Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

Engage» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Engage - a euro masked as a wargame that fits both itches! rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Doug Palmer
United States
Birmingham
Michigan
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The game is Engage and I was fortunate enough to join Jack Geisler and Russ Price at the local Panera Bread to see the game and play it last night. Being a fan of light to medium weight, tactical wargames, and having seen this one at Blake’s a couple weeks ago, I was anxious to give it a go. So, after work, I headed up the road, grabbed a bagel and a Coke and off we were.
And that’s one of the best things about Engage. Within no time, off I was. Granted, I had the luxury of having the two guys responsible for the game showing me the ropes. But we’re not talking about rocket science here. Gameplay is spelled out on a very nicely done game board along with a player screen. The player aid (a double sided, heavy stock sheet) showed the stats for the Soviet infantry and armor on one side and the Germans on the other. The gameplay is very straight forward. There’s enough room to get lost in the strategy, but the gameplay, it’s very straightforward. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s not put the tank before the infantry…

The bits:
The base game comes with 32 armor and 64 infantry units. Italian and British in the base game. For the game that I played, we used German and Russian (which are in their respective expansions). I got to see all of the pieces from all of the expansions (American, Japanese, Italian, British, German and Russian). Wish I had brought my camera to add pictures here, my next session report will have them. As far as quality, on par with what you’d expect to find from a game of this level (price wise). The detail is very good in that you’ll recognize the T-71 from the T-34 on the table. So the grog’s in the group will be satisfied. But it’s not the detail level that you’ll see in Tide of Iron or Memoir (you’re not getting the tread or the tracks). And they aren’t worried about scale. This isn’t about accuracy, it’s about gameplay. The neatest thing are the pieces representing infantry. Well, neat and potentially problematic. The pieces for the various infantry pieces are represented by various rifles/armaments. So the difference between a heavy infantry and a paratrooper infantry is the shape/type of rifle on the base. Very nice (and well done, very nice, crisp mold!). But, to the non-grognard, it’s tough to recognize on the board. The bits that I was playing with had color coded dots on the bases to help. A definite plus! Without those dots, I would have had a tough time. Aside from that, I’ve seen far worse plastic from far larger companies who put their reputations on their plastic “chrome”.
The game board is clean with ample places to set the pieces. And in case you’ve forgotten what you can do each turn, or with those green and red cubes?, they’re clearly there in front of you. Oh yeah, they’re also printed nice and large on your player screen. So no nasty grabbing of the instruction manual to look up “what do I have to do next?” questions. And don’t you just hate that. Head on over to engageboardgame.com to see what I'm talking about (that's their website).

Instructions:
And while we’re talking about the instructions, don’t get too comfortable setting up to read some tome on the history of guerilla warfare. I believe it was Shakespeare who said “brevity, thy soul is wit”. Well, brevity is the key word here. And word about the geek has been about too much brevity. Personally, I didn’t have to use the instructions (I had the two best instructors at my disposal) but after we finished, I took the rulebook and went through them. Clear, clean and concise. I did mention that they could use an example or two, showing a combat sample to make things even more clear. As my 7th grade English teacher taught me (and Jack mentioned)…”tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them”. Sounds tedious, but it works. And pictures tend to teach better than words. But that’s a minor issue. The rules, from what I saw and read, do a good job of describing what you have and how to play. Both the basic and advanced game.

Gameplay (aka: the meat)
The game is essentially “king of the hill”. Take 4 objectives (bunkers in this case) and at least 1 of each of the three colors on the board. Sounds fairly simple. Both sides start the same distance away…ready, set, charge! So from that sense, it’s not like your traditional wargame. There are no “scenarios”. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t replayability here. Even with just the base game/Private 1st class (Italians vs British). You have the basic game (canned set up), but you can also (once you get a feel for the gameplay and how the units behave) play the advanced game where you build your own force and deploy without seeing the other side’s setup. So, while it’s not a “Battle of Stalingrad” recreation, it’s still a wargame. Just not a specific front, or battle, or even territory. It’s simply two sides battling over a plot of land. And that’s not even the most unique thing about Engage. The first thing I was looking for when I saw the game laid out was a CRT (combat results table for those of you not in the know). No CRT here. OK, didn’t see a chart anywhere, so where are the dice. Nope, no 6-side, 8-sided or any-sided dice to be found. Hmmm, ok, this is odd. The game works on accumulated “skill” points. Each side begins the game with a set amount of skill. The currency of the game, if you will. It is with these “skill” points that you will ultimately spend during the course of the game to battle with. Each unit has an offensive and defense value (standard fare here). The offensive value decreases with range (again, standard fare). You compare offensive and defensive values to get to a net value. So the offense or defense is going to have an advantage going into the battle (they could also be even, a net difference of zero). So there is a value going into the battle, one side has a numerical advantage. Now, each side sets adds to their value a hidden value of “skill points”. They do this behind their screens so you don’t know what the other side is going to commit. Here’s the bluffing aspect to the game. You may have a slight advantage going into the battle (let’s say a +2). OK, so do you add more to that total, thinking that they won’t gamble much? Or do you stand pat and add 0? Not wanting to deplete your skill bank? If you’re on the other side (the defense) and you’re at the disadvantage, you can add skill and only lose the difference (let’s say you add 3 skill, if you lose, you’re only going to lose 1 from your bank since you were at a deficit of 2…3-2=1). Or, you could chose to put in 0, sacrifice your unit, in which case the game allows you to gain skill (in this case, 2). It’s a balancing act with the skill that you’ve accumulated and will use to bid during attacks. There’s a bluffing aspect to the game. Resource management aspect. Tactical aspect. It feels like a euro. Feels like a wargame. And it’s all over in about 60 minutes.

The cubes I mentioned? They control what you can do in your turn. The offense gets 5 cubes (3 red, 2 green). The defense, 2 cubes (1 red, 1 white). The red cubes indicate attack, the green are for movement. The white cube is only for skill. You get 1 skill for the white cube. You can trade in the red cubes and green cubes for skill if you like, but that’s typically reserved for when you’re really behind in skill. Offense distributes their cubes to figures, then defense gives their 1 red cube (or turns it in for 2 skill). Then, carry out the orders (fire or move). Simple as that. Then, when the turn is done, swap cubes and reverse rolls. Pretty simple, eh?

Synopsis:
OK, so you’ve made it this far, and you’re saying to yourself “self, he’s drinkin’ the Kool-Aid”. It’s a good game. It’s not great, but it’s damn good. And in this day and age, where manufacturers seem to be throwing out anything and everything, hoping for something to work, it’s refreshing to see something different and unique (and American made to boot!). The old “show up and throw up approach to gaming”. The enthusiasm that Russ and Jack have for this is infectious, I admit. But at the end of the day, you have to have something that works on the table. And I honestly believe that Engage does that. After our match, I was thinking of things that I would have done differently. And that, for me, is the mark of a good game. I like Tide of Iron, I like Memoir '44 and I like Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42 (all for different reasons). This is a game that I would toss into that mix, yet it doesn’t really entirely fit. Engage sets up faster than those three. Engage plays faster than all but Memoir (about the same). The chrome isn’t as good as ToI or Memoir (great board, excellent player aids, ToI and Memoir have better minis). As I mentioned, Engage isn’t scenario based, but I think that Engage is every bit as replayable (perhaps more with their built in points system) than those three (especially if you agree that many/most of the ToI scenarios suck!). Trouble is, I don’t think that Engage is going to resonate with grognards. As that’s a pity. The hex and counter scene might look at it and think it’s a “beer and pretzels” game and too shallow. And they’d be wrong. The Euro crowd will see the military theme and thing “it’s a wargame” and they’ll be only half right. But I hope that I’m wrong. My copy is on order and I can’t wait to play it at lunch and see if the swarming Japanese are really all that! 
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCormick
United States
Lansing
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
Tasteless Brute
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! I agree it's a fun game.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nagato Fujibayashi

Athens
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Scammer wrote:
Trouble is, I don’t think that Engage is going to resonate with grognards.

That's no trouble at all. To each one his own.

I'm happy that there is at least a small minority of designers that are into producing luckless games with a war theme.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doug Palmer
United States
Birmingham
Michigan
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
shinobu wrote:
Scammer wrote:
Trouble is, I don’t think that Engage is going to resonate with grognards.

That's no trouble at all. To each one his own.

I'm happy that there is at least a small minority of designers that are into producing luckless games with a war theme.

Hey, I agree whole heartedly! It was simply an observation on my part. I am curious if the chit pushers will take to the rather abstract nature of the game (no set battles to recreate). Personally, I hope that they do (or at least, give it a go)
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls