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Subject: A Rookie Wargamer's Review: Ottoman Sunset rss

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Jonathan Holen
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Recently I wrote my first review here at BGG on a fairly small game from a fairly small game company and thanks to the positive response and encouragement from those here on BGG I'm back with another review. The first game I reviewed was Toe-to-Toe and is published by Victory Point Games (VPG) - the review can be found here. Another big thanks to JohnRayJr and all those involved in the New Voices Winter contest for the encouragement to start contributing. I highly suggest that you checkout everyone who entered - there are some awesome reviews! You can find the submissions here

The Game

Ottoman Sunset is a Victory Point Games States of Siege Series (Sos) game from VPG that came recommended to me from a number of people in my search for a good first wargame. If you aren't familiar with VPG's SoS series of games let me briefly try and describe them. The game revolves around multiple tracks on which the enemy AI moves towards a central point on the map. This central point on the map is the area which you control and happens to be one of the primary ways to lose the game - if any enemy from one of those tracks enters your area of control at the end of a turn, the game is over. Granted, each game has specific rules which apply, some have more tracks than others, and some even have other ways of losing and winning however the main concept is the same. This is a very brief overview, and the series designer, Darin Leviloff, has actually written an amazing article which I'd suggest you check out if interested. You can find that here

Back to Ottoman Sunset; the game covers the Great War in the Near East of 1914-1918 in which the Turkish Empire is under attack with only Germany rendering any aid. There are six primary tracks in the game as well as a number of other events that can take place and consequently lead to a defeat. Your point of control all centers around the capital of the Turkish Empire, Constantinople. Here is a shot of the map that gives you a good idea of the layout:


The goal of the game is to survive through three decks of cards - these cards represent the events that took place throughout the war and are divided into three separate decks. These decks are setup in a triggered format, meaning that you start with one and don't shuffle the next deck into your draw pile until a certain card is drawn, at that time you take the second deck and shuffle it into your original draw pile creating a new draw pile. This continues until the last deck is shuffled into your draw pile. Some of you might already be wondering, "So does that mean that in the first two cards of the game all decks could be combined?" Yes, it is possible, though not an everyday occurrence by any means.

Components

For those familiar with VPG games this section will not be anything new, for those not familiar with VPG games I suggest that you go into this with an open mind, let me explain. The first time I ever came across some VPG games here on BGG I was not very thrilled at what I saw - in fact I was pretty turned off by the components and didn't even take an honest look at the game or what it was all about. Granted, if you're reading this you are clearly doing better than my first experience with VPG so I applaud you! Why do I mention this? Well because of course that same person who was at first turned off by the components is now writing a review for a game I quite enjoy!

VPG self produces and publishes all their games and doesn't have the publishing power as such giants as FFG or other notable companies. Lets take a look at how the game appears right after you pull it out of your mailbox (which it will be in there FAST - VPG has awesome service):



After removing the contents from the package here is a good overview shot of the components:



Lets talk a bit about where you'll be spending your time - the map. The map is printed on a heavy paper and in my opinion has great color. Some people complain about the creases in the map, however I don't see how it can be avoided. If you're new to war games you might not be accustomed to paper maps, but they are fairly common. The short of it is the map is very functional and works. It doesn't have a large footprint like some other games and is great for traveling and fitting on smaller tables. I even managed to fit it on an airplane tray, however wasn't prepared with any cups for the counters.

Included are three decks of cards which I touched on earlier - the cards seem to be made out of thick cardstock and have nice graphics and are easy to read. Below you can see the three decks which are (from left to right); Morning (Blue), Mid-Day (Yellow), and Dusk (Grey). As you can probably guess, this is the order you add the decks. You start with Morning, and when triggered will shuffle in the Mid-Day. The final trigger will cause you to shuffle in the Dusk deck. Realize this means that the cards themselves in your draw pile aren't necessarily in that same order of Morning/Mid-Day/Dusk but randomized. There however is a neat option to play a historical game which uses the small numbers on the cards. Simply sort them and have at it. I've heard it is quite challenging.



And also with the game comes the cardboard counters used for tracking the games progress. Again, these have nice color, feel, and graphics for easily tracking the progress of one's game. Below are some of the army counters used - these counters are double sided and represent the leaders of the armies marching towards Constantinople.



Additionally you receive the rules and most beneficial an example of play - I really love the literature that VPG games come with, the rules are explained in a very easy manner to understand, and that understanding is only solidified when you setup the game and work through the example of play. All material talked about here can be found on VPG's website here.

Did I say example plays are awesome? Well they are.


Conclusion

The components are very functional and in my opinion of good quality - they however are not the main attraction to the games. Compared to when I was first introduced to VPG and their games, I quite enjoy the components now that I understand what VPG is really about. VPG is all about the gameplay, and they actually have a motto to back that up. I feel this is really evident when you dive into the game...

Gameplay

Having already covered the basics of the SoS series of games, lets quickly refresh what goes on in Ottoman Sunset. I'll try not to make this a rules summary as you can always refer the rulebook on VPG's website. Ottoman Sunset starts with three fronts active - however realize that all fronts aren't necessarily active all throughout the game. Some come into play and some go out of play to come back at a later time. Also, there are different Leaders representing the armies involved in the fronts, and each has a corresponding battle value, which is used to determine whether or not you succeed in your battle attempt to push the front back, away from your prized capital Constantinople.

Ok, so how does this all work? The start of your turn is by drawing the top card off the draw pile, this card now represents the current event. On the card it tells you if an event is going to take place. These events range from adding the additional decks into your draw pile, adding or replacing armies on their tracks, conducting off-map battles which we'll cover later, or sometimes no event at all. After resolving the event you will look at the Army Advance section - all fronts listed are advanced one space. Some fronts have additional rules, but I'll let you refer to the rules if interested. After advancing armies comes the phase where you can attempt to make a difference - however the amount of actions that you can take is also determined by the current card. See below for an example:



Actions range from rolling against the various fronts marching towards Constantinople, reinforcing fortifications for the British Navy event, allocating Dice Roll Modifiers (DRMs) to other off-map battles, as well as a number of other actions available to you. Sometimes these actions are modified by the card - sometimes increasing your chance against fronts, however sometimes it also prevents you from rolling against fronts. Lets talk about rolling against fronts - you take a regular D6 and roll against the Battle Value found on the Leader marker. For instance refer to the below picture - the Arabs are knocking on Constantinople and with only one action you have no choice but to attempt to push them back hoping to prevent a defeat the next round IF that front advances. Will it? Maybe it won't and you will get lucky if you leave it alone. But what if it does advance? Your empire will come down crashing! The battle value is three - here is the possible breakdown. If you roll less than or equal to the Battle Value, nothing happens. If you roll higher, then the front is successfully pushed back.

Constantinople is on the verge of defeat! Will you be able to muster enough forces to push back the invaders?


A typical result for me in this game looks like the following...


After resolving your actions, there may be another possible action depending on how far your game has progressed - called the Kaiserschlact, if so you handle the related off-map battle. I suppose now is a good time to discuss off-map battles. There are three off-map battle fronts where occasionally you must fight in. These are the Eastern, Western, and Naval Theaters. When an off-map battle is conducted, you add any DRMs available to you and the result from your D6 - if the combination of these is less than the battle value then it is placed in your defeat box. If it is equal, then it goes in the stalemate box. And last but certainly not least, if it is greater than the battle value you can place it victoriously in your victory box. Why does this matter, it matters because this is what effects your National Will track.



National Will is a combination of adding up all off-map battles that you have won including successful coups, and any other markers found in the "Victories" section of the map. This number is compared to the "Defeats" box as well as the Strategic sites that enemy fronts control, and then the National Will marker is placed on the corresponding number in the National Will Track. If your National Will ever drops below -3 you suffer immediate defeat. Obviously, having the highest National Will possible is the best option, though not always the easiest. The example above shows the defeat condition - You might notice that the national will is not merely determined by Victories vs. Defeats, in this case a number of enemy fronts controlled strategic sites (denoted by Red Flags in the fronts) which led to my defeat.

Conclusion

This concludes a complete game round. You then draw another card and repeat the process. It may sound complicated, but it is really easy. The gameplay I find is very addicting - once you get the feel of the flow of the game, which will take between 1-2 rounds, you'll be breezing through this game. Don't think it's easy - it isn't. You'll be finding yourself most likely only winning about one third of your games. Up to this point I haven't won a single game.

Wrap Up

So what's the big deal about this game? I really don't know how-to put it - it's just complete fun! The gameplay is fast, setting up the game only consists of laying out the map, sorting the counters, and placing the starting fronts on the map as well as the markers to keep track of things like National Will/etc. Resetting up the game after you lose, which you will (or win I suppose), is even easier. To be honest though, the game just keeps you wanting to come back for more. No game two games are alike. I really mean that - no games are the same, the event cards are just amazing. It really creates for drama and tension. In fact, the more you get to know the game and the possible events the more tense it gets. What is going to happen next? Are the British going to force the straits, or are your German Allies going to block them with the U-Boats. Are you going to have to shuffle in the next deck, thereby allowing for other events to take place? Do you place that second minefield or wait for the free minefield from the event card. So lets take a look at who I think won't like this game, and who will?

Who won't like this game?

People who require blinged out components in their games, or those fearing randomness. Lets face it, not every game is for everyone - sometimes I think people are afraid when someone says that they don't enjoy a game that you like - hey, lets just realize we are in this for the fun. The components aren't going to be FFG big box quality, but you shouldn't really expect that. The components are very functional and work great at what they do, and there is a good bit of randomness in this game, but... keep reading and see just who might like this game.

Who would like this game?

Anyone who enjoys a compelling game that has a ton of tension, variety, and keeps you coming back for more. If this is your first VPG game go into with an open mind in regards to the components, I'm sure you'll find them right for the job. The game is great, and the company is even better. If in doubt, feel free to give someone at VPG or affiliated with VPG a shout - I'm confident they'll be able to answer any questions. They've answered mine.

I hope you enjoyed this review, and most importantly thanks for reading! Again, thanks for all the support here at BGG, and again if you have any interest in learning about some new reviewers I encourage you to checkout the results of the New Voices Winter contest winners. There are some great reviews out there of some great games. I don't believe that you can ever have too many reviews of games, each offers a different perspective and like I said earlier, you can't expect everyone to like the same stuff.

Thanks again,
Jonathan

If you've enjoyed this feel free to checkout my other reviews and or subscribe and get updated when I complete my next review. Thanks.

A Rookie Wargamer's Reviews

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Joshua Gottesman
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An amazing write-up. Keep up the great work!
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David Kennedy
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Hey! What's with the big black die?
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Steve Carey
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VPG's components invariably come up in every single review, but I fully concur with your perspective and am glad that you highlighted the issue several times - the components really do fit the stellar gameplay.

It's hard to explain this to others who are turned-off or pre-judge, but you nailed it with this review.

Over time I've actually found myself having a preference for the "VPG style" of crisp, colorful, and clear components over the fancy, flashy, and sometimes gaudy components that have accompanied other games. To each his own I suppose.

Anyway, nice review (again thumbsup) Jonathan - I think OS is one of the best games that I have played, solitaire, co-op, or otherwise. It has a permanent place in my game cabinet.

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Jonathan Holen
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HitchKennedy wrote:
Hey! What's with the big black die?
Haha, not a fan of the VPG mini thank you die. Got some beefier ones

Steve Carey wrote:
Over time I've actually found myself having a preference for the "VPG style" of crisp, colorful, and clear components over the fancy, flashy, and sometimes gaudy components that have accompanied other games. To each his own I suppose.
I could see the possibility of this happening, there is just a simplicity to the games in regards to components - it sure doesn't feel cluttered. Granted, that also might have to do the with counter density, as SoS games aren't known for having tons of counters, same probably goes for the Nappy20 series too. But yeah, I see where you could go with that. My biggest hope with these first two reviews is to break-down any negative thoughts about components. I was there, I had those first thoughts, and I was wrong.

Thanks all for the feedback. I'm having a fun time writing these up, helps me figure out what style of games I like most - so in a sense they are almost more for myself in that respect.
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David Kennedy
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jholen wrote:
HitchKennedy wrote:
Hey! What's with the big black die?
Haha, not a fan of the VPG mini thank you die. Got some beefier ones


And, young Turk, you wonder why you are constantly losing?
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John Welch
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Fantastic review Jonathan! It's nice to read such an honest view of this game and games in general. Darin is a truly gifted and talented designer - your choice of SoS titles was a good one. If you liked Ottoman Sunset, I strongly recommend Soviet Dawn or We Must Tell the Emperor. The first one is another Darin Leviloff masterpiece and the second is from Steve Carey. These two games manage to capture the complexity of their subject while keeping the game fluid and fun.

What sold me on VPG games (nearly two years ago) was I actually have the time and the inclination to PLAY them. Like some gamers, I have a closet full of excellent games...still in the shrink wrap and those that are open; I've just read the rule books and admired the components shake

Keep those great reviews coming!
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Pete Belli
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Superb!
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Jonathan Holen
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Thanks!

Yeah, the only real problem I'm having with VPG is that placing your next order is so hard! Too many to choose from devil
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Pablo Klinkisch
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Really nice review!!!
Seeing the components the font used for the cards irritates me a bit: it makes the letters seam all Hindi, not Turkish... (And, I thought that before Atat├╝rk Turkey mostly used the arabic alphabet, but I might be mistaken).
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Excellent review of what I believe to be the jewel of VPG's collection.
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D a v i d B u r k e y
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Added to my wishlist!
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Mike Stevens
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Great review. I have been wanting to order from VPG for awhile now and I can never decide which game to make my first order. With your awesome, detailed review, it is now down to Ottoman Sunset and Zulus on the Ramparts.

Keep those reviews coming.
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Jonathan Holen
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Omahavice wrote:
Great review. I have been wanting to order from VPG for awhile now and I can never decide which game to make my first order. With your awesome, detailed review, it is now down to Ottoman Sunset and Zulus on the Ramparts.

Keep those reviews coming.
Easy, both!

From my understanding, they are very different. Zulus is a tactical take on the SoS system, while OS is the more standard SoS flavor. I'm sure someone more familiar can better explain it than myself, haven't played Zulus just going off what has been told to me.
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Christopher
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A great review, thanks for that!

jholen wrote:
Additionally you receive the rules and most beneficial an example of play - I really love the literature that VPG games come with, the rules are explained in a very easy manner to understand, and that understanding is only solidified when you setup the game and work through the example of play. All material talked about here can be found on VPG's website here.


An extra plus about the rules not only in OS, but in every VPG game is that they are not only very clear, but also follow a very similar structure. The usage of certain colors to mark important stuff or to mark the first occurrence of a term really works when looking up something! This makes reading and understanding the rules for your next VPG game even more easy.

jholen wrote:

The components are very functional and in my opinion of good quality - they however are not the main attraction to the games. Compared to when I was first introduced to VPG and their games, I quite enjoy the components now that I understand what VPG is really about. VPG is all about the gameplay, and they actually have a motto to back that up. I feel this is really evident when you dive into the game...


I have to second that! I too enjoy playing with VPG components.

(mind you, I also enjoy playing "Chaos in the Old World", with FFG components...)
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Steve Carey
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jholen wrote:
Additionally you receive the rules and most beneficial an example of play - Did I say example plays are awesome?


Thanks for mentioning this, Jonathan - we worked hard to get the main example-of-play 'just right' knowing how important it is to players.

Besides Designer's Notes, the example-of-play is the next thing I read when getting a new game. Both help me understand the vision and direction of the game so that when I do read the rules, I often have a better grasp of things.
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Everett Hathaway
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Great review!

I was going to jump from Zulus! to another VPG game type (not an SoS game, but this review has edged me back to consider this game again.

I'm intrigued by WWI and I really liked "Last Man Standing" by Jeff Shaara.
I am amazed at how much I don't know about this war.
I also like "Lawrence of Arabia" a lot.

This game might fit the bill just right.

Keep writing reviews - this was really good.
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Jonathan Holen
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everhat wrote:
Great review!

I was going to jump from Zulus! to another VPG game type (not an SoS game, but this review has edged me back to consider this game again.

I'm intrigued by WWI and I really liked "Last Man Standing" by Jeff Shaara.
I am amazed at how much I don't know about this war.
I also like "Lawrence of Arabia" a lot.

This game might fit the bill just right.

Keep writing reviews - this was really good.
Thanks!

Next review up is going to be on Waterloo 20 also from VPG
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Everett Hathaway
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I just wanted to let you know, I just ordered this game.
This review was a big reason why.
(The video review of this by Marco Arnaudo also helped)
You also are a big fan of VPG, and that was an aid as well!

Many thanks -
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everhat wrote:
I just wanted to let you know, I just ordered this game.
This review was a big reason why.
(The video review of this by Marco Arnaudo also helped)
You also are a big fan of VPG, and that was an aid as well!

Many thanks -
I just read that in your TBC vs No Retreat thread.

I fully support your decision. Also, I just ordered Zulus based on your experience with it as well. Haha
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Eric Lai
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You really have become addicted to VPG crack. You need to go to the nearest wargaming rehab centre immediately... I think you are OD'ing....

(good review!)
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Jonathan Holen
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Garfink wrote:
You really have become addicted to VPG crack. You need to go to the nearest wargaming rehab centre immediately... I think you are OD'ing....

(good review!)
My name is Jonathan, and I'm a VPG addict. blush
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Joshua Gottesman
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jholen wrote:
Garfink wrote:
You really have become addicted to VPG crack. You need to go to the nearest wargaming rehab centre immediately... I think you are OD'ing....

(good review!)
My name is Jonathan, and I'm a VPG addict. blush


Hi Jonathan.
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outstanding review! thank you so much
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Jonathan Holen
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cmdrc wrote:
outstanding review! thank you so much
You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.
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