Colonists Crushed in 1777: Lessons Learned

December 27, 2010

I played what might be the shortest game of Washington’s War ever yesterday afternoon. And in an effort to make sure that my opponent and I both learn from the experience, I’ve decided to write down a few lessons learned here:

  1. Don’t throw good cards after bad: Perhaps one of us should have stopped hurling colonial troops at Boston after the first defeat. Definitely after the second battle, when Howe inflicted maximum casualties on Washington’s army. Doing “more of the same” gets troops killed in an unnecessary fashion. Final count after three assaults on Boston: Brits lose 2 troops, Americans lose 7.
  2. Armies have multiple uses: Sure we like duking it out, but that’s not really the point of the game, is it? Armies can anchor vulnerable lines of political control markers or threaten territories an opponent would have otherwise considered safe. Each army is a “force-in-being,” that is, if it is on the board, the opponent has to stress out over it a bit, and sometimes that’s enough. For example: the British landing Cornwallis in Maryland on turn one forced the Americans to defend the Congress in Philadelphia by raising an army there. Conrwallis never attacked, but slowly made his way up the coast, taking MD and DE away from American control.
  3. Act, don’t always react: Almost every move the Americans made was in response to something the British had done earlier. Had the Americans raised a force in the south, say placing a small army in Georgia, they could have taken the initiative and forced the British to do a bit of reacting. Instead, the Americans reacted to Cornwallis landing in MD by raising an army in Philly (when perhaps dispersing the Congress might have been a better long term strategy). They reacted to Carleton coming into NY by moving Gates out of RI. They reacted to Clinton landing in NY by raising more troops in MA. Sometimes such reactions are necessary. Perhaps even in two of these three situations a reaction was necessary. But certainly not in all of these cases.
  4. End a turn ready for the next turn: This is one I often have trouble with. If an army ends its turn on an enemy-controlled space, it flips to friendly control at the end of the turn. It’s basically a free PC action. This, I have found, is what wins games. Similarly, one can never be too cautious when ending a turn. Our game ended on the first card play of 1777. The British played a minor campaign, used a small force to block off Washington’s retreat, then maneuvered a large force to crush him. Result: army destroyed, Washington captured, the American player cedes the game. Had the American player moved Washington to a decent winter quarters space late in 1776, this would not have happened (too many escape routes to block).
  5. Try something new: This is what keeps me coming back to particular boardgames–the knowledge that there is always another strategy to try. I think this is particularly true in Washington’s War, where the interactions between the war and the politics offer endless possibilities. In this most recent game, the British player purposely avoided his usual strategy (which involves landing troops in the south right away and working up the coast) and tried something new (landing Cornwallis in MD). It ended up successful, though who knows if that will happen again.

Just a few thoughts after this very strange session of Washington’s War. If you want more details on the game itself, check out our Twitter feed for the play-by-play.

Thanks for Gaming

December 1, 2010

I had a nice long Thanksgiving weekend visiting family and playing some games. My family has always played games during Holiday get-togethers. In the past it consisted mainly of card games with a sprinkling of party games. We still get in some card games, but have been playing more board games lately. I played a couple of favorites, but I was also able to try out a few new games. I also had a good experience with introducing a new game to my in-laws.

Russ and I tried a few turns of Julius Caesar. We were both learning the game for the first time so many mistakes were made, but I’m eager to play it again.

My little sister brought along Trivial Pursuit Bet You Know It. The four of us kids were each on our own team while my parents teamed up. This is a Trivial Pursuit game that is actually a blast to play. The questions are probably a bit easier than the traditional Trivial Pursuit games I’m used to, but it made the game move along. The betting mechanic adds a lot of fun. It keeps you involved through out the whole game. And who doesn’t like betting against their siblings.

The best of the new games was my latest pick-up: Dixit and the expansion. This game just won Spiel das Jahres (Game of the Year awarded by the German Press) and I think it was well deserved. The game play is simple enough for my 4 year old to play along, but it offers challenges for any age. The cards are beautiful. We used the scoring track for each game, but it seemed like it was just there to make it a ‘game.’ People kept wanting to play longer just to see the cards and be creative with their clues.

My wife loved the game right away and encouraged me to bring it along to her families’ Thanksgiving dinner. I should mention that my wife’s family doesn’t really play games. I can literally count the number of games I’ve played with them in the ~10 years I’ve known them on one hand. After dinner we urged a few family members to try a new game. After a few rounds we had several spectators and everbody was asking about this new game. I knew I had a winner when Great-Grandma B asked me to bring it along when we come for Christmas!

So this year I’m thankful for having a wonderful family and great games to enjoy with them.