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Subject: Dudes on a map minus the dudes (+level 9000 mindgames) rss

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Christian K
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Introduction
The fog of war is a game about the second world war. One player controls the Axis, the other plays the Allies. The game played in five years from 1940 to and including 1944.

In the beginning of the game, the Axis starts strong and they are likely to take control of a lot of regions. Over the years, the Allies get more and more powerful. Eventually, Russia enters at the side of the Allies and in the end, the Axis will try and hold the territory they have.

Surprises
While the introduction may sound similar to other wargames (ok ok, I have not actually played a ton of war games but I imagine that to be the case), the game play is quite different. He is a list of some surprising stuff

Surprise #1: Dudes on a map minus the dudes: Okay, you are unpacking the game and looking at the nice map. Oh I cannot wait to spread my tanks and infantry out all over europe. Looking through the box it appears that they forgot to include the square tank counters (see, I know a little about war games ). Reading the rules it turns out that they didn't forget (sorry for the complaining email Stronghold Games Customer Service aka Stephen Buonocore).

Okay, joking aside, all units (tanks, planes, and boat ships) are represented by cards. Being a Carl Chudyk fan, I of course welcome this with open arms.



Surprise #2: EVERYTHING is secret: Okay so you know those unit cards representing dudes and stuff. It turns out that you do not just play down a straight flush from your hand and take over Paris. You ALWAYS play your cards face down to be resolved later.

When you want to take over Paris, you play a 'paris' card along with some other cards down in a stakc. Your opponent will know that you are up to something but not exactly what.

Surprise #3: Not all secrets remain hidden Okay so this may not be that surprising, but now that I've started writing stuff as a list of surprises I cannot really break that format.

So, both players have a bunch of intel tokens. These can be used to peek at your opponent's stuff. If you opponent has put down a pile of four cards (three units and a target city), you can spend one intel token to look at half of these cards. My favorite part here is that your opponent does not learn which cards you look at. Each time a player does this, we both and up in laughter. You just know that the other person is wondering if your saw the target of their operation or not.

Furthermore, there are not just unit cards in your deck, there are also a bunch of bluff cards. So it can happen that you place down four cards and your opponent sees where you are striking. He does not learn much about the size of the army in that case though, so it could just be a decoy operation.

These bluff cards are especially interesting when defending. Your opponent might see that you have placed a bunch of cards down to defend Spain, but they could all be bluffs, all high value tanks or some weird kind of mixture between the two.

Surprise #4: What is this wheel? Okay so your open your box and don't find any cool counter tokens. And now you find this weird wheel. What kind of war game is this anyway?

So, each player has a wheel where they plan their operations. It turns out that you also need to plan ahead in this game. When you plan to attack Scandinavia, you place your Scandinavia card down with some troops. However, you cannot attack Scandinavia this turn and also not next turn. So your opponent has some time to anticipate your attack and set up defenses. Of course they do not know you will attack Scandinavia (the cards are face down), so they needs to use their intel to find out.

If you attack after two turns, the defender will have a +1 bonus (because you rush the attack) so you are encouraged to wait longer, but this will give the defender more time to set up defenses. If you wait long enough you will get a +1 bonus to attack. So you have a tradeoff between value and tempo.



Surprise #5: You got deck building on my wargame! So this game also has a light deckbuilding aspect. Each year, both players play through their whole deck. At the end of the year, the players get resources based on the regions they control. These are mainly spent to add new cards to your deck for the next age. It is mainly the deck of the Allies which evolves. They get access to new units when the US enters the war and when Russia enters the war and it also get access to some new strong cards with each new years.

This way, it is ensured that the Axis starts out strong but the Allies get more power over time.


Surprise #6: How do I win again? Okay so the victory conditions in this game are also kind of interesting.

The Axis collects points based on the regions they control (they can also spend the resources they collect on more points instead of units). If they ever hit 70 points they win, kinda like a euro game right?

The Allies try to attack Germany. If they ever get control of West and East Germany, they win. Kinda like some type of war game, right?

Okay so what happens if you get to the end of 1944 and no one has won? Well, here stuff gets interesting. At the beginning of the game, the Axis gets two cards showing neighbouring countries of Germany (they actually get three and pick two). If the Axis controls these two countries at the end of the game, they win. Otherwise, they lose. And of course, the allies can spend intel during the game to try and learn these cards (this will allow them to look at half the cards that were NOT picked so even one such peek will give you a good idea). So the secret information bluffing stuff is also in the victory condition.

Surprise #6: Special powers? So, the players do not really have special powers (though they are highly asymmetrical), but the special powers mainly lie in the regions. A bunch of regions have a special rule. For example, if the Axis take over Paris, they also get control of other French regions. If the Axis attack Russia, they will enter the war earlier etc. They are not too complicated but create an interesting map.

Final Thoughts
I consider this game highly strategic (not just "maybe I am lying, maybe I am not"). It is easy to see how a strong player can really demolish a bad player but with some luck or some bluffs that work out, the worse player could have a chance (think of poker).

I actually learned a bunch of history from playing (I think?) (what does this say about me?). You probably know if you are interested in this theme or not. Hitler is not depicted in the game and I slept good at night after winning as the Axis so don't worry about that stuff

The game is highly asymmetric (from the resources you gain, the asymmetric starting positions, the special rules for countries and the victory conditions).

The rules are fairly straight forward to learn for such a long heavy game. A couple of things were unclear to me in the rules, but the designer was very quick to answer on the BGG forums. Some were actually written in the rulebook clearly and just me being stupid.

I really like this game. It is highly interactive and has interesting decisions basically every turn. It has cool victory conditions (though somewhat complicated), and lots and lots of mind games all the time.

I really enjoy games such a Coup where you can bluff certain roles etc. This kind of bluffing mechanism I have mostly seen in microgames.
The Fog of War brings the fun of bluffing and mind games into a meaty heavy game with a historical theme. The only other such heavy game that I can think of with so many mind games is Tragedy Looper, my favorite game. (Feel free to post your favorite game which also has these properties and call me stupid )

I hope you got a good impression of the game from reading this review. If you have any questions, feel free to ask
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Dave Schmidt
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Thanks for this, definitely makes me more interested in this game!
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Keith Shapley
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Excellent review which gives a great impression of the game. News received earlier today from boardgameguru (100% not a bluff) that my order has been posted is most timely. Look forward to playing it on Sunday.
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Christian K
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Hey glad to hear it. I wondered if I should have gone more into rules details but since the rules are available I decided to keep it as an overview.

Do note that it is a quite long game so it is probably good to have another geek to play it with. It would not be impossible to play with a non-gamer but I think it is geared towards gamers.
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Luke Hughes
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Lively review. Keep doing them.
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Brian Cox
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interesting that Spain can be attacked - as not in WWII - also East and West Germany did not exist then
 
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Luke Hughes
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Spain certainly could have been (maybe not a good idea though). And I take the division of German as simply area movement control for Germany (note the one color) rather than a post war division.
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Christian K
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Sure, I may have been misleading they are just called Berlin and Ruhr, it is just two geographical areas.

But yeah you can even take over Britain as germany which I did in one game. It is pretty hard though.

Luke: Hey thanks, I am glad that someone is still reading text reviews
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Aaron Silverman
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If you liked this, another light wargame with a bluffing element is The First World War. It kind of flew under the radar, but it's fun.
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David Brown
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Quote:
interesting that Spain can be attacked - as not in WWII - also East and West Germany did not exist then


However Spain could have been attacked, and there was definitely east and west parts of Germany
 
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David Janik-Jones
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Combat Commander, Up Front, Julius Caesar, Fields of Fire! The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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Nice write-up. 45 year wargamer here (cut my teeth on Tactics II in 1970) who still enjoys lighter fare (Quartermaster General comes to mind). Being a bit shallow here, especially as the gameplay sounds quite interesting, but as a 25 year designer and wargamer, I would have loved to see a more thematic visual design for the game. I know it's shallow of me, but if I get a copy (it's available locally) I may have to do a re-theming to make it more "groggy".
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Thanks for the review. It's exactly the sort of perspective that I was looking for on this game.
 
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Christian K
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Hey, I am very happy you read it. I am still playing and enjoying this game in case anyone cares
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