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Subject: My first play of Levee En Masse - session report rss

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David Arlington
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Spanish Fort
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The second game of my THREE historical game plays this month is Levee en Masse, a Victory Points Games States of Siege game that I picked up on the cheap along with Soviet Dawn. It is a game about the French Revolution and this was actually the first time I played this game since I got it months ago.

Before I talk about the game play, I have to make a shameful admission. It is probably a VERY GOOD thing I decided to play three historical games this month. When I played Freedom: The Underground Railroad the other night, I studiously read the flavor text and background on every card and learned a lot of things I didn't know about the Abolitionist movement in the United States. Last night, when I played Levee en Masse, I read the text on every card and the Designer's Notes and learned a lot about the French Revolution period that I didn't know before. So, what's so shameful about learning new things? Not that part. That's very good.

The shameful part is I played science fiction games and then played historical games and as I'm reading the notes and history in the historical games and learned lots of new things, I realized how I know more about the history of the Star Trek Federation, the Star Wars Empire, the Battlestar Galactica history, you name it, than I do about the actual history of the planet I'm really living on! What I remembered about the Abolitionist Movement came mostly from TV miniseries. What I remembered about the period of the French Revolution came mainly from the 1975 Woody Allen movie, Love and Death. (Very funny movie, btw.) My sister, not kidding here, makes her living as a real life Historian (and has written books!). MAN, was I overdue to play some historical games! I didn't even know it!

Anyways... Levee en Masse. Wow, that was a fun game (despite all the beheadings, assassinations and executions). It started nice and slow, and ramped up the pressure at a perfect rate, it seemed. I managed to get all the way through all three decks without having Paris occupied or in a social uprising and I even managed to take the British off the map entirely. But I still lost by a Substantive Defeat.

I chalk the Substantive Defeat up to a couple things that came from me never having played the game before.

a) Not only didn't I look at any of the cards before hand (to preserve surprise), I didn't even read the six cards whose position in the deck are fixed (by history). A couple times, if I had known how the general flow of the cards was going to go going through the decks and known which fixed card was coming up, I would have maybe have made some different decisions at certain points. You'll see an example of this below where I lucked out and did the right thing for the next card even though I wasn't aware at the time that it was the right thing to do.

b) I totally missed one of the Liberation Armies placements, the one in the Blue deck. I missed it because I was so fixed on reading the part about rotating the Prussian Army back that I just totally overlooked it was there. Having that extra Liberation Army probably would have come in handy a few times during the course of the game (and given me a chance at a few more VPs).

c) I was so concentrated on keeping everyone out of Paris and getting through all three decks and I didn't read fully through the end game scoring before I finished the game. I lost biggo points because I let the Monarchy and Despotism get the upper hand (I'm still talking about Levee en Masse here, not the current US election... JUST KIDDING! No hate mail please!) on the Political Track. If I had prepped fully, I would have done more Political Actions and let the game end earlier in the Red Deck and probably scored better.

At the end of the BLUE DECK, things looked like this:



As noted, totally missed the first Liberation Army placement, but I had the Republic maxed out at 4, Despotism was at 0, and the Monarchy was at -1. Prussia was at 4 (Cologne), Britain was 4 (At Sea), Piedmont was at 4 (Piedmont), Vendee was at 4 (Bordeaux) and Austria was at 3 (Worms).

At the end of the WHITE DECK,

Here's where I lucked out. The turn before the last card of the White Deck, the Austrians were IN PARIS. I pushed them back TWO to Brussels just in time for the Treaty of Campo Formio. If they had been any closer, the Republic would have lost 2 on the Political Track, instead they went up 2.

That left the Republic still maxed out at 4. Despotism was at 2, and the Monarchy was at 1. Prussia was at 3 (Coblenz), Britain was 4 (At Sea) AND Dunkirk was Liberated, Piedmont was at 3 (Savoy), Vendee was at 3 (Nantes) and Austria was at 2 (Brussels).

At the end of the RED DECK, things looked like this:



The British eventually took back Dunkirk but by the Treaty of Amiens, I managed to take the British Army off the map entirely and had pushed the Austrians back far enough that I liberated Brussels. That would be my high point of the last deck.

By the second to last card of the game, Brussels had fallen, and both the Austrians AND Prussians were in Paris. I luckily managed to get them both out with the two free "To the Barricades" actions and spent the rest of the final turn trying to push back everywhere I could. (I should have spent all those last actions on the Political Track instead.)

Final positions:

POLITICAL TRACK: Republic: 3, Monarchy: 4, Despotism: 4 (VPs: -27)

MAP: British: Gone!, Austria: 2 (Brussels), Prussia: 2 (Metz), Piedmont: 2 (Dijon), Vendee: 2 (Rennes) (VPs: -6)

TOTAL VPs: -33 Substantive Defeat

Like I said, this game was a lot of fun and I can't wait to play it again with a little better knowledge. Both of the game and how to play it AND with a little better knowledge of history.

Anyone know any good, SHORT, books about the French Revolution?

Dave


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Mayor Jim
United States
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Dave,
Nice review and pics...also refreshing to hear someone admit that they knew little of the history of the period/game before playing...and then actually learned from it
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Robert
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A book that I enjoyed that is somewhat about the French Revolution is The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

Don't be put off by that "somewhat" descriptor. It's definitely worth your time.
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David Arlington
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Thanks, Robert! I'll check it out!

Dave
 
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Richard Hecker
Australia
Kallista, jewel of the Dandenongs
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While reading is very fine, you could get it pre-digested for a quicker introduction to be taken on the move. Take a look at Mike Duncan's Revolutions podcast. The third revolution he covers is the French Revolution

Starts here for the Froggies
http://www.revolutionspodcast.com/2014/07/index.html
(But of course you'll go back to the Americans to see some names like Lafayette, and onwards to Haiti & Venezuela to see later careers.)

Also available where all good podcast feeds are found.
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Mayor Jim
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Richard, nice find! Thanks...
 
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David Nichols
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Doyle's THE FRENCH REVOLUTION: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION is thoughtful and compact, if a little dry. I think the ebook version is around $6 US.
 
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don cogswell
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Delray Beach
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Currently reading Avengers of the New World, an excellent history of the Haitian revolt/revolution. Now I'm fired up to dig out Levee and I've ordered the Dumas book. Thanks guys!
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David Arlington
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After playing fellow States of Siege game, Soviet Dawn, earlier this month, I wanted to get Levee En Masse back out on the tabletop again as well.

I like that, while both games are in the same States of Siege series and share some common mechanics, they are different enough to warrant owning and playing both of them.

I like the greater deck variability in Soviet Dawn compared to the somewhat more linear historical track of Levee En Masse. I also like how some Armies/Factions can go Inactive for periods of time in Soviet Dawn.

But in Levee En Masse, I like the more in depth Political system. Not only does the triple threat track impact Military Strength DRMs, but also has a big impact on end game Victory Point scoring. And though from a game standpoint, the more linear historical track doesn't offer as much variety, it DOES tell a much more coherent "story". So both games have their strong points to me.

I lost this second game with a Substantive Defeat, just 2 or 3 cards into the final Red Deck, when the Prussians invaded Paris and I couldn't get them out again. (More on that later.)

One of the reasons the game was tougher on me this time was I realized this game I had played a rule wrong in the first game. In the first game, I thought if the Republic was in the 3 or 4 space on the Political Track, removing the "Disorder" marker from Paris was automatic and didn't cost an Action out of your limited number of Actions. The second game I played it right and used an Action (the removal is automatic, but DOES cost an Action still). I also hadn't realized that you could just LEAVE the Disorder marker in Paris at the end of the turn (even though the fact that you could is printed right on the map!) if you didn't want to spend an Action removing it this turn and were willing to take a hit on the Political track.

Here is the board at the end of the Blue Deck, when I still had things fairly well in hand. Sure, Despotism was high, but the Republic was higher and the Monarchy was at its lowest. Also, all the armies were out at 3 or higher and I had a Liberation marker out to slow down the Austrians:



The White deck was definitely not as kind to me this game. The Prussians were "active" almost the whole game this time. But my biggest mistake I can lay at my own feet. Since the start and end cards of each color deck is the same EVERY game, I should have known/realized that having the Austrian army in Arras when "The Treaty of Campo Formio" came out was a very bad thing. That cost me my Military Strength positive DRM at a time I needed it the most, with Austria (having wiped out the Liberation Army) and Prussia on the doorstep of Paris:



I never was able to recover my +1 DRM in time to keep Prussia from entering Paris and not being able to evict them (even with the free "To the Barricades" action). Game over with a -38 score! Ouch! At least it wasn't a "Crushing Defeat" or whatever the two even worse defeats are.



Oh well, I'm off to eat some cake. (Take that, queenie!)

Dave
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Mayor Jim
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Nice report...thanks...I'm going to have to dust this one off and give it a go again...you've inspired me!
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