Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Nearly setup. I missed some things so I had to go back and put the disks on the map to represent subdued tribes.


In high school I read Caesar's Gallic Wars. In fact, my favorite Comic Book of all time is the Caesar in Gaul. Over the years I developed a taste again for games of the ancient period. It started with SPI's Legion while at the University of London. We tried Alesia and it was a meh. But Command and Colors hooked me all over again. I even liked the little game by Decision Games on Caesar in Gaul. But how to make Caesar in Gaul a COIN oriented game? When GMT first talked about Falling Sky (FS), I didn't think this was a good match. So I reread Caesar in Gaul and decided that Caesar did far more dickering with the tribes, building alliances and a network to get the Gauls in check. Gaul was to be for Rome what India would later be for Great Britain, their crown jewel. Vercingetorix understood that for Gaul, Rome was the antithesis of Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations that failing to make a stand now meant Gaul would be swallowed and its native culture destroyed. A critical element in COIN that is glossed over is a strong military presence and leadership. In turn that leads to the cornerstone of security and establishing a rule of law. FS is a game from one to four players.


COMPONENTS
The game's components at first seem puzzling with all these little wooden pieces. Oh this is a game one must covered as it simply begs for cats to wreak havoc on it. The wooden pieces represent leaders, units, forts and citadels. There are five nicely rendered Available Forces cards for the Romans, their "Ally", the Aedui Confederation, the Belgic, Vergingetorix's Arverni Confederation and the raiding Germanic tribes. What would a COIN game be without the several thousand (seemingly) of flow chart cards, detailing how non-players proceed or how play proceeds for each of the various players. I can see why folks put these games down as it looks overly intimidating, almost like bad Army doctrine writing. FS's map is simply gorgeous, giving off a nice period flavor. The map is a non-standard 17" X 22". I found I liked the map size for this game as the standard 22" x 34" would have felt too big. The seventy-seven events cards here though really bring the game to life, dealing with just not the large-scale military and political events but the smaller ones that started breaking down Gallic culture, from hostages surrendered up to Roman Wine.



2nd card drawn - and the Roman went to town with it hammering four regions- it's painful.


RULES
The COIN rules remind me of how the Panzer rules were written - not well. I can see someone reading only these rules and putting this pretty game back up on the shelf that doesn't cause the rule reading section of the brain to freeze up. Or perhaps it's a matter of organization, but regardless they are not user friendly in any sense of the term. I went and read the Playbook from cover to cover. Upon doing so, I got the overall concept of play. In fact, I'm not fully certain I would have played the game anywhere near as intended without reading the Playbook. In addition, the game seems virtually errata free at this moment. I do think the explanations at points are overly long and inhibit a player from getting started as game play is faster than wading through some of this. Nevertheless, the tutorial in the Rulebook is a must read, even if you don't get the pieces out and move along.


52 BC Turn 6 The Alesia showdown not at Alesia. This should be quite the brawl - Caesar vs the VMAN!



GAME PLAY

The game is a struggle over controlling the sixteen regions while keeping the Gauls divided among themselves. Control is having more pieces in a region than the other factions combined, which can be challenging. A game will run between two to five years, with approximately seven actions per player. Each Faction has certain strengths or Special Abilities. The Romans will serve as our example in that they can Build, Scout or Besiege. These go hand in hand with their four commands: Recruits, March, Seize and Battle.

What I like is the simplicity of play with the game. A phase starts by drawing an event card. Then you draw a second card to see what lies ahead. Pulling that second card tempers your play a bit The order of the icons at the top of the event card determines who has the initiative first that turn. Doesn't get any easier than that in a game, simply determining who can act first on that card. Only two of the four factions will get to act upon that card's event. The other two will simply wait until the next card is drawn. What happens is the first player can do a Command with no Special Ability used, a Command with a Special Ability or play the event. The second player can choose between a limited command in one region, using the event or a limited command, or a command with the ability to add a special ability. However, you need to be mindful of just not reading the historical event but how it impacts game play as your choice of Command may allow the next faction to activate that event. But those event cards often supersede the rules, an important point to remember - think of it as Caesar's luck. Pulling that second card tempers your play a bit.

For the Romans, maintaining a good supply line through potentially hostile territory is a necessity. Here is where the building public works and doing some 55-52 BC "Hearts and Minds" work comes in. A corollary to that is building forts, to increase your presence and to show the muscle under the purple toga. Further, the presence of a fort plus a leader and an ally allow for the placement of additional Auxilia. Auxilia are good for soaking up losses. Vercingetorix and his like have a historic tactic to drive the Romans out, a scorched earth policy. What they do is devastate a region, making the ability to forage and live off the land impossible. The Russians adopted similar tactics in both 1812 and 1941 to good effect. Be careful in the winter as it is normally a time to pull back and garner resources. The cards do allow for the possibility of Ambiorix's uprising in the Winter of 53 BC that changed the political equitation in Gaul. Of course Caesar, like in the game when assembled with legions is a murderous opponent. The result of Ambiorix's treachery was the Eburones ceased to exist as a people.



Vercingetorix

There are other aspects of the game that impact play to a lesser degree of the way the game is going. The threat of a Roman siege may be enough to give a restive faction in line. Scouting and ambushes are a subroutine of sorts but good scouting helps - ask Quintus Titurius Sabinus who was ambushed by Ambiorix. In addition, you need to track your resources as actions have a game cost. It's one reason why the Roman player needs to have tribes subdued, and preferably dispersed. The one historical fact in the rules that impressed me was the Aedui receive extra resources for river tolls, indicative of excellent research. Caesar was always mindful of the folks back home in Rome, both the Senate and the Plebs, hence his reporting that becomes his commentaries on the campaigns in Gaul. Both sides are playing to the Senate, to influence the support Caesar gets. This facet of the game is a hidden gem, encapsulating lots of intrigue and political tension into an easy model.


In one game, the Balleric Slingers were the second card drawn - and the Roman went to town with it hammering four regions. The Belgic never recovered from this onslaught. It may not be a game changer early on but it rocks if you're the Roman and if not, it's painful. Then drawing the Dumnorix Loyalist Card that has war bands change side, meant that game was over. The treachery aspect is very well handled in FS. The Germans aren't a key player but are always a constant threat of sort. As the Roman you need to keep your eye on that border. Leaders - they are important here and reflect their historic charisma and persona. Roman Legions perform better under the eye of Caesar, as those Legions cause two losses vs. one with no leader. Vercingetorix is the leader of the Arverni Confederation and allows for Rally in devastated territory, which is not possible for others. If there is any suggestion I would have make for a reprint is perhaps make it a game of Gaul light and layer more aspects on, for players will want to add more value as they get acclimatized to this different concept.

CONCLUSIONS

FS is the first of GMT's COIN games to engage my interest. I was unsure how this would work (actually certain it would be laborious) but was pleasantly surprised at how easily this one played. Of the ones I have tried so far, this is probably the best entry point for the COIN games. FS is to me the friendliest of the COIN games for the solitaire player to date. It plays well and was eagerly awaited with over two thousand P500 orders. FS now has me actually awaiting the follow-on volume, Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, and I suppose that sums up my end state. But make no mistake - Falling Sky is a game about brute force, and is at heart a wargame, as Vokho and his son, as a design team, carefully integrated and overlaid the best aspects of COIN and came up with a great new game.


The END - with this as the next card, the Averni simply gave up after Vercingetorix smashing defeat to Caesar as the Romans hit so fast with 8 Legions with the Xth leading the charge that there was no time for the devastation campaign to pay off...

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Alain Curato
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M1Tanker wrote:

There are five nicely rendered Available Forces cards for the Romans, their "Ally", the Aedui Confederation, the Baltic, Vergingetorix's Arverni Confederation and the raiding Germanic tribes.


? Baltic ?

Belgic cool.

Thank you for this exhaustive review.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Alain:

@#@!$%$ Spell check changed it and I didn't catch that1 GRRRR! But thank you for that.

Smitty
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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Spell check can be annoying. It constantly auto corrects my friend's name Scott to Scoot when I write it on FB. Almost think it's worth calling him Scoot, just to save having to constantly correct the auto correct
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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I end up even in official school emails as Smutty vs Smitty.
I like that now.
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Gamien Omen
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Great review. Agree with your assessment of Falling Sky as the best introduction to the COIN system, especially for solo players. Probably a toss-up between this and Cuba Libre in that regard.



 
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Gamien:

CL has yet to hit the table. But it will eventually - you nudged me in that direction. The thing about the COIN games is they take a large investment.

Smitty
 
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David Goulette
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Ashiefan wrote:

Spell check can be annoying. It constantly auto corrects my friend's name Scott to Scoot when I write it on FB. Almost think it's worth calling him Scoot, just to save having to constantly correct the auto correct


I have turned off auto correct everywhere. Auto correct sometimes changes my meaning to silly things. But my typos are usually clear to the reader what I intended.

I can't remember a typo where I accidentally typed something emberasing.
<autocorrected>
I can't remember a typo where I accidentally typed something embracing.

You knew what I meant on the first one.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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blush Yeah - they do get odd.
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