Wednesday, 1 November 2017
Back at the end of September when I was up in Glasgow I managed to pick up a bargain set of Wilderness Empires by Worthington Games at Static Games in the city centre.
The game is a large scale strategic game of the French Indian Wars which uses wooden blocks to represent regiments and leaders. The board and components are very nice with large chunky blocks and very nicely illustrated cards and rules with illustrations by Don Troiani.
The game is played in Seasons (spring, summer and fall) with each side manoeuvring armies. Leaders make this easier although militia and Indians are pretty mobile. Each side also has a hand of cards which can give bonuses, add reinforcements etc but these can only be played in limited numbers and this is determined by the season. No action takes place in Winter but cards are replenished and, more crucially, Indians and possibly some Militia go home which can scupper your well laid plans
Victory is gained by taking (and holding) key objectives for each side...as you get victory points each season you hold an objective the VPs can mount up pretty quickly so there is a real pressure to take back territory before it's too late.
Combat is interesting...the game comes with special dice with 3 results. A Blank means no hit, Arrows equal a hit and a 3rd symbol (a shield or an eye?) means an Indian or Militia unit in the battle refuses to fight: they don't desert but seem to just sit on the side-lines and rejoin the army once the dust has settled. This means that an army composed of regular troops is more likely to stick around for the whole battle and can also take more hits. Of course armies are dependent on Militia and, in the case of the French on Indian allies so this doesn't always go to plan. The British can also burn Indian villages which limits the locations Indian units can retire to in Winter.
I played a trial game against Mike at the Guildford Club...as neither of us had played we were both equally unsure how to approach the game. I played the British and, in the spirit of the Empire, immediately set off to the Indian territory to burn villages. I'm not sure this gained me much and may have become a bit of a distraction. In the centre Mike launched an attack on the British forts and we both got drawn into a long tussle of the centre ground.
I was very fortunate that the cards I received allowed me to add quite a few regular units as reinforcements. The British control a number of ports so I had quite a bit of choice about where these would turn up...Mike on the other hand was limited to a couple of ports and when my rapidly growing reinforced army launched an attack and seized Louisbourg he was very restricted. This showed the advantage of sending in an army entirely made up of regulars as, although I took casualties, no one was subject to the 'Refuse to Fight' result. Mike didn't seem to get anything like the amount of reinforcements I had and some of his cards which allowed this were dependent on him owning Louisbourg...oops! I managed to take back the territory I'd lost in the centre and with Louisbourg in my possession the VPs started to mount until the French weren't in a position to challenge.
It was an ideal game for a club evening...challenging but not too demanding and just the right length of time to play. It felt a bit one sided once the British reinforcements rolled in but I wasn't sure if this was just down to some bad luck with the cards rather that imbalance. Good fun and definitely one to try again