Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Few Acres 0f Wilderness War

One of the most interesting conflicts in American history is what we call the French and Indian Wars, though it was but an extension of the Seven Year War in Europe. It was a period of terror for those on the frontier because both sides were using Native American Allies to strike fear into the settlers. It was primarily a period of expansion coupled with raids and sneak attacks. As a fan of GMT's "Wilderness War" I was anxious to try "A Few Acres of Snow" from the time I first heard a podcast describing it. I got a chance to get a quickplay at a local Con about a year ago and I was impressed. Recently, my buddy Mark and I played three games in a row at a receent game club. "A Few Acres of Snow" designed by Martin Wallace uses deck building to build interest and to drive the game. Each turn, players may take two actions. A player might discard cards to gain money, or he might expand territory, or send Native Americans out on a raid, or begin or continue a siege of an enemy fortification. He might place cards in reserve (visible to his opponent and possibly vulnerable, but available for a later turn) or he might "draft" (buy new cards -- some cards are free). Settlement is rather clever, because a player has to have a card that allows him to "leave" a location, a second card with the proper icon to travel to the location he wants to go to from that location, and a third card with a settlers icon in order to settle an area. Expanding a settlement requires playing a location card and a card with a settlers icon on it. We played three different games with varied results. There is a shallow learning curve and we kept grasping the simplistic mechanism but the depth of strategy. I was really thrilled that both of us used a different strategy each game with varying results. In our final game, as the British, I made a foolish decision to continue pressing a siege that would've offered me a very minor return in victory points even if successful, while my opponent wisely let the siege continue while expanding his settlements (which doubled his victory points for those controlled locations). We both learned the importance of fortifications (Indians cannot raid past them) and the importance of cards that block raids. (an unblocked raid can deprive an opponent of a victory point, and is worth at least two victory points for the raider)... Players also earn "location" cards when they settle an area. For example, the British player settles Cumberland and therfore the Cumberland location card is added to his deck. Location cards have icons on them that allow them to add military to a siege, or possibly obtain gold, or fur that can be traded for gold, or settlers, etc. They also might have a transport icon (ships, boats, roads) to allow a player to move to a new location. But also, each location card has "connections" that allow players to move to other locations. The game is really cool and in a six hour period we played three games and all three were different, even though my opponent and I stuck with the same side both times. The rules were well organized and very, very clear. They were short and simple, and best of all, available in PDF format so that I could easily access them via my ipad. I'm glad to see more and more game publishers doing this. There seems to be a lot of game and a lot of variety in this game. When I describe it as a deck-building game some might think of "Dominion" a popular Euro style game. This game is not really "Dominion" and there are many more choices in a turn. I think this is a great entry level wargame.. no charts, no dice.. just cards and blocks. Is it any wonder that the first edition of this game sold out and was going for an arm and leg on Ebay. The 2nd Edition has now been released (with some minor rules tweaks) and soon I will manage to get a copy for myself. This is a quality game and I think it is one of those games that comes along once in a blue moon that is worth playing over and over. I've got FOUR plays under my belt. Stay tuned and if my opinion changes, I'll let you know here and I'll let you know why.

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