Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.
Washington’s War is Mark Herman’s re-imagination of the first true card-driven wargame, We the People. It is a medium complexity war game of area control set during the American Revolution. I glimpsed the prototype at the WBC 2009 and have been interested ever since. It retails for US $60, but can be found online for around $40 or so.
As with all of GMT Games’ recent releases, the box is sturdy and appealing, boasting a beautiful detail of John Trumbull’s Battle of Princeton. The back of the box states that the game can be played in 90 minutes, but in my experience, this would be after a few longer plays of 2-3 hours.
The box itself contains two counter sheets, a large poster-sized map, 110 cards, full-color rule and play books, two player aid cards, and two dice. In all, the production quality is very high for a war game, rivaling the components of most Euro games (minus the wooden pieces, of course).
The rulebook is slightly above average in terms of its style and layout. I always like to see a table of contents and index, and the color illustrations break up the text quite nicely. I also appreciate the section defining terms. However, some of the section placement seems odd. For instance, there is a whole section on movement which talks a lot about moving into battle, then there’s a break for how to place reinforcements on the board, which is then followed by those battles that were talked about earlier. Here I Stand is my gold standard for a rulebook with its easy to reference bullet-pointed procedures, and Washington’s War isn’t quite up to the task. There are a few mechanics that have different rules for the Americans and British, and it would have been nice to see a summary table of the differences between the two sides and ditto for the player aid cards. Also, there are several exceptions buried in the rules which did not make their way onto the final map, and a small reminder box would be very helpful.
The playbook is excellent, and it comes with a lengthy example of play, two pages of strategy tips, and two pages of design notes. What I like about the example of play is that it shows a few blunders on the part of the players, and this represents a real departure from the latest Twilight Struggle playbook, which shows two world champions duking it out. The player aid cards are also in color, and help out with the combat, but still don’t contain the key differences between the two sides. (I’d suggest Major Sholto’s Player Aid instead, which quickly summarizes the differences.)
The 110 cards are usual GMT fare–rather thick and glossy, with some nice period artwork. The layout is reminiscent of We the People and Wilderness War, and they aren’t as clean as Here I Stand. I’d recommend putting these in card sleeves as soon as possible. The cardboard counters are of very high quality. Generals have nice portraits with detail and depth, and the round army counters are bright without being garish. My bad eyes have no trouble distinguishing any of the counters at a glance. There was one misprint; some of the square colony control markers weren’t printed correctly, which means you’ll have to use extra hexagonal ones. This is a small gripe, but with such low counter density, I’m not sure how that one made it through the final editing process.
The map itself is very thick with a nice black border running around it. I’d say the board is on par with Power Grid or several over Euro games. It’s beautifully done, and it feels like you’re looking at a quality color map out of an encyclopedia or textbook. The artists avoided putting similar colors next to each other, and it doesn’t feel too busy like the Wilderness War map. I think the low counter density helps a lot too; you can just sit and admire the map, and unlike a lot of earlier GMT games, this will definitely get people’s attention if you’re playing in public.
Overall, I am very impressed with the artwork and production value of Washington’s War. Upon opening the box, most people will think, “Wow, I got my 40-60 bucks worth here.” Hopefully this is just another sign of where GMT is headed with all their future games!