This is my first game review, so please bear with me on this journey. There haven't been many reviews for this game and those few that exist have been from some time ago, so I figured I'd offer a fresh perspective on things.
First a little background:
I was first introduced to miniature war gaming about 30 years ago when I was 14. My grandparent's neighbor was huge into war gaming. He had a large gaming table in his basement with lots of terrain such as bushes, trees, roads, fences, hills etc. and he had thousands of 15mm American Civil War figures and hundreds of Ancients as well as some British and Zulu figures. I had always loved military history, so this was very exciting for me to get involved with. I started learning to paint figures and enjoying some great games for the next few years.
Fast forward to 1996 when after being out of gaming for over a decade, I got into a Strat -O-Matic Hockey league. It was fun for about 10 years but wasn't as fun the last 5 before I dropped out. Prior to dropping out of that, in 2005, my nephew got Heroscape for Christmas. Wow, when I saw those minis and terrain I was stoked and it brought back the memories of minis gaming when I was a teenager. Needless to say, I started buying a lot of Heroscape products over the following several years, spending lots of money but having lots of fun.
Thanks to BGG, in June 2011, I found the Northwest Indiana Boardgamers Association and joined immediately. There were only a few of us to start, but it's grown quite a bit over the past year. I quit the Strato Hockey league after discovering that there are a ton of great games out there and a great variety of people to game with. Our group's collection of games numbers over 2,000 and keeps growing, so there's always plenty to choose from and learn from in getting to understand different game mechanics. I've played a great variety of board games and even some large scale minis wargames in the Napoleonic and Futuristic soldier genres.
I'd always loved the WWII genre, it just always fascinated me. I had some 15mm WWII minis when I was a teenager, though I can't recall the rules set I used. I had also tried some of the Avalon Hill games and they were okay in having larger level battles but only requiring a small amount of space. I'd tried Memoir '44 with the gaming group and like it for sure. It was quick to play, had minis, pre-made scenarios and was driven by cards that gave you some options for what to do on your turn. Some people don't like this, but I've played games where it's just back and forth getting to do what you want, and this was fresh for me in simulating how in war, you can't always do what you want, when you want.
So a few months ago I started getting the itch to get something in the WWII genre. There are plenty of Memoir games amongst members of our gaming group that for me to purchase more copies would be redundant. A couple guys in our group started getting into Flames of War and showed me some of their minis. I was impressed and thought, man this may be the direction I'm going to go. So I did a lot of research on that game and was really close to ordering the rules, other books and lots of minis. Then I saw the banner on BGG for Sergeants and figured I'd take a look at it. Hmm... now I found something that really looked cool. So then I was back and forth trying to decide which system to get into because they were both expensive and there was no way I could have both. Flames of War was massive in scale in both battles and available minis, including tanks, artillery and planes. Sergeants was more on a squad level, but came with pre-painted minis, it's own gaming board and scenarios.
Well you know which one I ended up buying, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this review. I ended up choosing Sergeants because of a few factors. Though I've painted minis before, I have a lot less time for it now, so the pre-painted minis helped. Accessibility was another big factor for me. There are a couple great guys in our group that I could eventually play FOW with after getting my army painted and situated, but there are a lot of guys in the group that enjoy the WWII genre and would be likely to sit down to play Sergeants, whereas they wouldn't likely try Flames of War. So to me, it meant more opportunity to play and getting to play quicker out of the gate. While it was costly for sure, I knew that I'd end up spending as much over time with Flames of War, so my money was going to go to one or the other. After seeing other reviews and research, I knew going in that Day of Days alone wasn't going to do it for me. So I ordered DoD, Road to Carenten and a squad bundle for each the Germans and Americans.
Now to the actual review:
What can I say that probably hasn't been said before? I found the material for the game board to be sturdy and fits well together, no struggling to get pieces to line up or fit right. The artwork on the board is great! I love that they are double sided and over a lot of variety and options.
I was very happy with the pre-painted minis and I like the variety of poses. While some people didn't like that they didn't come pre-mounted on their base, I actually preferred them not to be based already. It wasn't difficult at all to clean off the bottom of the mini and glue them down to their base. I chose to use super glue instead of the glue dots that came with the minis, but that was just my preference. I liked that they came not based because I liked having the option of putting the mini on the base of the soldier that I wanted it to go with. I could put a figure that looked like a leader on a leader's base, a kneeling/shooting figure on a base for a soldier that seemed like a good shooter, etc. I could also position the figure as I chose too.
The cards are nice and seem to be well made. I like the artwork for sure, but they would be cooler if the art image on the card matched the soldier in what weapon they were armed with. It's not a big deal really since the weapon type is listed on the top of the card, but it would have been a neat extra detail.
The markers are nice, though the Sighting ones on the back of the Grenades are off center likely due to the difficulty in lining up the sheets for printing on both sides. It's not a big deal at all as I understand the difficulty and appreciate the saving of extra pieces I'd need if they were only printed on one side. I suppose a case could be made that at some point though, you might run low on Sighting markers if you are equipping with a lot of Grenades, but once a Grenade is used, it can be used for a Sighting token and the soldiers become Sighted and in Cover enough to keep cycling the markers.
Sergeants is driven by a Story Deck. This deck consists of cards that are specific to the scenario being played. Most of the cards are used, so each scenario will tell you which cards to remove from the deck rather than which ones to include, as it's much easier. That's how it works for DoD, but if you have RTC as well, those scenarios will tell you which cards to remove from the RTC story deck and which cards to add from the DoD story deck. The scenario will also tell you which sets of Order cards each player can draw from.
Scenarios will also give each player number of Victory Points allowed to start a game with. Each soldier is worth a number of Victory Points, as are equipment, grenades and artillery. This is like Heroscape for me, in that you start out with a number of points each side is allowed to start out with. Unlike Heroscape, there are other means of adding points besides just the units and other means of gaining VP's than just from killing an enemy figure. If all soldiers are killed from one side, the game ends and that player loses. However, if the game goes to the end, either by reaching the allotted turns by a scenario or not being able to place 3 Phase cards from the Story Deck, Victory points are totaled and the player with the highest number of VP's wins. VP's can be earned during a game by killing a soldier, capturing a soldier, completing your Orders or even from the Cause and Effects that can be generated from the Story Deck.
Each soldier has their own individual card with their stats and abilities, as well as a serial number that corresponds with the serial number on the dog tag part of the mini's base. There are also seven action cards for each soldier that are shuffled together with the other action cards for the other soldiers that make up his squad. These cards make up a deck from which you draw from each turn. Each action card has several parts to it that represent different things. When shooting at an enemy, you find out how many “hits” you have on that soldier by drawing an action card and looking at the appropriate box and line of that box based on range. Those aren't actual hits/wounds, they are more like the number of affects your soldier can impart on the targeted figure. The other player draws 1 card from his action deck for each “hit” to see the results and looks at another part of the action card to see if it was a miss, pin, wound or kill. The closer range range, the more opportunities for getting “hits”.
The action cards also have a talk bubble that tells you how many soldiers can either move, shoot, hide, look. The soldier who's dog tag matches the one on the action card can take one of the actions in the talk bubble as well as the action at the top of the action card, or he can just take the action listed on top of the card and let other soldiers in his squad perform all the actions in the talk bubble.
There are also white or blue squares on some cards with text within. The white ones are optional for that soldier to do if possible, but the blue one is mandatory if possible. This adds to the story telling of the game as it can make for some memorable moments during a game and allows each soldier to be a hero or a goat, depending on the text in the box. The neat thing about this game is that aside from the “Character” soldiers that come in DoD (2 for each side), all the other soldiers are going to be different from each other. They have their own serial number and stats and action card uniqueness that makes them capable of performing differently in a game. This is one of the coolest aspects of the game that attracted me to it.
At the beginning of the game, each player randomly draws an Orders card. This is kept secret and gives each player a direction to go during a game and a means of gaining Victory Points.
At the beginning of each turn each player draws the appropriate number of cards from their action deck and then you reveal the top three cards from the Story Deck and place them on their spaces on the border. Each card represents a Phase and tell you which cards you can play for that Phase. It might say Hide and then Shoot, Move and then Look or other combinations. Each player must then choose a card from their hand to play for each Phase and the card played must match one of the actions allowed by the corresponding Phase card. So for a Phase card that says Hide and then Shoot, you can play either a Hide action card from your hand or a Shoot action card from your hand. The player playing the Hide action would go first since it was listed at the top of the Story Deck card, but if both players play the same action, there are ways of determining who gets initiative, but I won't get that involved here.
There are Cause and Effect actions that can come into play if the bottom of the Story Deck cards line up right. This takes place at the beginning of the turn and can affect both players. There might be something that causes you to move slower, become sighted, discard Shoot cards from your hand. These Cause and Effects help make each game different, even if you play the same scenario over and over. It's not often that the cards line up to create a Cause and Effect, but it's cool when it does. It may happen once in a game or 4 times, so that adds to the replayability of the game and the storytelling.
Some people might be put off by the 2D aspect of the game. You have printed buildings, trees etc. on the board, but you can't hide behind them so to speak like in other minis games. Playing Heroscape for a long time, I know that line of sight is extremely important in that game and many others involving minis and is something that people grow used to. Unlike some other games, just because there is nothing to hide behind so to speak in this game, you can't always shoot/attack a figure just because you clear line of sight. In Sergeants, you have to be able to Sight a soldier before shooting at it. There are terrain modifiers on each map tile, and while you may have line of sight, the terrain modifiers might prevent you from being able to Sight a soldier, or if the soldier is or can be sighted, the terrain modifiers might keep you from being able to take a Shoot action against that soldier because it can affect your “range”. This is part of the abstract nature of the game that people have to either get on board with or they will keep comparing “typical” minis gaming rules applications the this game and get frustrated. Believe me, I've played enough games where 3D terrain had a huge affect on how you play, so I know where people are coming from. That said, I had absolutely no problem adapting to the abstract nature of this game and found that while it is different, it can have the same feeling and end results as if it were played with 3D terrain and restrictions.
After reading reviews and seeing video reviews of the game based on earlier rules, I was kind of leery about getting this game. While everyone said that the mechanics were sound and the game was very playable, it seemed lacking in clarity when it came to the rules. Well I have the 1.72 version of the rules, so they are the most up to date, thank goodness. LBG had done a great job in listening to its costumers and updating the rules so far and from what I gather, 1.72 is a vast improvement from it's earlier form.
The game is very playable for sure with the new updated rules. That said, there can still be improvement with some minor things that will hopefully be answered in the future. Believe me, I've asked plenty of questions and have gotten some answers here at BGG. I would prefer to have more of my questions answered in the rulebook and not come here to find them, but after all, most of my questions are for finer details that result from certain situations in a game that come up, or from a person I'm teaching the game to. I don't like not having an answer to someone's question, but fortunately this game allows you to “house rule” certain details that aren't covered in the rulebook. Any “house rule” I've had to come up with is for only minor things, so they won't greatly affect the gaming experience, but just gives the players clarification and boundaries that all players will know from the onset of the game.
So aside from some minor details, I've found the rules easy to understand after reading thoroughly and playing a solo game to get the feel of the flow. I do this with every game I get because I like to have the sense of the gameplay/flow before I teach it to someone else, as well as run into some potential situations that can arise in order to have an answer to them when teaching.
I know, people are probably saying “finally.” I know I do tend to get carried away sometimes when telling a story or writing something. I didn't want to do a sterile review for this game because I really love the game and wanted to add a sense of where I'm coming from with my gaming experience and opinions.
I really love this game. I love how accessible it is to both minis gamers and board gamers. I love how portable it is and can be taken wherever you want to go and set up in a relatively short amount of time. I think the individual soldiers are a great idea and aspect of this game. Each soldier can develop a personality that you can really enjoy during a game or series of games, and that adds to fond recounts of each game. I really like the leaders and being able to play them at different ranks. I really enjoy the Story Deck mechanic of the game and how it adds to create a unique game each time you play. The Cause and Effect mechanic is cool and gets players excited when they see that part of the cards match up when they are revealed. The Orders cards you draw at the beginning of the game are neat and give you a direction, but like other games, they can be a distraction if you don't do other things you need to do during a game to win. The various ways to earn Victory Points is neat and can allow for different player styles to help determine how they attain VP's. Follow orders, kill all enemy figures or try to get into Close Combat and capture a soldier to double their VP value.
Certainly there are some things that aren't part of the love fest from above. The game is expensive and will take a certain amount of investment to get the most out of it. You certainly don't have to buy everything that is made for the game to enjoy it. But you should expect to get a decent amount more than just the base game DoD. It is what it is and it's not hidden from anyone. Anyone doing even a moderate amount of research on this game will find that it is highly recommended to buy more than just the base game. It's well advertised that the base game is just that and it's not something that you will get the full sense of Sergeants from. So this game won't be for everyone. I had spent a lot of money on Heroscape over the years and got plenty of enjoyment and value from my purchases. I was planning on getting into another game system to build a collection with, so I was prepared for the expense.
The rules are really good for the most part, I really mean that. There are however some things that can be clearer and little more time spent in covering some finer details. I understand that the designer didn't want to create a lengthy rulebook and that is appreciated, but I would much prefer a longer more detailed rulebook than having to go to BGG for answers, as it's much easier to flip through a rulebook in the middle of a game to find the answer than to search for the answer online or post a question online and wait for an answer.
I rate the game overall at 8.5.
Thanks for the review Greg!
Wish we could have met at GenCon. Maybe in 2013!
That's a great review!
I'm BullTaco and I approved this message.
Mess with the Bull.....