$10.00
Recommend
177 
 Thumb up
 Hide
34 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Maria» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Why Maria is my #2 wargame rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Wargame [+] interesting [+] [View All]
Justus Pendleton
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Maria's rules clock in at a svelte nine pages, you can go read them for yourself.

Table of Contents
1. Mise-en-scène, or, the setting of the game
2. Substratum, or, what makes Maria exciting to play
3. Epistles providing a résumé of my tastes, or, why you might disagree with me

1. Mise-en-scène

1740.

Emperor Charles VI has eaten a meal of deathcap mushrooms and died leaving no male heirs. However, he has spent decades working to overturn 1,200-years of Salic law of Europe. His life work, the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, saw the monarchs of Europe agree to allow his female heir to inherit all of his property. So it is that the 23-year old Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina becomes the first and only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions; the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma.

Prussia, France, Saxony, and Bavaria promptly break their agreement to the Pragmatic Sanction and invade Austria.

Quote:
"I found myself without money, without credit, without army, without experience and knowledge of my own and finally, also without any counsel because each one of them at first wanted to wait and see how things would develop."



Maria Theresa rules for 40 years. She's better at running Austria than I am.

Three players struggle against one another for military and political supremacy in a tangled web of shifting, vague alliances for three to six hours.

2. Substratum

There is a quote from the rulebook of the recently released Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan that is equally appropriate for Maria:

Quote:
Wargames usually achieve accuracy through weight. We forgive a game complexity if it provides greater realism. But what kind of realism is best? It may seem realistic to list precisely the fighting value of every unit, or draw from a deck of historical events, but the commanders in the war were never privy to such knowledge. ... Fidelity must be declared to realism of 'details' or realism of experience; this design has favored the latter.


Nine Things I Love About Maria


What's Khevenhuller hiding?

1. Maria, much more than most wargames, is a game of hidden information. You never know the true strength of the opposing army you face. This is accomplished via both a hidden card hand and hidden army sizes; there are no chits telling you that you're about to attack a 4-4 army. This lack of information means engagements are extremely tense, especially early on. You start out in a near complete fog of war. You know your strengths but not your opponents'. As the War progresses you gradually acquire that information, a neat effect that occurs without the need for separate "scouting" rules, though it is never perfect and complete. Bluffing plays a much larger role in Maria than most other wargames I have played.


Saxony betrays Prussia...

2. Maria integrates politics in a novel way. Most wargames go the CDG route when they want to bring an element of politics into the gameplay. In Maria the politics is still railroaded via pre-determined event cards (e.g. the War of Jenkins' Ear card will always come up) divided into four decks (one for each year of the war) but auction mechanism feels more satisfying to me than traditional CDGs. Rather than events being determined by who gets dealt the card, they are determined by who most want them to happen (or not happen) via the sealed auction.


Europe has a lot of cities. Really.

3. It is a point-to-point movement system but it offers a much greater "map density" than maps in that style. The end result is that it feels like it has the openness and fluidity of a hex grid but without having tons of terrain movement modifiers that you have to look up. In effect (and much like Napoleon's Triumph) the terrain modifiers are built into the map itself. This keeps me involved in the game.



4. Combat is vaguely similar to Hannibal in that resolution is done via a quick round of card play. Unlike Hannibal, you know your cards before you engage in combat. Also unlike Hannibal, your "tactics cards" carry over from combat to combat. This opens up some additional nuance in card play. Maria Theresa may not want to go all out against France because she wants to save some cards to use with Arenberg over in the Netherlands.


Wait, where are the twelve different bits of information?

5. Simple, unified systems. Cards have multiple uses -- politics, combat, winter recruiting -- but it all falls under a single metaphor and a single number. This gives the game an uncluttered aesthetic, making me feel like I'm focusing on the big picture -- like Louis XV or Frederick the Great would be doing -- rather than squinting to make out a half-dozen icons on my cards. The complexity comes from the interactions with the other players rather than the mechanisms of the game itself.

(That said, there are times in the game where you will feel constrained in your card play. You have to play every Club you have because losing this battle would be catastrophic. Or you only have 3 Spades so you're not able to finesse the battle very much. I think the larger handsize in Friedrich leaves more room for "clever" card play. (At least when you're playing as Frederick.))


Someone will be unhappy shortly.

6. The winner of a battle gets to retreat the loser of the battle. I like this "loss of control"; you lost the battle, you don't get to move your defeated army into a favorable position for yourself. It also does a nice job of "simulating" the loss of morale and cohesion a defeated army has without extra chromey rules. Being retreated four spaces by your opponent is often worse than the mere casualties of the battle; you'll find yourself out of supply, off of main roads, away from your axis of advance, leaving supply lines weakly defended, and so on.


Stick close to your Supply Train

7. The supply rules are simple but effective. There is a constant tension between your desire to move quickly with your armies but needing to keep your line of supply back to your slow moving Supply Train secure. Push too hard and you'll be at the mercy of hussars interdicting your supply. Stick too close to your Supply Train and your offensive will move like molasses, taking pressure off of your opponents. Is this the turn you move Schwerin quickly, pushing deep into Silesia but leaving your supplies tenuous?


Three sides battle over Austria

8. The game does a great job of balancing the three players against one another. The "schizophrenic" role of the Frederick player -- allied with France, enemy of Austria in one theatre of operations; allied with Austria, enemy of France in another theatre of operations -- is the key that keeps the game from being merely a game of 2-against-1. Yes, France and Prussia are "allies" but they don't have identical goals and so their quest for individual victory works better than in many multiplayer wargames. In many games, allies work together too effectively. In one simple stroke, by having the Pragmatics controlled by the same player that controls Prussia, the game largely solves that problem.

It doesn't solve it perfectly, though. Especially in first plays, it is often hard for people to escape from the "crush Austria at all costs" approach. It often isn't a winning strategy because it can turn the game into a race between Prussia and France where the winner is decided by luck; you weaken Austria in one turn and your opponent capitalises on that to seize victory. Even with more subtle play by the players, the game isn't perfectly balanced. This is basically a fact of life of games but it may affect your enjoyment of Maria.

"Balance" is a hard thing. Are you balanced when 3 newbies play? Balanced when 3 experts play? The playtesting hurdles of assuring "balance" in a 3-player game that runs for 3--5 hours must be tough. Even relatively "simple" games like Mr. Jack often turn out fairly unbalanced: after 14,000 recorded games the win-loss percentage in Mr. Jack tilts 59/41. The 143 plays of the 2009 Paths of Glory tournament showed a 52/41 split in favor of the CP. By 2007, Wargameroom had found that the USSR was winning 60% of the Twilight Struggle games played. Hannibal seems much closer with a 52/48 split in favor of Carthage. Here I Stand suffers from a rush of Hapsburg and English victories when newbies are playing.

Maria appears to suffer from similar problems. After 131 games tracked on BGG the winning splits are 37.4% for Charles XV (France + Bavaria), 40.5% for Frederick (Prussia + Pragmatics), and only 22.1% for Maria Theresa (Austria). Some people will love the challenge that represents. Some people will wish for a tweak to game balance. I personally think those numbers are hard to argue with and would love it if Richard Sivel addressed the problem in some way (some mechanism to increase Austria's starting hand, maybe?) but haven't found the imbalance severe enough to really hamper my enjoyment.


Austria doesn't mind retreating here...
9. The tactical retreat feels much more viable an option in Maria than any other wargame I've played. There will be lots and lots of times in Maria where accepting a minor loss is a far better option than pushing hard for victory. It is strangely satisfying to deny your opponent the major victory they were so confident of. I like a game where losing a battle can still feel like a strategic victory.

Epistles providing a résumé of my tastes

I have played Maria 10 times. I've played five games via VASSAL and five games face-to-face. I reckon that's more than most but not as many as some. I've played as Maria Theresa twice, Frederick II four times, and Louis XV four times. I've won 3 or 4 of those 10 games, so clearly I still have a lot to learn.

I like wargames. The simulation aspect of the game is of pretty low value to me. I am not enamored of massive rule books with lots of chrome. I have enjoyed my plays of Paths of Glory but my preference runs toward shorter and simpler games. I'm not too fussed about any particular period of history, though I have a slight root-for-the-underdog bias for anything in the "not WW2" pile.
  • [+] Dice rolls
"L'état, c'est moi."
Canada
Vancouver
BC
flag msg tools
admin
designer
Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
badge
Caution: May contain wargame like substance
mb
A lovely review. Maria really is one of the best three player games out there, full stop.
26 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Thompson
England
Winchester
Hampshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
I've had this unplayed on my shelves for months. I can't find opponents, really frustrating. Any novice players out there fancy a game via vassal?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric O. LEBIGOT
China
Beijing
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Congratulations on this review: I love reviews that are lucid and to-the-point like your (as much as I like shorter rulebooks with streamlined rules ). Thank you!
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Vlad Balica
Romania
Bucuresti
Bucuresti
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
hoostus wrote:
I'm not too fussed about any particular period of history, though I have a slight root-for-the-underdog bias for anything in the "not WW2" pile.


I'm thinking more and more to start playing/buying wargames and this is my exact feeling. Never been interested in WW2 for some reason and I'm really glad to see that the number of non-WW2 games is increasing lately.

You did a great job, man! Maria will probably be my first wargame, and your review convinced me I have to get it much sooner than I was planning.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David
New Zealand
Auckland
flag msg tools
May the Great Spirit Bless all who read this.
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. I was looking at Maria and was going to bypass it, now you have put it back on the watch list.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
M. S.
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
mbmb
Nice review, thanks. If I had more than one person to play this with I think I would buy this game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex H.
Germany
Aachen
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Very nice review, Justus.
Looking forward to Vassal-based game no 6. It seems to me this will be the perfect opportunity to prove to us that Austria has no disadvantage.





One small typo:
Quote:
I've played five games via VASSAL and give games face-to-face.

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Gage
United States
Bend
Oregon
flag msg tools
mb
Informative review on all fronts but one: what is your #1 wargame?
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex H.
Germany
Aachen
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Remediator wrote:
Informative review on all fronts but one: what is your #1 wargame?


My bet is on Napoleon's Triumph.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kristofer Nilsson
Sweden
Stenungsund
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Very well written! Have a GG.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
mukul patel
United Kingdom
london
flag msg tools
I agree with your good feeling towards this game, a great description of a great game.

But i am not sure i really like the system you comment on upon in section 6 of your review.

I don't think it right that the winner of a "battle" should determine the retreat path of the loser. I think the losers retreat path should be a synthesis of decisions by the winner and loser. Mainly because this is more in tune with what I think happened?

(Such as loser takes the first retreat move then the winner determines the next part and so on).

On battles and very off topic, I tend to think of battle as not being a single battle but a whole series on marches feints lurches stabs, political interference and so , not just a straight up fight.

Oh yes and what a wonderful game. Not all my friends agree with me, but we all got opinions.





1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Humulus Lupulus
United States
Waltham
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
6. The winner of a battle gets to retreat the loser of the battle.


mukul wrote:
But i am not sure i really like the system you comment on upon in section 6 of your review.

I don't think it right that the winner of a "battle" should determine the retreat path of the loser. I think the losers retreat path should be a synthesis of decisions by the winner and loser. Mainly because this is more in tune with what I think happened?


It's not quite that simple in Maria. The winner gets to retreat the loser, but with the restriction that the losing general must retreat the furthest possible.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justus Pendleton
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Remediator wrote:
Informative review on all fronts but one: what is your #1 wargame?


Yes, it is Napoleon's Triumph.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Loscutoff
msg tools
We tend to have a very talkative table during Maria and everything else, which really plays into the political nature of this game.

In my opinion, Austria has a much better chance once players are more experienced and understand Austria's weak starting position. An Austrian player should be quick to remind his opponents that whoever attacks him first is giving points to the third party. An agressive Prussia will drain the Austrian hand, but it is France that has the first chance to exploit that weakness (and vis versa).

That said, I think that a winning strategy with Austria needs to exploit hussars. It might take a few turns to get in position, but both France and Prussia will usually be FAR from home countries with only a small number of supply trains. This with a clever defense can force discards of 15 points from the hussars.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'd dismissed this game (and Friedrich) as not for me.

What put me off was the playing card mechanism, which seemed cheap to me, I mean they give you a boardgame with a deck of cards?

I still think they should have replaced the (what's called in english...) houses ? by some different symbol.
It would have been little trouble and taken away the playing card feel.

But I'm not starting to get it and am even considering buying this.
Untill I than discovered it is a 3 player game????


Wonder if it's a papermap and how large it is, as I dont'do inches....
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Thompson
England
Winchester
Hampshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
sagitar wrote:
I'd dismissed this game (and Friedrich) as not for me.

What put me off was the playing card mechanism, which seemed cheap to me, I mean they give you a boardgame with a deck of cards?

I still think they should have replaced the (what's called in english...) houses ? by some different symbol.
It would have been little trouble and taken away the playing card feel.

But I'm not starting to get it and am even considering buying this.
Untill I than discovered it is a 3 player game????


Wonder if it's a papermap and how large it is, as I dont'do inches....


I love the playing cards. It's not a standard deck, and has great artwork.

The game is 3 player, which for me means it doesn't get played nearly as often as I'd like.

The board is mounted. A website called google.com can convert inches to units of your choice. For instance it's (1.8109459 × 10^-17) by (2.71641885 × 10-17) parsecs. I hope this helps.
24 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Brier
United States
Aventura
Florida
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
sagitar wrote:

Wonder if it's a papermap


This game has incredible production quality. Not only is the board mounted and beautifully illustrated, but the back side of the board illustrates the actual geographical positions of the two map segments used in the game. The production quality is overall stunning; that shouldn't be a concern.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
flag msg tools
...much that he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards. Those are always the best and raciest adventures...
badge
... a picked body of Toads, known as the Die-hards, or the Death-or-Glory Toads, will storm the orchard and carry everything before them, yelling for vengeance.
mbmbmb
sagitar wrote:
Wonder if it's a papermap and how large it is, as I dont'do inches....

You don't do inches? Okay, it's 1.83 feet by 2.75 feet.
20 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Well the game shouldn't do inches either, I mean itplays in Europe..right.

I can't help becomming ever more interested in the gamne.
a 36 euro [$49] pricetag sure helps.

But this 3 player games sure is a bit of a hurdle.

Is it no good with two? anyone tried it?
Solo is probably not an option, not with the hidden armies.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
flag msg tools
...much that he related belonged more properly to the category of what-might-have-happened-had-I-only-thought-of-it-in-time-instead-of-ten-minutes-afterwards. Those are always the best and raciest adventures...
badge
... a picked body of Toads, known as the Die-hards, or the Death-or-Glory Toads, will storm the orchard and carry everything before them, yelling for vengeance.
mbmbmb
sagitar wrote:
Well the game shouldn't do inches either, I mean itplays in Europe..right.

Yes, but in Europe before the metric system was invented.

I haven't played it with two players, so can't comment. I suspect it's better with three. Although that may not be a common number to have for a wargame, it's certainly nice to have one on the shelves when it does happen!
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:

sagitar wrote:
I can't help becomming ever more interested in the gamne.
a 36 euro [$49] pricetag sure helps.


You don't do inches but you convert dollars for us?


I'm a nice guy.... weird, but nice...


Quote:
If you know 2 other people that would even occasionally be available to play I would strongly suggest getting this game. There is no other 3 player game that is as good in my book.


You may have convinced me.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ryan Nip
Hong Kong
Taipo
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
sagitar wrote:
I still think they should have replaced the (what's called in english...) houses ? by some different symbol.

I had also asked myself this question before.
In fact, Richard Sivel had addressed this issue in the Designer's Notes of Friedrich, the predecessor of Maria :-
Quote:
It took a long time for me to finally decide whether to use the traditional French suits for the cards (spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts) or whether I should introduce new ones just for the game (e.g. tricorn, sabre, boots, horseshoes). I opted for the traditional suits. The reasons were: a) The French suits were in use in the era represented in the game; b) French was the lingua franca of the era and particularly of Frederick; c) Sentences like “I will enter horseshoes now” or “You tricorn; me boots” just sounded ridiculous; and d) Why should I reinvent the wheel and introduce unnecessary terminology and add confusion? — As a side note, traditionally spades were a symbol of the sword, clubs of power, hearts the church, and diamonds money.
(translation by Bowen Simmons)

I very much appreciate his thorough consideration over the suit issue.

12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freddy Dekker
Netherlands
Friesland
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Ryan,

The traditional meaning of the symbols, makes the whole thing more acceptable to me.

Indeed I will admit when I looked at this first it felt like a mechanic use just to save money and it really put me off both games.

Others have now convinced me I'd miss out on a great game if I avoid it's purchase just because of the suit issue, so it's back on my [too long] to buy list.laugh

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Thompson
England
Winchester
Hampshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
sagitar wrote:

Others have now convinced me I'd miss out on a great game if I avoid it's purchase just because of the suit issue, so it's back on my [too long] to buy list.laugh


Assuming you can track down a copy.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.