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Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar» Forums » Reviews

Subject: I Keep On Falling rss

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The Mirror
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Preamble and Disclaimers:

It's difficult to write a review of what may be the most cherished game in my collection. This is not only because being objective can be quite difficult under these circumstances, but also because it seems like this game has already garnered extremely high praises from a number of others, so what more is there to say? Guess we'll have to see! Will say that I don't have much background in war games or COIN games until recently when I played a Cuba Libre with a friend. Decided to pick up Falling Sky just to create more game diversity in my group.

As usual, I will not go into great detail regarding rules or components. Because the rules are nuanced and fairly difficult to explain (there's already a Rule Book and an introductory play-through provided with the game itself and online here: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-503-falling-sky-the-gallic-revolt...) however I may touch upon some intellectual approaches to the game which may help new players wrap their head around what this game offers a bit more quickly.

As for the components, they are quite solid, embossed wood pieces, mounted map (which is only of note to wargamers who will play games on paper maps...), cardboard chits, and heavy paper player mats (which some have complained about, presumably not those used to playing tactical hex games on paper maps, because the stock is considerably better than those tend to be unless you're particularly a fan of glossy finishes).

Introductory Headspace:

When teaching this game, something that I've had to do several times now because I've wanted to play multiplayer games and have no wargame friends, I tend to put a strong emphasis on explaining the theme of the game, deprioritizing attempts to win decisively, and explained the individual mechanics, drives and early strategies of each faction. This is a game where Euro fans will have to shake some fundamental preconceptions: you can not maximize this system in terms of efficiency, the deck is too chaotic, and the engine building type will feel constantly like they are being disrupted and annoyed. That said, battles can be planned out fairly well in advance because the mechanics are deterministic, and broad stroke strategies are ultimately beneficial even if tactical decisions are shifting with with Event Deck. This game provides a lot of strategic options, and often quite a number of tactical options, but compared to the other COIN games I've played (Cuba Libre, Liberty or Death and A Distant Plain) there seems to be less operational/rules-based complication, which as a person with a background in heavier Euro games is an easier problem to deal with than feeling completely married to the rules book for exceptions. But more or less I find the richness of the theme here with a willing student to be mutually exciting helping players to learn the ins and outs of their factions abilities and how their motivations which I paraphrase from the playbook should motivate them strategically in the long term and tactically in the short term.

Skirting the Issue of Gameplay:

In my 13 or so plays of Falling Sky, it never ceases to amaze me the degree to which I get swept up in the theme, controlling the powerful Roman army with Caesar to make strategic pushes through Celtica and Belgica to subdue the various Gallic tribes or undermine the influence of the Germanic tribes. Or rallying the people of Gaul as Vercingetorix and the Averni into mitigating the economic influence of the Aduai in order to pick away at the Roman legions. And what is so fascinating about all of this to me, is the my only interest in the Ancients before this was as a young philosophy student reading Aristotle and Plato, a far cry from the military history of the late Roman republic. And yet here I am playing a game of economics, warfare and history. Not to mention that my previous love of games related more to engine building and strategic efficiency rather than thematic immersion. In fact previous attempts at engaging thematic games such as the highly rated (on BGG) Robinson Crusoe, T.I.M.E. Stories, and Dead of Winter left me feeling under stimulated. There is an interesting set of mechanical constraints at play here (as with all of the COIN games that I've played) where there's more chaos in the card reveals than I previously would have found engaging yet there are so many meaty and important decision to make that it simply feels mechanically deep and the historical nuance keeps it from ever floating off into the realm of silliness.

Conclusions:

Every game of Falling Sky feels like an event, a trait it seems to have inherited from its COIN lineage. Yet from a game design perspective it feels like a distinct improvement, with slight mechanical changes shifting the balance of cognition out of the realm of rules confusion and fiddly exceptions and I found that you can far more quickly put your energy into playing the stories of the game and playing out well considered strategies, dealing with the cards' disruptions as they come rather than feeling whipped from event to event. This is not to imply that the earlier games are worse, I feel like the entry to really start playing the game happens at an earlier point, and as a result it is perhaps the best entry point into the system. This does in my mind feel like a mechanical refinement but for some it may be at the expense of historicity. As I mentioned above, Falling Sky as swiftly risen in my estimation as one of the most loved games in my collection. It doesn't hurt that given a free afternoon and evening it makes a great solo play, controlling all factions or using the AI to control the opponents. For a Euro gamer comfortable with heavier games and looking for something a bit more immersive I think that this would be an excellent gateway.
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Henry Rodriguez
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mirror33 wrote:
And yet here I am playing a game of economics, warfare and history. Not to mention that my previous love of games related more to engine building and strategic efficiency rather than thematic immersion. In fact previous attempts at engaging thematic games such as the highly rated (on BGG) Robinson Crusoe, T.I.M.E. Stories, and Dead of Winter left me feeling under stimulated


Great review! I will say from my experience, you will be hard pressed to find a better set of games for thematic immersion than wargames. Certainly some wargames may be so rules dense that a newbie might not see the forest for the trees, but no class of boardgames has theme shine through game play like wargames.
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Glenn Martin
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I still wish there was a tiny corner of brittany marked off as neutral to represent a small village of Gauls and their local menhir salesman.
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The Mirror
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fluffyevil wrote:
I still wish there was a tiny corner of brittany marked off as neutral to represent a small village of Gauls and their local menhir salesman.


Asterix?
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Jim F
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Obelix surely...
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Glenn Martin
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Maybe the expansion will have something.
 
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The Mirror
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fluffyevil wrote:
Maybe the expansion will have something.


Not to deadpan through this whole comedy routine, but I actually just found, somewhere out there, the complete Asterix books as PDFs and it's funny, the whole story line takes place immediately after the events of Falling Sky and our friend Vercingetorix has a little cameo on page one or two of the first book.

Haven't read these since I was a kid, but I may sneak them in as before bed reading.

Also, the expansion is a prequel to the base game, so I'm not sure it will touch on the subject.

:-|
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