Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
 Hide
3 Posts

In Flanders Field» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Martin Wallace's In Flanders Field Reviewed rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
and symo
Australia
Northcote
Victoria
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
In Flanders Field is a game designed by Martin Wallace in partnership with the Imperial War Museum. The subject matter is trench warfare in WWI and its goal is cast a light on a commander’s decision making as he leads his men in an advance across No Man’s Land. The player must reach the enemy’s objective line with some portion of his squad intact. For a designer with such a large following this game has largely flown under the radar. This tends to be the case when an institution commissions a product but is largely unaware or indifferent to the broader community that product lives in.

The first impression of in Flanders is a powerful one. The box and card artwork by Peter Dennis is outstanding. He clearly has a strong affinity with the subject matter and it shows in his framing and attention to detail. I found myself poring over the cards. They are truly things of beauty.

At its heart, In Flanders Field is a competitive push your luck dice rolling game. Half the board tracks the squads' movement. The other half of the board features 9 space numbered 3 to 11. Eight cards are placed into these slots (9 is a fixed ‘advance’ card). These cards feature both beneficial (British) and detrimental (German) effects to the player’s progress. Players role 3 dice and must sum 2 to collect a card. The player is primarily looking for cards that give the squad forward momentum. At any point after the first roll, players can choose to end their turn and apply the effects of the cards collected. If no card is available, all current cards in the player’s hand are lost and casualties are taken. Once a player's turn is completed, cards are drawn and placed in any empty spaces.

The game is light and accessible and plays well. Decision making is spontaneous based on the die roll and card choices ensuring players are focused and engaged. The risks and rewards to the player are clear resulting in a well paced experience. There is a good range and interesting choices to be made via the card effects. Cards allow troops to advance, others cause casualties, some cards cancel the effect of cards or modify a dice roll. A level of strategy can be maintained with some cards able to be retained for future turns.

There is the basis of good system here but it quickly becomes clear that caution is the order of the day. Pushing your luck and risking losing a turn of advancement plus extra casualties is simply never worth it. It is better to play conservatively and only in the final stages where there is a great need to catch a leader does it ever become an option. The threat of the German cards is also easily mitigated. The 3 dice will most likely give you a combination to select a British card. In addition, if a row is filled with 3 German cards, they are discarded and new cards are drawn thus continually diminishing what should be a growing inevitability of negative effects.

It’s disappointing that a game where theme is so important that design decisions have been chosen that actively undermine the theme. Doubly so where its origin clearly implies a teaching element. An advance across No Man’s Land would have been a terrible thing where casualties would have been significant and inevitable. This should have been front and square in the design of In Flanders Field. By removing a row of 3 German cards, this threat is constantly downgraded and by placing the worst outcome in the hands of the player (a roll where no card is available causing (potentially) higher casualties and a loss of advancement only occur in extreme cases of luck pushing).

These design choices bleed the game of its theme inadvertently changing the focus and experience into a player versus player race to a finish line. It ultimately feels like decisions based on ‘accessibility’ and ‘fun’ and ‘game’ have been made at the expense of ‘theme’ and as a result, and even with so many strong elements present, they fail to coalesce into a satisfying design.

In an attempt to inject the theme back into the game I recommend 2 variants:

1. Place and move the full squad of 6 meeples (1 colored + 5 black) on the board. This simple change does not affect the gameplay in any way and visually conveys a greater sense of men advancing and loss as they cross the battlefield.

2. Do not remove German cards if there is a complete row. This means there is a constantly increasing threat to the players that is unavoidable and must be dealt with.
21 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Morten K
Denmark
flag msg tools
Avatar
mb
I recently asked a friend to get it for me when he went to the Imperial War Museum if he could fit the box in his luggage. He couldn't and I'm not terribly disappointed as dice rolling isn't my idea of fun. That might be a good reason why it's flying under the radar
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Beck
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A friend of mine has recently given this to me for my birthday and I've played it a couple of times so far. It's not a deep strategic game but it does make a nice filler that is light and fun to play. Lots of trash talking as you roll those dice and make your choice.

Good to get non-gamers involved and even as a light distraction for gamers.

Great fun for what it is.

Thanks for the review.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
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.