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Texas Glory: 1835-36» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Texas Glory Review: Lessons in Crushing Texan Rebels rss

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Michael Sosa
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Image courtesy of Bruce Jones

Texas Glory is part of Columbia Games distinctive block series of historical titles, known for having relatively simple rules and playable in about 3 hours. They also have very similar rules despite involving different historical periods, a sign of their more abstract nature. The games in the series as of this review are:

2010 Julius Ceasar
2010 Shiloh: April 1862
2009 Richard III
2008 Texas Glory
2007 Athens & Sparta
2005 Crusader Rex
2003 Liberty
2002 Hammer of the Scots
1982 Rommel in the Desert
1973 War of 1812
1972 Quebec 1759


Texas Glory follows the simple card driven system of the series were cards have operation values between 0-4, some being events while the majority only have a number. You won't find complex cards like those produced by GMT here, which have a great amount of information and many ways of being used. Thus Columbia block games fall on the lighter scale of card driven games, suitable for beginners or for veterans wishing for a shorter game.

Part of the reason the Columbia block games are held in high esteem is because while light they do have depth. These are games that will challenge you to play better each time. If GMT style CDGs are like chess, then Columbia's are like Go, simpler components but with a surprising amount of strategy.


Image courtesy of Wyatt Bogan

Ok, so how does Texas Glory play? It feels more scripted than the other two games in the series I have played, Richard III and Hammer of the Scots- although this may be only because I have not played those two as much. In Texas Glory you don't normally find yourself with your faction scattered all over the map. Instead lines are typically formed by the advancing Mexicans and the retreating Texans in the 1836 main scenario. This is reversed in the earlier 1835 Texan Revolt scenario in which the Texans are advancing against the Mexicans. Now the fronts are not static and groups of units can break through enemy defenses and advance deeper than others, but the overall effect is that of a shoving match in which the Texans usually lose.

Texas Glory has three scenarios:


1835- The initial Texan revolt, in which the Texans are attempting to drive the Mexicans from several locations including the forts of Goliad and the Alamo. It lasts 10 turns. The Texans actually start with less strength than the Mexicans but the rebellion grows every week, represented by a randomly drawn reinforcement unit every turn. This scenario requires the Texans to go on the offensive but the Mexicans also have attacking capability. It works as a learning scenario because there are less units but it stands on its own as a good game.


1836 The Mexican counterattack, in which Santa Ana brings a large army to crush the rebels and where the main enemy for the Mexicans is time. They have to capture most of the Texan towns and cities to win and they have to do it in 12 turns. The Mexicans will auto lose if Santa Ana is killed.


The third scenario is the campaign game, combining both scenarios above with a few rules changes. It starts as in 1835 but because the game is not won or lost there it actually plays differently, with the Mexicans not necessarily concerned with the 1835 victory conditions and instead attempting to facilitate the 1836 win. The campaign lasts 22 turns unless Santa Ana is killed. In the picture above you can see how the situation at the start of 1836 can vary in the campaign game, which is great for replay ability.

The Texan strategy in the main 1836 scenario is mostly about delay. They are attempting to hold on to some of the cities, towns, and forts they have captured from the Mexicans or that have joined the rebellion. There are many of these on the map and the Texans only need to hold on to four of them to win at game end. In my first games as the Mexicans I thought it nearly impossible to take so many victory towns from the Texans!

In all scenarios the Texans get a new unit every turn placed on controlled victory cities / towns on the map. The units are chosen at random, which adds to the flair as you never know when particular good volunteers will arrive. In 1836 there is the possibility of the US government joining the war on the Texan side, represented by three Federal units that when all three have been drawn randomly enter the map at San Agustine in eastern Texas. The US units often see play towards the end of the game and are often critical in protecting the two victory settlements at the eastern limits of Texas, San Agustine and Nacogdoches. Drawing them though can be painful as you must wait for all three of them to be randomly selected before they join the battle and the Texans are typically desperate for reinforcements! The turn that one of these units gets drawns means no reinforcements for Texas. A worst case situation is when 2/3 are drawn in the game, costing the Texans two reinforcements and no US support.


Mexican units enter the game as groups on the second and third turns of the 1836 scenario. The Mexican player has lots of units, such as the excellent elite (A) class blocks above that can easily destroy Texans defenders that get in their way. The Mexican player also has Santa Ana's long range leadership abilities which allow him to activate all units within a two hex legal movement radius of the Mexican commander.

As the Mexican player it is your objective to bring your overwhelming numbers and power to bear on the hapless Texan rebels and crush them quickly. You will find that there are very few Texans who can stand up to your army, but nonetheless there are lots of ways of being delayed from reaching your objective. For starters, the Texans have taken the forts of Goliad and the Alamo, retaking them is not always easy. Occasionally the defenders can cause significant casualties and delay. Then there are the various fords and ferries that must be crossed, often defended on the other side by angry Texans. To be successful the Mexican player must push his men hard, accept losses from assaults and forced marches, and keep Santa Ana in command of as many units as possible.


Image courtesy of Scott Henshaw.

How is the game balance? My experience playing Texas Glory follows the typical pattern of any new game, one side seems to over power the other while players explore various strategies. I first found it impossible to win as the Mexicans because there were too many cities to take and too little time. Then I found it impossible to win as the Texans because the Mexican units are too strong and Santa Ana's ability to command almost everyone for 1CP too powerful! My last two games against an experienced opponent have both been very close. In the first one as the Mexicans I fell one city short when those imperialist US forces arrived on the last reinforcement. Most recently against the same opponent I lost most of my strength taking Goliad and the Alamo, as well as Laredo (sneaking captured by the Texans T2), but managed to win on the next to last turn anyway by pushing my remaining men hard.

So it appears the game is close to balanced. If anything it may be slightly in favor of the Mexicans. We have found that using Santa Ana's two hex radius command ability to activate most units for 1CP, aggressively attacking with the Mexican elite units and regrouping into forward positions to be quite devastating to the Texan. The Mexican main weakness is having to cross difficult terrain to pacify many cities. Obstacles like rivers block movement, fords allow only two attacking units, while ferries allow just one and costs 2MP to cross. Hiding behind these obstacles can be effective for the Texans.

The designer has used a bidding system in competitive play, were the side that wants to play the Mexicans must bid on how many extra units the Texans are allowed to draw whenever they draw a US military unit for reinforcement. It can be crippling for the Texans to draw 2/3 US units, as they never enter the game unless the third one is drawn. A bid of one to play the Mexicans for example would allow the Texans to draw an extra unit the first time a US unit is drawn, a bid of two would allow them to draw an extra unit the second time this happens. I doubt anyone would want to bid three, as that would allow an extra unit for the third US draw, as well as the US brigade joining the fight!

So if the Mexicans are winning too often use the bidding system above, or try giving an automatic bid of 1 so that the Texans get one extra block after drawing the first US block. I would imagine that a bid of two would shift the game in favor of the Texans.

If introducing the game to someone new I cannot recommend you allow them to play the Mexicans because it can be daunting to figure out how to place all of those units, avoid supply limitations, and keep them in command range, all while worrying about the enemy. Better to allow the new player to learn with the Texans and give them an extra unit for the first two draws of US blocks.

Some rules that we repeatedly played incorrectly include:
1. Santa Ana's command radius does not extend into impassable terrain, which includes through enemy units.
2. Crossing a ferry costs 2MP
3. Attackers who regroup after a successful battle cannot regroup into an unfriendly city. If regrouping into another battle they come in as reserves.

I am continuing to explore Texas Glory as I wish to discover how balanced the game really is and whether I can make any improvement on strategy for either side. Is retreating units from the doomed forts a requirement for successful Texan play? What is the best way to conduct a fighting withdrawal with the Texans? These are questions I still need to answer.

Replayability of Texas Glory is good. Although the 1836 scenario can become somewhat predictable, the dice and cards always lead to small variations. There is certainly skill in playing the main scenario well. For more variety use the campaign game that starts with the 1835 scenario, were the Texans have to go on the offensive and capture Mexican victory cities. The start of the 1836 scenario is mostly the position of the units at the conclusion of 1835, leading to different starting situations each time. The 1835 scenario also allows the Texans to attack and besiege, so playing the campaign feels complete as each side will have had opportunities to defend and attack. In the 1836 scenario the Texans are running 95% of the time. 1835 should also be the learning scenario because there are less units involved.

It will take longer to complete the campaign but after playing it thrice I now feel playing just 1836 is a half game. There are some thematic issues with the campaign game however and it may unbalance the game further towards the Mexicans. You start as per the 1835 scenario but the repercussions for the Mexicans losing are minor, their units which are not in friendly spaces surrender and are paroled, to rejoin the fight with Santa Ana in 1836. So the Mexicans can concentrate on advancing their goals of 1836 by burning the forts of Goliad and the Alamo, denying the Texans those strongpoints and speeding up Santa Ana’s conquest in 1836. The Mexicans can also try to sneak units deeper into Texas and burn other rebellious towns. Sure they may lose 1835 as per scenario rules, but by burning those settlements they have made their job easier in 1836 which is what actually determines the campaign game.

In the campaign game it seems difficult for the Texans to improve their position from the normal 1836 scenario situation. If Mexico burns one of the forts the Texans can somewhat make up for it by capturing one of the Mexican victory cities. If Mexico burns both though the Texans are at disadvantage, since it would be quite difficult to capture two Mexican cities in return with the reinforcements Mexico gets after you capture the first one! The Texans do receive an good unit in the campaign game that does not appear in the 1836 scenario, Milam’s 2 step B4 infantry. The Texans can also forward position their forces so they are better prepared for Santa Ana in 1836. Still I’m not sure if the additional unit and maneuvering make up for Mexican fort burning and the additional units Mexico can keep around if not elimaited by the Texans (Coz, Alamo Cavalry, San Antonio, Lipantitlan).

I’m still exploring the campaign game but one possible solution is to prohibit the sides from burning their friendly settlements in the 1835 campaign. I simply cannot imagine a Mexican commander burning their own fortifications at the start of the Texan rebellion. Santa Ana would surely have had such a commander executed! Nor would the Texans want to burn any of their victory cities, as that would make it easier for the Mexicans to win in 1836. The current rules just encourage the Mexicans to remove the forts of Goliad and Alamo from the 1836 equation during the 1835 scenario. And while an aggressive Texan may capture one fort quickly in 1835, it is unlikely both can be captured before being burned by their Mexican defenders.

Ok, so how does Texas Glory compare to the other Columbia games? All of the games have a similar feel really so I think it mostly comes down to aesthetics and your historical period of interest. I have only played RIII, HotS, and Liberty. Purely from a gaming perspective I have found Richard III to be the most interesting because it is so dynamic. I also find it the most attractive. HotS annoys me because nobles don't die. In Texas Glory units do get permanently killed, and losing Santa Ana is an instant loss for the Mexicans. Texas Glory feels more historical and less gamey than the others. Terrain for example plays a critical role in the game. I always find myself pondering various options, so I haven't tired of the possibilities. The campaign game to be especially interesting. Certainly one war game I'm happy to have in my collection.

Below is my pimped out set!


Recommended reading:
TEXAS GLORY AS HISTORY - THE 1835 CAMPAIGN by By Carl Willner
http://www.columbiagames.com/resources/3041/TexasGloryashist...

TEXAS GLORY AS HISTORY - THE 1836 CAMPAIGN by Carl Willner
http://www.columbiagames.com/resources/3041/TexasGloryashist...
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Scott Henshaw
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Thumbs up for a great write up and for using my picture!
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Henry Rodriguez
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I like the review Sosa. You should do more.
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Robert Wesley
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The ONLY and main 'thang' that I find lacking within this REVIEW, is with 'mention' about WHERE it were 'derived' from, as for that Texas Revolution, of which were quite innovative for itself whence it initially had "arrived". If you too were unaware for that 'tidbit', then how many others WERE also?
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Michael Sosa
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Robert I'm not sure what your comment is about. Are you saying I should have discussed the history of the conflict?

Does anyone know how I could make the pictures appear bigger in the review?
 
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Russ Williams
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Belisarius88 wrote:
Does anyone know how I could make the pictures appear bigger in the review?

See the BGG wiki page Forum Formatting.

Also, a general hint: you can Quote-reply some other post that does what you want and look at the code the other user used to do something in a forum post.
 
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C Sandifer
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Belisarius88 wrote:
Robert I'm not sure what your comment is about. Are you saying I should have discussed the history of the conflict?

Does anyone know how I could make the pictures appear bigger in the review?


The gist of his comment, I think, is that Texas Glory was based on an earlier game (Texas Revolution).

The link:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/10584/texas-revolutio...
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Mark J.
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Dan Mings designed Texas Revolution, a fine game from which TG was derived, and was credited as one of the designers of Texas Glory.

Nice review. I still have difficulty winning as the Mexican side but I know I don't use Santa Anna's command ability to its fullest. My favorite game was when I lost because Santa Anna was captured. I had put Santa Anna out front in anticipation of moving more units forward and the Texan player made a daring raid that captured him.
 
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