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Subject: A great CDG for an under-appreciated topic rss

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Steven Dolges
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While No Peace Without Spain is between printings (good luck finding a copy) I have enjoyed my copy enough that I feel I can give a proper review on this game. It's prequel Nine Years War is still available and similar enough so give it a look. A sequel of sorts is also in development, expected sometime next year, A Pragmatic War.

Nine Years War: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/203087/nine-years-war-gr...

A Pragmatic War: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/230040/pragmatic-war-war...

Components and Rules Organization:

Components is an area where if it is bad it can ruin a good game, but great components can't make a bad game good. NPWS has solid components: paper map (I use plexi so this was fine by me), middle-of-the-road counter quality, and fair glossy cards. The use of art I liked, on the cards and on the map. Some folks I played with didn't notice the art within the countries on the map, thinking it was terrain illustration, but it's there! The map itself is useful and the information is presented clearly, though I would have liked a legend instead of some information only being available in the rulebook. There is plenty of space on the map to put one there. Might've been better to put the fortress strength beside the map point rather than directly on it as counters cover it up, but that is a nitpick. Depending on how you play you may find you need more fortified line counters than are available in the game, so you'll need to make your own or substitute.

The rules are well organized and easy to absorb, though I am a veteran CDG player at this point. I don't recall being confused by any rules but it is worth having the rules handy so you can perform procedures correctly like retreating while leaving a unit behind to garrison a fortress. One thing of note is that the player aid charts are great and include almost everything you need to play, period.

The components are 'solid' which means the gameplay is the real determining factor in the quality of this game...

Gameplay:

NPWS is a CDG that utilizes the typical suspects: point-to-point map movement, stacks of units, leaders with a combat rating and a rating for how many units they can lead, and cards played for 'actions' based on point values. Don't let that fool you though, the game has its own twists, but the familiar mechanics help in learning the game.

The game portrays the War of Spanish Succession, with one player controlling the French Bourbons and their allies against the Alliance (British, Dutch, Austrian, etc.). Each side is subdivided into the countries involved, impacting leadership abilities and replacing losses. Rather than cards giving you an event or OPs points, you simply get cards with point values, playing one on your turn and making the best of the points you get. This may be one bummer of the game because getting a bad hand with low numbers can be frustrating with no events to make up for it. A little luck is in every wargame, I suppose. There ARE events, but they came in at the beginning of each turn when each player draws one event card from the event deck and either plays it immediately or holds it for a specific situation, depending on the text. Some of these events can be quite powerful when played at the right time.

I've seen some criticism that this game doesn't have much historical flavor but I disagree with this sentiment. The event cards do the job of laying some historical event effects on the game just fine, but its other game mechanics do the job as well. This era of warfare was siege-centric, with forces careful of a direct battle due to the risky results. Almost an army-in-being effect (like fleet-in-being) occurred and the game has this as well. The combat system is such that each strength point provides a die to combat, along with leadership values. Hits are on 5 or 6s typically, which means indeed sometimes results can be wide ranging. What hurts is that the losing army becomes 'demoralized', meaning in future combats that turn they will only hit on 6s. There are ways to rally troops to remove the demoralization effect but it costs time and card points. A demoralized army can be hit again and may result in big stacks being reduced quickly.

As such, aggressive play will lead to smaller and smaller armies as the game goes on, as replacements are not plentiful and reinforcements are only available for so long. Playing cautiously (and likely more historically) will lead to fewer large scale battles. A 12-die stack may not be willing to risk a battle with even an 8-die stack due to the risk, so strategy can come down to tying up forces on one front and pushing luck in others. A string of bad luck battles could see the collapse of an entire front. The game utilizes 'fortified lines' to add to the strategy, which provide bonuses or penalties to die rolls. They come in 2 levels, the first just giving a -1 penalty to enemy die rolls when attacking your spaces (meaning only hitting on 6s or not at all for demoralized troops) while the second does the former PLUS providing your units a +1 (meaning hitting on 4s, 5s, and 6s). Building these take away precious resource points that might be spent on unit replacements but the impact is huge and I'm finding more and more it is worth the investment.

Besides battles though there is a heavy focus on sieges, as was historical (at least to my understanding). Stacks will occupy a space and on subsequent rounds roll siege assault attempts. There are modifiers to the roll to speed up progress but it will typically take a few cards to complete a siege. Taken fortresses are worth VPs so it will be a major focus for making progress in the game. Taking a fortress then reinforcing the space with fortified lines during the next reinforcement phase is a good way to take ground and keep it.

Leaders can die or be captured in combat, so while the Alliance player gets the best leader in the game (Marlborough) there is always a risk in putting them in harms way. In my first game I lost Eugene in his first battle. Devastating.

Additionally, there are some interesting rules on Spanish loyalty. While Spain may be in the title, you might consider it a sideshow just by looking at the situation on the map. While you may not be using a huge amount forces in that theater due to stacking limits, it can be a critical area. There is sea movement in the game, with the Alliance being the only benefactor. Atlantic travel is always available but Mediterranean travel requires taking Cadiz or waiting for Portugal to enter the war. Getting into Cadiz early can be important and from there taking Spanish fortresses and Madrid can flip Spanish loyalty and provide a good number of VPs. In addition, if the Alliance has a tough go at Spain there can be a Habsburg uprising. This hands Catalonia into the hands of the Alliance, keeping the whole area an interesting tangle during play.

What all of this leads to is a delicate dance. Do I concentrate my forces on a particular front? My opponent left Metz vacant, do I chance the push to Paris via that opening? Maneuvering to capture capitals for an automatic victory is tempting, but perhaps a more slow and steady strategy will win the day?

There are other things I could cover but it would make this review a bit too verbose (it already is). Overall the gameplay is engaging, flavorful, and can make for some dramatic and memorable results.

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I've gotten the feeling this game hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Maybe that is just me. As far as CDGs go, this game certainly has its place among the great ones. There are some frustrations there with the card draw luck, but it is a great exercise in risk management as you decide how to bring the battle to your enemy.

If you have its prequel you can do a big campaign using both games which is a very cool perk as well.

I look forward to seeing what else is done with this system and variation of CDG. Take a look if you enjoy CDGs and/or are interested in the War of Spanish Succession. There are not many games covering this conflict, so this is a great place to start for those interested.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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Edward Pundyk
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Excellent review - fair and balanced.

No Peace Without Spain! (and its prequel, Nine Years: The War of the Grand Alliance 1688-1697) is one of my top 5 wargames of all time. The wars of Louis XIV and the 18th Century in general is my favourite historical era, so that doesn’t hurt, either.

I was involved in the first round of playtesting for A Pragmatic War: The War of the Austrian Succession 1741 – 1748, so I can advise that it is a worthy successor to the original 2 titles.
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John B. Firer
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Thanks Steven for an excellent, readable review!

...and thanks Ed for your nice comments about APW.

Regards,

JBF
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Warren Bruhn
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I think there are various reasons why this game gets little attention:

1. The period isn't well known among cardboard wargamers, though it's a little better known among people who play with miniatures.

2. The game is a very light treatment of the topic, great for a quick introduction, but not heavy enough for some cardboard wargamers. Combat is a bit of a dice fest, with key leaders seeming to have less impact than might be warranted by the history (subjective opinion, of course). Much is abstracted, effectively so, in order to give this game a short playing time.

3. Unlike most CDG the events are separate from the action cards, so the player doesn't get to "play the event" as a choice.

4. Map is mostly functional and mildly attractive, but not great.

5. It's currently out of print, so no ongoing buzz from prospective buyers.

Having said the above, I am really happy to have a copy of this game. I certainly enjoy playing it, even though it's more like an appetizer than an entree. I'm into the WSS as a miniature wargamer, so it's great to have a cardboard intro to the whole war. Love the topic.
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Gabriel Conroy
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I think it's misleading to call this a 'very light' treatment. There are 24 pages of rules (21 if you exclude the example of play), which makes it heavier than plenty of other wargames. I'd call it medium weight, comparable to Wilderness War, For the People, Kingdom of Heaven etc. The heavy CDGs I can think of are Clash of Monarchs, Empire of the Sun, Assyrian Wars, maybe a few others, but not many.

I find Here I Stand to be a very light game, with buckets of dice, but people don't have any problem with that. Also I think you are being harsh on the map. I'm not a particular fan of Mark Mahaffey but this is one of his better ones.
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Steven Dolges
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
I think there are various reasons why this game gets little attention:

1. The period isn't well known among cardboard wargamers, though it's a little better known among people who play with miniatures.

2. The game is a very light treatment of the topic, great for a quick introduction, but not heavy enough for some cardboard wargamers. Combat is a bit of a dice fest, with key leaders seeming to have less impact than might be warranted by the history (subjective opinion, of course). Much is abstracted, effectively so, in order to give this game a short playing time.

3. Unlike most CDG the events are separate from the action cards, so the player doesn't get to "play the event" as a choice.

4. Map is mostly functional and mildly attractive, but not great.

5. It's currently out of print, so no ongoing buzz from prospective buyers.

Having said the above, I am really happy to have a copy of this game. I certainly enjoy playing it, even though it's more like an appetizer than an entree. I'm into the WSS as a miniature wargamer, so it's great to have a cardboard intro to the whole war. Love the topic.


I think with this game being a game for the entirety of the war at the strategic layer, I'm unsure how much more complex it could be. Zooming in to a battle-level would provide detail but be a different game entirely.

I wonder if there is an example of an existing game that is complex for a game at this strategic level. I am thinking of maybe stuff like Empires in Arms or World in Flames.
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John B. Firer
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I have been a great fan of this game and have said so in multiple forums.

At my age and inclination, I find a game with easily digestible and understandable rules a definite plus. Having such a situation with NPWS, it allows me to concentrate on strategy rather than rules mastery.

JBF

PS I like the map as well!
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