nice, but as mentioned above, some folks don’t care much for the artwork on them. The maps. Player aids and scenario cards are all heavy cardstock.

Verisimilitude 8: I am certainly not an expert on squad-level WW1 tactics, but I appreciate how the designer tries to capture the feel of unit cohesion and command control. This is reflected by the fact that formed units are much easier to activate (though they may be less efficient in combat and may be more susceptible to enemy fire). Off map artillery and its different forms also play an important in most scenarios.

Pros- Nice Components: heavy card stock maps and player aids, large counters (also a disadvantage)
- Rules are easy to understand ( I did have a few minor questions that were promptly answered by the designer)
- Game does not take too long to play
- Interesting decisions (dispersed vs formed; unknown number of couplets in each turn)
- WWI theme that works well
-Combat is easy to calculate; there are not too many charts and tables to muddle game play.

Cons
- Counters being large clog up hexes and cover up terrain
- Artwork/font size on counters seems to be unsatisfactory for some, though I have no problem with it. In fact, I really like the NATO symbols used to represent formed units.

Parting Thoughts
I like this game a lot. The components (including the maps) are nice quality. There are plenty of scenarios to play. The rules are pretty easy to digest (though I did have to take some notes about OMA rules). I am always on the look out for tactical level WW II games. But to find a good WW I tactical game that is not an all-out trench slugfest is a pretty cool find.

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Mike Szarka
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
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Nice review but some more information on the scenarios would be helpful. What periods of the war do they cover? What variety is there in the tactical situations represented?
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John Gorkowski
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Dan

Thanks for the kind words, glad you like the game.

Mike

The scenarios (8) go from 1914 to 1918 on the western front. The earliest action is a German cavalry charge against Belgian defenders, the latest depicts German Stosstruppen fighitng Manchesters (British) near Flers during the spring offensive of 1918.

Terrain goes from the rolling woooded hills of the Ardennes to the trenches of Verdun.

Units include French tanks, British tanks, British, French and German infantry as well as Belgian and German cavalry. The infantry change as the war progresses, for example the French lose cohesion but gain firepower. There are also various gun and mortar batteries.

For the history buff, the maps are representations of the actual terrain rather than generic. In many cases, the actual features are named such as the "Mathemetician's Trench" at Verdun and "Delville Wood" near Flers.

If interest keeps up we'll be off to the Eastern Front before too long.

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Jon Badolato
United States
Connecticut
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Thanks for writing this review. I have been itching to play it but alas have not found the time to do so yet. I look forward to the day I can do so.

And anything East Front is good !!
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Mike Szarka
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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When it is your turn to send a VASSAL move, the wait is excruciating. When it's my turn, well, I've been busy.
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Sounds wonderful. One more for the wish list...
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Rick Martinez
United States
Carnation
Washington
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Thanks! Probably going to pick this one up - Ironically, no matter how good the game, I now refuse to buy small hex / small counter BG's, so your con about the size of the counters is a plus for me! Don't mind the covering up of terrain, etc. Big counters are easier to pick up, etc., so if I can't see something.... :-)

Thanks again!
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Ken Smith
United States
Tennessee
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How does this game compare, complexity-wise and playability-wise with Hold the Line? and/or Command & Control: Ancients?

I'd love a very simple WWI game, but I'm not willing to go much beyond "very simple" (I have to save all that brain effort for ASL).

thanks for the info
Ken
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Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
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Thanks for the nice and quick review. However, exactly what does it tells in respect of WWI tactics and strategy for description of this kind:

Quote:
Strategy 8: Pretty typical for most hex and counter war games.



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Luigi54
Italy
Milano
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Are the Italian troops there as well?
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Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
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On the western front?

I'm not an expert but that doesn't seem likely.

As the game covers scenarioes from the whole war, I sort of would have expected Americans.
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Gustavo Vazquez
Brazil
Curitiba
PR
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I was thinking about writing a review, but this one is so good I have nothing more to add...! arrrh

Next Thursday I´ll play every scenario with a friend of mine, in chronological order... Probably I´ll write a session report afterwards.
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