Sunday, March 1, 2009

Charles Triumphant

My choice this week, and I wanted to get Unhappy King Charles back to the table. I quite enjoyed our last playing, and wanted to see how this game developed all the way through.

We've pretty much covered how the game works last time we played, so I'll just get into the gory details. I thought it would be good to take the same side we had before, and knowing now that the game is more about area control than battles, we both adjusted our play accordingly. So, I took up the Royalist mantle, and Mike played the rebellion-fostering dissidents.

The first play of the game set the tone. Hotham's Plot. Remove up to two cards from the Parliamentarian hand. This removed Mike's ability to have an Ace in the Hole card after the first turn and removed a moderately powerful card from his hand, if I remember properly. I was able to sock away a Major Campaign card after the first turn as Mike raised the standard late making it not as useful on the first turn. It certainly came in handy later.

The Early War went slightly in Royalist favor, as it tends to go. I was doing well in the South, kept Mike out of the North, and even started making slight incursions into the East. (Getting Newark in my favor was a big deal on that note.) As we moved into the Mid War, however, things started going haywire. I had a stretch of three or so turns where I simply couldn't draw operations cards to save my skin. I was getting good cards, regardless. One of the four Alt-Hist cards that made the deck fell into my hands: The King Abandons the Bishops. This removes the Covanenters from the game, and completely removed any pressure on the North. This let me concentrate on the Midlands and South, and even continue making forays East. Also, on one early turn I drew four events – two of them being important Parliamentarian events: one that remove cards from the Royalist hand, and one that draws two extra cards.

After this point while my card draws hadn't really changed (they stayed relatively good), Mike's started getting worse. Even after the New Model Army made it out, he couldn't get enough operations cards to activate Cromwell with any sort of consistency. I had pulled a couple subordinates under King Charles, and managed to keep that force essentially the strongest in the game. Most of the battles in the game went against Mike, and while there was certainly some bad die rolling, a lot of his losses game from the fact I was, generally, stronger than him when we fought. I was mindful of the cost battles can exact, but when you have the advantage and the means, it makes sense to press it.

We called it after then penultimate turn. We did deal out the last hand, and it confirmed that Mike wasn't going to have a chance to turn the game. He controlled the south and seven of the nine production areas giving him 9 points with 12 needed for victory. I was likely to take back at least two or three of those production areas, and he was not going to be able to do much about it. A resounding Royalist success.

I'm always one to give criticism when poor rulebooks appear. Let me give some kudos here – the book is well organized, and we've run into exactly one situation that wasn't covered. And it's enough of an edge case that the question hasn't been publicly answered to this point. (The rules cover what happens when you run out of cards in the Mid-war deck while dealing out hands at the start of a turn. It doesn't cover what happens when the deck runs out on the last card you're supposed to deal. The designer is tracking down what you're supposed to do.)

This one's a keeper. If you're a fan of card-driven wargames (or have been curious what they're about) I can recommend this as possibly the best entry-level CDG currently in print. Just don't go of fighting at every opportunity – your losses aren't replaceable. Go for control, and fight when you think you have the advantage. It pays off.

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