Nate Merchant
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New York
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"Blackwater" Bill and I finally got 30YW on the table last night after years of me owning the game and trying to get it played. We used the 2009 Living rules but none of the other optional rules or variants (about which, more later). I was the Protestants (the power I usually play in Here I Stand) and Bill was the Catholics.

Overall, the game is fluid and easy for anyone familiar with CDG's to understand. There are four uses for the Action cards (Recruit, Foreign Aid, Activate Leaders, and Events), which makes them very flexible. However, in the second turn Bill upended the economic table upon which this game rests by refusing to acquire Foreign Aid to pay his troops. This meant that his army would devastate the locality and perhaps a few regiments would desert, but basically he had nothing traumatic to fear. That meant that a great majority of the Protestant events were simply unplayable, and I certainly didn't want to waste cards on Foreign Aid when my opponent wasn't!

I found the Recruitment action a bit counterintuitive, but it's a new way of levying units and I can appreciate it from that end. It's worth noting that Bill bought Mercenaries by the truckload, whereas I hired mostly Militia, which are more common but weaker. That bit me in the butt during battles when his forces easily outnumbered mine.

Since I had a few small armies to start with, I rapidly began a campaign of converting different east German areas to the Protestant faith (at the point of a gun, naturally.) Bill needed to play cards into the VP-dispensing Dutch War, and from all appearances I was powerless to stop him without the correct events (in Turn 4, I marched a Danish army right into the United Provinces, but it wasn't clear whether we could do barttle there or whether a Protestant win would have any effect on the runaway Dutch War at all).

Naturally, there was plenty of blood spilled, too. Bill regularly chased my militia-infested armies with an Imperial army full of irreplaceable but powerful veterans. When we clashed, the carnage was awful. The Fire Columns are brutal (as they should be) although there is a lack of nuance in the Combat tables. The Combat Cards we used were largely ineffective, and I won two battles I shouldn't have off of tie results, which favor the defender. So, yes, there should be more modifiers and variation, simply since there will be quite a few battles per turn. What I loved were the Leader Loss rolls after every battle...we had quite a few Leaders in the Europe-wide graveyard by Turn 5, including that nemesis of the Protestants, Wallenstein!

I found Siege Combat also to be a bit wonky. After you establish a siege, it's basically a 50% die roll for success if you assault, and the modifiers/drms are very few. Also, I had an entire army penned up in Prague, and when the city fell, the army poofed! It didn't seem to matter how many units were in there. Granted, I should have sallied, but losing an army that way (as well as to player ignorance) seemed odd.

As many have stated, the whole economic net of the game needs to be tightened. The Pillage markers are fussy to use and simply don't make that great of an impact (of course it was only Early War, but still). And they are utterly unrelated to Foreign Aid, which is different than Levying units. And if a player--like my opponent--chooses not to deal with the Foreign Aid side of the game at all, well, then the wheels come off. Since the Protestant Early War cards are almost exclusively built around denying the Catholic Player aid funds, it's obvious that designers want you to play one way, while the game allows another..

There is a lot to like about 30YW, and I look forward to playing again. But I would love to see its potential realized...there are perhaps a dozen players who, like one of the designers, have posted alternate Fire Tables, expansion cards, variants and rules tweaks. An enterprising developer could reforge a new game with the same basic chassis but without the clunky gear shifts one notices with 30YW. It's a brave, unique, fascinating design, and it deserves some love.

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Jon
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Thank you for the review.

I must admit that I was scared off the game some time ago after reading comments here and elsewhere. Perhaps there is a fun experience lurking in there somewhere afterall? The subject matter is certainly interesting to me.

I would like to try it at some point. However, with the abundance of games out there that require less tweaking (ie, unenjoyable work) to play I am afraid that it will be difficult for this title to get to the table. Maybe some day it will.
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Piero
Italy
Florence
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Thanks for the AAR Natus.

I've been interested with this for some time as I like Card Driven Wargames and am a fan of "The Last Valley" movie!

Also the atmosphere's so dark and brooding I know I'll have a total blast.
Too bad there are some big flaws, and the biggest is that there are better games out there and the limit time imposes us all.

I would definitely like to see this game reprinted and "debugged".
That would be a sure buy. thumbsup

Thanks again!
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Andy Daglish
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Cheadle
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Natus wrote:
Naturally, there was plenty of blood spilled, too. Bill regularly chased my militia-infested armies with an Imperial army full of irreplaceable but powerful veterans. When we clashed, the carnage was awful. The Fire Columns are brutal (as they should be) although there is a lack of nuance in the Combat tables. The Combat Cards we used were largely ineffective, and I won two battles I shouldn't have off of tie results, which favor the defender. So, yes, there should be more modifiers and variation, simply since there will be quite a few battles per turn. What I loved were the Leader Loss rolls after every battle...we had quite a few Leaders in the Europe-wide graveyard by Turn 5, including that nemesis of the Protestants, Wallenstein!


did you notice any reason for bothering to fight apart from the leader loss rolls?
 
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Nate Merchant
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aforandy wrote:
Natus wrote:
Naturally, there was plenty of blood spilled, too. Bill regularly chased my militia-infested armies with an Imperial army full of irreplaceable but powerful veterans. When we clashed, the carnage was awful. The Fire Columns are brutal (as they should be) although there is a lack of nuance in the Combat tables. The Combat Cards we used were largely ineffective, and I won two battles I shouldn't have off of tie results, which favor the defender. So, yes, there should be more modifiers and variation, simply since there will be quite a few battles per turn. What I loved were the Leader Loss rolls after every battle...we had quite a few Leaders in the Europe-wide graveyard by Turn 5, including that nemesis of the Protestants, Wallenstein!


did you notice any reason for bothering to fight apart from the leader loss rolls?


I don't understand the question.
 
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Steve Herron
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Johnson City
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It is one of my favorite CDGs.
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Stewart Thain
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Quote:
However, in the second turn Bill upended the economic table upon which this game rests by refusing to acquire Foreign Aid to pay his troops. This meant that his army would devastate the locality and perhaps a few regiments would desert, but basically he had nothing traumatic to fear.


Did he not slowly start to run out of units with this strategy? Units removed for looting are permanently removed from the game and cannot be rebuilt later by recruiting.
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Jason Cawley
United States
Anthem
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This is a great game and it deserves a bit more love than this first time out review. The trade offs the game presents are actually quite involved and deep. Wanting to play all the cards in your hand as events is definitely not the way to prosper.

Each turn a player starts with a hand of 7 cards, and has 6 rounds to play them. One can be kept over the turn or discarded at the end, always drawing back up to 7. A free action can be substituted for playing a card but is going to be much weaker than just about anything you can do with card play. There are a few "combat cards" that typically give plus or minus 1 to a single combat roll, not terribly important early, but worth it for major battles because you have room to "burn" one card on such things, and they are typically low value cards otherwise.

The normal use of a card is to (1) move an army of leaders and units, call it "operations", (2) recruit new units for existing leaders, "recruit", (3) play as an event to gain new leaders or (for the Protestants) whole nations and armies or manipulate the political context in other ways, and (4) raise money to pay troops, reducing losses to attrition and devastation to the countryside. Only one card a turn can be used for the last, so it is not a major part of card play, but money plus attrition do limit army sizes (some).

The money and event parts of that are not the core of the game. The main trade off is instead operations vs recruitment. You may have 1-2 cards per game turn that you really need to play as events - especially those bringing in new forces for the Protestants, or necessary VP "milestones" for the Imperials - and one card a turn for as much money as possible will reduce attrition and thus effectively keep forces in play "by the back door". It also keeps the loot levels (devastation) down, and prevents permanent loss of units from the national counter mix, which matters in the long run but little in the short.

Higher loot levels reduce recruitment and increase attrition (for level 1) and prevent it completely while raising attrition seriously (for level 2) as devastation increases. It is relatively easy to avoid these effects IF the armies are moving around a lot, or are continually paid "in place", in favored "home territory" (Spanish Netherlands for Spanish regulars, Austria for Imperials and the like). Otherwise, an army will probably push up the devastion level of its present location at the end of the turn, and be unable to recruit effectively before it moves.

OK so think of it as 6 actions every turn with 1-3 of them spoken for by events and money demands. How many do you spend recruiting to build a larger army and how many moving armies around? Before your present leaders have full forces under their command, it can make sense to recruit more than move about, but once they hit their quite finite command limits, they are going to get to work. And there are basically just 3 things they can profitably do - flag open cities, seige fortresses, or run into enemy armies and try to smash them.

The cards also come in sizes, 3s the best, a fair number of useful 2s, and a smattering of relatively useless 1s. They can only activate a leader for operations if they are equal to or higher than the leader's quality, and 1s are rare, only the best leaders on each side getting them. 3s are found in minor side leaders, and using a 3 to activate one army for operations is often a waste. Because when used for recruitment, you get the number of tries on the recruitment table equal to the card value, so 3s raise large forces fast. The 3s are also the biggest and most useful political events. A side with a 1 quality leader has a great use for its least useful cards - operations. Without a leader that good, only the 2s and 3s can be used for operations and the 1s are relatively useless.

There is no evasion in this game. The map is small and movement allowances are high. Denying battle is not a realistic option - if the enemy is willing to fight, he can bring about battle easily. And battle is brutal and "attritionist" - everyone is going to take hits, but moderate sized armies will be gutted by one brush with a full sized army, which will only get slightly "dinged" in the process. This means smaller armies are acutely vulnerable to enemy-sought battle, with no way to evade or for other armies to support them.

There is a hard stacking limit of 8 units, and it typically takes 2 leaders, one of them senior on its side, or 3 lesser leaders, to reach that limit. Good leaders also get die roll mods raising the other side's losses. This makes a full stack led by a 2 combat mod leader an army-destroying machine; every card such a stack spends on ops will cost the enemy several cards worth of recruiting worth of losses.

That is the basic underlying logic of the game, right there. A big card spent recruiting gathers a lot of power, a card spent moving a minor army to flag things spends potential power just to gather in VPs from board control, and is a waste spent on battle. A card spent on moving a big army to smash an enemy more than pays for itself, but in the strength-subtracting direction rather than the strength-adding direction.

This also creates an "op tempo" logic that drives campaigns. A side that just lost a major battle needs to spend several plays recruiting new troops to get back into the running. The winning side could pause and grow, or run around flagging stuff with abandon while the enemy is too weak to challenge them, or can "pursue" by seeking battle with rebuilding leaders before they get strong enough to stand and fight again.

As for seiges, the main thing about them is how long they can take. You need an army sufficient to lay the seige and don't get to roll for the seige "attack" until the next time that army activates for operations (requiring another card), or one "free" attack over the turn changeover. On average it will take 2 of those to take a place, which means it costs 3 operations cards to take a city. Count the forces you could raise instead using those operations cards for recruitment and you see how even the complete army wipeouts a successful seige can bring aren't necessarily a bargain.

The result is a strongly attritionist strategic wrapper with tactically decisive battles and rapid area control swings. Which perfectly captures the major features of the overall war.

Notice, you can only move one big army with a given operations card, so a single strong leader with forces already gathered can be the focus of ops again and again, bashing everything the enemy has. Scattered forces are just not that useful offensively. What they help with is recovery from loss in one theater, as a nucleus to build up the next major army, away from immediate defeat.

But meanwhile, a single army moving and fighting repeatedly without pause, will run up those 1-2 step "dings" and turn by turn attrition (if unpaid, and it is hard to completely pay for the big stacks), and weaken. The leaders meanwhile are finite life commodities with 3-5 battles in them, on average, before they bite it (from leader loss rolls).

Frankly, anyone focused on the political events side of the cards, let alone the money aspect, is missing the point. In the early war, the events that matter are Danish entry into the war (a full Protestant army with leader and 4 mercenary units for 1 card), the north German Protestant mobilization (one of their best leaders and 3 militia, plus a region, for one card), and to a lesser extent the southwest Protestant forces (minor leader and 2 militia, but not in a great location). On the Protestant side. On the Catholic side, the most important cards to get off as events are those manipulating the Palatinate - deposing the old elector and the edict it allows, worth 5 VPs and necessary for victory in the early war scenario. These do not advance the Imperial "board state" at all, they are just a drag of needed events that have to be played to stay competitive in VP terms.

It is also useful to play low value cards that are removed after play (astrisk marked cards), early rather than late, to get them out of the deck and improve the number mix of later turn draws - another reason for the Imperials to depose the elector ASAP. And similarly, if the Protestants can delay using their big 3 value entry cards as events, they can use them for recruitment one extra time.

If instead you focus on playing the Spanish and Dutch war cards as the Imperials, or the Alpine passes and similar cards for the Protestants, as events, you should expect badness. Those events just don't matter much in the short run and are a distraction from the need to recruit armies in eastern Germany and operate on the map. If one side plays lots of those minor cards as events and the other side focuses on the hottest theater, the second will pull ahead and deserves to. Which sounds like it happened in your outing...
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Jon Karlsson
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Linköping
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There is no evasion in this game. The map is small and movement allowances are high. Denying battle is not a realistic option - if the enemy is willing to fight, he can bring about battle easily.


Is this a good thing? My impression of the 30YW is that battle really only happened when both sides wanted to fight. (Or "wanted to" is perhaps the wrong word here. "When both sides wanted to or thought they had to fight", perhaps.).
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Jeff G.

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Thank you, Jason, for an excellent review. My only quibble is that I think you may understate the element of unpredictability in the battle outcomes. If the attacker rolls low and the defender rolls high, then a small force can acquit itself relatively well against a far larger army. To give an example, in a recent game I attacked on one occasion with 21 combat factors (CFs) against a force of 6 CFs. I also had a +1 DRM for my leader and another +1 from a combat card, while my opponent had a +2 DRM from his leader. I rolled a 2, he rolled a 7, resulting in the loss of 6 LFs (Loss Factors) for the attacker and 9 LFs for the defender -- hardly the decisive result I had hoped for.

Thus, you can't always count on the battles being tactically decisive, even if you have what seems to be an overwhelming superiority. Particularly when when combined with the high rate of leader losses, that makes TYW a tense, nail-biting, and very compelling game.
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Brian Lucid
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Mountain House
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Aurelian123 wrote:
Thank you, Jason, for an excellent review. My only quibble is that I think you may understate the element of unpredictability in the battle outcomes. If the attacker rolls low and the defender rolls high, then a small force can acquit itself relatively well against a far larger army. To give an example, in a recent game I attacked on one occasion with 21 combat factors (CFs) against a force of 6 CFs. I also had a +1 DRM for my leader and another +1 from a combat card, while my opponent had a +2 DRM from his leader. I rolled a 2, he rolled a 7, resulting in the loss of 6 CFs for the attacker and 9 CFs for the defender -- hardly the decisive result I had hoped for.

Thus, you can't always count on the battles being tactically decisive, even if you have what seems to be an overwhelming superiority. Particularly when when combined with the high rate of leader losses, that makes TYW a tense, nail-biting, and very compelling game.


I like this unpredictability. There are numerous times in history where fog of war, leadership, terrain, better tactics, morale, whatever led to a smaller unit giving a larger one a punch in the nose. You should play to the odds, like any good tactician would want to do but the results are never guaranteed. I like it.
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sloop hmsstarling
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Played my first game this week, and really enjoyed it! I bought the game a couple of weeks ago from a friend who had played it once when first published and liked it, but hadn't played it since then.

We used the 2009 Living Rules from the GMT site, and watched Stuka Joe's excellent videos before playing. I was Catholics and he was Protestants in the Intervention scenario.

On the very first battle of the first turn Gustavus Adlophus won a narrow victory, but perished in the action! I was well pleased, but didn't really capitalize on this success, trying to hold on by my fingernails. Also, in a major gaff I forgot that the Saxons were on my side so I sieged Leipzig, and smiled at the eventual successful assault, until when removing the defeated force we both suddenly realized that I had just wiped out my own ally! We had a big laugh over that one, and let the result stand as a lesson learned!

Anyway, we soldiered on and ran out of time before we could get beyond the card draw phase of the third turn. I was marginally ahead for a win and it looked like it would have been difficult for the Protestants to edge it down to a draw, although there were some back and forth cards for the Dutch War track with a net adjustment in favor of the Protestants, but I had Cardinal Infante appearing in my hand for the third turn! It would have been fun to finish it out, but with no time left on the clock we called it.

Overall, I really liked the game, probably not everyone's cup of tea, but it has a lot of features that I like, grinding down through attrition, leader loss that can change the game in an instant, depth of strategic play with some hair-hurting card choices, plenty of grist for the old mill in this one.

I'll be studying Jason's excellent advice above before our next game, and I told my friend that I would be happy to play him anytime he likes, but I won't be selling the game back to him!
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