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I had a great time playing Joan of Arc thus far. I've played it with 3 players, and it did little for me. Then, we played it with six players and it was an outstanding game.
The game forces each player to balance whether he will use his battle cards for attacking or defending. It also forces players to go after the player that is in the lead.
The events either made perfect sense and added great flavor to the game or were just a waste. One season there was no war, the turn was just skipped.
The components are very, very, nice and the play seemed very balanced in our experience, as every player was at one point or another in the lead.
This is a fairly simple wargame, and despite a few minor problems in rules translation, one I would recommend HEARTILY to most players.
This site has a long discussion of the game mechanics so I will keep my remarks brief and to the point.
If you try the Heinzen Rule, please let me know if you like how it works out.
KrADeG Review Services
It is a wargame and has event cards, but the triangles are vague.
It reminds me of Avalon Hill's Kingmaker, one we also simply didn't grasp.
You must play Jeanne d'Arc (who only plays a minor role, if any at all here) with at least 3 players. I playtested with a friend of mine who is not that big a fan of detailed wargame rulebooks as i am.
Can't recommend the game, though. Sorry.
Most of us have a past, in gaming terms at least. What I mean by this is the games we played in the gap between growing out of the standard Waddingtons, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley stuff at the age of 12 or 13 and the discovery of the multi-player board games for grown-ups that we play now. In my case it was chess, go and bridge (and, indeed, bridge still takes up about 50% of my gaming time), but for the others in my gaming group it was wargames and, like me with bridge, it is an interest that they retain. That interest, together with my own general one in history, makes us something of a soft touch for multi-player combat games with a historical setting and I continue to buy such games, despite the fact that down the years they have given us more disappointments than we would like.
The general pattern for these games is that each player begins with a small power base, expands until he is cheek by jowl with his neighbours and then spends the rest of the time feuding with them in an attempt to hold what he has and to take what they insist on regarding as theirs. To get our approval the game needs to get the attack/defence balance right, to reward skillful play, to have a scoring system that encourages players to act in character and to feel right historically. It is a difficult act to pull off: hence the large number of disappointments. And I might as well admit now that for us this game was another of them.
The setting is, as you will have guessed, France at the time of the 100 years war and the players represent France, England, Burgundy, Brittany, Flanders and Navarre. We played with five players and so Navarre dropped out. The game lasts between 8 and 10 turns (usual "die roll to see if the game is over" mechanism to avoid the last turn "no tomorrow" silliness that can be the ruination of this type of game) and each turn is subdivided into eight phases, most of which are very brief. Phase one: draw income based on current holdings. Phase two: decide whether France is at war or peace. Each player has a vote, voting is done secretly and the majority decides. The difference is that if the country is at war, there is an extra random event, there is no ceiling on the number of attacks a player can make and each player draws extra battle cards. Battle cards? Usually in these games battles are fought using dice and odds tables; in this game they are fought using a combination of dice and cards. Phases three and four see the players drawing their new cards and spending money on either fortifications or more cards and then phase five is a chit draw to determine player order for the movement/combat phase that is to come.
That brings us to the heart of the turn: phase 6 (random events) and phase seven (combat and movement), before the whole thing is rounded off with the allocation of victory points. The random events are the expected mix of uprisings, plague, set-piece battles and the like. Flavoursome, but much too important in victory point terms for our taste. It seemed to us that in most games they will be a large determining factor in deciding who wins and as evidence we cite the fact that when we played I won. The bridge player beat four wargamers and that I did was entirely down to the fact that I got better breaks at this juncture than did either of the two players who we normally expect to be fighting it out in games of this type.
Expansion is town to town along the roads and there are strict limits on how far you can expand in a turn. The combat is also about towns and the designer visualises these as sieges, though to me they didn't feel like that, because their resolution is instant: each player selects battle cards from their hands, adds in factors for fortifications and the like and then rolls a die. High score wins. Biff, just like that. No hanging around for a couple of turns wondering if the caterers will turn up, or a relief army appear on the horizon.
The map is divided into provinces, each containing between one and three towns. To control a province you need to control all the towns in it and at the end of each turn players receive victory points for the provinces they control. Highest total at the end of the game wins.
This is one of those games on which opinion is fairly sharply divided. Alan likes it (see his comments in the last issue) and even greater enthusiasm has been expressed by several posters on the web. In the other camp you have Mike Ruffhead (see the letter column) who is one of the regulars at Alan's Friday games and you also have all of my group. It is a game that has a mixture of features, some successful and some not and which side you come down on will depend on which you consider important. The game looks magnificent: the board, the counters, the cards, the castles and fortifications are all quite splendid and components of this standard add to the pleasure of any game. The game also has a sensible scoring system, plays quickly and although the attack/defence balance is weighted a shade too heavily towards the attacker both for my taste and for historical accuracy, if you are going to err on that one, that is the side to do it on. Those are the good points. On the other side are the high luck element caused both by the card draws and the random events and the question of historical feel. In our view, it doesn't have any beyond the graphics. To judge from what the designer has to say in his notes, getting the history right was one of the foremost things in his mind, but we don't think he hasn't succeeded. For us, historical feel plus "victory to the player who has played most skillfully" are the things that matter most and so this is a game that we shall not be playing again. However, if your taste is for a fun knock-about with nice bits, you may well enjoy it.