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Wilderness War
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Store:  War Games
Series:  Wilderness War
Theme:  French & Indian War
Genre:  War & Combat
Format:  Board Games

Wilderness War

2010 edition

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Designer(s): Volko Ruhnke

Manufacturer(s): GMT Games

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Product Description

Wilderness War takes two players into the French & Indian War, 1755-1760, the climactic struggle between France and Britain for control of North America. It uses strategy cards and a point-to-point map similar to GMT's award-winning For the People and Paths of Glory. Players maneuver and fight over a map stretching from Northern Virginia to Canada. As the leader or French or British forces in North America, you will need to defend your frontier, raid your enemy's frontier, build fortification networks through the harsh wilderness, recruit Indian allies, besiege forts and fortresses, and deal with events occurring in Europe that are above and beyond your control.

Wilderness War includes a deck of strategy cards for conducting campaigns and incorporating the many events and personalities of the war. The French player can recruit up to sixteen different Indian tribes as allies, secure a continental alliance in Europe against Great Britain, sortie his squadron at Louisbourg, force a ministerial crisis in London, and work toward draining support for the war from the provenciaal assemblies. The British player can recruit Mohawks and Cherokees, plan for and conduct amphibious operations, implement a global strategy via William Pitt, destroy the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, and expel the Acadians. Relive the history of this exciting time when the fate of Canada hung in the balance.

Product Awards

International Gamers Awards
Best Historical Simulation Game, 2002

Product Information

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.7 in 13 reviews

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by A Gamer
Wonderfully conveys the salient points of the conflict in a fun game
December 20, 2005
This is probably the best card-driven wargame I've played. I do like Paths of Glory and Triumph of Chaos a lot, but Wilderness War is a little less complex and plays more quickly. There is plenty of room to maneuver on the map, but the topography channels the regular armies and auxiliaries (indians and rangers) into certain areas naturally. A few different ways to victory, from traditional combat and seige of forts and fortresses, to hit-and- run raiding of settlements and stockades. Good fun factor with some tense decision making moments, combined with a little history and a decent simulation make this a winner.
Only adding to the praise...
July 16, 2003

That is all I can do really. I have been playing this game on an irregular basis since it came out and everytime I feel like playing a wargame, I go back to this one. Being from Quebec makes the interest in the subject matter obvious for me. But it is more than that. This is simply put one of the best games of its genre, period. It even got me and a couple of friends hitting the books (although there aren't many on the subject).

I also got my father-in-law interested in the game and that is no small feat, believe me. All in all, a solid 5 stars for me.

Best of the Card Driven Wargames
June 23, 2003

This the wargame I have been waiting for my entire life. A triumph on all counts. The rules are the clearest I've read in 40 years of gaming (since I was 10, you do the math) for any substantially complex game and read like a historical novel.

This game is clearly the beneficiary of previous games in CDG systems but takes the WAR element of wargame in this system to a new level which is apparently outside the comfort zone for many of those who play games as opposed to war-games. This game is what I call (like Hannibal and most other CDGs) a game of Crisis Management and Damage Control rather than some more traditional formats which allow micromanagement and the search for the 'Perfect Plan'. Yes, there is a luck element in that one player can get a dream hand (or hand after hand) while the other gets dreck, but you could be playing Axis and Allies where your opponent rolls nothing but ones and you're tossing 6 after 6 after 6. The game is well balanced and a nail biter even when tilted toward one side or the other by a lucky streak of cards, war is like that, very uncertain and 'The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley'.

The other complaints I have encountered mostly concern the numerous unit types and the movement/combat/infiltration/interception matrix but that is a COMPLEXITY issue and not a game flaw. The historically reflective different unit strengths and weakness and the (advanced game) infiltration/interception rules are clearly explained but you must pay attention to the rules. Once you grasp the ingrained flow of logic the gameplay becomes highly intuitive. All that and GMT's typically gorgeous components make for a superb gaming experience every time.

The best card-driven stategy game there is.
January 15, 2003

Of all the excellent We: the People style games, this one is, in my opinion, the best. Being a Canadian and a Quebecker, I have a strong interest in the subject. Clean rules, brilliant evocation of the period, and very tense until the end. I pre-ordered this game before it came out and it is still among my all-time favorite wargames.

Beautiful, evocative game of French & Indian War
June 27, 2002

Wilderness War is a simulation of the French & Indian War, a subject on which there aren't many games. It is a card-driven game in the family of Hannibal: Rome v. Carthage, and We the People. Bit more complex than those games, but easier than Paths of Glory and For the People. The French start out with a small but well-led army, and a great opportunity to prey on the virtually undefended American colonies. The Indians are a wild card-- both sides can raise them, although the French have most of them in the beginning. The map, which is beautiful, gives a real feel for what a wilderness North America was in the 1750's. Brithish strength builds steadily, and they go on the offensive to conquer Canada. Towards the end it can get dicey for the outnumbered French, but they definitely have a good chance to win. Exciting game, with relatively few pieces. Beautiful and evocative of the period. Highly recommended!

Great addition to the Hannibal series
December 09, 2001

It's a great game and a nice addition to the series (Hannibal, For the People). I think it has a better period feel than the other games, except maybe for Hannibal. I don't think it's too complex at all. Maybe it's complex to a novice gamer, but after a scenario or two, it will fit like a glove and be natural. All games in this series can be random given the nature of the card deck. My only real complaint is a game can be greatly influenced by one player getting Wolf/Montcalm long before the other player gets his great leader--but that doesn't happen that often.

Superb game
November 04, 2001

Wilderness War is a card-driven war game in the mold of We the People, and is the most accessible game of this type since Hannibal. WW compares favorably to both We the People and Hannibal.

The game is well balanced and plays very smoothly. The scenarios are well thought out. The tournament scenario begins in 1757 and plays in about 2 hours. It begins at the point in history where the tide turned against the French. The British must leverage their superior forces against the French. The French in turn have the support of the majority of the Indians and must disrupt the British advance while raiding unmercifully into the British colonies. Conversely, other scenarios start in 1755. The British are woefully unprepared to wage a war in the Americas. Their job will be the keep the French from making too many advances while establishing defenses against the hoards of Indian raiders the French can muster. Eventually the British war machine will kick in and the tides will turn, but will it be soon enough?

The game forces you to think historically, but does not force you to conduct the campaigns historically. The French and Indian War becomes a blank slate and can take any number of directions.

If you like low complexity war games which have a great deal of depth, are playable, and have top notch components, then this may be what your looking for.

Labor-of-love is a remarkable design achievement!
September 21, 2001

I'm a sucker for obsucre periods of history, so I came into Wilderness War with high hopes. Not only were my lofty expectations met, they were even exceeded! This is a superbly designed and developed product that offers the best of what the hobby has to offer.

Play is challenging for both sides. The French will try to muster as many Indian Allies as possible to raid British held territory. The English will try to deploy, then take advantage of, their superior manpower so as to overwhelm the enemy. Both sides must be strategically and logisitically adept, and woe to the player who leaves his troops outside of winter quarters.

It's amazing the period 'feel' that this title conveys. The designer (Volko Ruhnke) obviously has a tremendous love for this time period, and it shows in all aspects of this game.

Once again, the card-driven system (first started with Mark Herman's We the People) smoothly guides play. The rules are very tight, yet they need to be read very carefully as quite a few nuances are contained therein. Still, this game is accessible to anyone, and the Tournament Scenario is a balanced, tense, and pure fun engagement that can be played in the span of a few hours.

So rarely does a game achieve all the things that it sets out to do, but Wilderness War does this and more. I've played this game five times, and eagerly look forward to my next contest. Well Done!

A Winner! Don't let this game pass you by.
September 15, 2001

A great simulation with an excellent historical period feel. You do not have to be expert gamer to play this game. Anyone--from novice to expert--will enjoy this game and get caught up in the game play as he determines the fate of North America in the French and Indian Wars.

Every turn can be a true gut wrencher as you have to decide which actions to do with your limited set of actions. So you have that built in angst which enhances game play. The game also benefits from good balancing--it was a race to the finish with my game using the Tournement Scenario--with victory or defeat determined on the very last turn. Hmmm, should I attack Louisberg this turn or not?

Great Period Flavor
September 06, 2001

If you are interested in the French and Indian War you will like this game.

If you like the We the People system, you will like this game because of the unusual and interesting situation.

The campaign scenario can be dominated by who draws their good cards first. IF Pitt shows up in 1755, the French probably lose. If Pitt shows up in 1760, the French probably win. And then there's Quiberon bay...

A lot of good stuff, but still a little disappointing
November 11, 2001

Wilderness War is a very good game. It's got nice, tense decision-making, lots of trade-offs, and (for the most part) has lots of historical flavor. (The interesting exception is the card deck; the events are actually a little bland and generic, and not very historically evocative--which I have to admit was downright weird for a game based on Hannibal).

The real 'problem' with Wilderness War, if you can call it that, is that being a fundamentally derivitive game, it can't be judged without reference to what has gone before. Like its predecessors from GMT (Paths of Glory and For the People), at the end of the day it really is a grognard's rather than a gamer's game. There is a fair amount of chrome, some fiddly stuff, and generally a bit of somewhat purposeless complexity.

Don't get me wrong; I love GMT's stuff, but they are at the peak of their form in bigger simulation games like Kasserine or Army Group North (both awesome)--but this shows up in the form of what is in my opinion excess complexity in their nominally low-end games such as Brandywine and Zero!. These games are OK but really would need to be much more streamlined in order to truly work. The great thing about the original Hannibal was its cross-genre appeal, with non-wargamers easily getting sucked in if they were not *too* complexity averse; these people are unlikely to be swayed by Wilderness War with all its fiddly little stuff.

This is combined with the fact that Wilderness War is pretty random, more so than you might hope for in a game of its complexity. It just didn't quite cash in on the true greatness that was easily within its grasp--awesome topic, great system, complexity in the right ballpark.

To come to the bottom line, however, this still *is* a great topic and the game has a tremendous amount of appeal to wargamers. For those buyers, I do strongly recommend this game, for which you will easily get your money's worth in playing time (not somthing you can say for the crushing majority of wargames). Wilderness War does a great job of contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of the French and British in this particular conflict, and gives each player advantages and disadvantages to exploit. Combined with the fundamentally efficient and tense Hannibal-style strategy card deck, there is a lot to like. However, if you are a fan of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage who has been put off by the complexity of For the People and Paths of Glory and is looking for that game's successor in terms of the tremendous balance and broad appeal it achieved, I'm afraid it was not quite to be.

by Lance
Good but not Great
November 08, 2001

Don't get me wrong, I agree with almost every comment the previous reviewers of this game have made. This is an excellent simulation of an otherwise largely ignored but important conflict. I find it fun to play and feel it does a solid job of modeling the historical situation. It's definitely on my play list.

The main shortcoming of Wilderness War is that it, like so many conflict simulation games, reflects a trend of increasing complexity that makes wargaming too difficult for most newcomers to get into. The game system in Wilderness War is derived from several previous card-driven wargames (We the People being one of the better examples) that were reasonable wargames with minimal complexity. Unfortunately, more recent games using the system (Paths of Glory and For the People) have gradually shifted a simple and elegant game system more towards the arena where only true, hard-bitten 'Grognards' with considerable wargaming experience can readily play it.

In particular, I felt that the entire (and critically important) section of rules dealing with Indian alliances, raids and frontier defenses was more complex than it needed to be. Something simpler, perhaps more akin to the political influence markers from We the People, would probably have been sufficient and much easier for inexperienced players to grasp.

In my opinion, what this game needed to really rate five stars was an 'introductory' or 'basic' version to make it more accessible to novice gamers. Without it, the game only rates a four.

Everything I Hoped It Wasn't.
July 22, 2004

I have never really liked war games (historical scenario type war games, that is) since I was a kid. I find them to be boring exercises in bookkeeping, frequent rules searches, and arguments over the wording of certain phrases in the rules. However, I always wanted to like war games. Every so often I have to play one that strikes my fancy, Wilderness War is the latest. Other than 'Star Wars: the Queen's Gambit' this is my first foray into card driven war games. SW:Q'sG is a fantasy game and not at all like a historical simulation war game which have rules like:

'Tanks under Rommel's direct control attack with +2 unless it is March 1942 in which case Rommel is recalled to Berlin for a meeting with Hitler during which time Montgomery's tanks attack with +1 unless Monty is the subject of an assassination attempt, and +2 if fresh American units are under his command. If the German Navy has more than 3 battleships in the vicinity of Alexandra refer to table 6A.'

The Queen's Gambit intrigued me. (Who am I kidding? I thought it was great. I love it more each time I play). I found the card system to work quite well for that board game. I have wanted to play one of the card driven (historical) war games since I first played SW:QG.

Wilderness War is not as bad (or good depending on your point of view) as most old Avalon Hill wargames. But it is much closer to my example than to 'Star Wars: Queen's Gambit'. Book keeping problems are alleviated (not eliminated) by the card system. Rules searches are still frequent but the rules are not as cumbersome and ambiguous as I remember the old Avalon Hill titles being. There are still a few Catch-22s and unclear items.

If you enjoy lighter war games Wilderness War will probably appeal to you. If you aren't familiar with the term 'Grognard' you should try this game before buying it. I plan on playing Wilderness War a few more times, just to see if I 'get it'. I really want to 'get it' but it has too much of the stuff that turned me off to war games years ago.

For now I can only advise gamers, such as myself, who love the modern German games to steer clear.

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