Adventures in Arizona – Friday

I started my gaming week with Wellington, and ended it the same way; Mark Kramer invited me to try out, under his guidance, the brand new Wellington’s War game from designer Hans von Stockhausen and Pacific Rim Publishing, and I accepted.

The game is about the Napoleonic campaign in Spain from 1808-1814. It comes with an extra large map (32″ x 48″), big hexes, and 100 blocks with stickers to attach to represent the military units. In addition there are decks of cards – one for events and one for commands – and some counters to be used as markers.

There are 12 turns in the campaign scenario, and a shorter 5 turn scenario that runs (I think) from 1812-1814.

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System

The game system melds card driven techniques with buckets of dice for combat resolution. I am not keen on either of these mechanics, so the game started from a bit of a disadvantage. However, while I wouldn’t buy it, the game play was enough to convince me that for gamers who have no prejudices against these systems, it would be a good buy. It has a lot of tactical and operational depth, plenty of options, and more than its fair share of chaos.

The game turn starts with an event card drawn and played immediately by both sides. This is a very clever and well worked part of the system, because the designer has kept the focus on historical events occurring within a reasonable time. He achieves this by limiting the cards in the event deck, and having the contents tweaked according to the game turn. (So, in certain game turns, you add certain event cards.) Also, some events trigger the addition of other cards to the deck. It sounds deterministic, and it probably would be except for the fact that typically you are only drawing two events per turn (there can be more) so it is by no means certain what will happen and what will not. In other words, there is still an element of tension over the events, and that is a good thing.

After that, each player draws six command cards from that deck (seven in turn one). This is like Hammer of the Scots in that the cards limit what you can do. So, when I drew a hand of cards with values of one and two, it was not a surprise that the victory point score went in favor of Mark, as he had drawn cards with values of three and four.

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With these cards, you can draw units, move units, conduct sieges, and so on. Battles are fought at the end of round of card play, and use – as already mentioned – buckets of dice. For those not in the know, this means that units roll a number of dice equal to their strength, hitting on a number determined by the type of unit. Also, combat is in order according to the unit rating with A units firing before B rated units which fire before C rated units and so on. It works, but I do not like it.

At the end of the turn you deal with attrition; essentially, it’s hard to amass big forces without suffering losses.

In Winter turns you check Victory Points (VPs). The map is split into areas. Controlling the areas gives you VPs, but these differ for each side.

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Things I Liked

  • The rulebook is 30 plus pages, but it’s actually very accessible. So, unless you face an opponent struck down with analysis paralysis, this has the potential to be quite a quick moving game. You will not finish the campaign game is a single afternoon or evening session, perhaps needing two.
  • The game is not scripted; I could see several different strategies for each side, and am sure I only scratched the surface.
  • There’s some neat unit differentiation – the Spanish guerrillas, for example, are a real pain for the French – without a material rules overhead.
  • The events deck must have taken a long time to fine tune. I was very impressed with how this worked.
  • The game has simple and effective mechanisms that reflect the political situation, and thus the availability of military force for each of the main combatants.
  • Any game with fog of war is a game with added tension.

Overall

If I were a fan of card driven games using buckets of dice for the combat system, I would buy this. If you are a Napoleonic gamer for whom these two features is not an obstacle, I recommend you give it a look.

Finally

For the record, I was just about losing when we called the game. I could blame my crappy hand of command cards, but it’s also fair to say that I was making all sorts of errors, and being punished by the more savvy, and experienced, Mr Kramer.

Thanks to Mark for his patience in explaining the rules, tolerating my questions, and my whining about the cards I kept on drawing. He made it a very enjoyable session, despite those damn buckets of dice!

 

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