roboros
Canada
Guelph
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By some simple arithmetic, one can see that 2012 is the 200th year since the war of 1812 took place, a war that all Canadians can agree ‘we won’ and at the same time Americans also claim victory in it. And both sides are correct, oddly enough. But I’ll leave that for the reader to look into, if interested.

1812: The Invasion of Canada (just ’1812′ for this review) is a light, abstracted, social wargame, for 2-5 players that revisits the American invasion north of the border. Interestingly enough, the purpose of the war was not popular among the American people, but a small force of ‘War Hawks’ managed to get support for their agenda and congress agreed to a strike at the British, hearing that it would be an easy effort to conquer the Canadian provinces that existed at the time. Shortly after the war began, however, the British restrictions on trade that had incited the aggression was lifted, but having talked up the war so much by this time it was still pursued. It appears that it was really about grabbing the land and resources regardless of high-minded rhetoric about protecting American freedoms. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, n’est-ce pas?

With this backdrop, I’ll turn to the game itself. The primary component of the game is a large mapboard of the Canadian-US border, running from Detroit to Montreal. Accurately and clearly presented, the board is the key part of gameplay. The cities on the map represent victory points; at game’s end each team receives 1 VP for each city in a controlled zone of your opponents’ colour. Simplicity itself, and the game even comes with tokens to place on the board when cities are potential VPs during the game to make tracking the ‘score’ at any time trivial. Setup is also a breeze, as right on the map itself is the setup information; you will place cubes as shown in the zones according to what is printed on the board. As a final comment about getting quickly into your first game, there are only about 4 pages of actual rules in the rulesbook. This is a highly accessible game, and kudos to the designers for keeping it this way throughout the execution of gameplay.

While this is a ’2-sided’ game, the ‘red’ team is comprised of 3 factions and the ‘blue’ team of 2 more. British regulars, Canadian militia, and Native Americans start in the red zones while the American regular army and the American militia start on the blue side. Each of these factions comes with a small deck of cards and a number of dice, the former primarily to enable movement of the troops and the latter to resolve battles.

When moving, one army is any group of cubes from the same side with at least one cube of the active player’s colour present. Movement does not require any permission from your teammates, but coordination will be important to a successful invasion or defense. When conflicts occur, each player will roll their corresponding dice and make any command decisions rolled, that is whether to remain engaged or retreat to fight another battle. Casualties are taken as cubes removed from the board by any faction participating in the battle, but when units flee they are placed in a special zone that allows them all to return to the board on a player’s next turn. This again is a simple implementation of plentiful but untrained troops’ involvement in the war. This is a great implementation of dice-based battle, as even if a player feels cursed with poor ‘dice luck’, they have at least 1 teammate that they can bring with them into any battle to mitigate this.

The game will play out over 3 to 8 rounds, and ends at the completion of a round that all Truce cards from one side have been played to the table. Truces are a special type of movement card, and on each faction’s turn they *must* play a movement card, so sometimes a truce will come down when it is not preferable. Such are the vagarities of warfare! Each round, turn order is determined by blind draw of 1 cube at the end of the current active player’s turn (exception: blue starts the game, since they invaded!). With this, plans must be kept fluid as you will not know for most of the round when your turn to act will come.

There are many elements in play that support keeping every player engaged and focused on the board, since everyone can be involved during each of the 5 player’s turns. And this is where I found the game to shine. While each team can be controlled by a single player, the game has an extra layer when different players must work together to achieve their side’s goals. Cheering on those semi-cowardly militia during battle, massing your troops along the lakefront hoping that your Native American allies will follow your turn and enable a canoe-powered surprise attack, and other discussions create an experience unlike any other wargame that I’ve played (confession – I have not played Memoir ’44 Overlord, which may also provide this). And while some may take umbrage at the label ‘wargame’, to all but the groggiest of grognards, that is what this game is. It's also a fun, social, and exciting battle game that plays out in a 90 minute time period. It’s quite nearly a gateway wargame and certainly a fantastic introduction to the genre for your casual gamer friends that you may want to develop wargaming interests in.

I had the fortune to get my first play of this game recently with the designers, and also talked about their backgrounds and impetus to create this game. I’ll link to the product of that discussion at a future date, and in the meantime I recommend seeking out a chance to play 1812: The Invasion of Canada.

Review on roboros.wordpress.com
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G. Gambill
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Shawnee on Delaware
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An excellent review. This is also easily me of my favorite games of the las year. It is simple to teach and play, and yet there are layers there (like an onion, not the ogre)that make the game very replayable. It is also just plain fun, combining strategy and card management/play with risk like, good old fashioned die rolling with accompanying "hootin' and hollerin". This is a really good game!
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Larry Doherty
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Windsor, Northern-
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ggambill wrote:
An excellent review. This is also easily me of my favorite games of the las year. It is simple to teach and play, and yet there are layers there (like an onion, not the ogre)that make the game very replayable. It is also just plain fun, combining strategy and card management/play with risk like, good old fashioned die rolling with accompanying "hootin' and hollerin". This is a really good game!

Well done.
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Jay Sheely
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Hayward
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This is good to hear - because I just ordered this.
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kergen ramirez
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ggambill wrote:
An excellent review. This is also easily me of my favorite games of the las year. It is simple to teach and play, and yet there are layers there (like an onion, not the ogre)that make the game very replayable. It is also just plain fun, combining strategy and card management/play with risk like, good old fashioned die rolling with accompanying "hootin' and hollerin". This is a really good game!

Game of last year??? We havent even had a release in the uk, hopefully next week at my game store, game of 2012 ......maybe
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Dave VanderArk
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Coopersville
Michigan
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kergenramirez wrote:
ggambill wrote:
An excellent review. This is also easily me of my favorite games of the las year. It is simple to teach and play, and yet there are layers there (like an onion, not the ogre)that make the game very replayable. It is also just plain fun, combining strategy and card management/play with risk like, good old fashioned die rolling with accompanying "hootin' and hollerin". This is a really good game!

Game of last year??? We havent even had a release in the uk, hopefully next week at my game store, game of 2012 ......maybe
I feel your pain. In my twenty plus years in this hobby there have been hundreds of games available in Europe that we in the US have had to wait to reach us.
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Val Ruza
Canada
Elmira
Ontario
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ggambill wrote:
An excellent review. This is also easily me of my favorite games of the las year.

kergenramirez wrote:


Game of last year??? We havent even had a release in the uk, hopefully next week at my game store, game of 2012 ......maybe

You shouldn't worry about it too much since this game just came out this year in 2012 not last year.
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Freddy Dekker
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Friesland
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soblue

Still waiting for my copy, which is long over due.

Mind you, still haven't been charged for it, but it gets a bit annoying.

Well at least they like it in Canada which probably means it's a great game, something to look forward to.
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Michel Boucher
Canada
Ottawa
Ontario
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sagitar wrote:
Well at least they like it in Canada which probably means it's a great game, something to look forward to.

What`s not to like with a game that allows you to beat the US? cool
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Michael Vinarcik
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I like your comment that it's a "social wargame."

My kids (8 and 10) did just fine with it; we play a lot of different games but they aren't quite strategically mature enough to really do well with wargames (at least heavier ones). They had no trouble at all with 1812, though.

As you said, it's a light wargame that's easy to teach and plays quickly...and since it'll play 4-5 that makes it family-friendly. It's a nice addition to our games rotation.
 
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Douglas Anders
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Toledo
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mvinarcik wrote:
I like your comment that it's a "social wargame."

My kids (8 and 10) did just fine with it; we play a lot of different games but they aren't quite strategically mature enough to really do well with wargames (at least heavier ones). They had no trouble at all with 1812, though.

My 9-year-old son loves it too, and he plays a number of wargames. This is a great game for school nights -- when he's in the mood for a wargame but there isn't a lot of time to play. The game is light enough that my wife, who does not enjoy wargames, is willing to play.

 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
United States
Corvallis
Oregon
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I've only run though it solo once to get the feel, so certainly not the voice of experience here, but my impression was that, for my group at least, it's unlikely to succeed with more than two players. There are a couple of grogards in my gaming circle, and the others are accustomed to deep and complex games. I think it will be popular for 2, but I suspect that whether fielding 1/2 or 1/3 of an alliance will prove satisfying or not will be dependent on the experience of the players.
 
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