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Subject: "Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them..." rss

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Mitch Willis
United States
Kathleen
Georgia
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Overview
Victory & Honor is a unique 4-player trick taking game that can be played either as a partnership or cutthroat. It’s designed by Ty Douds and was published by Jolly Rogers Games in 2004. The premise of the game is to score points by taking tricks, contesting 3 separate tricks at a time. The player or partnership to capture the most points is the winner. Game time for us has averaged around an hour. There are 2 official ways to play; you can play the basic game or you can add some cards and play with the Honor variant. This review will go through the basic game first and have a separate section covering the Honor variant.



Out of the Box
The game comes in a small box with 52 cards (40 Regiment cards and 12 Honor cards), 16 colored wooden cubes (4 of each color) and four folding cardboard battle boards depicting the trick positions (left flank, center, and right flank). The cards and cubes are evenly distributed in red, green, yellow, and black colors. There are 10 Regiment cards of each suit, numbered from 1 to 7, in addition to a 1-, 2-, and 3-star General. There are 3 Honor cards of each suit, each depicting a drum, bugle, and banner. Victory & Honor has an American Civil War theme, with the cards and battle boards nicely illustrated with period photographs and drawings. The theme, while not absolutely essential to game play, is very well integrated into the game. On the downside, the rules can be a hard read, and one of the examples of play given in the manual is incorrect.



Setup
Each player takes a battle board and 4 wooden cubes, one of each color. All 40 Regiment cards are dealt out, 10 to each player. If playing a partnership, partners must sit across from one another. A starting player is chosen randomly.



Game Play
Each game consists of 4 rounds with each round consisting of 3 battles (phases). During a player’s turn, one card must be played on one of the three positions (left flank, center, or right flank). Once played, every player must put a cube, matching the color of the card just played, in the same position on their battle board. For example, if the first player placed a red card on the right flank, all players would take their red cube and place it on their right flank. This is a reminder to the players that when they make a play on their right flank, it must be a red card. Who plays next is determined by where the current player places his card. For example, if he/she plays in the center position, the player sitting across from him/her plays next. Likewise, if played on the left or right flank, then the next player would be the person sitting to that player’s left or right, respectively. If there arises a situation where it comes to a player’s turn whose battle board is already full, then play goes clockwise from that position.

Once there is a colored cube in each of the 3 positions, there will be one colored cube that will not be used; this color then becomes trump. For example, if black is in the center, red on the left flank, and yellow on the right flank, then green would be the trump for that round. Whenever you play a card in a position where you don’t have that color, you must play a different color card (it could be trump but doesn’t have to be) face down; these are called “sacrificed cards.”

Play continues until all players’ battle boards have a card in each position; this ends the current battle. Each of the three tricks are resolved and the captured cards are doled out accordingly. Aside from special cards (which we’ll examine later), tricks are decided by rank; the higher value card in each position will capture all cards in that position. For example, to decide the center (which has a red block), Al has a red 2-star general in the center, Joe has a red 6, Jane a red 1, and Jim a yellow (not trump) 3, then Al would capture all cards in the center position. If in the previous example, yellow was trump, then Jim would win all center cards. Once the three tricks are decided, the battle boards are cleared and play continues with the next battle. The player who won the trick in the center position opens the next battle.

After the third battle of the round, each player will have one card left over. They keep this card and count it as captured, putting it along with any cards captured from previous battles during that round. Scores for that round are then calculated for each player; if playing partnership, the partners’ scores are added together and recorded. The cards are then reshuffled and the battle boards are cleared for the next round. The game ends after the completion of the 4th round, with the highest score, partnership or single player, winning.



Special Cards
There are three special cards in each suit that can affect game play. They are the 1 (Scout), the 4 (Artillery), and the 7 (Cavalry). When you play the Scout, you can tell the next player the position he/she has to play a card. For example, if you play a scout on your left flank, you can tell the person to your left to play a card in his/her center position, as long as that position is vacant at the time.

The Artillery card will bomb and automatically capture any card that it’s adjacent to. For example, if you placed an Artillery card on your right flank, it would capture the left flank card of the player to your right regardless of rank or color. The captured card would be collected at the end of the current battle before the trick is resolved. Note that Artillery cards cannot capture trump cards (or any sacrificed cards for that matter) in this fashion.

The Cavalry card, if it’s the last card played on a particular position, will flank that position and capture all cards played there, regardless of rank. For example, suppose on the left flank, Al has a black 1, Joe has black 6, and Jane has a black 3-star general and it’s your turn. Your left flank is vacant and you have the black 7 (Cavalry); you can turn the left flank by playing the Cavalry since it’s the last card played on that position. You’d capture all the other cards at the end of the battle when the tricks are resolved. Note that if there’s a trump played in that position, it takes precedent over a Cavalry card.



Scoring
Scoring is done at the end of each round. Each player sorts his captured cards by color. For each general, you get one point for each star. Troop cards (1 thru 7) only give you points if you capture a general of the same color; you get 1 point per troop card multiplied by the number of generals of matching color. For instance, say during a round you capture the following cards: red 2-star general, red 1-star general, red 7, red 3, red 1, yellow 5, yellow 3, green 1-star, green 3, green 2, and the black 3-star general. For red you’d get 3 points for the 3 stars of the 2 generals captured plus 6 points for the troop cards (3 troops X 2 generals) for a sum of 9 points. For yellow, you’d get no points at all; even though you’ve got 2 yellow troop cards, you have no yellow generals. For green, you get 1 point for the 1-star general plus 2 points for the 2 green troop cards (2 troops X 1 general) for a sum of 3 points. For black, you’d just get 3 points for the 3 stars of the captured general. So your total for the round would be 15 points (9+3+3); if you’re playing with a partner, you’d add his/her points to yours for an overall score for that round. It’s important to note that, in a partnership there are no community cards when scoring; you score your points separately and then add the scores together. For example, suppose you have a green 3-star general and a green 1-star general but no green troops cards and your partner has 4 green troop cards but no green generals. You would not score these cards together; you’d get 4 points for the 4 captured stars whereas your partner would get no points at all. Thus your partnership would score a total of 4 points for green cards.



Strategy
Strategy in Victory & Honor is somewhat different than in most trick taking games. If you have a powerful hand you still have to be careful; your highest ranking cards can be vulnerable not only to trump, but to Cavalry and Artillery as well. Also, while trump can be all powerful, you never know what suit trump will be until well after each battle begins.

First off, you don’t want to be too aggressive. You want to try and force the other players (or other team if playing partners) play first. A very helpful card in this instance is the Scout; you can play a Scout when it’s your turn and force another player to play in a position where play won’t come back immediately to you. It’s even more valuable in a partnership game, since you can force an opponent to play in a position where his team mate will have to play next. If you’re the last to play in a position, you have a better chance of capturing cards and/or winning tricks; you’re also less likely to lose a high ranking card (namely a general) to trumps, Artillery, or Cavalry.

When taking trump cards into consideration, you usually don’t have to worry about ‘em during the first battle. Therefore, it’s usually safer to play your higher ranked cards (i.e., 3-star generals) then as opposed to the 2nd and 3rd battles when trump is much more likely to appear.

As far as specialty cards go, you need to look for opportunities to maximize your Cavalry and Artillery while, at the same time, avoid having your generals being captured by them. If at all possible, don’t play your generals in positions where they’d be vulnerable (i.e., across from a potential enemy Artillery position or on a flank where an enemy Cavalry could still be played). Keeping track of what specialty cards of each color have been played can be quite useful in this regard. And, if you can prevent it, don’t use your specialty cards in situations where the cards you capture don’t bring you any value (i.e., no generals or troops in which you don’t have a matching general).

When playing partners, you need to keep a close eye on the cards your partner captures. If he captures lots of troops in one suit, try to slough off a general in that suit, if possible, on one of his tricks so that those troops will count towards his (and your) score. Conversely, if he’s captured generals in a particular suit, feeding him troops of that suit, when possible, would be beneficial to your overall score. Also keep track of what cards your partner plays; if you notice he’s out of a particular suit early, you can try to maneuver so that suit becomes trump later on in the battle or round.



Honor Variant
To be honest, we’ve yet to play with the Honor cards; we’ve had so much fun playing the basic version, and the fact that the basic game is a bit shorter as well, we just haven’t got around to playing the Honor variant yet. Any way, to play the Honor variant, you just add the Honor cards to the basic deck and shuffle ‘em together. When dealt out, each player would now have 13 cards apiece as opposed to 10, thus each round will now have 4 battles instead of 3. Honor cards have no rank and are considered the lowest cards of their color; each color has 3 Honor cards apiece, depicting a drum, a bugle, and a banner. The game is basically played the same but captured Honor cards give you points by collecting sets; capturing 4 of a kind (i.e., all four drums), all of one color (i.e., all red Honor cards), or one of each type (1 drum, 1 banner, and 1 bugle) give you points. Unlike troop and general cards, if you’re playing partners you can pool captured Honor cards for points. For example, if you captured 3 banners, and your partner captured 1, then you’d get 12 points for having a set of all 4 banners. These points would be added to whatever points were received for captured troop and general cards. Strategy wise, if playing with partners, this would make you pay even closer attention to what cards your partner has captured.



Conclusions
Being both an American Civil War buff and a fan of trick taking card games, Victory & Honor is a winner for me, particularly playing with partners. I find it fun, challenging, and refreshingly different from other trick taking games. It plays in a reasonable amount of time and incorporates the Civil War theme nicely. Aside from the unintuitive rulebook, my only minor gripe is an historical one; in the red suit, they have Pickett as the 3-star general and Longstreet as the 2-star. While Pickett may be more well known, in reality he was a subordinate division general serving under Longstreet in the Army of Northern Virginia’s 1st Corps. But I digress...I’m a Longstreet fan and that’s just the history buff in me being fiddly. In short, Victory & Honor is my favorite partnership trick taking game and resides in my personal top 10 games. I rate it a solid 9.


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