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Subject: First impression- the French win rss

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Bitter and Acerbic Harridan
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This was my first game of A Few Acres of Snow with my regular gaming partner-Felix (aka my husband). This is going to be somewhere between a session report and a review – our first impressions. I didn’t want to post it in reviews since I don’t believe you can write a review with one play.

We started the game with Felix taking the French and me the British. I'm sure we did lots of stupid things since it was a learning game + I always screw up some rule in the first game.

I think within one turn we both noticed three things. All of which seem to fit the theme and more importantly feed the game design.

1) At least to us, it was much easier for the British player to get money (merchant action). Granted, in the very early game, you will have some piracy by the French, but it still doesn’t make that much of a dent since the Brits start so loaded. And you can get bogged down if you aren’t careful by clogging your hand too much. By comparison, the French player ends up relying on the trader much more with some increasing sporadic piracy.

2) It’s harder for the French player to develop locations due to the low predominance of settler symbols. I think the French have exactly one card in their regular start deck vs. something like 4 in the British player’s start deck.

3) I’m quite sure 1 and 2 are by design based on the victory point totals on the board, which is the third thing we noticed. I didn’t count, but the French side is much richer in victory points than the British side. If the French player could readily develop his locations, the game would be over before it started.

So starting out, it became clear to me that I, as the British, would need to be on the offensive fairly quickly. Felix quickly realized he needed to develop as fast as possible in attempt to end the game before I could capture his villages or towns. He also started to reinforce his locations as quickly as he could given his money limitations.

After one failed siege at Port Royal, I finally thought to start throwing infantry into my reserve and began to expand out towards Oswego to try and raid along that border. I also settled various locations like Deerfield and Baltimore, but never ended up bothering with Cumberland, which remained vacant the whole game.

Felix meanwhile began developing his towns, but continued to be hampered in that by his lack of settler symbols although he bought up a few settler cards to compensate. He ended up retaining those cards in his hand, rather than putting in his reserve. Due to his lack of money, he eventually lost a siege in Port Royal and another in Louisbourg (second one due to his infantry being stranded in reserve during a incomeless period), losing two fortified towns in the process. He successfully raided New Stanwix, but eventually the British retook it and successfully raided Oswego.

The game ended by the French having all of their town discs on the board. The final score was 56-56 with the tie going to the French. I found it a well-balanced game that I want to return to. I struggled several turns with my deck and think I can do better using home support and the governor next time.


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Doug Adams
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Oakleigh
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Nearing Weathertop
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Nice report. I had my first game in anger last night and really enjoyed it. I noticed all the things you noticed, did some stupid things (you won't read about my siege of Albany in any history books!) but loved the game. Unusually for a Wallace, I'm keen to try again!
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Mike Clarke
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Great report and solid observations on gameplay. You've got the right idea. The French can get lots of money though if they expand...every new location has a fur and they can dump all the fur they want with just one trader. The French could get their other trader into action once they've expanded a bit. You can use these traders to cycle through your hand fast. You could also just cull locations.

The French start the game 12 VP's ahead of the English. They should be developing towns fast to try and end the game while they're ahead (they only have nine towns compared to 12 for the British who will get progressively stronger as the game goes on. The British have more infantry in their empire deck than the French.

But each British infantry is susceptible to Ambush...whereas only French regulars are susceptible. The French should ambush the British hand when they believe they have military in them to take the sting out of their advance. The French start with superior raiding and ambush ability. Their Coureur de Bois can ambush and is free and unlike the British, their militia block raids and ambushes.

Having a lot of infantry doesn't guarantee the British victory because sieging takes time and if the French put up a good fight and it takes too long, they can finish the game by developing their locations.

To this end, the intendent is useful because it allows the French to pull any card it wants from the discard pile like the Settler. Keeping you hand lean is the most important part of this game. Try to re-tool it for different objectives. Once you're in mid game, the Governor works well for that.

The British can use their merchant actions or their money in discards to cycle their hands. British wealth gives them a lot of hand management options. Once a location has served its use and is in the backlines and you don't intend to develop it, or already have, get rid of it so it doesn't clog up your deck...OR put a trader in there, to cycle through the furs and get money cycling your deck that way.

You know your hand is working well when you can get get rid of a lot of it every turn. Be wary of Home Support. It can work well when you're about to lose a siege by getting military in there, but putting more useless cards in your hands means you're stuck playing what you have until you get below five again.

The British are pre-disposed to attack by sea because they have lots of ships which also count as military for sieging a port and attacking is also an efficient way of cycling your deck. However, sieging can be time consuming if the French manage to make a fight of it and the British don't have time on their side. Quick settlement wins games for the French.

One strategy is to raid locations instead and then just settle them. I once spent several turns as the British in an unsuccessful siege of Port Royal. Ultimately it failed. The next turn I landed a cube at Fort Beausejour and successfully used Indians to raid Port Royal. It was soon gone. I settled the empty location with a ship action shortly after that. It was a lot quicker than sieging it. That won't always be the case. (The French with access to one free Indian and one free Coureurs de Bois should be able to stop English raids, but it all depends on what you have in your hand at the time of the raid). The game is full of options for getting ahead.

I've played it only four times now and each play is a revelation. There may be only three main theatres of operation...the sea around Port Royal and Louisbourg...up the middle to Deefield and Albany (a whopping 16 VP'S here when developed) or around the west flank towards Fort Duquesne and Detroit (eight VPs each when developed) BUT there are many ways to win...including capturing villages through well timed raids...each village cube is two VPs, a town is four! When you take something from yhou opponent, they also lose it so say for instance you managed to take Deerfield or Albany from the British. They lose eight, you gain eight -- a 16 point turnaround. Take them both and that's 32 points!! (As a yardstick, your last game went to 50 and change).

The game's hand management reflects the logistical uncertainties of the time and delays in getting supplies well. It also has a neat mechanic in the open gameplay which reflects the period well. Both sides could see each other coming (very hard to sneak up a river) and knew what forces each other had. You also get to see which cards your opponent drafts and what he's discarding so it's very cat and mouse that way. The game will usually be won by the player who has the most efficient (focused and lean)hand.

Thanks for your observations. It reminds me of what I love about this game. The more I play it, the more I realize it's got a pretty decent and playable little game engine in there. I'm beginning to see it as a gateway wargame because my wife who hates wargames loves this one.

I was so taken with the period, I have just ordered GMT's Wilderness War for a little meatier play with my more serious gamer friends (not to say they won't enjoy this one either. It's a lot quicker game).
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Bitter and Acerbic Harridan
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And there you go with the rule I got wrong (always without fail, Sue gets a rule wrong)- you can use multiple fur cards (not a max of 2) on the trader. It's like my eyes just gloss over it. (his too since it's on the player aid). Well, that would have made his money situation easier, not to mention cycling his deck easier.

I will make note of the Ambush option to him if he takes the French again. I did start raiding more later in the game and that did seem to help, but it was a bit too late. I had one very long siege and then some amount of time futzing around, realizing I'd not optimized my deck at all.
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Mike Clarke
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Sue: Something I forgot to mention in my original reply is there is a Victory and Money tracker player aid available in the files section which you can set up by the side of the board.

Get the one that tracks both money and VP's. It includes shaded areas for your starting values of both money and victory points. This really adds a whole other dimension to the game because you can see how you're doing at a glance. This informs your game play and has you changing strategies earlier.

One other thing I might mention, both sides should be developing locations when they can. It gives you VP's and puts you in a position to end the game at at time of your choosing. It also allows you to cycle cards when nothing else is working.

For the French it's a given, but often the British neglect it while pressing their attack.
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I will look for the aid. Definitely agree that I developed locations where I could, although you feel a bit foolish bothering when it's a 1 VP village.
 
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