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Selwyn Ward
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Published by PSC Games, Lincoln is the latest title from prolific designer Martin Wallace. Though it has military units and a board featuring an abstracted map of connected locations representing key sites in the American Civil War, Lincoln isn't a wargame. It's a card-driven game where both players are competing to make the most effective use of their asymmetric deck of cards. Shown here is a prototype of the game; if it does well on Kickstarter, the likelihood is that the actual components for Lincoln will be an upgrade on those shown on Board's Eye View (www.facebook.com/boardseye).

In Lincoln, players each have a hand of cards and, on their turn, they can use these cards to take two actions. The Union player’s hand size is always 6; the Confederate player starts with a hand size of 5 but this can be reduced to 4 and eventually 3 as a result of Union progress on a blockade track. Most cards can be put to two or more alternative uses. If they are used for their primary function (usually to build an army or fort), they are mostly single once-per-game use (they are played and then removed from the game) and most have to be paid for by the player additionally discarding other cards from their hand. This can lead to difficult and delicate choices as players will almost always be depleting their supplies and sacrificing potential opportunities in order to take build actions.

Martin Wallace refers to the game mechanic in Lincoln as a ‘deck destruction’ rather than a deck building game. It’s an apt description and the cards ‘burnt’ and those cycled out of use serve too as a metaphor for the grim arithmetic of attrition that characterised this conflict, just as they do in PSC’s other card-driven wargames, the excellent Quartermaster General series by Ian Brody. The rules for combat mean battles are likely to be heavily affected by the cards added to that battle to represent the impact of leadership. Nevertheless, they involve losses being taken by both sides, encouraging players to treat low-value units as mere cannon fodder; again, a perhaps apt abstraction of the war.

Both players have several alternative victory conditions in Lincoln. The pressure is on the Union player to have scored a net advantage in victory points (usually by making territorial gains) before they shuffle and recycle their discard pile. Additional cards are shuffled into the discard piles the first and second time they are recycled. These too are asymmetric: making the Union notably stronger over time as the Confederacy gets weaker. The Confederate player’s scope for action can be greatly curtailed by Union progress on the blockade track, but a parallel Europe track offers one alternative route to a Confederate victory (in effect, recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and other European powers).

With a range of different victory conditions, each player has a seemingly free hand on how they play the game. That said, just as Chess allows a Fool’s Mate trap, so the Union player in Lincoln can leave themselves open to losing on the Confederate’ player’s first turn! The rules specify that the Union player goes first and allows them free reign to take any actions they like. Be warned, however, if the Union player doesn’t use at least one of their two actions to reinforce their position in Washington, the Confederate player may, on their turn, take the opportunity to build another unit at Manassas and then take a movement action to try to take Washington on this first turn. If they succeed, it’s instant Game Over! Although Washington gives the Union player a +4 in defence, the Confederates can top this if they are able to boost their attack with a high-value leadership card. I was able to chalk up a Confederate win in this way on my very first play of Lincoln. And this wasn't due to my having an especially fortuitous hand: there is quite a high chance that the Confederate player will hold a high-value leadership card and a relatively low chance that the Union player will hold one (the Confederate deck starts off with fifteen +4 and +5 leadership cards in a deck of 38; the Union starting deck of 47 includes just four cards with +4 leadership). The very real risk of this quick Confederate victory doesn’t make this game ‘broken’, it just means the Union player has to be wise to the fact that their capital is vulnerable from the start of the game.

The various options and the clever balance of very different forces all make for a thoughtful and engrossing strategy game with rather more of a ‘euro’ feel than you’ll find in a more conventional war game. If you’re a traditional war gamer, Lincoln is a game that will certainly make you think; if you don’t usually consider war-themed games, then you really mustn’t let the Civil War setting put you off giving this game a try. Lincoln is a subtle hand management game that offers the opportunity for some intriguing cat and mouse tactics. Definitely one to check out.
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Andrew Franke
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Poins wrote:
The very real risk of this quick Confederate victory doesn’t make this game ‘broken’, it just means the Union player has to be wise to the fact that their capital is vulnerable from the start of the game.
I Truly hope as you stated this game is not broken. We have no need for a Washington Whopper to go with the Halifax Hammer. LOL. Seriously though I am looking forward to this one.
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usiandrew wrote:
Poins wrote:
The very real risk of this quick Confederate victory doesn’t make this game ‘broken’, it just means the Union player has to be wise to the fact that their capital is vulnerable from the start of the game.
I Truly hope as you stated this game is not broken. We have no need for a Washington Whopper to go with the Halifax Hammer. LOL. Seriously though I am looking forward to this one.


It is a risk of course, if it fails it is a great waste of resources it seems. Game looks great.

If it works, it was a short game and you can start another
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James Clarke
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Poins wrote:
That said, just as Chess allows a Fool’s Mate trap, so the Union player in Lincoln can leave themselves open to losing on the Confederate’ player’s first turn! The rules specify that the Union player goes first and allows them free reign to take any actions they like. Be warned, however, if the Union player doesn’t use at least one of their two actions to reinforce their position in Washington, the Confederate player may, on their turn, take the opportunity to build another unit at Manassas and then take a movement action to try to take Washington on this first turn. If they succeed, it’s instant Game Over!

Are you saying that half of the Union's first turn is scripted, else they lose?
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Paul Burkart
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Highland Cow wrote:
Poins wrote:
That said, just as Chess allows a Fool’s Mate trap, so the Union player in Lincoln can leave themselves open to losing on the Confederate’ player’s first turn! The rules specify that the Union player goes first and allows them free reign to take any actions they like. Be warned, however, if the Union player doesn’t use at least one of their two actions to reinforce their position in Washington, the Confederate player may, on their turn, take the opportunity to build another unit at Manassas and then take a movement action to try to take Washington on this first turn. If they succeed, it’s instant Game Over!

Are you saying that half of the Union's first turn is scripted, else they lose?


I'm not sure about this. Being able to take Washington on the first turn would be possible but not guaranteed for the Confederate player. If the Union player has a leadership card with a high number in hand during his first turn, he may choose to not reinforce Washington and to save the leadership card for future combat, making the likelihood of a Confederate victory smaller.

On top of that, the rulebook has a section regarding withdrawals. If the defender has sole control over the location, he can choose not to fight the battle and simply retreats his units into the other half of the now-contested location. A battle can take place here in the future, but he lives to fight another turn. Granted, this would seem to make life very difficult for the Union player (as he would have to rush reinforcements to Washington), but it's not an instant game-loser.

I haven't played the game yet, so I don't know anything about optimal strategies... but it seems as though the Union player's best strategy is to play defensively at first in the east, reinforcing Washington to prevent an early defeat, and trying to attack along the coast or in the west wherever he spots weaknesses in the Confederate player's defenses. Choosing not to reinforce Washington on the first turn would be dangerous and taking a major risk, but it's not a guaranteed defeat. Furthermore, how the Union player goes about reinforcing DC will change from game to game depending on the cards and desired strategy (i.e. Does he build a fort there or place more troops? Does he use both actions to reinforce the capital, or just one?). I don't think a desired opening strategy means that the first turn is scripted, as how one goes about putting this strategy into practice will change based on the available cards.
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I don't see the problem with this. It's entirely thematic. The Union Capital was always a mile from the border with the Confederacy. Reinforcing Washington and invading Virginia to create a buffer was the first order of business.
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Martin Juhl
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DaiMonPaul wrote:
Highland Cow wrote:
Poins wrote:
That said, just as Chess allows a Fool’s Mate trap, so the Union player in Lincoln can leave themselves open to losing on the Confederate’ player’s first turn! The rules specify that the Union player goes first and allows them free reign to take any actions they like. Be warned, however, if the Union player doesn’t use at least one of their two actions to reinforce their position in Washington, the Confederate player may, on their turn, take the opportunity to build another unit at Manassas and then take a movement action to try to take Washington on this first turn. If they succeed, it’s instant Game Over!

Are you saying that half of the Union's first turn is scripted, else they lose?


I'm not sure about this. Being able to take Washington on the first turn would be possible but not guaranteed for the Confederate player. If the Union player has a leadership card with a high number in hand during his first turn, he may choose to not reinforce Washington and to save the leadership card for future combat, making the likelihood of a Confederate victory smaller.

On top of that, the rulebook has a section regarding withdrawals. If the defender has sole control over the location, he can choose not to fight the battle and simply retreats his units into the other half of the now-contested location. A battle can take place here in the future, but he lives to fight another turn. Granted, this would seem to make life very difficult for the Union player (as he would have to rush reinforcements to Washington), but it's not an instant game-loser.

I haven't played the game yet, so I don't know anything about optimal strategies... but it seems as though the Union player's best strategy is to play defensively at first in the east, reinforcing Washington to prevent an early defeat, and trying to attack along the coast or in the west wherever he spots weaknesses in the Confederate player's defenses. Choosing not to reinforce Washington on the first turn would be dangerous and taking a major risk, but it's not a guaranteed defeat. Furthermore, how the Union player goes about reinforcing DC will change from game to game depending on the cards and desired strategy (i.e. Does he build a fort there or place more troops? Does he use both actions to reinforce the capital, or just one?). I don't think a desired opening strategy means that the first turn is scripted, as how one goes about putting this strategy into practice will change based on the available cards.


I believe its only Confederate who can built forts
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Jeff M
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usiandrew wrote:
Poins wrote:
The very real risk of this quick Confederate victory doesn’t make this game ‘broken’, it just means the Union player has to be wise to the fact that their capital is vulnerable from the start of the game.
I Truly hope as you stated this game is not broken. We have no need for a Washington Whopper to go with the Halifax Hammer. LOL. Seriously though I am looking forward to this one.


A Few Acres of Snow is one of my favorite games.
Never have had an issue with the "Halifax Hammer". Just avoided reading anything about it and I and those I play with are not smart enough to figure it our by ourselves!
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Paul Burkart
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mjuhl wrote:
I believe its only Confederate who can built forts


Ah, you would be right!
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Zach Wilkes
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Highland Cow wrote:

Are you saying that half of the Union's first turn is scripted, else they lose?


I just watched the marcowargamer video on this game and he has some words regarding the Union difficulties in this game. (It's not in the video section yet, but it's a new video so I'll give him time to post it)

I think I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach. Now that I know what I know, if nothing else changes, I would be basically cursed to always have to play the Union to avoid having the upper hand and then I start on the back foot.
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Curt Frantz
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Lowden025 wrote:
usiandrew wrote:
Poins wrote:
The very real risk of this quick Confederate victory doesn’t make this game ‘broken’, it just means the Union player has to be wise to the fact that their capital is vulnerable from the start of the game.
I Truly hope as you stated this game is not broken. We have no need for a Washington Whopper to go with the Halifax Hammer. LOL. Seriously though I am looking forward to this one.


A Few Acres of Snow is one of my favorite games.
Never have had an issue with the "Halifax Hammer". Just avoided reading anything about it and I and those I play with are not smart enough to figure it our by ourselves!


The friend I was playing with and I stumbled upon it in our first play. It seemed so obviously the best thing to do. I was very disappointed and only got a few plays out of the game before moving on. Very lazy design.

*shrug*
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Selwyn Ward
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It's always intriguing to see games adapted during their development. This issue I flagged in my review and which Marco runs with and describes as the 'Manassas Hammer' is, I gather, being addressed during the course of the game's Kickstarter campaign. My understanding is that various modifications are being playtsted including a bolstering of the Union's starting position in Washington. It seems likely that the amended rules will either make it easier for the Union player to satisfy the 2VP lead requirement on their first shuffle (Confederacy automatically wins if the Union doesn't have that lead by that point) or will drop that requirement altogether.
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Stephen Hurn
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DaiMonPaul wrote:
Highland Cow wrote:
Poins wrote:
That said, just as Chess allows a Fool’s Mate trap, so the Union player in Lincoln can leave themselves open to losing on the Confederate’ player’s first turn! The rules specify that the Union player goes first and allows them free reign to take any actions they like. Be warned, however, if the Union player doesn’t use at least one of their two actions to reinforce their position in Washington, the Confederate player may, on their turn, take the opportunity to build another unit at Manassas and then take a movement action to try to take Washington on this first turn. If they succeed, it’s instant Game Over!

Are you saying that half of the Union's first turn is scripted, else they lose?


I'm not sure about this. Being able to take Washington on the first turn would be possible but not guaranteed for the Confederate player. If the Union player has a leadership card with a high number in hand during his first turn, he may choose to not reinforce Washington and to save the leadership card for future combat, making the likelihood of a Confederate victory smaller.

On top of that, the rulebook has a section regarding withdrawals. If the defender has sole control over the location, he can choose not to fight the battle and simply retreats his units into the other half of the now-contested location. A battle can take place here in the future, but he lives to fight another turn. Granted, this would seem to make life very difficult for the Union player (as he would have to rush reinforcements to Washington), but it's not an instant game-loser.

I haven't played the game yet, so I don't know anything about optimal strategies... but it seems as though the Union player's best strategy is to play defensively at first in the east, reinforcing Washington to prevent an early defeat, and trying to attack along the coast or in the west wherever he spots weaknesses in the Confederate player's defenses. Choosing not to reinforce Washington on the first turn would be dangerous and taking a major risk, but it's not a guaranteed defeat. Furthermore, how the Union player goes about reinforcing DC will change from game to game depending on the cards and desired strategy (i.e. Does he build a fort there or place more troops? Does he use both actions to reinforce the capital, or just one?). I don't think a desired opening strategy means that the first turn is scripted, as how one goes about putting this strategy into practice will change based on the available cards.


Regarding withdrawals and Washington - the southern defensive value of Washington is 4, which the union only gets if Washington is not contested. To get better than that by withdrawing would require the union to use a specific card to bring in 2/3 armies from their other fronts. If they did not have the rail movement card which allows them to move 2 armies from anywhere else they could only build one 3 strength army and move that in, making it almost always better to stay and fight under the current rule set.

I'd expect an official announcement of a rule change in the next few days (though this is entirely speculation, I have no inside information on this one).
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