Thirty Years War
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Central Europe, 1618. Germany is a jigsaw puzzle of independent Electorates, Bishoprics, Dukedoms, and Imperial Free Cities nominally under the control of the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna. An alliance of Protestant leaders rebel against the Emperor, who raises armies to suppress them and regain Catholic property lost during the Reformation; the surrounding kings of Spain, France, Sweden, and Denmark intervene to stake their own claims. Germany is plunged into thirty years of war that will last until 1648, when the exhausted combatants sign a peace establishing the competing spheres of interest that will control Germany for the next two centuries. Thirty Years War recreates this conflict with the award winning game system used in GMT's Wilderness War, Paths of Glory, and For the People. There are four scenarios provided: the Full Campaign (14 turns), Early War (5 turns), Intervention (3 turns), and Apocalypse (5 turns).
This is a two-player game; one controls the Protestant forces (German Protestants, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, France) while the other runs Catholics (the Empire, Bavaria, Spain, and occasionally Saxony, which can switch sides during play!). The heart of the game is the playing card decks of 55 cards that each player receives. Playing a card gives a player the option to move and attack with an army, to recruit new units, to bank up money to pay ever-hungry troops, or to declare an event.
The Peace of Westphalia made certain that Germany would remain divided for another two centuries. Can the Catholic player defy history by recreating the power of the old Holy Roman Empir? Does Gustavus Adolphus survive to dictate peace to the Emperor in Vienna? Thirty Years War allows the players to determine these and other historical what-ifs, while opening a window onto one of the most influential events in European history.
I recently purchased this game and have now played it 4 or 5 times. I had delayed purchasing due to the negative publicity this game received when it first appeared (see the oldest review below for an accurate summary of this view). After reading through the Consimworld mailing-list for this game (an excellent resource on which the game is well-supported by its designers) I realized that this perception is slowly changing.
The game now has second edition rules. I found these clear and had no problems learning the game out of the box, without errata or FAQ. It falls at the more complex end of the card-driven spectrum, but moves smoothly. Simple modifications have been made to cover the perceived earlier problems, and I would recommend using these. The game itself reminds me most of 'Wilderness War' due to its lack of clear front-lines. It is full of difficult decisions, but these are generally decisions about how to use the ops associated with a card, rather than whether to play the card as an event. In this respect the game differs from most other CDGs.
I have enjoyed all the games I have played and have learned much about an interesting period of history in the process. I'm sure I will play the game many more times and I regard it as a shame that many are over-looking the potential for a great gaming experience due to poor initial press.
Incidentally, the playing time quoted in a review below is rather optimistic. 8 hours is about par in my experience.
Having been a fan of the card-driven wargames, I was curious to see how this one would stack up against such 'giants' of the genre as Paths of Glory, For the People, and Hannibal. The simple answer is: quite well!
Not being a 30YW historian, I was struck by the colour and period flavour of the cards, leaders and special game concepts. This is a plus to me - this game uses a popular 'game system' but throws in enough special stuff so that it seems 'different' enough to be distinctive - for example, recruiting and national differences are important.
I have played this game several dozen times on ACTS and face-to-face. It's not an easy strategic situation for players to wrap their brains around - there are no obvious front lines or 'objective hexes' but there are clear strategy imperatives which will be uncovered through repeated play. When to attack and 'go for the throat' and when to lay low and recruit are key strategic player decisions (among many other more tactical ones).
This game is a top-shelf addition to the card-driven wargame genre. I rate it slightly below Paths of Glory but above Wilderness War and For the People.
Being a raving fan of GMT's Paths of Glory, I thought that Thiry Years War would at least come close. It doesn't. The card play lacks the excitement of PoG. The player aid charts and tables printed on the map are poorly laid out-I've had to make my own. These two aspects were a bit disappointing for me. On the plus side...the map is beautifully done as well as the counters. The cards are nicely done as well but, as I said before, aren't that interesting. The gameplay in my opinion is fairly good, with the Protestent player gaining more of an advantage as the game progresses.
In short, the game is fun to play but could have been done a whole lot better. Let's hope the next card-driven games in the line-up from GMT are much improved. If I had to choose between TYW and say PoG, I'd pick PoG hands-down and so would 99% of everyone else I think.
A tumultuous period in Europe sees the same card-driven movement featured in Wilderness War. The cards are used here for either their historical value (bringing in reinforcements, Swedish Intervention, Spanish War in the Netherlands, etc.) or to activate existing leaders to order troops around. This war had long periods of relative tranquility, cleverly covered by the designers, who divided the scenario into three main Epochs: Early War (Catholic Domination), Swedish Intervention, and Apocalypse (disintegration of the major combatants, and French Intervention). There's a history lesson here, but it masquerades as a surprisingly fun game despite the somber subject. Recommended for the solitaire wargamer.