Severus Snape
Canada
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"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me." Blaise Pascal
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"There is yet faith, but the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting." T.S. Elliot
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Introduction:

Joan of Arc's Victory: 1429 AD is a nifty little design from TPS. It is has a solid historical theme, rather than something cosmetic and pasted on. It plays relatively quickly, unless one side or the other goes into a deep think. It has a light layer of chrome to make things interested, but you will not find yourself getting bogged down in minutia. The quality of the components are superb. The size of the game makes it more portable, like a magazine game (which it essentially is, except for the mounted board). Lastly, the price makes it a more than affordable game, given prices these days, or any days, for that matter.

Components:

Joan includes the following:

One 11 by 17 inch mounted mapsheet. It is small and sturdy, and the design is fine, if not flashy. The coverage includes the port of La Rochelle in the west to Rheims in the east, and the important ports of Harfluer and Calais in the north by the Channel. The terrain features are mostly clear, but the woods, rough and swamp hexes, towns and cathedral towns (shades of Pillars of the Earth) are clear. The villages, which look like towns cut in half, are too easy to cover up with a counter, but once you know your way around this neck of the woods, you will be fine. The distinction between villages and towns is important, because the former do not supply your units, while the later, if you control them, give you a three-hex supply line.

One set of two hundred die-cut ½ inch playing pieces. These look and feel sturdy. In the effort to be reflective of the period, and colourful of design, the counter types represent the head wear/armour soldiers used in battle, and distinguishing the militia from the infantry, and the light cavalry from the heavy cavalry takes practice. There are also counters representing siege weapons, engineers, artillery and leaders, including both the kings of England and France, and one for Jeanne D’Arc.

One cardstock chart that includes various tracks and holding boxes. The game would benefit from having more charts in order to separate them from the rulebook. The holding boxes are a good idea, because otherwise you will be stacking high and knocking over frequently. The problem is that the holding boxes themselves are too small if you want the ease of spreading out your units types and, or, strengths; otherwise, you are having to ply through the pile and recount, much as you would if the stacks were on the board.

One twelve-page rulebook: It uses colour, has helpful developer notes intermixed, but few examples, and none with illustrations; I guess GMT has spoiled me lately.

There are places in the rules that are either unclear, unanswered, or just contradictory. Perhaps one example can suffice. A reading of the CRT and the rules concerning leadership bonus modifiers for combat left me unsure whether most leaders in the game have no defensive bonus, or a bonus of 1, 2, or 3. If the latter, Jeanne D’Arc would be a monster in both attack and defense. It took questions posted on CSW to get this cleared up, and, in fact, most leaders are good at attacking but poor at defending. Given the virtual non-support of the game on BGG, some geeks will just have to swallow their pride and go to the "other" site, CSW. It is worth the trip, though the developers complaint that he could not keep track of all my questions was rich (he did not intend to be rude, and he has been, in fact, quite helpful), given that CSW is part gold, part hopeless maze wrapped inside a labyrinth.

Gameplay and some Key Areas for Your Consideration:

The rules are not difficult, just sometimes confusing, as mentioned above. Once you get going, or twice, or three times, things flow well. Here are some aspects that deserve close attention:

Supply, as in any game of this type, is important. You have to stay in supply, or your OOS forces will be eliminated. The hex range is limited to three hexes between towns, so pay attention to the map. For once, unlike a Ted Racier design, NOT having zones of control makes sense.

Unit Types: The different types include infantry, militia, light and heavy cavalry, archers, artillery, siege weapons, engineers, armoured personal carriers and flame throwers. Okay, not the last two--darn!--but learn the types and what they do, or do not do, well, not just in movement--we all knows hooves go faster than feet--but what they do, or do not do, well in combat. And there are hex limitations for most of your fightin' folks.

Modifiers: You live or die by the die roll, and you can win a battle at 1-3 odds--you are the 1 in case this is unclear--if you have enough modifiers. Don't bet the farm, or a round of drinks on it, but it can be done. Give the Maid 1-1 odds and you have one angry and destructive young adult woman on your hands. The game favours the offensive, and not even Joan is a skilled defender; only two leaders have any sort of defensive rating, unless you count 0 as a rating, which is what all the others have, including Jeanne D'Arc.

Speaking of Joan: The French chances centre around her, and leaders can be lost through capture or death in battle. If the French lose her early, the players might just agree to end it there and begin again. Lose her late, and the French still might win.

And how does anyone win? The victory conditions involve either killing or capturing the other side's king, in which case it is an automatic victory, or capturing and holding key cities where the respective kings can spend the night, but not in the same place. Every game needs victory conditions--hello?! But when there is not a variable set of victory conditions in place, how many plays will it take before things grow stale as each side knows how to "thrust and parry" from a strategic and operational standpoint.

I think my play of Academy Games' fine "War of 1812: the Invasion of Canada" has spoiled me a bit because of the uncertainty when the game can end. Those who have played it know what I mean. That being said, Joan of Arc's victory conditions, as they are, will not prevent you from having fun.

Speaking of Joan, part two: There is the Jeanne Events' table, where the French roll to see if Joan must make a mandated attack (likely at a town the French would want anyway), get a die roll modifier, raise National Will, and get a die roll modifier, and a few other things, including having the "voices" stop for Joan, which means the French never roll on the table again. It is a much better way to treat her presence than how it is done in MMP's Warriors of God, a game I much like to play.

On the Chromatic Side of things: It is there, but not too much for those who do not like to think too hard about games--or much else. There are optional rules that will add historical spice, and more modifiers--this game is awash in them--without overtaxing the already possibly overtaxed. Or is this a Canadian talking? But I digress.

A Conclusion of Sorts:

Is it Fun? Yes, once you get past the rulebook with its dibs and dabs of missing text or contradictions. Since the rulebook is short, I guess there is less about which to be confused; surely, a good thing I think. It has flavour, style, and class, without asking for your first-born in return. TPS has done well, and I hope they do more games; in fact, why not cover the entire Hundred Years War with a series of games like this?

This is a game worth getting and playing, and I think the designer and developer can be proud of it.

goo

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Kevin Duke
United States
Wynne
Arkansas
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Nice, thoughtful review.

I think TPS is focusing on presenting the Decisive Battles series right now, of which Joan was a chapter. But the designer/developer team might be interested in more HYW stuff. I know the designer was very interested in this subject and I guess it shows.
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B Schneider
Canada
Stittsville
ON
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Thanks for the review! Looking forward to getting to my TPS games, as soon as I get some other games out of my system... cool
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JE SUIS VENU. J'AI VU. JE SUIS PARTI.
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Thank you for this review. It had everything I needed to know in order to make a well-informed purchase. I'm really looking forward to its delivery!
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