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Subject: Some Thoughts in Regards to For the People rss

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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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At the behest of John Poniske I bring you this discussion. It is a retread but one that might get a few more orders for Lincoln's War. I shall be comparing Lincoln's War to the other Civil War CDG with a political edge: For the People.



Leaders
Lincoln’s War has a streamlined system to promote generals from 1 star all the way to General in Chief. However, to prevent the plague of "Grant takes command in ‘62" promotions beyond 2 stars are expensive in terms of political currency (PC), which is the fuel is to this game what operations points are to most other CDGs. The rules for leaders are clean in terms of command. Higher ranked leaders out rank their less connected brethren, and there is none of the fussy, if interesting rules that you’ll find in The Price of Freedom: The American Civil War 1861-1865. I think in this regard Lincoln’s War has solved the problem of arcane leader rules through simple mechanics. The most involved aspect is the peculiar characteristics, an optional rule that I enjoy using. These represent strengths and weaknesses in a commander. It is a bit involved but colorful.

In For the People leaders come out in a rigid fashion and many of the ratings leave me baffled. Halleck is better than Curtis and the equal of Rosecrans? Joseph E. Johnston is as easy to move as Albert Sidney Johnston and Longstreet? These are just a few that had me scratching my head. This is not to say For the People doesn't do somethings right. Leaders have political ratings, something forgotten in the other games, and these political ratings have repercussions upon your side's strategic will, which is the way the war effort is gauged. Also the games gets McClellan right. He isn't a great general by any means, but if he is in DC the Union receives an extra strength point and his promotion to command adds 5 to the Union's Strategic Will. This perfectly captures McClellan's importance in 1861, but when he leaves DC to invade Virginia, his removal will probably be the next step.

Ground Combat
The game really shines here. For one, you can always retreat, but it will cost you political currency. Also, some generals are indecisive and or erratic. This is a mechanic used in simpler form in The Civil War. However, I wish it was expanded to all the generals. Lee had his Gettysburg and Grant had his Cold Harbor after all. I would also like this because combat does not rely upon dice, but rather upon the accumulated combat skill of the commander, the use of enthusiastic support points (ESP), and other modifiers. These battles do not cause casualties, but instead generate immobilization markers (IT) which impair an army’s operations. All around it is an interesting system and rather effective.

For the People has a few good touches including different levels of combat. Large battles can particularly bloody on the defender and there is no possibility of a Cold Harbor or a Fredericksburg. Otherwise, all is well in this regard. I do like the cavalry rules, which illustrate the main use of cavalry during the war: recon and raiding.

Naval Operations
Many games fall prey to overly complicated naval rules, but Lincoln’s War successfully navigates between the two extremes. On the one hand amphibious landings are easily handled and Confederate rivers warships for the are represented. However, the game does include commerce raiders, an idea I am sort of opposed to. While interesting in their own right, I think at this scale the effect they can have upon the game is an overstatement.

I have my biggest problems with For the People in this regard. The naval rules are a mess and a muddle and even after finishing a full game I still had problems digesting them. The blockade is handled through cards, which can be a nice touch, but you might find yourself using the card for land operations rather than sea operations. This goes to the heart of CDG's main weakness: cards sometimes abstract events that were going to happen regardless. In this way many CDGs rely upon cards to make events happen rather than relying upon special rules. A brutal example of this is the way cards must be played in a special order to get Russian to fall in Paths of Glory, which in turn means that without “fixes” to the game it rarely if ever happens. Regardless, this is a minor gripe I have with CDGs. I still see Paths of Glory as a classic, and in For the People it is simply a minor mistake, and certainly I can see the logic of using cards to simulate the blockade.

Logistics
This is handled perfectly. You trace supply through the ocean if you are Union. Both sides must trace three hexes back to a rail line or river that connects to a supply city, with higher ranked generals requiring more supply. If you cannot you generate an IT and must draw a card to decide your forage level. Cavalry is better at gaining forage, which is a wonderful addition. They also have have zones of control for the purposes of interception and cutting supply.

For the People's rules are point blank and simple and the addition of automatic attrition is excellent, as both armies fought desertion and disease as much as the enemy. Reinforcements are fixed, something that seems a bit artificial, but nonetheless can be excused.

Politics
I do not think any game, save possibly For the People, has handled this aspect so well. In part it is the nature of the design, for you are actually playing as either Lincoln or Davis. Your hand of cards represents not events but personalities in the war. Most of them are a boon and provide relevant events and high PC values. However, some cards represent personalities who had a negative effect on the war effort, such as Usher and Joseph Brown. This gives you the feeling of being Lincoln or Davis, trying to shuffle through the advice and assistance of the various personalities. Or in the case of Clement Vallandigham, the heartburn! You can win through causing the opponent to have only 0 PC which is a fine addition. As usual though, play stops in the summer of 1864, with the election of McClellan deciding it all. This thesis doesn't entirely sit right with me because Little Mac was devoted to the war effort. He just opposed the means with which Lincoln was prosecuting it. I suppose it is the only way to keep the game balanced and it is worth noting that I'm sure McClellan's peace would have been a disaster. I guess I’d prefer a game that explores, or at least allows me to explore, a McClellan presidency in all its buffoonery.

In For the People politics is not an after thought, but made integral through cards, political ratings for generals, and through strategic will. Basically Mark Herman puts the war as a contest of wills, with the securing of states, results of battle, and numerous other factors effecting the will to fight. The table is constantly swinging, and a reversal of fortune in of itself will cause further damage since the people were used to victory. This is a psychological component I like. Positive reversals in fortune are good, but they gain 2 points, while negative reversals cost you 3.

Accessibility
It is not that Lincoln’s War is a difficult game. It is somewhat like the first time I played Bonaparte at Marengo. There are so many unique aspects that one must read the rules with care and attention. Once you do, the game flows rather well. It can just be a tough going at first. Much of this though is also because the rules are not finished. I'm certain that once they are polished and finalized the rules will be accessible.

For the Peopleis one of the heaviest CDGs, and as such familiarity with the subject matter and the mechanics is advised before you dive into this game. As it is the rules can very clear on some points (supply) and poor on others (naval operations).

Components
While the game is not out yet, the graphics so far uploaded are impressive, being colorful and evocative of the period. Mark Mahaffey's map is quite good, and I've heard the final copy will be lightened and more detailed, including the reworked railroad lines. Even then, while MMP has disappointed me in this department, they also have some impressive games as well. I am not a fan of GCACW, but if I were wealthy I’d buy Battle Above the Clouds just for the map.

For the People is a bit of a disappointment. Usually GMT makes a very good-looking product, but the map and cards struck me as plain. If it was from MMP or Avalanche, this might not be an issue coming from me, but in terms of components I expect the best from GMT because that is what we usually get. I guess I am spoiled!

Originality
A question often asked by the wary is “what is new about Lincoln’s War? Why not stick with A House Divided or The Civil War.” What is new here is the take on the war. You basically play as either Lincoln or Davis, making the game lees about micromanaging armies and more about weathering political storms and selecting commanders with the right stuff. There is even talk of a four player variant where one player is the president and the other is the commander of the armies. As or combat, I am not opposed to dice or CRTs, but the system here is something new for Civil War games. In short, this is not going to be For the People: John Poniske Edition.

For the People is unlike any other CDG I've played, since it retains some aspects of We the People like political control and strategy ratings for leaders, but in its complexity and CRT, it is reaching for Paths of Glory. One thing it could have benefitted from were separate decks for each side, with early and late war cards. It would not be until Paths of Glory that a CDG did this though it would have been nice here.

Victory Conditions
These are fairly ordinary and rightfully so,. You get points for capturing cities, destroying rail-lines, forcing an army out of supply, controlling the Mississippi, taking Missouri and Kentucky, and other things. One thing of note is that you gain points for killing Lincoln. Now that is something you do not see everyday.

For the People is decided by a contest of strategic will, and with so many events modifying it there is a lot of things to consider. It feels like Herman has embraced the complexity of victory and defeat and how events great and small effected the outcome. It isn't simply a question of capturing armies and the capital. For the People embraces a kind of mosaic of strategy, in which everything effects the outcome from political events to simply capturing a fort. I love this part of the game.

Conclusions
If I were asked to rank the Civil War games I have played on this scale it would look something like this: The Civil War, The Price of Freedom: The American Civil War 1861-1865, For the People, The War for the Union, and A House Divided. Yet I only own The Civil War, for in spite of its lack of politics and broken leader rules, it is still fresh and exciting. Lincoln’s War promises to surpass even Eric Lee Smith's classic. In a playable format, Lincoln’s War uses unique mechanics to create a gaming situation that departs from its venerable bretheren. It is almost as if Poniske took all the aspects I liked from the previously mentioned games and baked one hell of a wargaming cake. And I don't even like cake.
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Wendell
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Excellent analysis Sean. I've played LW a little and read the rules a LOT and I'm really looking forward to it.
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Peter Putnam
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Nice choice of comparing Lincon's War to For the People since FtP is so well known. Lincoln's War was my first kick starter. I kind of felt like supporting Lincoln's War was charity work but after reading your review I'm now pretty optimistic that I'll end up owning a pretty good game that will get some play since it can actually finish during a regular game night session.

However, I'm not sure what worries me more "It is somewhat like the first time I played Bonaparte at Marengo" or that "I don't even like cake"
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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To be fair, this is just a rehash of two reviews, but I felt it worth the effort to help get this game through.

Don't tell me, you love cake and hate Bonaparte at Marengo?
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Brian Morris
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2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan
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For The People is a favorite of mine but I liked how Lincoln's War approached the political side of the conflict which is why I supported the game. The civil war was a political conflict as much as it was a military one. Lincoln's War reflects that.
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John Poniske
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Mark Herman Responds

Mark posted his comments on Sean's comparison on ConSimWorld

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX/.1dd2a5d3/313
Post #309

To which I would like to make the following statement.

Understood, Mark. I certainly meant no disrespect to you or to FtP. For the People is a classic in the realm of Civil War designs. Nor do I think the comparison was meant to denigrate the overall design of FtP, on the contrary Sean emphasized where FtP excelled. For those of you who have read into this comparison a beat-down of FtP, please understand that was never-ever the case. I simply requested a comparison of Lincoln's War a Civil War CDG to For the People - the first Civil War CDG because LW has been TOO OFTEN referred to as a FtP clone which it certainly is not. The comparison is largely apples to oranges, as Sean shows. I personally do NOT think one is better than the other, as they are completely different animals, either to be enjoyed on its own merits.

Ok, stepping back down off of my soapbox now. :sheepish:
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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I should have warned you that me and Mr. Herman got into a fierce debate over the CRT. So I took out those parts of the comparison between the two because he made his point well enough last year and I ended up agreeing with him.

What I wrote is and generally remains my take on For The People. I could have parsed out some of my negative criticisms of Mr. Herman's design, if only to save you some flak.

I am admittedly an out and out partisan for your game. I also, to be fair, I think Price of Freedom might now be below For the People in my rankings. I am on the fence.
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