Just having gotten the game, and after exchanging some questions about rules via email with co-designer Peter Schutze, I played one round (best 2 of 3 games) solitaire. The round took about 15-20 minutes to play. The game reminds me very much of “Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball,” except on a war theme. That is, you hold a certain number of cards, you play one at a time (with the exception of two cards among 52 in the deck), one card cancels out or defends another, and you add up scores to determine a winner. So, it’s easy and quick-playing, but in a very clever way. You have to make quick decisions along the way to affect the outcome in your favor.
Players start with 8 cards and play one card at a time, unless a card has a black asterisk in the bottom center, which allows the holder one extra play. Once the card or cards are played, the player draws back to 8 cards in his hand. Each card has a unit type (letter) listed in the bottom left-hand corner and a black scoring number in the bottom right-hand corner. Some cards have a red letter (that indicates target type) in the bottom center of the card that allows the user to “kill” (cancel) a unit type already played. There also is a special card (Recon) that forces an opponents to specify what theaters the cards remaining in his hand belong to (Air, Sea, Ground, or Intel). In each round, three battles (separate piles of cards in two side-by-side columns) take place: Players may choose to play the cards into any one of the three separate piles (battles). For each battle, the first player to 15 points wins. For each round, the first player to win at least 2 games wins the round. There are 3 lengths of games players can choose: Short (1 round), Normal (best 2 of 3 rounds), and Long (play rounds until one person has won 3 rounds more than his opponent). Here are three sample games I played, constituting one round of play. This round went to the best two of three battles.
Player 1: Air Drop (2 points in value, with asterisk—allowing a bonus play) plus Machine Gun (4): 6-0
Player 2: Strafing (knocks out machine gun, which is nulllied): 2-0
Player 1: Heavy Tank (6): 8-0
Player 2: Plays Bunker card to new pile, PILE 2
Player 1: Carpet Bombing (6): 14-0
Player 2: Plays Paratroop card to PILE 2
Player 1: Minefield (1): 15-0 (PLAYER 1 WINS GAME #1)
Player 2: Bunker (3) (to new pile): 3-0
Player 1: Plays to PILE 1
Player 2: Paratroop (5): 8-0
Player 1: Plays to PILE 1 (WINS GAME #1)
Player 2: Veterans (5): 13-0
Player 1: Fighters (3) (takes out Paratroop, which is nullified): 8-3
Player 2: Carriers (8): 16-3 (PLAYER 2 WINS GAME #2)
Player 1: Field Battery (4): 4-0
Player 2: Amphibious Landing (4): 4-4
Player 1: Torpedo Bomber (1) wipes out Amphibious Landing (nullified): 5-0
Player 2: Radio (4): 5-4
Player 1: Howitzer (5): 10-4
Player 2: Long-Range Bomber (5): 10-9
Player 1: Battleship (6): 16-9 (PLAYER 1 WINS GAME #3 AND ROUND, 2-1)
As evidenced in PILE #3, sometimes a player doesn't have a card with a red symbol, or doesn't have a card with a red symbol that allows him to take out an opponent's unit and thereby forestall his opponent reaching 15 points and winning the battle. As seen in PILE 2 and PILE 3, this inability can be fatal when the other player plays high-value cards such as a Carrier (8 points, in PILE 2) or a Battleship (6 points, in PILE 3).