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Subject: What the heck is a Medwar Sicily? rss

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Bill Morgal
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If I were to ask this question to fellow BGGers, judging from its number of plays, I'd probably get a 'dunno, what's that?' This answer would be a pity.
cry


Others might answer 'it's just another wargame set someplace in the Med during WWII.' This answer would just be wrong.
shake

I've been playing a lot of Medwar Sicily. I've been very curious to see what people think of it. There have been no reviews prior to this. Perhaps it is because Medwar is an update of a previous game, Bitter Victory, which has an excellent review written by the master boardgame reviewer da pyrate (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/292274).
arrrh

Or perhaps it is because people just aren't playing Medwar - it only has 10 plays as of this writing listed on BGG. I hope this is because fellow geeks don't always log their plays - I know I am guilty of that having logged only 3 plays. I have played Medwar face to face more times than that. I haven't logged any of my solitaire games. I guess this makes me a prime offender in that regard.
blush




Then what is it?
Medwar has nothing to do with the Mafia or Godfather movies or mob warfare. It is a wargame, but it is based on Operation Husky, the Allied WWII campaign conducted to seize the toe of Italy from the Axis and use it as a springboard into Italy and Southern Europe. Medwar is designed by the prolific Richard Berg. Worthington Games published the game in late July. I bought my copy shortly after its release in August while at the 2009 WBC. The Wylie brothers hoped I liked the Medwar game system because they said more games were planned that use it. Another reason why I hope the low number of plays is an aberration. If the game does poorly, I doubt there will be other games that use this game system - which would be a shame.




If someone were to take a quick glance at Medwar, it would look a lot like any other traditional hex and counter wargame belonging to the old Avalon Hill / SPI school of gaming.



When you open the box you find a large folded full color map sheet of Sicily with a numbered hex grid laid over it. There are your typical war game counters complete with NATO symbols and two numbers representing combat strength and movement. Could this be a throw back to the good old days?


Then you start to notice some things that are not exactly part of the traditional classic AH/SPI wargame. First, there is more than one six sided die. No big deal. Worthington is probably just being generous.


Then you find cards. There is an Allied set of 10 cards and there is an Axis set of 10 cards. It looks like they cover certain historic events and various battle situations. Hmmm. Then with a sick feeling you realize you have not seen something a traditional wargame requires. Concerned, you look through the box thinking your game might be incomplete, but you don't find it. Where is the combat results table? It must be in the rules, right? After a real quick glance through the 12 page rule book, it remains missing-in-action. You look on the back of the box at the contents listing and see none listed. What the heck is this? No CRT?

Puzzled, you sit down and start reading the rules. Finally you realize that Medwar is not cut from the same cloth as the traditional wargames of your youth. There are certainly similarities. But this is something more. Something different even if it looks like the same-old same-old.

Each turn starts with a weather roll. Nothing really different there. A lot of wargames have weather incorporated.



Then things start to change. Instead of the traditional 'you do your move and combat', 'I do my move and combat', an initiative roll has been added. The winner gets to decide who conducts their half of the turn first. You would think this is a no-brainer. It's not. One must consider the old addage 'what goes around, comes around.' A double turn for you might be nice now, but having to suffer through your opponent getting one later could be disasterous.

You read some more and things settle down again. The second number on the counters is just what you thought it would be - unit movement points. You're sure the first number must be its combat factor for determining combat ratios. It turns out you are right and wrong. It is the units combat strength, but it represents the number of dice the unit uses in combat. Ah, that's why there is no CRT! Units with heavy weapons score a hit when a 5 or 6 is rolled. Others when only a 6 is rolled.

Now the differences between a traditional hex and counter wargame start coming hot and heavy. You start reading about zones-of-control. Well, at least Medwar has your typical wargame ZOCs, right? Wrong! Only units with heavy weapons have a zone-of-control. Units can march right around enemy units without ZOCs. And get this, attacking is never mandatory, even if a unit is in a ZOC. If you do decide to attack a hex, other enemy units adjacent to your unit do not have to be attacked. Wow.

Let's talk about the map. In Medwar's cast, it is almost a character in itself. Sicily is a rugged place geography wise. The map does a good job reflecting this. Terrain played an integral part in Operation Husky, and it is reflected in the game nicely and in not too complex a manner. Armor, motorized, and infantry, are all affected in different ways. Armor and motorized can only cross a river at a bridge. They can only pass through a hill or mountain hex if on a road. This is all easy to remember, instead of having a large empty area of Mediterranean Sea on the map, a well laid out chart shows terrain effects on stacking, movement , and combat.

Medwar has supply rules. Keeping units in supply is crucial to success. Units must be within 8 motorized movement points of a road that leads uninterrupted to a friendly supply source. This is tricky. As one plays and studies the map, one better learn and realize where the important road and choke points are.

When hits are scored, the scorer gets to designate which unit receives the first hit. After that, it's up to the recipient to allocate any that might remain. Most units are double sided and have two steps, some only one. Hits are satisfied by removing steps. Armor, motorized, and half step infantry may satisfy a hit by retreating two spaces once per turn.

There are rules that allow steps to be restored, eliminated units refitted, and cards to be purchased. This is done with resource points. The Allies receive 3 a turn. The Axis a variable amount from 1 to 3 for a part of the game and then later 3 for the rest of the game just like the Allies.

There are likewise rules for Allied amphibious invasions by commando units and rules for air operations that include supply interdiction and parachute and glider assaults.

There are various stages and conditions for victory. Essentially, the Allies need to clear Sicily as soon as they can and the Axis need to delay them as much as possible while at the same time withdrawing German units to Italy. The longer it takes the Allies to take Sicily and the more German units withdrawn, the better it is for the Axis.

There are a lot of things I really like about Medwar.

thumbsup The counters
The unit counters are larger than your typical wargame counter (nice for old farts like me). They are well thought out and designed. Heavy Weapons units are easily identified by a red movement number. Reduced units are easily identified by a white combat number. There also are not hundreds of them.


thumbsup The game's combat mechanics.

thumbsup The game's zone-of-control / terrain / and supply mechanics.

thumbsup The map
It is well laid out and colorful. The player aid printed on it make movement mechanics, combat adjustments, and stacking a non-issue when it comes to remembering stuff.

thumbsup Good suspense and tension.
The game is very fun and full of important decision making, perhaps more so for the Axis player than the Allied player. Certainly if playing this for the first time, it will be far easier for the Axis to screw things up than the Allies.
When the games are close, it generates a huge amount of suspense: the Allies usually on the doorstep of Messina and the Axis trying to hold them off while weakening their defensive points to withdraw units.



yuk There are a few things I don't like about Medwar.

thumbsdown The rule book.
It is in color and it contains examples, but for me anyway, I found it lacking in certain areas. Even though it is only 12 pages (only 9 of actual rules), it requires several readings. Subjects are hard to find when questions arise. A lot of time is spent looking and reading for stuff. Many subjects that should have their own detailed sections are buried in areas with nothing to draw attention to them. Some rules cause constant debates each time the game is played. Hopefully some good FAQs will remedy this last situation.

thumbsdown Bad luck frustration syndrome.
Depending when certain operation cards become available (using the base rules some very important ones may never come up in game), and if you are somebody who can safely say that dice are not your friends, bad luck can play more of a role than perhaps it should.

thumbsdown No historical event option.
I would have liked to have had the option of playing where the operation cards that correspond to historical events occur when they did historically - or at least somewhere around where they did historically. Specifically I am speaking about the 'Mussolini Falls' card. This occurred historically at the mid point of the game. If the Axis never get this card, it will make things very hard for them. If they get it near the first turn, it becomes more dicey for the Allies. I guess this just adds suspense for most players. Too me, it adds frustration. Having historical weather would be nice, too. It was by no means as good as today's, but both sides did have weather forecasting so weather should not come as a surprise in a game where every turn represents two days time.

thumbsdown the map
It's not mounted. Get your plexi-glass ready.


And the verdict is...



I really enjoy playing Medwar Sicily. It's fun both face-to-face and I really like playing it solitaire as the Allies. The box mentions that there are solitaire rules, but this really amounts to a few sentences concerning operation cards. Like wargames that don't really pitch the solitaire angle, it really comes down to being schizoid and playing both the Allied and Axis role to the best of your ability when it is your turn.

The box also states that the playing time is 2 to 3 hours. BGG has it at 120 minutes. Perhaps my friends and I are slowpokes, but I have yet to come anywhere even close to that mark. I think you need to set aside a lot more time than that. Perhaps its all the rule debates, but I doubt it.

Medwar Sicily is not just another wargame. It is instead, a game that anyone who enjoys wargames should try. It has a great mix of new and old mechanics that make it unique and a recent favorite of mine. I hope it succeeds so there are more like it. The game certainly deserves more attention than it seems to be getting.

Edited to correct stupid writing errors.
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Brandon Pennington
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Nice review, I think I might have to pick this one up after all.
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Nevin Ball
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Great review. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. Berg is designing another game using this system and it is in GMT's pre-pub offering: Blood & Sand
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Bill Morgal
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Nevin wrote:
Great review. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. Berg is designing another game using this system and it is in GMT's pre-pub offering: Blood & Sand


Sounds like Medwar in North Africa. Neat! I think the game the Wylie brothers mentioned covered WWI in Western Europe during the opening weeks of the war. Don't remember.

The Blood and Sand game sounds like a definite 'get'.
 
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Richard Berg
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Thanx for the kind review . . . I[m glad you;re enjoying the game . . .Worthington has plans for several more using this system.

RHB
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grant wylie
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Richard is working on EastWar covering the German invasion of Russia in 1941 with the system and I am currently working on Guns of August covering 1914 in the West. Great system of which I am a huge fan. Berg hits another out of the park.

Grant Wylie
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David G. Cox Esq.
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An excellent review - I am really very, very impressed with your style.

I have just received a copy of Medwar: Sicily - while the game system is similar there are differences between the games.

Physical Quality - I have mixed feelings. While mounted counters are nice, I think that the colours and design of the counters is nicer in Bitter Victory. I also think that the Bitter Victory map has more pleasant colour tonings - Medwar has darker colours that are just not as pleasing to my eye. It is great to have the map in a single sheet in Medwar but, even then, the way the map comes folded in Medwar is likely to cause tearing and wear due to the thickness of the paper and the way it is folded. Overall, I give a points win to Bitter Victory in the map and counter department. The hexes and counters of Medwar are slightly larger than in Bitter Victory which is another plus for the boxed game.

One small problem with the counters is that they are marginally too large to fit within a hex and when adjacent hexes have units it becomes cluttered and messy to move counters around.

One small problem with the map is that some of the coastal hexes contain a very small amount of land (less than 5% of the hex is land and more than 95% of the hex is water) - it feels wrong to be placing counters in these hexes.

Cards - Medwar all the way - no contest.

Order of Battle - Bitter Victory has around twice as many counters for combat units as does Medwar. I haven't played Medwar yet and so can't comment on the affect this will have on playing the game.

So, I will play Medwar, but judging on graphics alone, I am already disappointed with the product. In some ways it is an improvment - in other ways not so. As we are talking very personal and subjective matters, I understand that others may actually prefer the darker shades in the new version.




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Bill Morgal
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da pyrate wrote:
Physical Quality - I have mixed feelings. While mounted counters are nice, I think that the colours and design of the counters is nicer in Bitter Victory. I also think that the Bitter Victory map has more pleasant colour tonings - Medwar has darker colours that are just not as pleasing to my eye. It is great to have the map in a single sheet in Medwar but, even then, the way the map comes folded in Medwar is likely to cause tearing and wear due to the thickness of the paper and the way it is folded. Overall, I give a points win to Bitter Victory in the map and counter department. The hexes and counters of Medwar are slightly larger than in Bitter Victory which is another plus for the boxed game.

Cards - Medwar all the way - no contest.

Order of Battle - Bitter Victory has around twice as many counters for combat units as does Medwar. I haven't played Medwar yet and so can't comment on the affect this will have on playing the game.

So, I will play Medwar, but judging on graphics alone, I am already disappointed with the product.



Thanks for giving a great contrast of the two games.

You made me curious about some things so I went to see if there were any photos of BV on BGG.


Only having the photos to go by, concerning the counters, I think I like the new ones a bit more because they dropped the 'HW' / 'SA' block between the combat factor and movement numbers. The red movement number works fine for me.

Also, I could be way wrong here, but are you really sure the OOB's are different? They don't seem to be after a cursory look. There are more counters in BV, but it looks like it is because BV uses two counters for the same unit: 1 for its full strength and 1 for its reduced strength. MW uses the same counter for this: full strength one side, reduced strength flipside. I also like the fact that the reduced side's combat factor is white so you can readily tell which units are at full strength and which are reduced. If this is the case, I think MW's design works better.

I did not have a problem with the counter colors used in MW, but a friend who played thought that the colors could have been better differentiated. I could not tell the difference between the two games judging by the BV photo.



Looking at the picture of the map, it's hard to tell if there are any differences in hexs and terrain bewteen the two, Are there? I readily agree about some of the color shading. BV sea hexs and hex numbers are easily readable - not so in MW. And concerning durability, yeah, I wish the map were mounted. The plexi-glass really helps. In the picture, I can't see if there is a table printed on the BV map like the one that is in MW. I really like how that table fills the empty space and it is a great aid in playing the game.

Please post again once you have played MW. I am curious to see how differently the two games play.




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David G. Cox Esq.
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Myrdin T Sasnak wrote:
Also, I could be way wrong here, but are you really sure the OOB's are different?


Actually I am wrong - the first time since June 17 1983. The Bitter Victory counters are not back-printed so it takes nearly twice as many counters as the replacement counters are held off-board until the unit takes a hit.

I apologise for my error and appreciate you pointing it out.



Myrdin T Sasnak wrote:
Looking at the picture of the map, it's hard to tell if there are any differences in hexs and terrain bewteen the two,


Same map, even including the numbering of the hexes. Just the tonings have been changed.



Quote:
Please post again once you have played MW. I am curious to see how differently the two games play.


Knowing that the OOBs are the same I acknowldge that it really is just the same game, with a different name and map colourings.



 
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Richard Partin
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Medwar Sicily review
Very good review. I've played the game enough now that I agree with your comments. In particular, the map, though not mounted, is large and colorful and as you point out, has essential terrain, movement and combat factors printed directly on it--very helpful. I also agree that although the rulebook is not long and the game not complex, I found myself referring back to the rules repeatedly, more so than for other war games at this level. But on the whole I like this game, especially after getting a better sense of the victory conditions and how they affect strategy and tactics. It definitely can play out in many ways, something I was very concerned about after my initial plays.
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