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Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861» Forums » Reviews

Subject: a short review for a game we like rss

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Luigi54
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This is short review on the base game (without optional rules) for people who already watched at least one video about this game and has some hang on it.
I was very interested to play this game and I just had two plays under the belt, but I studied rules, Faq and the forum here on Bgg, so I knew much more than the simples rules and felt enough prepared to play it.
It's a real tug of war, since, at least at the fist stages, there is a move from the Union and a counter-move from the Condeferate and this is going on for some turns.
At your turn you have to follow:
- the dices results producing the orders (6=Leader, 4-5=Move, 2-3=Fire, 1=Card)
- the cards in your hands that can be played during your own turn (Artillery, Retreat…) and even when your opponent is playing! (Friendly fire, Hold…)
- a solid strategy (where to go??)
- the victory conditions wich are, at some extent, quite unusual, like the Rout victory rule!
The difficult thing is to combine all these aspects not only when is your turn but also when is your opponent’s turn and try to make good actions during the game. And even if you do everything perfect… then the combat dices can be against you, because their results are unpredictable and there is a limit of maximum 6 dices per Infantry combat: during Infantry Combat, for every friendly unit you roll 2 dices, but if you have more than 3 units, you just roll a maximum of 6 dices and, at the end of the combat, if there is even one only Infantry unit of the defender still there, the attacker, even if he has many more Infantry units of the defender, must retreat!
In other words, in order to take an opponent position, you have to let him retreat or kill every Infantry unit, otherweise the attacker must retreat. Normally, in other games you bring near to the enemy area a lot of frieldnly troops and when the orders allow that, you throw them in the enemy space. But with the a.m. limit of maximum 6 dices (i.e. in fact only 3 Infantry Units can have combat!) it does’nt work exactly like that… Of course, you better bring more than 3 Infantry units, so that after the defending fire, you can attack with at last 6 dices, but there is no guarantee of success.
It seems a simple game and the rules are VERY SIMPLE, but it's not easy to figure out to play for winning. Sometimes I had the feeling to smash my head against a solid wall… A good strategy is to bombard with the artillery before attacking with Infantry for reducing the number of Enemy Infantry, but:
- the friendly artillery must be adjacent
- you only hit with 5 or 6 and then you have to roll again to determine the result:
1-5 the defending unit retreats
6 the defending unit is reduced (or eliminated if already reduced). This result is sometimes even worse, because you prefer to have that area with the smallest possible number of enemy Infantry, rather then have reduced one!
During the game we have a lot of things to take care of and more than once I missed a good opportunity because I forgot to use one card I had in hands (i.e. Move) or overlooked a good move for trying to get a victory through the Rout card, or forgot to use a card reducing the opponent performance (Lost Order card…).
Test of fire remembers me Memoir'44, with the frustrations and difficulties when you don’t have in hands the cards you want, when you don’t draw the cards for the right section of the map, the feeling for me is the same. But with M'44, you don’t have any defensive fire and having tanks infantry and artillery units, you can calculate how to kill or overkill an enemy unit. So you can be sure that at least one target will be destroyed or pushed back. Here, instead, you have:
- first of all defensive fire from enemy Infantry (2 dices each and a maximum of 6 totally) wich can totally disrupt or abort your plans!
- after receiving the defensive fire, may attack
o friendly artillery (one or two dices), and
o friendly infantry, maximum 6 dices),
hitting both with 5 or 6.
So, you see that the situation for the attacker is much more difficult than in M’44 or BattleCry.
Test of Fire is a very rich experience, but in terms of space occupation much less rewarding than M’44, where in a single turn you can gain a lot of terrain or certainly destroy some enemy units due to the missing defensive fire and to the attacking arms combinations.
In other words, it’s much more difficult be a general here than in M’44. This, of course, can create some frustrations but in my opinion is a much better simulation that it may appears at first glance.
The players role are much different:
the Union player has to attack and push constanstly forward ,
the Confederate defends and whenever possible counter attacks.

The game has its own balance through the following differences between Union and Confederate;
Actions Union Confederate
Orders 4 dices 3 dices
Main strategy Attack Defend or counterattack
Troops:
Artillery 2 2
Infantry 29 24
Cards 29 26
Card distribution:
Union Confederate
Artillery 6 3
Cav. 5 dices 0 1
Cav. 3 dices 0 1
Firepower 3 3
Ford 1 0
Friendly Fire 1 1
Hold 2 5
Lost order 3 3
Move 6 2
Retreat 4 3
Rout 3 4

In my first game, my Confedereate opponent played 4 Rout cards in a row and at the last attempt he rolled the needed result of 4. Since I lost 4 units and he rolled a 4 with 2 dices playing the Rout card he won!
What we liked:
- easy rules
- fast set up
- fast playing time (it took us about 1 and half hour for the first game)
- tense game: you have to follow the opponent’s actions for playing cards during his turn (players interaction)
- you have to find a strategy and use your unpredictable orders as well as you can
- you cannot give anything for granted, but invent a way to get there.
We liked a lot Test of Fire and hope Mayfair will continue with this system.
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Paolo Tiadina
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Varese
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Good review One more thing: what are the measures for card-sleeves?
 
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Luigi54
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Ciao Alberto
I don't use any card sleeve for this game, because the cards seems to be strong enough.
Anyway here the sizes of the cards:

mm. 86 x 55.

ciao
Luigi
 
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Freddy Dekker
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How about replay-ability.

Or is the luck such a large factor that no game will be the same?
 
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Luigi54
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Freddy
I played this game 8 times and never was the same.
The fact that you roll so many dices makes things quite unpredictable.
Some suggestions:

1) buy a dice tower, so you don't get mad rolling dices so many times :-)
2) be prepared to be frustrated since things are normally NOT going as you like
3)check carefully the effects of your cards for using them at the right time. For example: use "Hold" card when your unit/s must retreat ...
4) whatever happens... have fun
 
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Freddy Dekker
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Thanks, that makes me consider buying it.
 
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