I don't write a lot of reviews, but I play a lot of war games. It has been a little while since a game has gotten me this excited. In fact the last war game was 1805: Sea of Glory, but I admit Axis Empires: Totaler Krieg almost got me as thrilled but it is a little more work to play.
Strike of the Eagle is a 2-4 player game covering the 1920 Polish / Soviet war, a war I knew very little about. I had per-ordered the game from Academy Games thinking I like block games and I like Academy's production of games what the hell, I then forgot about it.
I got a call from Academy Games saying they were having problems sending me my game (because I moved), we resolved the issue over the phone and three days later I had the game. I point this out because Academy should get credit for their wonderful customer service as well has the production value of their games.
The game arrived and I was blown away, the map is I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E! It made me wade into the rest of the box at a break neck pace. The contents of the this game are outstanding, better I think than Academy's Conflict of Hero's series (not by much). Everything I have come to expect from Academy Games is here.
So we go to the rules, which are very good but with some minor execution flaws. They are laid out in standard: Introduction / Game Components / Game Setup / Game Overview / Game Progression (or Sequence of Play), after this you stop and play the introductory scenario. Then you can come back and read the rules on replacements and leaders, and a little section called Player Rivalry. Rules for the Soviet leaders competing with each other for resources, I just love that.
The rules are well written and only a few spots where question arose for me, and they are only eight pages long. The one that sticks out in my mind is rule 7.33 Stacking, which says that four blocks can be in a space at the end of an Operational Phase. What it doesn't say is what happens if there are more than four blocks at the end of an Operational Phase. I realized later that during movement or after combat you are not allowed to have a situation where more than four blocks can stay in a space. As a reader of many rules, questions about rules pop into my mind as I read a rule. So when I had to wait till later to figure out the whole stacking rule it bugged me, a bit.
That was the only thing that really bothered me about the rules as written. But the rules systems for this game are what got me really excited about this game. Quality components are essential to a good game, but they don't make a game good. The rules are what make Strike the Eagle great, and there a few innovative twists on old rules here.
The initiative for one is a sliding scale system. Only one side has a rating in Initiative and they get to dictate who places and executes orders first. The twist is the Initiative can change based on victory in battle, win a battle and the player losses an amount of step losses equal to or greater than the current (if you are taking the Initiative away) or next higher number (if you have the Initiative) and move the marker up or down respectively. Also the Initiative is separated into two fronts, North and South which can be held by either side.
Their are two separate decks of cards, one for each side that help drive the game, but this is not a CDG (Card Driven Game) like Paths of Glory or Washington's War you do not have to use them to take actions in the game. The cards can be very important however so I guess you would call this a card assisted game, but I would say the cards are a little more important than that. At the beginning or each Operational Phase each play may (or may not) play a card to do one of three things.
1) Add to the two orders you already get.
2) Get replacement cubes to rebuild your forces later (not used in introductory scenario).
3) To play the Event explained on the card.
Every turn you get six cards and they have to last through five operational phases, there are of course lots of reaction cards to help you burn through your hand quickly and efficiently.
Orders is another old rules system that works very well in the is game and adds to the bluff / Fog of War system. Each Operations Phase you are given two orders, one of which has to be a recon order. You can play a card to add additional orders, these are placed face down one at a time alternating between players beginning with the player with the initiative chooses. There is a lot of bluffing that can happen with placing orders trying to direct your opponents attention somewhere else, and really adds to the block fog of war aspect of the game. I will not go into each order type here but one I want to mention is the withdrawal order, where if an enemy unit enters the space with the order the units (at least one of them) must leave the space. I like this as it gives a real cat and mouse aspect to the game, and allows those weaker units you are bluffing with a chance to slip away.
The blocks of the game are standard for block war games, they stand up to hide their identity and capabilities. They have step strength on the outside edge (divisions have four steps, brigades have two) and the color of the steps denote what they are. Black colored steps are infantry, white are cavalry, and green are foreign (or ally infantry) units. The interesting thing is you can split a brigade off of a division but it cannot move the turn it is created. I haven't seen this mechanic in a block game before and like they idea of splitting moving and re-combining to throw your opponent who has memorized the setup and knows where your block are.
Battle has some interesting new twists to as well. First there are no dice, just add up your strength steps plus a few modifiers like:
1) You get a plus one for a garrison if you have one.
2) Any bonus for Battle card (just one card) you play, attacker plays first.
3) The attacker (only) can subtract two for each group of blocks that attack from a different road or rail after the first group. That is you attack from two or more different spaces into one space you get flanking. There are things that cancel flanking as well.
4) Either a card from your hand which has a combat modifier number or a card drawn from the deck that has a combat modifier number is added to your combat total. The cards combat modifiers range from zero to four. The advantage of playing a card from your hand is two fold. First you know what the number is, second you get plus one for playing it from the six cards in your hand.
So when you know you need to win that important battle the luck is greatly diminished if you play a card from your hand. After that you have your total combat strength which is checked on a simple chart to see how many losses your opponent takes, then they do the same to you (combat is simultaneous). The one who took the most losses retreats, ties go to the defender.
The rest of the rules are fairly standard, the leaders in the more advanced scenarios give you special orders you use and helpful when you need them (but that is all they do). The leaders as I think about them seem kind of useless and maybe were put in as an after thought? I am not sure, I only mention this because it I felt like this was the weakest part of an otherwise brilliant rules system. To be honest leaders don’t ruin anything and they do have one strength point in battle, it is just that they are worth victory points if captured or killed so be careful with them.
One last thing I want to mention is the scenario book, again Academy games has gone above and beyond including the history of the war along with the scenario's (that also explain the war with Historical Overviews and Aftermaths of the battles). The rules and the scenario are in color and there are some maps from the era as well.
Now when you take these rules and put them together you definitely get a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts. The flow of the game, the real simplicity of the rules, and the bluff / fog of war aspect of the game will bring me back to the game table again and again.
In closing I highly recommend this game, I have only played two games but I don't see any serious play balance issues but I haven't played all the scenarios yet.
Components: (yep a ten ) Quality is that good.
Rules: There is nothing really wrong with the rules, except they are eight pages, it is hard to get everything explained and clear in eight pages.
Game Play: I don't give out tens for just anybody but the game play is solid and I don't get the feel of any shenanigans players can pull (read loop holes) here.
Get this game, play this game don't let it sit on the shelf
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- Justus Pendleton(hoostus)Australia
zeotter wrote:The interesting thing is you can split a brigade off of a division but it cannot move the turn it is created. I haven't seen this mechanic in a block game before and like they idea of splitting moving and re-combining to throw your opponent who has memorized the setup and knows where your block are.
Napoleon's Triumph also does this and I agree it offers a great way to increase not just the FoW but also the operational flexibility of your forces.
I didn't realise there were multiple scenarios with the game. How many are there and what are the differences between them? Have you played the "full campaign" or whatever it is? Or just the shorter scenarios so far?
I'm curious about this game because it contains a lot of kinds of things I like
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- Steve CareyUnited States
Thnx for showing off the game to me last Sunday, Karl - The Last Grenadier (Burbank, CA) got in a shipment today, so naturally I picked up a copy.
The excitement-o-meter is pretty darn high on this game!
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Quote:I didn't realize there were multiple scenarios with the game. How many are there and what are the differences between them? Have you played the "full campaign" or whatever it is? Or just the shorter scenarios so far?
I have played the Introductory scenario twice and the second scenario once. I have not played the full campaign yet I am still showing my war gaming friends the game and getting them into it. So far everyone I have shown it to, or played with has liked it and most of bought it.
There are a total of nine scenario's, six of them are "smaller" than the campaign and the last three variations of the full campaign. I say "smaller" because some of them are pretty big, but the first three only use to half the map.
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Quote:Thnx for showing off the game to me last Sunday, Karl - The Last Grenadier (Burbank, CA) got in a shipment today, so naturally I picked up a copy.
Excellent, next time we meet we should play
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