This is not a full-blown review but I hope you'll understand the game better from my babbling. Throughout my discussion, I will illustrate certain aspects of the game with some (poorly done) photographs.
Here is the initial set-up of a game.
Set up is a breeze. Pick 4 map tiles, give each army its command deck, draw 5 cards, and deploy the 8 units for each side.
- I really like the map tiles; they make setting up the battlefield a breeze.
- The tiles did slide around a little bit. I'm not sure how to prevent that.
- I also like the low counter density (only 1 counter per unit so a total of 16 on the board to start). This is a boon to a solo player.
Once the battlefield is set up, play begins. The sequence of play is as follows:
- Discard any or all cards from your hand
- Draw back up to 5 cards
- Move 1 unit
- You may be able to move more if you have applicable command cards
- Infantry moves 1 square and cavalry moves 2
- Make 1 attack
- Combat can only be initiated if you have an applicable unit card or ambush card
- There are 4 types of attacks - ambush, assault, bombardment, or volley. Adjudication is similar, albeit with variations depending on type.
- If you have a leader card, you can have additional units support your lone attack.
- Restore 1 unit to full strength (requires a command card)
As noted above, combat requires playing a card. The card will list the number of dice to roll. Sum your dice roll and add modifiers (such as the unit combat value, leader cards, or terrain effects). Compare your value to the target's defense (including mods). Combat resolution is similar to De Bellis Antiquitatis in that you calculate the ratio. The greater the ratio the more deadly the combat result is.
My first combat - the King's Dragoons bombard the French Guard Cavalry.
I rolled a 4 on a D10. This was less than the target's combat value of 8 so it had no effect.
- One interesting facet of the game is that there are no artillery units. Instead, units have bombard cards that they can use to attack at a distance. I guess the Dragoon's had some horse artillery along with them.
Here is an assault in action.
I used the Guard Cavalry card to initiate the attack; the card allowed the French to roll 2D8 in combat. I also played a Marshal Ney leader card which provides an extra 4. I rolled an 8, + 8 for the Guard Cavalry's combat value + 4 for Ney for a total of 20. The British Dragoon's had a combat value of 8 with no modifiers. Ration is 2:1 which results in a retreat or reduction of strength.
First blood! This bombard causes a hit to a weakened unit, destroying it. Each unit can take 2 hits. On the first hit, flip the counter. The unit's combat value will be lessened.
La Garde recule! In this assault, the Light Dragoons score 15 versus a weakened Guard's combat value of 5. The 3:1 ratio is enough to ensure the Guard's destruction!
Normally, a game lasts until one side loses 5 units or until both sides go completely through their command deck once (this is the "night falls" rule). In the latter case, the victor is the army that controls the most territory on the opponent's side of the battlefield.
I decided to call it quits about halfway through (the French had lost 2 units and both had used about half of their deck). I had been playing about 45 minutes, which seems reasonable for a first run-through. Although I hadn't fully explored all options provided by the game, I felt I had a good grasp of the essential sequence.
Here is the position when I ended the game. The British had destroyed more of the enemy and had advanced into the French side of the battlefield. Advantage England.
So what do I think? Overall it strikes me as a good game.
- There are plenty of decisions to keep the players thinking. Do I discard or draw cards? Which unit should I move? Where do I move (how can I make best use of terrain)? What attack should I make? With proper card hand management, I can see players being able to coordinate a series of attacks over multiple turns. Having plenty of decisions makes for an interesting game.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the use of cards in the game. Your options are limited, but not too severely. You can always move any one unit so your army won't be stuck in place. However, you have to manage your hand to plan your attacks.
- In a 2-player game, the cards will provide fog-of-war. Your opponent won't know if you have the cards to launch an attack on his position.
- I primarily solo game. For solo gaming, the pace is too slow for my taste. The 1-move + 1-attack sequence makes for a deliberate pace that will work well in a 2-player, chess-like, tactical duel. When I solo game, however, I want fast-paced action that will allow me to generate interesting stories in a short amount of time.
- Some of the other mechanics (attacks limited to cards in your hand, calculating ratios to determine combat results) also slow the pace. Again, that should be fine for 2-player contests but it doesn't meet my needs.
- I also prefer variable objectives (a la One Hour Wargame scenarios). Manoeuvre essentially only has one scenario (a meeting engagement where you try to defeat the enemy army or take territory away). Again, this is fine for a 2-player duel, but it limits the potential stories for my solo gaming.
Nevertheless, it was not wasted money.
- I like the components (especially the map tiles and unit counters) and foresee me using them, albeit with different rules.
- I liked the cards and would like to incorporate them somehow (especially since the different armies reportedly have a different card mix that reflects their respective strengths).
So now it is just a matter of deciding what rules I want to use.