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Subject: [Roger's Reviews] The Grunwald, Fertile Medieval Soil rss

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The Grunwald Swords
A game for 2 players by Tom Russell


"When the emissary of Your Majesty, Oneš of Hurka, brought the definite news of victory and the praiseworthy armistice, it caused me great joy in my heart, which no pen can describe nor my voice express as is fitting. (...) Where, then, are the two swords of the enemies? They were indeed cut down with those swords with which they tried to terrify the humble! Behold, they sent you two swords, the swords of violence and of pride, and have lost many thousands of them, having been utterly defeated. Where are the swords, where the caparisoned horses, where the mail-clad warriors in whom they trusted? Where are the innumerable ducats or treasures?"
- Jan Hus, letter to King Vladislaus II (1411)


Introduction
The Grunwald Swords (TGS) is the second game from new publisher Hollandspiele, and the first of a planned series of medieval skirmishes in the Shields & Swords II series, which is itself an extension of the system used in some of the games by Flying Pig and Tiny Battles Publishing. (Whew!)

The battle of the Grunwald in 1410 is an interesting study as it marked the end of an era for the Teutonic Order, but the historical context of this I leave to you, dear reader, to find out for yourself from the excellent historical background included in the game itself!



The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich. I am constantly amazed when playing wargames of how often I'm fielding my troops across, along, or beside the same piece of dirt, over and over and over again, at different scales, different factions, and different eras!

Components
The game is available from Wargamevault.com for print and play enthusiasts. My copy came via Blue Panther LLC, who do great work for small publishers.

The game itself comes with a striking cover in a style that I'm going to dub nouveau retro, as it simultaneously speaks to the style many grognards will feel pangs of nostalgia for from the old Avalon Hill covers, yet is definitely a product of today and today's available tech for art and graphic design.

Inside the box are two mapsheets that you'll ideally put under plexiglass to tidily keep them together, but they are printed on sturdy good quality paper and you won't have trouble keeping them flat or in good condition.



In addition there are two rule books, a d8, and a sheet of laser cut (virtually soot free) counters that are yearning to be free from their frame - indeed, a good whack on the side of the box knocked most of them out! And they're super thick.



I don't know what precisely is different about the print or cut of the maps this time, as compared to their first game The Scheldt Campaign, but the box is just a shade off the right size to hold everything precisely without a little whiff of having to press things into the box. In speaking with Tom, apparently they're aware and will have Blue Panther adjust future print runs to larger boxes.

Rules & Game Play
TGS uses an eight page rulebook, including the back page being a set of charts for the combat results table. The rules are well laid out and clear to follow. Whether you're going to be playing this solo or with an opponent, it's also easy to find what you're looking for. Both pluses in my book!

The general flow of play is that players alternate turns until the scenario ending conditions are met. Players are given a certain number of command tokens, specified in the scenario rules, and when it's your turn, you assign the tokens to your wings. In TGS each player is given three command markers, and up to two can be assigned to the same wing.

The commands let you do one the following - fire, horse (move and attack in a nutshell, though there's more to it), withdraw, shield wall, move, second move, combat, second or pitched combat.

Here's the catch. You can't give the same command twice to the same wing, so even if you can command it twice, have to do different things. The command markers your side has also limits your options. In TGS, nobody has a fire command, for instance.

In addition, there's an initiative marker. If you have it, and you hand it over after you've used up your commands, you get another full player turn starting with the issuing of commands. This will totally let you press your advantaged to complete your breaking of the enemy lines for example, but has now handed your opponent the hammer for the counterattack they've already been planning.

I won't go into great detail about the combat system save to note that it is not an odds based CRT. There is a die roll modifier based on the attacking unit type vs. defending unit type - could be 0 or it could be +/-1. Then there's a table where you cross reference your unit quality expressed as a combat class (e.g. A, B, or C in TGS) vs. your die roll to get the result from attacker/defender elimination, retreat, or exchange. There are also Combat Class modifiers where you can move up or down the table. So two tables, two sets of factors, and one die roll. Neat and quick.

Intriguingly, victory is checked at the end of your opponent's player turn, so there's yet another timing element present in the game.

TGS has a four page set of designer/scenario notes, and scenario specific rules. The Teutonic player wins if they score at least 30VP and they have at least 10 more than their opponent. The allies win if they have 35VP or they capture the Teutonic Camp. Most units in the game are worth 2-3VP each, with special bonuses on specific kinds of units.

The designer admits in his notes that we don't have great data for medieval warfare. We have the broad strokes in that we know who won historically, but determining exactly how many troops each side had and the specifics of their campaigns is a little trickier. I don't think this is a bad thing.

What makes TGS unusual in addition to a lot of cavalry is that the Lithuanians at some point are going to leave the field entirely. Then they'll spend some time reforming, and then they come back! Now, some historical accounts said they fled the field at the outset and others say it was a shrewd tactic, but here is your challenge as the allies - when do you send them off, and when do you bring them back?

Conclusions
I admit up front that I wasn't initially all that excited about the idea of another medieval warfare game. I've played plenty in the past, including almost nightly plays of one of the quartet of scenarios in the old SPI Great Medieval Battles, and more recently a little GBoH and the Men of Iron series.

But... I'm excited about this.

One of my favourite games is Napoleon's Triumph. One of the underlying tensions in that game for the French player is whether or not to bring on the reinforcements, and if so, when. When is the right time, given that bringing them on turns them from the defender into the attacker and forces a change of tactics?

That is why I really like The Grunwald Swords - it asks a similar question. It's not that there's a lot of cavalry (there is), or that the system is nice and straightforward (it is). No, I like it because the Allied player has to time things right. If you run the Lithuanians off too soon, the battle might be lost before you get them back on. If you wait too long, the Teutons might have eliminated enough of them that the counterattack won't be of any use. No, you have to be careful and plan around what happens. How long before I take them off? When can I get them back on? Now? Is it now?

Best of all, you can easily play this game solo. I mention this because while I'm not a solo player at heart, I know many wargamers are. If you're looking for an interesting battle, with a relatively light set of rules, and part of a series, this is definitely worth getting onto the table.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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Russ Williams
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Thanks for the review. The subject interests me, and I like the graphic design of these new Hollandspiele games, and their game systems sound good. (I just wish they didn't have have counters with side nubs.)

Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.


(The battle is at the red "1410" near the bottom of the map. Munich is off the map somewhere southwest.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grunwald
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Jorik
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russ wrote:

Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.

it's one of the biggest differences I find between Old worlders and North Americans (the continent) Wheras we view 100km far away (here in the Netherlands it's even worse) for them it's around the corner. comes with having such a big country I guess.
(here I hear folks complain if the have to go from Utrecht to Amsterdam (35km)"oh no that's to far away, I'll have to plan for a trip that far" surprise )
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HerrJork wrote:
russ wrote:

Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.

it's one of the biggest differences I find between Old worlders and North Americans (the continent) Wheras we view 100km far away (here in the Netherlands it's even worse) for them it's around the corner. comes with having such a big country I guess.
(here I hear folks complain if the have to go from Utrecht to Amsterdam (35km)"oh no that's to far away, I'll have to plan for a trip that far" surprise )


That's really interesting. I drive about 48km each morning and each evening to commute to and from work.
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tomrussell wrote:
HerrJork wrote:
russ wrote:

Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.

it's one of the biggest differences I find between Old worlders and North Americans (the continent) Wheras we view 100km far away (here in the Netherlands it's even worse) for them it's around the corner. comes with having such a big country I guess.
(here I hear folks complain if the have to go from Utrecht to Amsterdam (35km)"oh no that's to far away, I'll have to plan for a trip that far" surprise )


That's really interesting. I drive about 48km each morning and each evening to commute to and from work.


As I was told when I lived in the US : "You British think 100 miles is a long way. We Americans think 100 years is a long time."

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"L'état, c'est moi."
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russ wrote:
Thanks for the review. The subject interests me, and I like the graphic design of these new Hollandspiele games, and their game systems sound good. (I just wish they didn't have have counters with side nubs.)

The nubs don't bother me, but then I don't clip my counters either.

Quote:
Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.

That's entirely on me. I was curious about where the battle was fought, so I Googled it and found the Wiki article. I then made a sloppy mistake - several even - where it talked about how the battle happened between Gruenfelde and Tannenberg.

So what do I put into Google? Grunwald of course, which is just a little south of Munich.

Grunwald is not Gruenfelde

And Tannenberg is visible in Google Maps (the end point of that route). Therefore the battle was close to Munich! Ha!

Completely wrong of course. And it's made worse by the fact I've been to Munich. shake

None of this should detract from the game though, which is very clever and well done.

I should add, too, that the game could be picked up by someone interested in wargames and they'd get a lot of fun out of it, and yet it's also a great game for the experienced grognards amongst us. A rare and delightful combo.
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Niklas
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leroy43 wrote:
russ wrote:
Thanks for the review. The subject interests me, and I like the graphic design of these new Hollandspiele games, and their game systems sound good. (I just wish they didn't have have counters with side nubs.)

The nubs don't bother me, but then I don't clip my counters either.

Quote:
Quote:
The main battle was fought not far from modern Munich.

Hmm, Munich seems a strange faraway reference point in Germany to me, but I guess it depends what you mean by "not far"... The battle was in northern Poland, about 250 km northeast of Poznan, which is itself about 600 km northeast of Munich, so there are plenty of closer cities.

That's entirely on me. I was curious about where the battle was fought, so I Googled it and found the Wiki article. I then made a sloppy mistake - several even - where it talked about how the battle happened between Gruenfelde and Tannenberg.

So what do I put into Google? Grunwald of course, which is just a little south of Munich.

Grunwald is not Gruenfelde

And Tannenberg is visible in Google Maps (the end point of that route). Therefore the battle was close to Munich! Ha!

Completely wrong of course. And it's made worse by the fact I've been to Munich. shake

None of this should detract from the game though, which is very clever and well done.

I should add, too, that the game could be picked up by someone interested in wargames and they'd get a lot of fun out of it, and yet it's also a great game for the experienced grognards amongst us. A rare and delightful combo.


"Grunwald is not Gruenfelde" --
I am afraid that Tannenberg is also not Tannenberg...
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Janzzen wrote:
"Grunwald is not Gruenfelde" --
I am afraid that Tannenberg is also not Tannenberg...

It's a Tannenberg. meeple
 
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