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David G. Cox Esq.
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Sun of York



Two-player Tactical Battle Card Game of the Wars of the Roses
Designed by Mike Nagle
Published by GMT Games (2011)




Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York…

(Shakespeare – Richard III)



Yes, I know, I can misquote with the best of them. In the title of this review I said Summer when it should be “winter”.
GMT said Sun when it really should have been “son”.


Sun of York is a card game that allows players to refight some of the battles of the First English Civil War, also known as The War of the Roses.


It is a card game and it is not a detailed simulation of the historical battles of the time nor of tactical battles at any time. It is a game.


I like the game and feel that it has character. Perhaps not as much character as a hunch-backed king, but you shouldn't really believe everything you read in the press.


The general mechanics are similar to those of Columbia Games Dixie and Eagles games. These were card games that were published in the 1990s although they were based on the tactical combat system that appeared in Columbia Games Napoleon, which was published back in the 1970s.


But this review is about Sun of York, so let’s look at how this sucker stacks up…



Game concept


The battlefield in a conceptual idea – each player has a left, centre and right-hand area to the battle field. On the outside of these areas are the flanks. In the left, centre and right-hand areas there is a friendly end, a middle ground and an enemy end.

You have cards that represent leaders, combat units, terrain and other stuff. You are allowed to have up to four combat units in each of the nine areas of the battle field plus other combat units on the flanks.

Combat units are rated for ability (the number, or less, that they need to roll in combat to cause a hit) and cohesion (the size of the unit, how many dice it gets to roll in combat and its ability to sustain punishment during combat).

Combat is fairly fast and furious and the battle is won when one side has captured either the left and right-hand areas of the battlefield or the centre area of the battlefield – to capture them you need to advance and take the area at the enemy’s end of the battlefield.



Components

Cards
The game is published by GMT and the components are up to the usual high standard that I expect from that company.
Cards – there are two decks of 110 cards each – one deck is for the House of Lancaster player and the other deck is for the House of York player. There are slight differences between the decks but they really are quite alike.

Each player gets 9 terrain cards – these are used as terrain in the initial set-up and in design your own battles. During the game they may be used to issue orders to combat units.
The Lancaster player gets 6 special cards while the Yorkist player gets 7. They allow special things to happen (e.g. fatigue on enemy troops, artillery, perhaps Henry VI will appear and cause leadership problems in the Lancaster camp).
Leader cards help to activate troops. Lancaster has 21 leaders while York has 17. Leaders assigned to the scenario are on the battlefield and issue orders each turn. The other leader cards are played from your hand and issue orders on a once-only basis.
The distribution of combat units is almost identical. Both players have 3 cavalry, 8 troops with pikes and 28 general infantry units. Lancaster has 35 missile units while York has 38. The mix of the general infantry units is identical for both players.




Counters

There is a small sheet of counters to keep track of the number of hits inflicted on a unit, a unit’s current cohesion, initiative and other stuff. Two of the weather markers have small mistakes but this is not an issue.


Rulebook
The rulebook is not as good as it should be. The rules are not clearly laid out and it can take a long time to find what you are looking for. This can be a problem when you are learning the game as there are many subtleties in the rule and in the play of the game. Some aspects of the game are not intuitive.
For example, movement and flanking is downright confusing. Basically units can move forwards and backwards in their area of the battlefield. While lateral movement is allowed the way it is explained in the rules is extremely confusing – this can be confirmed by reading some of the rules threads in the forum. Thankfully Mike Nagel is keeping a close eye on the forums and giving good and timely input.


Player Aid
The player aid is good as far as it goes but should really have had more details about lateral movement and flanking. Specifically, who can flank, when can they flank and how can they flank.



Dice

The dice are dice – I have upgraded mine for custom-made Chessex dice. I actually enjoy the game more when rolling dice that look like this.



Game Play

Game play is relatively straight-forward. The game does have some subtleties.

At the start of each turn roll for initiative. The player who wins initiative decides whether to move first or second in the turn. In real terms this means that it is possible to get two consecutive turns. Consecutive turns allow you to really stick it to your opponent and so it is something that we should all strive for.



After initiative the phasing player checks the morale of troops who received hits on the previoius turn. Basically you roll a die for each hit and compare it to the unit’s cohesion. If the roll is higher than the cohesion the unit retreats and has all hit markers discarded. If the unit rolls equal or less than its cohesion level on all dice it remains in place and has its cohesion level reduced for each hit it sustained. Basically this means that small units are more likely to retreat and larger units are more likely to stand in place but will become weaker as they suffer hits.



During the Morale Phase a player can also commit a leader to combat. This means that Leaders will increase the ability of troops under their command, throw a dice of their own and risk the chance of horrible death at the hands of their enemies.

This is followed by the Combat Phase. Units can melee units in the same area. Missile units can fire at units in adjacent areas. The cohesion level of each unit tells how many dice are to be rolled – the ability level tells what you need to roll to score a hit. Units that combat are not allowed to move.

Movement takes place after combat. Mostly units will go forwards or backwards in their own part of the battlefield. Flank attacks are allowed. The rules for flank attacks are a little confusing. To sum it up, cavalry can launch a flank attack better than anyone else (because of their DRM). You need to roll dice to see if a flank attack comes in. Flanking movement allows units to be temporarily over-stacked so they are a good way to get more punch into an attack.

Units in the same area as a Leader are allowed to move automatically. Other units, including reinforcements from your hand, are moved by issuing orders. The amount of orders you may issue is determined by the leadership rating of any leaders you have deployed on the map PLUS any cards you play from your hand that have an orders rating.



Overall Impressions


As much as I liked the tactical combat in Napoleon, I disliked the system when applied to Dixie and Eagle. As much as I don’t enjoy Dixie and Eagles I have to say that I actually do enjoy Sun of York.

It seems, pretty much, to be a ‘filler’ – a game to play when you don’t have much time. It moves quickly. It seems quite random in many ways and, once you have deployed your troops, it is as though you are watching the battle develop rather than having much direct control over it. The randomness comes in through the combat system which is dependent upon a lot of dice being rolled (I have no problem with this but there can be massive swings in chance when the dice appear to have failed their probability test) and having a hand of only four cards – the small hand of cards means that long-term planning just doesn’t happen. Once the battle has begun you can do your best to direct it but the fickle finger of fate will have a lot to say about the final outcome.

But the bottom line is that it is fun…

and a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.













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Will Green
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Excellent review! This wasn't on my radar, and now firmly ~ is...

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Gordon Walsh
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Good review. I just got my copy a week ago and I had the same problems with the flanking rules. I wish they had included a play mat for the disposition of the troops, leaders and terrain.
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Piero
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Excellent review, bravo!

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David G. Cox Esq.
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I prefer Peter Sellers as Richard III


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Mike Nagel
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David,

Thanks for the review. I'm glad you're enjoying the game! I also just ordered a set of those fabulous dice from Chessex ... you may have started something ... cool

BTW ... it is "Sun" ... whistle
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David G. Cox Esq.
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mpnagel wrote:
David,

Thanks for the review. I'm glad you're enjoying the game! I also just ordered a set of those fabulous dice from Chessex ... you may have started something ... cool

BTW ... it is "Sun" ... whistle


How did you decide upon the name of the game as it is not a spin-off from Shakespeare's "son of York".
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Mike Nagel
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David,

The title was taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, Act I, Scene I where Gloucester's speech refers to his elder brother Edward as the "Sun of York" which is an allusion to the three sun symbol adopted by Edward after the battle of Mortimer's Cross as well as his obvious lineage.

Ye olde punster that bard ...
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David G. Cox Esq.
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mpnagel wrote:
David,

The title was taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, Act I, Scene I where Gloucester's speech refers to his elder brother Edward as the "Sun of York" which is an allusion to the three sun symbol adopted by Edward after the battle of Mortimer's Cross as well as his obvious lineage.

Ye olde punster that bard ...


Please accept my apology for my error.

The website I went to initially actually had misquoted the Bard...blush ...or at least mis-spelt him.


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Martin Gallo
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Nice review.

Any chance of getting some of those custom dice?
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Wendell
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da pyrate wrote:
mpnagel wrote:
David,

The title was taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, Act I, Scene I where Gloucester's speech refers to his elder brother Edward as the "Sun of York" which is an allusion to the three sun symbol adopted by Edward after the battle of Mortimer's Cross as well as his obvious lineage.

Ye olde punster that bard ...


Please accept my apology for my error.

The website I went to initially actually had misquoted the Bard...blush ...or at least mis-spelt him.


"Never believe a quote from the internet without double-checking."

-- Voltaire
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Jon SD
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Not sure what happened here, but this review shows a good number of cards that may have been in playtest versions and perhaps in the desktop published version, but are definitely NOT in the GMT version. Clarence, Wenlock, John Savage, Norfolk, William Stanley, even Lord Oxford for lord's sake cry, are not in the GMT version.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Eaglehorse wrote:
Not sure what happened here, but this review shows a good number of cards that may have been in playtest versions and perhaps in the desktop published version, but are definitely NOT in the GMT version. Clarence, Wenlock, John Savage, Norfolk, William Stanley, even Lord Oxford for lord's sake cry, are not in the GMT version.


They are extra leader cards for later battles submitted by
Dave de Vil
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As they are typical of the leader cards that do come with the game I didn't think having them as card examples would be a problem.

Is it? whistle

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Ted Torgerson
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This is how it's done fellas.
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Alfred Wallace
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mpnagel wrote:
David,

The title was taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, Act I, Scene I where Gloucester's speech refers to his elder brother Edward as the "Sun of York" which is an allusion to the three sun symbol adopted by Edward after the battle of Mortimer's Cross as well as his obvious lineage.

Ye olde punster that bard ...


Don't feel bad if you didn't see it. The Firs Folio has "Son."

(EDIT: The FF is not infallible, and most modern editions say "sun," but not all.)
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