I had been considering buying this for sometime, the historical setting really appeals to me and the reviews over at Boardgamegeek are all favourable.
Having managed to pick it up slightly discounted on e-bay, I have since played it quite a few times and introduced a number of my mates to it, so thought it time to review it for those who may be interested in giving it a go.
A few of the Blocks
Rulebook and Action cards
Close-up of the Gameboard
I was a little disappointed with the contents if truth be told, for £40 I can get quite a few miniatures especially in my preferred 6mm scale, even in 28mm I could get 80 Plastic Perry miniatures for the same sort of price as this game. Disappointment aside, the wooden blocks are surprising nice once the stickers have bene applied, and as playing pieces go, they are durable, serve their purpose well having all the info you need on them without any need to refer to the rules.
The map/board is nicely presented though again I was hoping/expecting a thicker card stock, I have acquired a sheet of clear Perspex for Board game purposes and it comes in useful here ensuring the map lays flat, and offers some protection from the inevitable wear and tear. The action cards again are a bit of let down, in function these simply provide a random number of action points, and whilst the art work is ok it's repetitive and not overly interesting, it could easily have been done in a more appealing and varied way. A few dice and a rules booklet round out the contents.
On to the actual game, and despite the fact that I have just slated the contents, I am very impressed with actual gameplay, the rules are simple enough that you get the grasp after a turn or two, and you rarely need to refer to the rules booklet (a copy of which is freely available at the Columbia Games site, along with a few alternative set ups). This is a block game for those familiar with the term, for those not I'll briefly describe how they work.
Each unit is represented by a block which only has information on one side thus your opponent is never really sure just who they are attacking or defending against until the actual battle, this aspect of the game nicely represents the "Fog of War" in a simpe but effective way.
Each player is dealt 7 Action cards from the deck, one for each turn of the campaign of which there are three. Action cards have a number of action points printed on them, each point allows a player to either activate all the blocks in one area of the board (usually based on County lines) 1 point will allow all or any combination of the blocks in an area to move 1 or 2 areas, at the players discretion, the other way to spend action points is by recruiting new units from your Pool, 1 point allows you to select one unit of your choice and place it on the board. When units of opposing factions end their turn in the same area battle commences.
In the above picture you can see two blocks, the white block depicts the future Yorkist King Edward IV, in his guise of Edward Earl of March and the red the Lancastrian Earl of Westmoreland, each block has a number of pips shown at the top of the block (3 in Edwards case) these represent both attacking strength and damage capacity. You will also note on Edwards block the symbol A3 this indicates in effect his initiative and attacking skill, so to summarise Edwards block, he has 3 pips, and therefore rolls 3 dice when attacking and his initiative is A therefore he attacks before any B,C or D rated blocks and the 3 next to the A indicates that he needs 1,2 or 3 to hit. When a block/unit takes damage it is rotated as shown by the Westmoreland block, which reduces the number of pips, in the above picture Westmoreland has taken one hit and has been reduced to two pips, thus his attack roll is now only 2 dice and he needs 2 or less to hit. When a block has all its pips removed, it is removed from play(but not neccessarily the game).
The idea of the game is have more Nobles on the board at the end of the 7 turns than your opponent, this can be achieved via mass recruitment or killing the enemy Nobles, which sound easy enough, but the knack is to strike a balance between spending your action points on recruitment and using some to move your armies and defeat your opponent in the field(or at least prevent yourself from being defeated in the field. An alternate way of winning is to kill off all your opponents heirs of whcih each side has five, though this is not that easy to achive unless your opponenet is the reckless type.
There are a number of over rules, such as Treachery(Some loyalist Nobles are immune to this), Sea Moves, Supply, Defending home territory and some action cards have Events rather than action points, none of these rules add any great complexity to the game but add to the number of factors you have to continually balance.
I've become a big fan of this game, mainly due to its simplicity of play combined with range of strategic decisions to be made, of the people I have introduced to this game all of them have enjoyed it and been willing to play again. I think it captures the chaotic feel of the War of the Roses, and the treachery roll does simulate the ever changing sides of this conflict.
So despite my slight disappointment in the contents, I would not hesitate to recommend this game to anyone with an interst in the period or who simply wants a fairly fast and fun but simple board - wargame. For those wanting to check this game out more thoroughly check the link above to Boardgame geek, where you can also find some useful fan made game aids in the file section.