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Subject: One playtester's opinion of Cruel Necessity rss

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Wes Erni
United States
Wisconsin
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I posted this on the comments section of Cruel Necessity, and (an hour later), realized that I had overdone it again, and wrote something more appropriate for this forum. One thing I should add, is that the game really rewards (and punishes) your level of play. This greatly increases my enjoyment of the game, but others might prefer more randomness to "mix" things up.

I was a playtester. Cruel Necessity is an ambitious attempt to add many dimensions to the tried and true "State of Siege" structure. It is a complete success on almost every level.

Dimension 1: The Campaign arena. At first glance, the map offers fewer "spokes" to the SOS "wheel" than normal -- looks can be deceiving. Each front has additional nuance, and almost a "3D" feel. Fortresses, Revolts, battle results, micro-and macro Politics, and Economics are all modeled with great elegance -- layered on seamlessly to the basic format.

Dimension 2: The Political track. "Off-board" Tracks have been utilized before -- but never have they been so integrated together, with their own unique "topography". Every part of every track has its own "raison detre" and must be "massaged" to achieve optimum results.

Dimension 3: Achievements. This is a totally unique game element. On the surface, it is attempt to model long-term "paradigm shifts" to England's political future. At first I resisted this dimension, and stubbornly found ways to win "in spite" of these distracting Achievements. Eventually, both the game (and me) evolved, and I see Achievements as much more than chrome -- but another rich gaming dimension, that has a wide variety of strategic options.

Dimension 4: Tactical battles. Never has a "State of Siege" game attempted to fight out individual battles. The system is clean, and very popular. Personally, I find it is something that is "experienced", rather than driven by my decision making, so I can't rave about this dimension. But Cruel Necessity offers an optional quick way to resolve battles as well, so there really is no down-side to this dimension.

Non game-play dimensions: This isn't make or break for me -- but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the components are excellent (the Fortress concept was instantly grafted on to my next game design), and the level of historical research surpasses John Welch's usual stellar performance. I have been a military historian for 40 years, and my knowledge of the era tripled (at least), just by perusing the game.

Quibbles: There is a lack of "death tension". Cruel Necessity models history almost too well, in that careful players will always make it to the end. There are few heart-stopping "near death" experiences. Doesn't mean you automatically win the game -- just that you won't lose till the end. Compensating however, is that there are innumerable "monkey-wrenches" that can foil your carefully laid plans.

Cruel necessity offers far more "Action points" than any other SOS game (giving players more control), but the bewildering array of options make this a very deep game to play. There are very distinct personal "styles" that can be seen -- each with their own pluses and minuses (after 20+ games, my approach is very successful in winning, but I have never won a Decisive victory, nor will I ever).

I only lightly playtested the Scenarios -- the Campaign game is just too good to ignore. If you have 3 hours (2 hours with experience), I heartily recommend the "full treatment" -- one of the best gaming (not just solitaire) experiences that I have had.
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Brad Heath
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Looking forward to this Wes. I've always had an interest in the English Civil Wars, painting up a couple of 15mm miniature armies years ago and playing games such as Clash of Arms English Civil Wars. Being primarily a solitaire gamer this will really scratch my ECW itch!
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Dave Daffin
United Kingdom
Ledbury
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Thanks Wes, you've made me even more happier now I've read this game review!

The fact this game was so long in gestation and has had a great deal of testing gives an assurance that it is a robust game.

It sounds like there will be a large number of gaming hours to be had with Cruel Necessity.
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John Smales
United States
Rome
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Colonel Peter Gansevoort (1749 – 1812) Defender of Ft. Stanwix, Rome, N.Y., 1777
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I appreciate your candid review, Wes, and more than ever I'm intrigued by the mechanics and subject matter of the game. I've been waiting for this release since I pre-ordered the multi-game on GMT. My prediction is that KING CHARLES is going to be "unhappy" about this new game getting a lot more table time than its cousin--I can always talk myself into playing when a window of an hour or two opens up! The SOS system is evolving and I think this is a wise move for VPG. Congratulations to all who participated in bringing CN to fruition.

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Wes Erni
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I echo these sentiments. I only came on board this project at the tail end of a 4 year odyssey, but it was enough time to appreciate the immense amount of effort it absorbed.

Playtesting Cruel Necessity was kind of like a "dream job" (other than that not getting paid part). I was given a great game -- but like so many cool games, it had flaws. Usually, it would be "crack" the game, sigh, and move on to another. Not here -- the very responsive VPG team reacted instantly, and I had new puzzle to solve. After some very satisfying puzzle-solving, with a dedicated playtest team, an endlessly patient designer (John), and hyper-active (in a good way) developer (Alan) --I think a glittering gem emerged.

Being a small cog in such a successful project is rewarding in itself, but I also have a great new game to play -- I guess I did get paid.
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Alan Emrich
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"My prediction is that KING CHARLES is going to be "unhappy" about this new game getting a lot more table time than its cousin..."

Well, if Charles Vasey, the designer of UNHAPPY KING CHARLES, does a review of CRUEL NECESSITY and doesn't seem to like it, perhaps the by line of that review might read, "Unhappy King Charles Vasey..."?

;-)

Alan Emrich

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