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Subject: Played my first game last night and very impressed rss

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First a quick review: on one hand, the rules document is a little tough to follow sometimes, and could probably be shorter. On the other hand, everything else is great - the length of the game, the integration of theme with mechanics, the simplicity of play, the gorgeous and immersive visual design by Ilya, and even the number of components (it's really quick to just bash together a copy out of paper and cardboard because there are so few parts... however the beauty of the game really makes you want to do it justice and assemble something really nice, with wooden counters and things. Which I may do in the future.)

On to the actual session report. I randomly drew "Aid the Spy" and the "publish an underground newspaper" as my missions and was very concerned - that is a lot of resources and a lot of actions, and I'd read in the forums here that the game is very difficult to win on your first few tries. (For the unfamiliar, the spy needs 2 guns and then 2 food and a money, and the newspaper needs 2 information, 3 separate times. And both guns and money need 2 actions just to get them in the first place.) I mentally shrugged and decided it would be a learning game - it would be ok if I lost.

I decided my first objectives would be (in no particular order) to recruit one more Maquisard, get the propaganda guy installed in a spare room somewhere so I'd have more options for getting Information, and build an extra safe house. I started off very carefully, placing my first guy in the Grocery, my next guy in the Black Market, and the third guy up at Radio B. They all made it back safely, with some Food and some Information. (I didn't use the Black Market this turn, I just wanted someone there to protect the route back to the safe house.)

Over the next 2 or 3 turns I continued to use very protected routes to drop by the Black Market to get some money, head over to the Doctor and Radio A for some more Information (and incidentally some Medicine), the Cafe to get my 4th guy, and the Poor District to mitigate the morale-diminishing effects of using the Black Market and the fact that it was now turn 4 and I hadn't accomplished anything of substance.

I was starting to realize I'd have to make some hard decisions and push my luck a bit. I got some money from an air drop and was able to build a safe house in my first spare room. I placed it over beside Radio A, which I figured would be handy for getting more information quickly to fulfill the "underground newspaper" mission. But this was taking too long - I was more than a third of the way through the game and I still hadn't completed ANY of my mission actions.

It was around this point that I found myself starting to give little pep talks to the imaginary villagers ("We're gonna have to hold out just a little bit longer"), I was really getting into pronouncing all the locations in French, and a couple of my Maquisards were developing personalities. The hat-and-glasses guy I named Father Mulcahey, and if I was going to the Poor District or the Doctor, I generally sent him. Handsome Young Guy was the one carrying guns around (either buying them from the Fence or bringing them out to the British spy we were aiding). Innocent Looking Young Lady got sent out for many of the dangerous tasks out at the end of the "safety line" (she's plucky and doesn't look suspicious!) I really enjoy an immersive theme in a game, and I enjoy it more when the rules make sense in the context of the theme - it's very seamless and intuitive. So this was excellent.

The mid-game was fairly stable. Morale was not super, but I was able to keep things stable enough that I stayed at only 4 Police. This was a bit hairy at times but manageable, especially with that second safe house. It let me use Radio A with relative impunity, and I'd also managed to install the Propagandist over by the Grocer, so I was able to get to him without too much trouble as well.

By about turn 10, I'd managed to publish the first of my three underground newspapers and was ready to send out the second. I also had a good cache of the stuff the British spy needed - mainly both guns. The food was easy to get, and money only marginally more difficult. A win began to seem within reach! In fact maybe I could send people out on both missions in the same turn!

I started with a risky move, sending my first Maquisard directly to Pont du Nord. I wanted to make sure I'd have the space, and there are a couple of options to get him safely back. Then the Police patrols came out, and started at the Fence. RATS. Ok, so I wouldn't be doing both missions this turn. I focused on just building a safe route back for Handsome Young Guy, and figured I could pick up some of the food and money that would be needed later. I sent my fourth person over to Radio A again. Everyone made it back safely, and I had everything I needed to complete both missions! But morale was in the trash. I'd need to do something about that immediately, or lose the game on the next turn.

I was able to safely place my crew exactly where I needed them for the next turn: Pont Leveque (to guard the way back to safety), the Poor District (to boost morale), the Doctor (to pick up medicine that Father Mulcahey could bring to the poor orphans), and the Fence (which is where I needed to be to action the "newspaper" mission). This was going to be brilliant! I'd complete the second of three newspapers, boost morale enough to make it to the end of the game, and I'd be in position to win on the next turn! Just one more Police to place...

Father Mulcahey got arrested! surprise

And with another patrol on Rue Baradat, that left Hardass Beret Lady (who I'd placed on the Fence) completely exposed as well! (I like to think she didn't go quietly. She's not the type to take any B.S. from anyone.)

Handsome Young Guy and Innocent Looking Young Lady (they really need some actual names) made it back to the safe house very shaken up. They spent a turn at their familiar old Cafe paying their respects to their departed comrades and planning their next move. Fortunately they met someone new who was willing to help! (I sent one of them to the Grocery for some food, and used the food to recruit my last guy in the Cafe.)

With two turns left in the game I couldn't afford to lose anyone else. I crept out from the safe house one space at a time, using the Pont Leveque route - if I could also get into the Poor District, I'd be able to make it to either the Fence or Pont du Nord - I had everything I needed for both missions.

I lucked out on my patrol draws (as by now there were 5 of them - ugh) and was in fact able to complete both missions, but just barely in time. The village was safe - for now...

This was a really intense game (I actually yelled "AUGH!" when my two people got arrested on the same turn - like I was SURE I was gonna win, and then to have that setback!) and I quite enjoyed it. I can't wait to try some of the other missions. I'm not going to work too hard to memorize the patrol cards, as I think that might turn it into a bit of a math exercise... but even that wouldn't be too bad, since fortunately the game comes with suggestions for harder modes, and there are a couple of fan-made missions I can try as well.

This really scratches the itch to play a game against an opponent without actually needing an opponent, and without feeling like it's a static puzzle to work out. That may change with more plays as I get more familiar with the patrols and the missions, but we'll see. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy this excellent work of art.
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Andy O
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Great account which echoes many of my own thoughts about this great game.

I too find myself adopting a (poor) French accent and naming each of the characters as I give a little internal narrative of what's going on

I went down the route of building a slightly nicer version with wooden counters etc. The time investment was well worth it but the one downside is that I used standard white Meeples for the Maquis so they lack a bit of personality. Need to find a way to personalise them a bit...
 
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Yeah, I think if I go for the nicer build I will make little cardboard standees instead of using plain meeples. I don't usually like standees but this time it seems cooler!

Also, a note for accuracy: in my original post I wrote "propagandist" and it should have been "informant." Ooops.

I've now named all my Maquisards. Father Mulcahey, of course, is the same. He's, uh, a missionary? And that's why he doesn't have a French name? Yeah, that's it. Hardass Beret Lady is Marie-Hélène, Stoic Beret Man is Maurice, Handsome Young Guy is René, and Innocent Looking Young Lady is Simone.

I played again last night with my teenager looking on and handling placement of the Milice. We drew missions randomly again and got "blow up the train" and "sabotage," which turned out to be a really easy combination, as all we had to do was get the chemist (air drops for money) and then make lots of explosives.

Looking through the game afterwards, he found the mission where you have to shoot all the Milice (a.k.a. "filthy collaborators"), so we may get the game out again this morning.
 
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