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1812: The Invasion of Canada» Forums » Reviews

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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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"Those are Regulars by God"

The War of 1812 is a subject that seldom sets any gamer’s a heart “a pounding with any type of passion. In general it was a bit of a failed war on land for the US. In terms of naval matters, the US Navy performed admirably…but was soon bottled up in port so as a strategic asset it was of little value. The British burned the White House but Dolly Madison saved Washington’s portrait. The war created such rifts in the American political fabric that New England considered secession at the Hartford Convention. But there were some moments – we had Scott drilling his troops so well, that were so collected under fire that the British exclaimed at Lundy’s Lane “Those are Regulars by God”. What most of us remember is the battle fought after peace had been signed, though no one yet knew it, the Battle of New Orleans, immortalized by Johnny Horton. So what possessed Academy Games to release a game on this subject? The answer as Uwe would tell us because 1812 – The Invasion of Canada is a good game (hereafter 1812). The fact that it was released in the Bicentennial year of the War is just gravy. But the critical question you want to know is this, how does it play?


Game set up

COMPONENTS
The components are generally quite up to the standards of what one expects from Academy Games. On the back of the box it states a large 950mm X 480mm box – for us non-metric folks that is “ 37" X 19" “. It is an attractive enough map although I wished the rivers were better delineated. NO hexes here as the game is based upon area movement. The rule book needed good examples of this as I was always iffy about that, as water is really the only terrain feature in the game. The 60 game cards (12 per side) are of a very durable card stock and pleasing to look at on both sides. They feel “good” in a tactile sense. I liked the dice ala GMT’s Command and Colors series where the hits are determined by the symbols on the dice. There is also a series of colored cubes to represent each faction that one draws from the drawstring bag. I do have one aspect I’m just ok with and it’s the cube. I’m not one of those folks who seem to hate the game because of these soulless cubes. I grew up playing Risk with wood pieces and it never interfered in my mind. Moreover it’s not like they are independent arms per se in the game as everyone is some type of ground pounder. But Academy Games could have offered an option where you could buy HO scale soldiers to represent the various factions.


RULES
The basic rulebook is short - seven pages total of rules and an overall total of twelve pages. The rules are liberally illustrated that I found not only made it easier to grasp but allowed me to play my first game error free. That bears repeating - a game played error free.

GAME PLAY
1812 plays quickly, but not in the sense that anything is missing. The game is well-crafted that no turn will take very long. It’s one of the faster paced games I have seen in some time. There are three scenarios – the 1812 Introductory Scenario, the 1812 Full Campaign and the 1813 we return to your war in progress scenario. The 1812 Introductory scenario is simply golden. I can’t praise it enough. As an introduction for new players it’s awesome. For experienced gamers it’s great as the two turn limit makes choices difficult. The only down side to this scenario is your game cards are picked out for you in advance. To add a little suspense or variation to it, pull one of the six original cards, set it aside and pick another at random.
The American Player comprises two factions, Regulars and Militia. The British Player has Regular, Canadian Militia and Native American allies. The game engine is set up on a variable order of play. What this means is you pick a colored cube out of the drawstring bag. This means you could have all of your sides factions go first. The pulling of this cube begins a round. Each player in their round Place new troops (enlistments) and units who broke and fled in previous turns battles, play a movement card and up to Special action cards, resolve combat and draw new cards to replenish the hand. One thing I liked greatly was a hand of cards consisted of only three cards.



A very large US invasion of Canada. Defeat turns to victory for the British as the British Regulars and Indians rallied.

Combat is very simple. Each force factions roll a number of dice corresponding up to the number of units up to the game rules maximum limits for that faction. Native American and Militia units roll more dice but are less likely to get a hit. Losses are chosen by the owning player. In a multi-player game, that side must decide among themselves whose units suffer removal. There are three results – a hit, a flee result which causes the unit to be removed from the map to the Fled Unit area off map and the Command Decision result. The command decision result allows you to move one unit out of the current battle to any adjacent friendly area.
However combat is not the heart of the game. I maintain that these guys suckered punched us in the most devious of ways to make it like 1812 by layering it the complexities of logistics in a simple and almost seamless manner. For the US, your unit musters areas are far away from your theatres of actions. This makes it a challenge to mount a series of continued and reinforced offensives. The British Player does not labor under the same strictures. Moreover, with the Native American Muster area square dab in the middle of British Canada, they are spread out in a manner to quickly reinforce threats. So what this means is you must maximize your movement cards. As the American Player this limits you to but several offensive drives - surprise! That’s the history of this war in the north. Each movement card tells you how many moves per area you can make, with a number of figures representing armies of one faction. The other movement factor is the use of water that can be traversed by canoe for Native Americans, warships or fishing boats.
A complaint is that the game is unlike the War of 1812. I actually thought about that for a while and agreed – I didn’t have to tramp through uncharted woods to play it. Nor did I need to face the privations of wilderness campaigning. Jesting aside, how does a game reflect the War of 1812? Can’t that accusation be leveled at every game we play? Now to me it passed that sniff test. Bodies of water time and time again impacted strategic campaigning, which is nicely covered here. My one concern is that the Native Americans have too large of an impact. Coupled with the three British sides to the two American sides in the game, there might be some player imbalance.


CONCLUSIONS

Remember the River Raisin and 1812 – the Invasion of Canada! I continue to roll a hot hand with games but this one was a delightful surprise. Easy to set up, easy to play, no thirty page rule book and fun with a lot of tension in terms of game play. It plays VERY well solo but is better with friends. With a playing time of one to two hours that go by with a rush, this one should see a lot of time down off the shelf. A sure fire pickup this one. Uwe of Academy Games asked me to review this game. It sat for a while, mainly due to Army obligations back then. I got it out and discovered an incredibly fun, challenging and fast game. It's hard for the Americans. But guess what? So were all the American efforts to conquer Canada (ask Benedict Arnold in 1775). How well do I think of this game? Well enough to hope to get 1775 and 1754!
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Bill Eldard
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I like the game, but as sort of an advanced version of Risk! than as a game approximating the War of 1812. Like most multiplayer wargames, it is a 2-player game that can be played by teams.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Bill:
It was representative enough to me without getting bogged down in aspects of that period in North America that would have been...YAWN..boring.

Smitty
PS - Thanks for the reply
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Peter McDonald
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Thank you for a very detailed review. I like that it can be played solo. Just a pet peeve when you say Britain and Native American allies. Natives in Canada have never been referred to as Native Americans. That's just south of the border. Up here it's First Nations or Indigenous.

Thanks again.
 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Thanks Peter - Smitty
 
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Asger Harding Granerud
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A brilliant game, really amongst my favourites. And I totally agree with the RISK comparison, except this isn't really super advanced it is just plain better.

Asger
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Asger:

This was a game I had and sort of set for a while and finally said...well let's get it out of the way and instead was greeted with a very nice gaming experience.

Smitty
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Bill Eldard
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pdwmcdonald wrote:
Thank you for a very detailed review. I like that it can be played solo. Just a pet peeve when you say Britain and Native American allies. Natives in Canada have never been referred to as Native Americans. That's just south of the border. Up here it's First Nations or Indigenous.

Thanks again.

You'll have to take that up with Academy Games -- they refer to Native Americans in the copy that I own.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Bill:

Well there is that.

Smitty
 
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Kevin Duke
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Nice review.

I think the Risk comparison is 100% wrong and have not seen anyone who actually PLAYED the game much who feels that way.

It's great with 5 people, if you can let each player do his own thing and not get into too much analysis.

The '3 turns' for the Brits vs 2 turns for the US has some folks worried about it being imbalanced. We've played a lot and found it close, but only slightly leaning Brit. We noticed that the US factions actually have 10 fewer blocks than the combined Brit factions. While the Brits seldom "run out," it's not that hard for the Americans. We added 5 blocks to each US faction and the bit of extra strength seems to help with balance.

If you like the system, 1775 is very similar in mechanics but much more open-ended in terms of play, and the newly shipped 1754--which has elements of both the other two plus some new stuff of its own, also looks to give more of an open playing field.

All 3 are fine games.
 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Thanks Kevin for the reply. I'm looking forward to 1775.

Smitty
 
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Bill Eldard
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kduke wrote:
Nice review.

I think the Risk comparison is 100% wrong and have not seen anyone who actually PLAYED the game much who feels that way. It's great with 5 people, if you can let each player do his own thing and not get into too much analysis.

I "actually have PLAYED the game," thank you, but it's very probable that you've never seen me.

Similarites:
- Area control
- Strength is measure in uniform units (cubes)
- Combat resolved by dice
- The winner is the player/side with the most areas controlled when the game ends.
Dissimilarities:
-Risk! is a multiplayer game that can be played by two. 1812: The Invasion of Canada is a two-team game played by teams of 1-3.
- Each faction has its own set of dice specialized to reflect its combat abilities.
-Risk! ends when player controls all the areas. From game turn 3 on, 1812 ends when all of the truce cards of one or both sides have been played.
- Movement in Risk! is simple area-to-adjacent-area. 1812 movement in driven by cards, which also introduce other qualities.

I believe 1812 is a better game and would prefer to play it than Risk!. But I also believe that I could add the special dice/combat rules, card sets, and end game truce rules to Risk! and play (Not that that is necessarily a good idea. }
kduke wrote:
The '3 turns' for the Brits vs 2 turns for the US has some folks worried about it being imbalanced. We've played a lot and found it close, but only slightly leaning Brit. We noticed that the US factions actually have 10 fewer blocks than the combined Brit factions. While the Brits seldom "run out," it's not that hard for the Americans. We added 5 blocks to each US faction and the bit of extra strength seems to help with balance.

I haven't played it enough to detect an imbalance, but thanks for the tip.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Bill:

I will note my cats "love" this game...

Sigh.

Smitty
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uwe eickert
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Peter, points well taken! In '1754 - The French and Indian War', our latest game in this same series, we refer to the indigenous as 1st Nation tribes, since this is how they seem to have been referred to.
But in 1812 we refer to the 1st Nations as Native Americans, since this is how many were referred to in historical documents, including just as the 'Natives'.
We try to keep the vernacular used at the time. (Even though these even change as historical interpretations and references change with the progression of time.)
Uwe
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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THANKS Uwe.

Smitty
 
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