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Subject: Has Martin Wallace Sold His Soul To The Devil? rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Field of Glory: The Card Game



Two-player Military Conflict Card Game
Designed by Martin Wallace
Published by Treefrog Games (2013)




Let’s be brutally honest. No game designer can be all things to all people…not even Martin Wallace.

There was a time when Martin was viewed by many as a god (or at the very least ‘god-like’). He had a reputation for designing and published extremely interesting, well-conceived and well-developed games. His games tended to have a brutality to them – they would punish those who made poor decisions. His designs often gave people the chance to take out loans, which often only made the situation worse, as in some of the games repayment is either not allowed, or, if it is, only takes place at the end of the game after you have spent turn after turn paying exorbitant and userous interest rates.

Anyway, that was long ago.

Martin has come a long way since then. His reputation has undergone a transformation. While many still view him as god-like, others have seen him more as a ‘game pimp’, bringing out games of lesser quality. A small number have even described him as a ‘games-whore’, selling designs to anyone willing to pay him enough just to put his name on their box.

And then there was the move to New Zealand. Let’s not say any more about that.



Two weeks ago I purchased his most recent game, Field of Glory: The Card Game. Let me say, at this point, just to make my stance perfectly clear, anyone who can design FoG:TCG is a God.

When I opened the box I saw a small number of cards – close to 100. It may even be exactly 100, but this review doesn’t require that sort of precision. It also has a 4-page rulebook.

When I read the rules I thought it was going to be a bit fiddly to remember everything. I even went to the trouble of designing a player aid (if you download it please give me a thumb). That was actually unnecessary. You don’t need it. The game is very simple.

When I first taught it to someone, their initial reaction was, “It seems very light.” I think they were trying to be derogatory – interesting coming from a Martin Wallace fan.

We played it twice. It was light but I thought it was pleasant.
I taught it to someone else and played two more games.

In my second playing I started to see some of the beautiful subtlety that lies at the heart of the game.

By now I should tell you something about the game.



There are 9 terrain cards. 6 are plain and 3 are special terrain. The plain is always placed in the middle and the non-plain terrain goes at the edges. You start the game with five cards randomly placed across the table.

Each player is then given a deck of 48 cards. These contain a variety of troop types – elephants, cavalry, infantry, archers, pikemen, etc. Each troop type is rated by movement, combat and command. Each card also tells you how many of each type are in the deck. In addition, there are command, reserve and outflank cards. The cards are attractive and have ALL the information you need printed on them very clearly.
At the start of the game each player draws 4 cards from their deck, keeps two and tosses two. This is repeated until you have gone through the deck, leaving you with a deck of 24 cards that you will use.

The sequence of play is dead simple.
1. Victory check – if you control 3 of the 5 columns you win.
2. Advance – take control of columns in which you are unopposed
3. Flank attack – attack enemy columns where you have a flank advantage
4. Take actions – place cards/play your reserve card/attack
5. Draw cards into your hand.

Combat is resolved by comparing the strength of your column to the strength of the opposing column. Each player adds a command card value to the combat – either directly from their hand or from their draw deck.
The beauty of the game comes from being able to create your own army by the card drafting and then trying to use that army in an effective manner.



If you don’t achieve an automatic victory, the winner is determined after both players have gone through their deck twice. If it is a tie, the player who has scored the most victory points by eliminating enemy units is the winner.

The game looks very clean – it is attractive. The rules are superb. Games last for less than 15 minutes and have a high level of both tension and excitement. This game looks light but has much more depth to it than you would expect.

The only question I have is, did Martin have to sell his soul to be able to design a game like this.



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David J. Mortimer
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I agree the game is beautifully simple with decisions being critical to success. Burning through your cards early tends to get you punished quickly.

I think this is the best "simple" game he has designed. I hope it's successful enough to see some expansions, maybe differently balanced decks.

The very simple deck building mechanism ensures plenty of replayability.

Regarding selling his soul to the devil He hasn't sold out to a major corporation yet. I think he is feeling his way into the mass market with these simpler games getting better.

Good Review thumbsup
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CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
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Great to see a new review from you David.

Does this feel a bit like Battle Line or Omen Reign of War?
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Peter Card
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Sadly, the Devil pays in washers
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Mike Clarke
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It sounds a little like Pocket Battles with cards.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Neil Thomson wrote:
Great to see a new review from you David.

Does this feel a bit like Battle Line or Omen Reign of War?


Hi Neil, it's great to be back. This is the second review in two months.

I haven't played Omen.

Regarding Battleline, battle line is an abstract card game, pure and simple, with a very mathy feel - much like many of Knizia's games.

FoG:TCG feel more like a light simulation. It didn't strike me the first time I played, but it hit me the second. I have a real army with good troop differentiation, and using the right troops at the right time against the right opponent actually makes it feel like a battle - all-be-it, a very light simulation.

There is no similarity between them at all - just as there is little similarity between a Mini Cooper and a Porsche.

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Andrew Gross
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It doesn't remind me at all of Omen. The cards in Omen are individually much more powerful, and you can do crazy combos. Omen feels much more like MtG than Battleline or FoG.

FoG does feel a bit like Battleline, but is much less abstract. It is absolutely amazing to me how much the simple mechanics of FoG feel like an actual ancients battle.

For example, in FoG, say you deploy some Light Infantry (skirmishers). Then your opponent deploys some heavy infantry in the same spot. If you stay and fight, you'll almost certainly lose, and your opponent will seize the terrain-- you used your skirmishers incorrectly! But if you retreat, your skirmishers go back in your discard pile (to be used again-- they retreated rather than getting crushed), AND your opponent doesn't claim the terrain-- on your next turn you can deploy heavier units there to fight, or even deploy more skirmishers to delay your opponent for another turn. Your skirmishers are doing their job, harassing and slowing down the enemy's advance. But what if you try to pull the same trick by having your heavy infantry retreat? Well, that won't work, because they're not fast enough-- you can't use heavy infantry effectively as skirmishers.

So a very, vey simple rule that you learn and understand in 5 seconds and that plays in an instant winds up feeling as if it's telling the narrative of an actual battle. And the game is filled with mechanics like that.
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CanCon, BunnyCon...BorderCon!!!
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Awesome - on my list.
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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PeterCard wrote:
Sadly, the Devil pays in washers


This is indeed true, as the Wild Bunch find out, much to their chagrin ...

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Christopher Dearlove
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da pyrate wrote:
The only question I have is, did Martin have to sell his soul to be able to design a game like this.


Of course he did have some help from FoG the miniatures game. Though in many ways this feels more like its sort-of-pedecessor DBM, or DBM's small scale precursor (but still played and developed) DBA.

Different of course in many ways. But the ideas of things like overlaps and flank attacks, and rear support factors, come from there. Of course in turn those come from ancient warfare, but I think DBA/DBM/FoG were sufficient as background.

Not to say creating this game wasn't a whole new design idea, but with some guidance.
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Paul Norell
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FoG TCG looks intriguing, particularly as I have Martin Wallace's EMPIRES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD and can see where he developed the idea of battles with cards. EotAW uses a simpler mechanic and I am almost tempted to get FoG and integrate it into the EotAW system. Battles would of course take longer to resolve, but the boardgame would provide a very good medium for long-term play of FoG.
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David J. Mortimer
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pnorell wrote:
FoG TCG looks intriguing, particularly as I have Martin Wallace's EMPIRES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD and can see where he developed the idea of battles with cards. EotAW uses a simpler mechanic and I am almost tempted to get FoG and integrate it into the EotAW system. Battles would of course take longer to resolve, but the boardgame would provide a very good medium for long-term play of FoG.


Interesting idea...
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Miroslav Krajcovic
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Can anyone compare it Iliad?

Tnx!
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János Hunyadi
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Dearlove wrote:
da pyrate wrote:
The only question I have is, did Martin have to sell his soul to be able to design a game like this.


Of course he did have some help from FoG the miniatures game. Though in many ways this feels more like its sort-of-pedecessor DBM, or DBM's small scale precursor (but still played and developed) DBA.

Different of course in many ways. But the ideas of things like overlaps and flank attacks, and rear support factors, come from there. Of course in turn those come from ancient warfare, but I think DBA/DBM/FoG were sufficient as background.

Not to say creating this game wasn't a whole new design idea, but with some guidance.


What the heck are DBA and DBM? I couldn't find any games referred to by those acronyms.
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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De Bellis Antiquitatis and De Bellis Multitudinis
 
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