Viktory II has a lot going for it, and strongly delivers on the promises the game's designer makes. Specifically, it is touted as simple, aggressive, short, and customizable. This seemed a good match for my goals, as I was hoping for a game that was one step above Risk, yet not overly complicated to understand or teach.
The game's history explains well its concept. The designer was fascinated with the random layouts of Settlers of Catan, yet wanted a more aggressive and confrontational game. At the same time, he was frustrated with lengthy and complex war games. Viktory II is his attempt to bridge the gap.
The quality is good, although somewhat "homey" with drab artwork and components arriving in plastic bags inside an otherwise empty box. The initial impression is deceiving, however. The plastic pieces (and there are a lot of them) are of good detail and quality. The hex pieces are attractive and on par with other games. These pieces and the board itself always seem so small to me, but once the game is underway this impression vanishes. The hexes do not always fit together easily, but they are workable.
Players take turns spreading out across a hexagonal map, carrying out battles, building or upgrading settlements, and placing reinforcements.
The game features several interesting mechanics:
1) Units that die in battle are in fact only temporarily lost. At the end of their owner's turn, they can be redeployed as reinforcements. This system favors aggressive game play. Battle losses do temporarily affect one's capabilities and strategic positioning, but these may be quickly repaired if handled correctly. I personally found this to be well balanced: most players are willing to take risks, but not foolish ones.
2) Related to this system is the idea that settlements and cities do not "produce" units. Rather, they support them. So long as the city remains under the player's control, it affords him or her a certain unit(s). New units are not produced unless the current ones have been killed. This keeps the board from being overwhelmed with units, and also means control of cities is vitally important.
3) Unit types matter, and not just because they have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Cannons can bombard adjacent tiles and receive an extra shot during battle. Horses can travel further, and across rough terrain. Frigates can bombard and transport units over large distances. More importantly, engaging in battle with a diverse army is heavily rewarded. (Each type of unit rolls 1 dice during battle, regardless of the number of units.) The need to focus on bringing a variety of units to battle adds a tremendous amount of strategic gameplay.
4) Attacking from multiple sides at once (flanking) is also rewarded in battle. Combined with (3) above, this point largely defines the strategy of the game. Strategy is not just about territory control and numbers, but rather how one uses the resources one has.
Overall, the rules are incredibly well thought-out. There are a fair amount of exceptions and specifics to the rules, but each does have a clear purpose. Most of them just make sense and work the way you think they would. I found that once I had a clear grasp of some of the stickier parts of the rulebook (2-3 games) I could play without it. My companions did not have to read through it themselves.
I first played the game with a group of 4 others, none of whom had any wargame experience beyond Risk. By the end of three games we were all talking about how thought provoking the strategies were, and how much better it was then we expected. A phrase I heard frequently was, "ahh, hm, now this is an interesting situation." I think it was in one of those interesting tactical situations that I realized how much I liked the game.
The unique gameplay mechanics mentioned above really require a different way of thinking. You cannot simply focus on strength of numbers and expect to win. Nor is there a single strategy that always beats out others. I love that in a desperate situation, a daring and clever strategy might just pay off.
That is really Viktory II's strongest point. You can be clever. It won't always work, much like in real life, but it is almost always the deciding factor.
I have now played approximately 10 matches with different groups. As the games have progressed, the thought that continues to run through my head is, "This is just the game I wanted it to be." Viktory II rewards strategic thinking and aggressive gameplay. It is fast, flexible, and easy to learn. Most of all it is fun. Even when I lose, I enjoy going back over the game with my opponents and reliving the great ideas and decisive moments from the match.
Very well said. You hit the nail on the head regarding the game's rules completeness, strategic depth and ease of play which allows the focus to be on planning and execution, not fighting the rulebook.
Only thing I'd add is the very high replayability. No two games will ever, ever be alike.
Peter Morrison did an excellent job with this game design. And although the art doesn't rise to the level of "Runewars," the artwork is certainly quite acceptable and the minis work well, better, in this application, than counters.
Nice review of a fun introductory abstract wargame !
This game is on my wishlist for a loooooong time. Too bad it's so expensive to get it to Europe...
Great review, it reminds me why I put it on my wishlist in the first place!
Smooth seas make the voyage more pleasant.
A ship in port is safe, and that's just what ports are for.
Now if only it were suitable for solitaire.