Early Clash of Monarchs Impressions

Early Clash of Monarchs Impressions Hot

Gary Sax     
 
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Clash of Monarchs is a new GMT wargame on the Seven Years War (1756-1763).  It's a CDG.  4 players--one plays Prussia, one Austria, one Britain and one France/Russia.  It could easily be played 2 players.  I have been playing it with some pretty experienced (not in COM) guys by e-mail and did some solo games.  The VASSAL module is really the best one I've ever used.  Here are my initial impressions, I'm absolutely going to need more play before I can rate it or be confident in my impressions.  I'd like to hear what everyone is doing with it in the comments--I am enjoying it quite a bit.

With respect to components and production it is a mixed bag.  The rules and playbook are good.  The art design in general is amazing--with special mention to the absolutely stunning cards.  Best I've seen.  Unfortunately the map is a bit of a tangled mess.  It is readable but it's hard.  The colors run together a bit and the roads are hard to tell apart.  The map needs more work, IMO, but the rest of the package is good.

This game is definitely a total war of attrition.  Not really on the field, as there are numerous opportunities for devastating crushing victories and defeat, but more as a campaign as a whole.  The game is won by a long series of wins, defeats and sieges that eat away at your monarchical will, take all your cards and dismantle your supply.  It is a dismal game--and I mean this is the best possible way because this was a completely dismal war for all involved.  I think the designer accomplished exactly what he wanted to in that respect. 

I feel that the game is pretty procedural, maybe a little too much so.  Not as procedural as Asia Engulfed but not super far off.  The order of play is extremely important and colors the way in which you do things.  The game is complex but the core mechanics are not terribly difficult to play once mastered (on the wargame scale).  It is a long game, however, with lots of steps of procedure to get through during each player's turn.  It would probably be a tough go in person though I personally would love to try.  Certainly for the campaign game which could take like 20+ hours.  I would not say there are too many exceptions in the rules so that is nice, especially with my recent plays of some exceptions filled monsters (TOC). 

The game is also less card game than you might think.  My perception is that CDGs have been moving more towards card play interactions--this game is card driven but almost all the action happens on the board.  You do have to remember that all the opponents on the board have some very annoying intercept cards to prevent activations so you can't put yourself in a position where you bet the farm on being able to make one move.

Whoever said the Kleiner Krieg, the raiding and pillaging portion of the game, doesn't matter has not played the campaign game or one of the later scenarios.  It doesn't matter much in the early game except as a way to get supply for little cost.  Supply raids can be really painful (our campaign just had the Prussians annoyingly raided and forced to beat a retreat) and forage raids are basically the way you hurt an opponent you are struggling to defeat in the field.

All players in the game have substantially different problems to deal with and are playing different games.  The most striking are the French/Russian player and the British player.  The British player, once he takes some early licks, gets a very strong leader (Ferdinand) but is always very challenged for men.  He has to maneuvre around the sucky French leaders and fight when he can, Ferdinand means he will usually win, and also kick France's ass overseas and with his fleet.  Meanwhile the French have absolutely abominable leaders who are hard to activate and suck in battle.  On the other hand they have an OMG huge army that can consider battles lost to the British where they inflict anywhere near equal casualties a victory.  The other powers are equally as different from each other.

All in all I am pretty happy with the game.  I wouldn't recommend it to non-wargame enthusiasts.  Certainly not the typical F:AT reader.  I'm not totally sure it's the first game I would recommend to CDG enthusiasts either, actually.  I don't necessarily see it being a 10 game for me right now but I'm enjoying it and I think it accomplishes virtually everything that the designer wanted to do--especially by making the players feel like they are in an endless war that is destroying Europe, including their own country.  The ending scenarios are almost like the 10th round of a boxing match with punch drunk fighters flailing at each other without much strength, trying to land a crushing blow.
Early Clash of Monarchs Impressions There Will Be Games
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