"L'état, 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


A Few Acres of Snow
A game for 2 players designed by Martin Wallace


Introduction

"It is another kind of folly," said Martin. "You know that these two nations are at war for a few acres of snow in Canada, and that they spend over this beautiful war much more than Canada is worth. To tell you exactly, whether there are more people fit to send to a madhouse in one country than the other, is what my imperfect intelligence will not permit. I only know in general that the people we are going to see are very atrabilious."
- Voltaire, Candide, Chapter XXIII

A Few Acres of Snow is a 2 player game set in Québec and New England with the French and British struggling for supremacy in the new world during the Seven Years War.

Note: this review is based on the limited edition, which has slightly different components than the regular release version of the game.

Components

The game comes in the high quality solid box that Treefrog Games has become known for, and inside the box are player aids, rules in English, German, French and Italian, a beautiful map on a mounted board, and the cards that form the core of this game.

Everything you get in the box. Photo courtesy of BGG user FortyOne

The limited edition supplies small houses, buildings with steeples, and fortress tokens. They're beautiful and functional, but I was surprised at how small they were!

The wooden bits in the deluxe edition are beautiful, but surprisingly small! Photo courtesy of BGG user bocachankla

Rules and Game Play

The Set Up
One player takes the French side and the other the British. Cards are sorted into several piles: each player has a core deck to begin, an empire deck they can draft from (more on that later), and a location deck that adds cards as you settle locales on the map. There's also a shared green deck that both players can draft from containing settlers, Native Americans, and fortification cards.

There are three kinds of cards in the game: the core deck, the empire deck, and the location deck. The decks are asymmetrical in keeping with the different capabilities and advantages for both sides. For instance, the French have a lot of cards with a bateau symbol, while the British have a lot of cards with ship and settler symbols.

The core and location cards serve multiple purposes.

The rules for the game are actually very simple. Each turn players follow this sequence of play:
- check to see if they have won an active siege
- take two actions (one in the first turn)
- refill your hand to five cards (if you have less than five cards)

The actions phase will be familiar to anyone who has played Dominion as you will have a limited set of cards with which to play your actions, and the game play is in developing synergies between what card resources you have available to you and your overall plan of action to subjugate the other side. The core system of A Few Acres of Snow is managing the deck of cards you have through card drafting and deck building as the game progresses. Where this game diverges from this familiar concept is that it is much more difficult to clear your hand of unwanted cards. It costs one of your two actions to discard a card, and you have to pay one money for every card beyond the first.

The actions you can take are broadly classified in the rules as: expansive (expand your empire); aggressive (do something to your opponent); financial (generate money); and card management (tweak that deck).

Location cards, both the ones you start with and the ones you will accumulate serve multiple purposes in the game. They will have the name of places you can get to from there plus show you what you'll need to settle in that place. For example, from Louisbourg you can get to Halifax and you'll need a ship to get there. Halifax also has a settler symbol on its space so in order to settle Halifax then, you would need to play three cards: one with a starting location that can access Halifax, one card with a ship symbol, and one card with the settler symbol.

Here the British have settled and fortified both Halifax and Canso

In the empire deck are cards that will help you depending on your strategy. The British begin with more money and easier ways to generate it than the French so will be able to draft cards from their empire deck more quickly, especially the military ones. Time is the French side however, as their rapid expansion capabilities mean they can overcome the monetary advantage by trading all those beaver pelts from the settlement cards they accumulate.

Expansion is easier for the French as they begin the game with more cards that have bateau symbols and much of map are locations accessible by river. Settling a new locale also has the effect of automatically drafting that location's card into your draw deck. This can be both a boon and a curse because some cards are more useful than others. The Kennebec card is of no use to either player for instance.

On the flip side, the British will have a much easier time settling the coastal areas, especially places like Canso and Halifax (both strategically valuable as they can let you more easily set siege to Louisbourg and Port Royal).

Sieges are one of the keys to victory. To execute a siege, you must play a location card that can reach the target, a card with a valid transport method (e.g. a ship to get from Halifax to Louisbourg) and a card with a troop symbol. Every location has a baked in defense of 1, represented by the siege track beginning on the -1 spot.

Siege victories are checked at the start of a player's turn, so there can be quite a bit of jockeying back and forth to see who can outlast the other. The loser of a siege has to send one of the cards involved back to its respective deck (empire or location, and this can include cards from your starting deck), but if you don't invest any cards you don't lose anything (losing the locale is punishment enough). Sieges may be freely withdrawn from, but it has the same effect as a loss.

Raids and ambushes are the other offensive actions you can take. Raids must begin from a connected location (e.g. if you occupy Albany, you can raid New York), and you can even extend the raid by playing multiple raid capable cards. Raids can be waylaid by playing a card that blocks it, including the card for the location. If you're successful in your raid, you take the cube or disc (worth 2 and 4 VP respectively) and keep it.

Ambushes can eliminate a military unit (sending it back to the empire deck), assuming it has a symbol marking it as vulnerable.

Administrative actions include passing or placing a card in reserve, which is a very important strategic tool.

Winning
The victory conditions are quite straightforward:
- the French win immediately if they win a siege in Boston or New York
- the British win immediately if they win a siege in Quebec
- otherwise, the games ends if there is no siege at the start of their turn and they place their final disc or cube on the board OR if they have captured 12 points worth of enemy cubes or discs. At this point, both players tally up all their victory points and high score is the winner.

The British win a narrow victory, 69-66.

Conclusions

I admit quite freely that I'm neither a huge fan of Dominion nor of deck building games, but A Few Acres of Snow is a game greater than the sum of its parts. The deck building core aspect from Dominion is there, yes, but there are several things that make the game compelling.

The reserve space is one part of this. You can, for an action, place a card into your reserve, up to a maximum of five cards. This means you have a certain flexibility available to you for planning ahead strategically, especially as getting your cards out of reserve is a free action (albeit at a cost of one money per card and it's all or nothing).

As a simple example, if you know you're planning a siege, you can lay aside a number of troop cards and possibly even the base card to get you to a location. This gives the game a certain élan and elegance that a pure deck building game lacks for me.

The other important aspect of this game is the ability to adapt your strategy as you go along thanks to the Governor card.

In general, the French are good (if not great) at rapid expansion thanks to their bateaux. However, they are poor at upgrading settlements as they begin the game with only one settler card and the British could in theory buy both green settlers before they have a chance to buy one. They are also hampered for money generation early, but as they settle, the trader card and all those beaver pelts can mean cash a plenty.

In general, the British are better at money generation early and so can draft more troops for sieges and are better equipped for naval sieges, but they are poor at expansion. Their ample settler cards mean they excellent at upgrading.

This asymmetry in resources, means both sides will have a lot of possibilities to explore before the games becomes stale. The sieges are the most interesting part of the game, both in terms of timing and execution.

One drawback in the game, and something both I and my opponents have constant issues with is remembering to take the location card of a newly settled place out of the location deck and place it into the discard deck. I recommend fanning the location cards out beside the board for two reasons, both as an aide-memoire and to prevent the "did I or didn't I?" issue should you return it to the location deck on the board later with the governor.

A Few Acres of Snow is not a game in the mould of Wilderness War or Quebec 1759, but it is a very thematically well integrated game about a conflict that doesn't have a lot of games covering it.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for games that are light on rules but heavy on purposeful decisions.

Among my favorites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph and Unhappy King Charles!

If you like my reviews, please buy the microbadge: mb
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joel Eddy
United States
Coeur d'Alene
ID
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Fantastic Roger! I love your reviews. Even though I've played this several times now (and reviewed it myself), I'm glad someone such as yourself has given it the once over as well.

Well done and concise. Thank you!
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls

Eugene
Oregon
msg tools
Avatar
mb
Good review.

Perhaps my British opponent has been playing poorly, but in our first two games, we found my French side more able to generate money. Those pelts pay off quickly.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Freeman
Canada
Vancouver
B.C
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice write up, i'm loving this game so far.
Just thought i'd mention that when a player's last town or village is placed or if a player earns 12 points worth both players victory points are tallied to determine the winner. It's clear from the picture but not so much in the write up.
Anyways, great review and I can't wait to get this back to the table.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jennifer Schlickbernd
United States
Santa Clarita
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
otherwise, a player wins if there is no siege at the start of their turn and they place their final disc or cube on the board OR if they have captured 12 points worth of enemy cubes or discs.


Not correct. You freaked me out there for a moment. From the rules:

Quote:
The British player wins immediately if he wins a siege in Quebec.
The French player wins immediately if he wins a siege in Boston or
New York. It is not necessary for a cube to be placed in the location
to trigger the victory condition.
Otherwise the game lasts until one of the end game conditions has
been met, which are:
a) If there are no sieges in progress at the start of a player’s turn
and he has placed all of his discs OR cubes onto the board,
b) If there are no sieges in progress at the start of a player’s turn
and he has captured twelve points worth of cubes/discs from
his opponent (a cube is worth two points and a disc is worth
four points).
Each player now adds up the number of victory points he has. You
score points as indicated for locations that you control, i.e. that you
have a cube or disc in. If you have a disc in a location then you score
double the number of points indicated.
You also score two points for each of your opponents cubes that you
captured and four points for each disc you captured.
The player who has the highest total of victory points is the winner.
In the case of a tie then the French player is the winner.
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
flag msg tools
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
badge
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice review of a fantastic game.

Quote:
One drawback in the game, and something both I and my opponents have constant issues with is remembering to take the location card of a newly settled place out of the location deck and place it into the discard deck.
tell me about it. We forget this often, though it is getting better. Last game I kept waiting for my newly acquired Albany card to show up so I can lay siege to NY only to find I forgot to put it in my deck.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Mckane
Australia
SYDNEY
N.S.W
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mb
Quote:
One drawback in the game, and something both I and my opponents have constant issues with is remembering to take the location card of a newly settled place out of the location deck and place it into the discard deck.


You are certainly not alone there, not only is it hard to remember but if forgotten it can really delay your plans. I'm 4 games in now and I'm starting to remember to do this more often than not, initially it was the opposite.

Quote:
Reserve: As a simple example, if you know you're planning a siege, you can lay aside a number of troop cards and possibly even the base card to get you to a location. This gives the game a certain élan and elegance that a pure deck building game lacks for me.


I think the reserve space is something we will see more of in deck building games. As you say it can be a great Idea to put military units there to save them for a siege, I've found it usually encourages your opponent to do the same. A kind of "do you really want to try it" thing going on at times.

A great game and a great review, I always look forward to your reviews Roger, excellentthumbsup.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Poole
United States
Goldsboro
North Carolina
flag msg tools
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
badge
Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
As you say it can be a great Idea to put military units there to save them for a siege, I've found it usually encourages your opponent to do the same. A kind of "do you really want to try it" thing going on at times.
This can also be a bad idea because with the exception of French militia, all military cards are susceptible to Ambush.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Marshall
United Kingdom
York
North Yorkshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
voynix wrote:
Quote:
As you say it can be a great Idea to put military units there to save them for a siege, I've found it usually encourages your opponent to do the same. A kind of "do you really want to try it" thing going on at times.
This can also be a bad idea because with the exception of French militia, all military cards are susceptible to Ambush.



I think this is one of the appealing things about the game - everything you do has a potential downside, making the decision making far from straightforward.

In this instance yes you can put military cards into reserve (and indeed to win a siege you may have to), but there they are vulnerable to ambush. So if your opponent starts to draft a lot of military cards, one counter is to draft a lot of Native Americans who can ambush, alongside a few military cards to prevent losing the siege cheaply.

Similarly a number of posters have recommended that the Brit grabs the two green settler cards early to limit French town development, but the Brit will then see his hand and/or reserve clogged up with these (to the Brit) relatively weak cards (the Brit not being short of location cards with the settler symbol), slowing him down and therefore creating opportunities for the French in other areas.

I think Martin and his team have invested a lot of effort into making sure that no one strategy is dominant (I asked him about the game late last year and that was his focus then), which is good news for the balance and longevity of the game.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carlos Ferreira
Portugal
Porto Salvo
Porto Salvo
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
leroy43 wrote:
The reserve space is one part of this. You can, for an action, place a card into your reserve, up to a maximum of five cards. This means you have a certain flexibility available to you for planning ahead strategically, especially as getting your cards out of reserve is a free action (albeit at a cost of one money per card and it's all or nothing).


I haven't played the game yet, but I'm planning to do it tonight.
I've seen this (the bold part) in several places, and this contradicts the rules as they clearly state that there is no limit for cards there.
I know that you MUST retrieve ALL your cards from reserve and pay for them, so having more than 5 cards there might create a dead pile, but rules wise there is no limit. Was there any rule change that I missed?

Can someone please provide some enlightenment?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Binning
United States
Rollinsville
Colorado
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
brainst0rm wrote:
leroy43 wrote:
The reserve space is one part of this. You can, for an action, place a card into your reserve, up to a maximum of five cards. This means you have a certain flexibility available to you for planning ahead strategically, especially as getting your cards out of reserve is a free action (albeit at a cost of one money per card and it's all or nothing).


I haven't played the game yet, but I'm planning to do it tonight.
I've seen this (the bold part) in several places, and this contradicts the rules as they clearly state that there is no limit for cards there.
I know that you MUST retrieve ALL your cards from reserve and pay for them, so having more than 5 cards there might create a dead pile, but rules wise there is no limit. Was there any rule change that I missed?

Can someone please provide some enlightenment?


There's no limit to the number of cards you can hold in your hand. The Home Support cards can help you acquire cards well beyond 5. The reserve is limited to 5 cards, though. This is stated on page 10 in the "Place a card in your reserve" paragraph:

"You can have up to 5 cards in your reserve."

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carlos Ferreira
Portugal
Porto Salvo
Porto Salvo
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just saw it. I was reading an old version I got from treefrog site. The new version is now correct. Thanks for your fast reply.

I just saw this later.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thies Kolln
United States
Cedar Rapids
Iowa
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
leroy43 wrote:
The loser of a siege has to send one of the cards involved back to its respective deck (empire or location, and this can include cards from your starting deck), but if you don't invest any cards you don't lose anything (losing the locale is punishment enough).


I should probably post this to the rules forum, but I'll say it here first. I don't think this is exactly right.

Rulebook page 8 wrote:
The losing player must select one of the cards to be placed back in his empire deck or neutral empire display before placing the remainder onto his discard pile. He cannot choose to lose a location card.


I read this as saying that location cards can't be lost in a siege, so you can play locations onto the siege without fear of losing them. Besides specifically saying that a location card can't be chosen as your loss, the location deck isn't mentioned as a place where you can put a lost card.

I'm happy to be corrected, but this is how we've been playing based on my reading of these sentences.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree Thies. And so you can't use a siege to unclog your deck of a location card (and keep that Infantry). Or, as you suggest, it protects you in the event you use only location cards in a siege.
2 
 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.