A Few First Impressions [Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775 – 1777]

Supply lines of the American Revolution, published by Hollandspiele, is a game of supply, logistics, and deceit, set during the first three years of the American Revolutionary War. A two player game sees the Patriot Player, controlling the forces and destiny of the rebellious Americans; the Crown Player, seeking to bring the rebels to their senses.

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Logistics, yes, you heard me, a game about logistics. A very, very clever game about logistics.  How many times can I say logistics? Probably quite a lot.

This kind of game is very new to me. Of course, I’ve played quite a lot of wargames but this isn’t the type of wargame that I’m familiar with. This is something different, something innovative. Sure it’s about war but there’s no direct conflict and that’s something that definitely attracted me to this game in the first place. A new take on a subject that I’m pretty familiar with, theme shines through in abundance throughout the game and every decision during the game matters, a significant amount.  

On receiving Supply Lines, I couldn’t wait to get it open, I knew it wouldn’t hit the table immediately but I’ve had the rulebook in my hand whenever I’ve had a spare moment for the last couple of months. I don’t think it’s a very complex rulebook, of course that’s subjective but I love how conversational it is and how easy to understand it is. For a subject that definitely seemed overwhelming to me at first, this was comforting.

Then you have the components, something that isn’t usually a priority when it comes to boardgames for me, but having beautiful components obviously doesn’t hurt. Supply Lines has a graceful, beautifully designed paper map and those big thick counters, the kind that are very satisfying to hold in your hand, I like those.

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Sequence of play

The game is played over a series of game turns, and each game turn consists of the following Phases.

Supply phase: Supplies are generated. Each player then has the opportunity to move their supplies.

Initiative Phase: Each player rolls a die. The highest roller will have the first impulse in the impulse phase.

Impulse Phase: Players alternate activating armies in a series of impulses, or passing. The impulse phase ends when both players pass consecutively, or when the pass marker has reached the last space on the track.

Turn End Phase: Some minor housekeeping steps are performed, including the mustering of Patriot Reinforcements. 

You’re trying to basically move around the map of the Northern Theater, combining area control, point to point movement and a little bit of dice rolling thrown in for good measure. There are two types of supplies in the game, yep those little wooden cubes. Food Supply is expended to move your units, and War Supply to fight.

The game ends immediately when one of the players meets one of their Victory Conditions: At the end of the twelfth game turn if no player has satisfied their Victory Conditions then both players lose. I really like this. It definitely makes the game feel tense throughout, don’t get me wrong, it’s a rather intense game anyway but it pushes the player to take some more risks with nothing to lose but absolutely everything to gain. 

That’s a very brief overview of how the game works, there’s more depth than that but I want to talk about how I actually found the game rather than rules for now.

I did find the actual rules pretty easy though, but the decisions I had to make throughout the game were not. Having to constantly think about my next move, constantly thinking about my supply line and making sure that my cities remained linked so that I could easily transport supply cubes back and forth.

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Gameplay was challenging but I found it fascinating, I love a game that gets the brain working hard and this game definitely delivers on that front. It didn’t burn my brain to the point that I exploded but it definitely gave it a good try, a lot of thinking, a lot of planning and you guessed it, a lot strategy throughout the game, adding so much tension to the gaming experience and focusing on theme. Think building supply lines is easy? Think again. Making sure you have enough food supply to successfully move your units can be challenging, so keep an eye out for that and you better make sure you have enough War Supply to be able to fight, that can be hard but rewarding work.

I know I keep saying that this game was challenging but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to play it again or that it’s difficult in a bad way, it means that I had to really think about what I wanted to do, I had to plan moves in advance and work my hardest to make sure that I was going to be able to move around the map.  Playing a lot of Card Driven Games, I’m used to thinking on my feet a lot so this was new for me and I love it.

Supply Lines of the American Revolution was on my wish list for so long and it did not disappoint, a gorgeous game that definitely doesn’t let you off lightly, easy to learn but oozing with strategy and decisions to be made.

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Hollandspiele are publishing  games that simply cannot be ignored and Supply Lines is no different. Logistics and combat combined make for such an interesting game, one that I make sure is going to hit the table a lot more. A Southern Theater companion game is already in the works, bringing me so much joy already and a must have for me. 

I’m excited to keep playing this game and hopefully learning to master it, I’m excited to see where this game will take me and I’m also eager to teach this one to friends, I know that this is a game that’s going to go down well with a lot of my gaming friends. 

Thank you for reading, let me know if you’ve been lucky enough to play and what you thought of it.

Katie

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ROOT: a Game of Woodland Might and Right, a wonderful first impression

Let’s face it, there are a lot of great games being produced right now, by a lot of different designers and that’s a wonderful thing, but there aren’t many games that have got me as excited as I am about Root. A beautiful combination of elegant wargame style mechanics and an ingenious theme, Root has ticked all the boxes and then some. 

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Designed by Cole Wehrle, somebody that I admire greatly, with a number of his games currently on my wish list and published by the imaginative Leder games, there was no surprise that Root was going to turn out so beautifully and my first impressions are nothing but postive for what’s to come. 

Taken from boardgame geek, we can see that Root is a game of adventure and war in which players battle for control of a vast wilderness. 

The nefarious Marquise de Cat has seized the great woodland, intent on harvesting its riches. Under her rule, the many creatures of the forest have been banded together. This Alliance will seek to strengthen its resources and subvert the rule of Cats. In this effort, the Alliance may enlist the help of the wandering Vagabonds who are able to move through the more dangerous woodland paths. Though some may sympathize with the Alliance’s hopes and dreams, these wanderers are old enough to remember the great birds of prey who once controlled the woods.

Meanwhile, at the edge of the region, the proud, squabbling Eyrie have found a new commander who they hope will lead their faction to resume their ancient birthright. The stage is set for a contest that will decide the fate of the great woodland. It is up to the players to decide which group will ultimately take root.

Now imagine that theme paired with the concept of the COIN series, that makes for some very clever game design. Of course ROOT isn’t a direct translation of the COIN series but it lends the idea of some of its seamless mechanics.

If you aren’t aware, the COIN series features Volko Ruhnke’s game system, a series designed very cleverly which means Counter-Insurgency and is specific to a type of warfare, the system includes a central “government” faction with 3 competing but different “rebellion” factions. The factions in Root definitely share some similarities to some of the COIN series. A series that can often seem overwhelming to most has been transformed into an enticing game filled with action and adventure. It’s easy to see which faction would take on which role. 

Cole describes his reasoning for these similarities and so much more in his carefully constructed designer diaries on Boardgamegeek, which can be found here: Designer Diary – Some helpful symmetry and provide thoughtful insight and explanation into the games design and the whys. 

Something that stuck out for me was the map, and behind that beautiful artwork, lays a cleverly designed wargame. Cole explains in these diaries that Root’s map is a pretty typical point-to-point wargame map. You have movement zones (called clearings) and paths that connect one clearing to another.

Early on I knew that the map should be claustrophobic-—a sort of anti-Twilight Imperium. I wanted the great forest of the game to be a dense, crowded space. To do that I needed a core movement system that would allow lots of different players to occupy the same clearing. At the same time, I didn’t want to woods to be overly porous. Players should be able to trap one another.

The map, combined with the different factions and single use cards, makes for a very interesting game. The game uses a single deck of mutli purpose cards, each player will use those cards in a very different way. This made for a very tense game, swapping cards, potentially knowing what card your opponent has, only wishing that it was yours. Being able to use those cards properly adds another layer of excitement to an already tense game. 

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Then there are factions, the thing that initally drew me towards Root. There’s something so fascinating about taking a game concept that I’m fairly familiar with and turning it into something magical. 

The factions are so thoughtfully put together, down to the minor details, making for an immersive game. A game of clever cats, courageous hawks, the fierce woodland alliance and a vagabond that will do whatever it takes to get what he needs throughout the game. 

 

Root is so much more than just it’s wonderful and creative cute characters, Root is a tense and somewhat cut throat story unfolding before your eyes as you fall deeper and deeper into a game of conspiracy and war, but not as we know it. A game that I can see no fault with, a wargame clevery disgused even though I don’t think that many can shy away from or will want to. 

Although the game I played was a prototype and Root is still evolving, it’s definitely a solid game. Something I haven’t seen a lot of before and something I’m eager to play again and again. Such an accessible game, with all of the wargame qualities that I love but somehow offering so much more. Something new, something exciting and something that has given a whole new perspective to the way I percieve wargames. 

Root is currently on Kickstarter, off to a flying start and I definitely recommend you take a look at this one. Truly a game not to be missed.  You can find the kickstarter page here > Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right on Kickstarter

Thank you for reading my initial thoughts, I’ll be back with an update once I’ve had a few more plays but I needed to come on and tell you what I initially thought of the game. 

Thanks for reading,

Katie. 

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A Few First Impressions [Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ?]

I really don’t know where to start with this one. My love for GMT and the games they publish is ever-growing and it’s pretty obvious to see why. I’m an enormous fan of card driven games and after one play, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? seems to be no exception to the rule.  

I know wargaming isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t something I initially thought I would take a huge interest in but I really do enjoy the whole experience. Yes, you can say that about any kind of game however something about the whole combat aspect and becoming totally immersed in the theme has really drawn me in. 

I know that the subject matter is a bit of a sensitive subject for some people and I can completely understand why, if you feel like the theme may throw you off I suggest playing it before buying it if you can. The game was so much fun and so well put together that I could look past the theme and see the game for what it was – brilliant, clever, tense and very enjoyable. 

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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? is a 1 – 2 player game, taking players inside the Islamist jihad and the global war on terror. With broad scope, ease of play, and a never-ending variety of event combinations similar to  Twilight Struggle, Labyrinth portrays not only the US efforts to counter extremists’ use of terrorist tactics but the wider ideological struggle — guerrilla warfare, regime change, democratization, and much more.

This well designed game really surprised me, I had heard many good things and a few not so good things about the game and really wanted to try it out. I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be THIS good after only one play.

Volko did an incredible job of accurately capturing the real world struggle between the western world and extreme jihadism and even though the theme may be sensitive to some as mention earlier, it was definitely treated with caution and I thought it was integrated well within the game. It definitely has a more abstract feel with no real casualties resulting from the terrorists actions.

I found the game to be of medium complexity, that’s a pretty subjective opinion and differs for everybody but generally it was pretty straight forward. Even for my first play I was able to see a clear (ish) strategy and how I was going to play throughout the game.  I did however find the rulebook to be slightly confusing, I understood the rules but couldn’t always understand the why. I’m hoping with a couple more plays that this will become more apparent.

Gameplay

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The course of the game is straightforward and simple. Players take turns playing cards, which they were given at the beginning of the game – always two per turn. When they run out of cards in their hand, the round ends. With round ending are some specific actions, such as reducing funding Jihad and U.S. prestige. The allied player may keep the last card for the next round, play it, or throw it away.

Each card can be played as an event or for operation points. But if you play the role of the United States and play a Jihadist card for points, the event still would happen and the other way around too. You can avoid only your own cards, which is needed for strategic reasons. Some events and their effects persist until end of turn, or even longer, which is easily marked with available tokens. Operation points can be accumulated to prepare a large attack and mark on reserve track.

I’m not going to go into rules as such as there are far better sources for that but here is a link to the rulebook on BGG – Rulebook

A lot of people compare the game to Twilight Struggle, and they are both similar in the way you play cards but I will leave it at that. All I will say, if you do enjoy TS then DEFINITELY give this game a go! 

Final thoughts

Component quality of the game is once again, absolutely stunning. You have heard me say this time and time again but GMT games really are always produced to the highest quality. 

A gorgeous mounted game board, high quality cards and components which definitely add to the whole playing experience.  There are a lot of cubes to be moving around the board though, so if that’s something you’re not really into that then be warned. 

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Replay value is strong, even though I’ve only played Labyrinth once, I get the feeling it has a very high replay value. Similar to many CDGs, there are many options and the cards provide multiple uses meaning that the game will be different every time with various strategies and variations of the game. 

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To finish off, Labyrinth: The War On Terror, 2001 – ? is a perfect school night game for me. It lasted roughly around the two-hour mark, maybe a little bit more which is the perfect ‘quick game after work’ timescale. Alright, not quick but you know what I mean. It’s a nice, meaty CDG with a bit of dice rolling involved that definitely influences the game slightly. The game is mainly strategy based with the odd bit of luck due to the dice rolling and luck of the draw but not so much that it will throw you off. 

I’m really looking forward to giving the solo game a try within the next couple of weeks and hoping for a similar gaming experience. 

Overall I was really impressed with Labyrinth and I’m excited to play again and introduce others to the game.

Thank you for reading.

Katie. 

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A Few First Impressions [Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection]

Here are my initial thoughts on Liberty or Death; The American Insurrection, part of the COIN series published by GMT GAMES. I had very high hopes for this game and so far, it has definitely delivered. 

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Let me start off by saying, I have only played this game once so these truly are my first impressions but I couldn’t hold off on talking about it as it still so fresh in my mind and I really, really enjoyed the game. Liberty or Death had been on my radar for a while and within a couple of days of receiving it, it hit the table (literally within a COUPLE of days). I couldn’t wait to play and I was rather impressed.

Now the rules might seem pretty hefty from a first glance, however if you are an experienced COIN player or have played a few COIN games before then you should pick up the rules without too much hesitation. 

There has been so much talk about this game, and even from that initial play I can see why. The gameplay is absolutely stunning and it’s nice to see the COIN system being used for pre-modern themed warfare, it definitely works.

I’m going to start off talking about the aesthetic and components of the game…

 

If you follow my blog or know me well, you will know that I am generally not one for theme or usually that bothered about the game I’m playing looking all that pretty. However, when it comes to wargames, the more I can immerse myself in the theme during the game and the nicer the game looks, I am probably going to enjoy it more. GMT games are always of a very high quality, gameplay and component wise from my experience and Liberty or Death is no different.

 

Photos by Katie Aidley.

The artwork is beautiful, the map is definitely the prettiest map in the COIN series so far in my opinion and even though the game is so bright and colourful, it doesn’t lose the feel of the time period at all. 18th Century North America has never looked so attractive.

Gameplay

Designer: Harold Buchanan
Series developer: Mike Bertucelli
Solitare system developer: Orjan Ariander
Map Art: Terry Leeds
Counter Art: Charles Kibler, Terry Leeds, and Mark Simonitch

Time Scale: One year per Campaign between Winter Quarters
Map Scale: Area movement
Players: 1 to 4

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

Each faction in Liberty or Death brings new capabilities and challenges:

As the British, you have to deal with an Insurrection across a massive region. With control of the seas (at least until the French arrive), you have extreme flexibility and can move across the coast and cities at will. You will muster Tories to support your efforts. They will march with you to battle, but they need your cover. You can control any space you choose, but you cannot answer every threat on the map. The Indians will work with you but, like the Tories, will need you to coordinate and protect them when the Patriots become aggressive. With the leadership of Gage, Howe, and then Clinton, you will be able to strike a potentially decisive Brilliant Stroke if the stars align. Each leader brings something new to the war effort. If you can strike the decisive blow and Win the Day you will be able to build Support and reduce Opposition in short order. If the option to Battle the French in the Colonies presents itself, it will be hard to pass up!

As the Patriots, you initially aren’t powerful enough to counteract the British Army. You will need to pick your battles and initially spread the Militia to key areas. Over time you can train a force of Continentals to take on the British Regulars. Until then, Rabble-rouse and work with the French to challenge British dominance. Skirmish with the British in small numbers to make their stay expensive. Will the French be there when you need them? Persuade the local population to give you resources to keep the heat up. Watch the Indians on the Frontier because if they develop their forces unanswered you won’t be able to win the game regardless of what happens with the British.

As the Indian player, you have selected the lesser of two evils in aligning with the British. You will work with them to lower Opposition using Raids but you will be developing your footprint by Gathering forces and building villages. The British can help you to protect them from the Patriots and in return you can assist the British in controlling the region. War Chief Joseph Brant and later War Chief Cornplanter give you the ability to mount a decisive attack with your War Parties but will it be worth exposing your villages to Patriot attack?

As the French, you have the ability to be the thorn in the side of the British in North America. With the Hortalez Rodrigue et Cie Company, formed to feed the Patriots resources, you can fund the Insurrection. Your agents can rally assistance in and around Quebec and you can facilitate privateers to steal resources from the British. When you sign the Treaty of Alliance with the Patriots, you can bring French Regulars to America to March and Battle. You can also increase French Naval Intervention, Blockade Cities, move Regulars by sea and Skirmish with the British.

As with earlier COIN Series volumes, players of Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection will face difficult strategic decisions with each card. The innovative game system smoothly integrates political, cultural, and economic affairs with military and other violent and non-violent Commands and capabilities. Rabble-rousing, Indian Raids, Persuasion, Naval Pressure, Letter of Marque, Looting, Trading, Skirmishing, and Foraging and more options are available. Flow charts are at hand to run any faction short a player—solitaire, 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player experiences are equally supported.

Source [Liberty or Death on BoardGameGeek]

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Photo by Katie Aidley.

I’m not going to talk too much about the rules as such as you can find those yourself but I do want to talk a little bit about the conflict in the game and the battle system. Now, remember I have only played this game once but I found that there were not many battles going on within the game. I quite liked that aspect though, in some wargames there are so many battles that they tend to lose their importance or impact within the game however this Liberty or Death was historically accurate and felt as though it fit in with the era, it also drove me to try and come up with some different strategies during the game instead of just relying on winning conflicts. There’s a lot to think about and it will probably take a while to get used to the commands which are somewhat unique from the predecessor COIN games, fitting in with the different time period. 

I’ll admit, I haven’t fully figured out what my strategy is so far and I feel like that will probably take a few plays to master but I did feel confident in the gameplay and the rules by the end of the first game which is always a good sign.

Once I’ve played a few times, I will come back and do another post but I needed to tell you my initial thoughts on the game.

A clear winner in my opinion, even from one play it was obvious to see why it was a 2016 Golden Geek Best Wargame nominee and I’m eager to get this to the table again very soon.

Thank you for reading,

Katie.  

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