Monday, October 6, 2014
Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony
I have always been fascinated by the tragedy of the Thirty Years War. I cannot fully explain why, perhaps that it was the last of the religious wars in Europe or maybe due to the personalities involved. On the other hand, it could be simply the interaction of the weapons and tactics utilized throughout the period.
In my own thirty-odd years of miniature wargaming, I have never played a game set during this war. Neither have I collected an army for it. However, a few months ago, I did pick up a used copy of Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony 1618-1648 by GMT Games (these folks are less than a 45 minute drive from me).
It has been a rather long time since I have played a counter based boardgame such as this. Even Friedrich uses wooden pieces and not cardboard counters, so this game is a throwback to my youth (When Avalon Hill dominated the scene).
Last Thursday, my mate Brent and I played a game of this (his first and my second attempt). Due to time constraints and our learning and relearning the rules, we were unable to complete the game. Yet, we both came away with a great liking for the system and have vowed to tackle it again in the near future...even to use it as a basis for a miniature campaign.
For this game, Brent played the Papists and I took on the Protestant cause.
Tilly is in Bavaria, with an allied Imperial Army facing against a Hungarian Uprising army on the right. The Spanish, under Spinola, are placed to respond to any Protestant movements in and around the UP. The Saxon King George was sitting pretty, in his capital, awaiting Protestant movements. My main forces were in Bohemia, ready to move in any direction. This is the starting position for both sides in the long war scenario.
Turn 5 starts with the Imperials under Wallenstein recruiting and splitting into two field armies. My thrust into Austria worked, unfortunately I've stirred a hornet's nest. Denmark enters the war, but Christian remains in Denmark (I had no way to activate him to come south as I needed my cards to keep the pressure on the Catholics). Another Spanish general arrives in theater and threatens Baden. I had tried to retake a fortress in the Upper Palatinate, the previous turn, but the Bavarians relieved the siege and were able to concentrate on home group.
I was down to just a seven of the Early War cards, at this point, meaning that I had the same batch of cards at hand and could not risk using anymore of the Use and Remove event cards that I had. Luckily, I did possess some high Aid Point cards (needed to pay my troops) and also a couple of cards that hurt the Catholics' in paying their own troops, even when on home territory. This severely limited Brent's ability to come out after me. He was not prevented from doing so completely, as we shall see, but it did force him to make tough decisions.
Essentially, the Imperials came out to play in Bohemia and Moravia. Partially as I goaded Brent into doing so and mainly because that was the only sound play he had, due to the limited cards we had in hand (at the beginning of Turn 7 we would have each received about 20 additional Intervention cards).
The Imperials came at me in two prongs, one with Wallenstein and the other with Picclomini; my smallish army was just outside a fortress in Bohemia. As luck would have it, Wallenstein was killed, but he was immediately replaced by Picclomini, leaving some other general (whose name I forget) in charge of the eastern prong. I tie the first field battle, the one which sees Wallenstein fall, but lose the second, forcing me to retreat (I could have opted to go into the fortress, but doing so is very risky as I could lose the army and any generals on a good Catholic die roll). Meanwhile, the Bavarians are heavily recruiting. I pull the Brunswickers over to cover the Protestants in Saxony.
And time runs out...
Normally, once going, the turns run about 20 minutes in length. However, Brent had not played and so we discussed the rules of the game before hand and then had to look up a few things where I could not find a specific way to resolve a rules question. I eventually discovered these and we were able to proceed.
I really liked the mechanisms for this game. In my first outting, I was the Catholics and had done quite well, but we later realized we had totally screwed up the logistical side of the game, which Brent and I ended up getting right.
Although this game is out of print, currently, it is available through such places as Boardgamegeek.com (which is where I got mine). GMT is out of additional counters and partially out of the cards, so make sure that any seller has a COMPLETE game, before purchasing. I was missing one card, one counter, and both dice, but GMT covered me with their last bits and bobs on the shelf. The only quibble I have about the game is that it is strictly a two-player game. The cards for the card activation mechanism just don't lend themselves into opening this up to a three or four player game.
I vowed to them that I would be ordering more of their games, and have already pre-ordered a reprint of For the People which is expected in the next six months or so. I may also pick up Hannibal, when I can.
Brent has two DBR armies for this period and he and I are looking at using the map and some of the mechanisms for running a small miniature campaign.