Monday, January 9, 2017

Playing Pub Battles Brandywine

My wife and I played our first game of Pub Battles: Brandywine last weekend. She took the Continentals and I took the British. This was only Terri's third time playing a wargame, so I had a bit of a quandary as to which side would be best for her. In the end I though being the defender would be a bit easier, despite having to shift front to handle Cornwallis' attack.

It turned out that was probably the right choice! Right off the bat, she took out two of my elite brigades...

After that I got serious. Here Knyphausen has forced his way across the Brandywine with a brigade, with more pushing for the crossing.

I have to say that the game is gorgeous. The map is well enough done to be framed, and printed on a heavy canvas. At one point (after warning my wife to be careful) I slopped a few drops of water on to the map. What would have been at least a minor disaster with an uncovered by plexi paper map was no big deal here.

Knyphausen is across the river and Greene is pretty much wrecked. With her left collapsing, Terri realized that she was probably now in some serious trouble.

As for gameplay...well, the game plays alright. It's quick, and while a fair stretch away from anything resembling a really accurate depiction of late 18th Century combat, it makes up for that in charm and coolness.

Figuring out how to deal with terrain effects on movement was a little bit of a chore. There's a good deal of fudging and judgement calling in this game that isn't the case with a hex-and-chit game. Some stuff, like the cost of 1/3 of your movement to cross two slopes but no impact from one slope, can be tough to figure out during a move. I suppose in that respect it's much more like miniatures.

My one major gripe is the rules. I'm all for brevity and simplicity, but the rules for Brandywine are brief to the point of almost not being rules at all. There's just way, way too much ambiguity in the rules. As in, I'm not sure someone not familiar with wargaming could figure this out - and that's a problem, since this is a game aimed at people that aren't traditional wargamers. The rules need a serious rewrite by someone talented to clarify them without making them a lot more complicated.

Note that I did check out the FAQ on the publisher's website for the game. While it does clarify some things, an number of the questions I had weren't addressed.

In the end, Cornwallis and Howe overwhelmed Washington and Sullivan. The British never did achieve the victory condition of controlling a major road, but the did cause enough casualties to score a minor victory. Terri thought that holding me to that was a good job given her lack of experience with these kinds of games and I have to agree!

Overall, I'm glad to have this game. My wife, not a wargamer by any means, enjoyed it and wants to play it again. It's fun to play because it looks cool and is quick and easy. Adding extras like the movement measuring sticks or the brass compass (which turned out to be really useful for movement and retreat) really adds to the period feel. Brandywine is a low complexity game with amazing components. At a somewhat abstract grand tactical level, the system provides reasonable results. Certainly, it can be used as an excellent introductory and teaching game. I do wish the publisher would clean up and clarify the rules, but there's nothing that can't be handled with a few judicious house rules.  It's still my favorite Christmas present this year and I look forward to playing it with friends at Origins in June.

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