Monday, 23 January 2012

States of Siege - the solitaire engine from Victory Point Games

Victory Point Games has a solitaire engine called States of Siege. They use it in many of their solitaire tabletop board games.

One of those games is Empires in America which I have had in my possession for a few years, but not really played it much - not until now. Below is a brief review of Empires in America.


Empires in America - brief review

Background
The game in action! I later won this game!
The game is about the French and Indian War (1754-62). The solitaire player controls the French, and must defend Montreal from the British forces slowly closing in from several directions. And that is actually what the States of Siege engine is all about - an enemy closing in from several directions, at the same time, and the player must do everything it takes to stop him, usually with a scarce number of countermeasures at hand.

Components
As with Victory Point Games, they are hand made. Cards/counters/maps/etc are printed and cut by hand. Might put a few off, others won't care. I must say that I actually like the idea of components crafted in this genuine manner - you can feel the love put into it. Everything is carefully and nicely packaged. And regarding the art -  I think it is colorful and attractive - no complaints there.

Gameplay
The rulebook takes a few readings before nailing the rules - especially the card locations. A card can be in one of seven different places (e.g. your hand, removed, discarded, bottomed etc). A little confusing at first, but something that you get used to after a few plays. Apart from that, the rulebook is very nicely laid out, and easy to navigate.

Gameplay is fun! And tense. You have a lot of decision making to do. The game is quite hard to beat. It is extremely frustrating to see all the British forces closing in on Montreal from all directions, but having so little space of maneuvering, so you can't stop them all.

The game rules are of low complexity. Game play is around 30-45 min.

The good
* Fun and engaging. A lot of decision making.
* High replayability. There is a big randomness around the pile of cards drawn. And since the cards drive the game, game play will look differently each time playing. A very good thing.
* Nice looking art.
* Very clear rulebook.
* Small footprint, and good when traveling - light and small in size!

The bad
* A minor complaint: There is a rule saying that if the British has two or more Leaders (haven't brought Leaders up in this review, but basically, they are a good thing and you need them!) than the French has (when starting the British phase), and a similar rule saying that if the French has two or more Leaders than the British has (when starting the French phase), then Leaders must be sacked, so that the gap in power between the two nations won't get too big. I don't like those kind of rules. I don't like it when the game system prevents one player to get too strong by comparing to the other player's power. Such power regulations should be handled by other means, within the system itself. It's hard to connect such action historically, or into the real world. Why would a winning, more powerful side of a conflict reduce its power because of the other side being weak - that is a great opportunity for offensive actions!

Conclusion
Despite the minor complaint, the game is excellent! I love it! And I would recommend it to any solitaire wargamer. I cannot compare it other games in the States of Siege series, since this is the only game I own in that series. But that is about to change... see below!


States of Siege - future (from my point of view)

* GMT Games and Victory Point Games has a strategic partnership, meaning that GMT releases some VPG games. Currently on GMT's P500 (pre-order) list, there is a game called Revolt and Revolution, which is three States of Siege games in one box! And with GMT's fine quality, mounted boards etc, this can't be bad! I have signed up on that one. I really hope it collects enough pre-orders to be published.

* Levee en Masse, which is a States of Siege game, will be developed for Android/iOS. I found the news here (The Gaming Gang) and here (BoardGameGeek). I'm an Android user, so this is wonderful news!

So, this means, more States of Siege for me in the future! Hopefully, at least one of the above products will be in my hands during 2012. Can't wait!