Review – Empires in America from Victory Point Games, designed by Joseph Miranda
The 3rd in Victory Point Games’ States of Siege series, Empires in America places you as the solo player in a heck of a predicament as the French Player in your colony of New France (North America between Halifax and the Ohio Valley) during the French and Indian War of 1754-62.
I have always found this period of history interesting with 2 imperial European powers slugging it out in the mostly wilderness area of North America, vying for power and dealing with colonial population as well as indigenous peoples. A heady mix for conflict!
In Empires in America, noted designer Joseph Miranda puts you in the pressure cooker as the British forces are able to move along campaign tracks to their ultimate destination, Montreal, and your job, quite simply is to stop them or at least hold them off as long as you can. Not an easy feat.
In keeping with its design and production mantra, Victory Games has produced a small game for 1 player aged 12+ and comes with 8 pages of rules, 52 die-cut counters, 48 Event and History cards and an 11″x17″ card stock map. The heart and soul of the game is the set of cards which govern actions, resources and events which impact your choices and decisions. They are clearly written and nicely illustrated as is the excellent map and counters. Kudos to Alan Emrich for Graphic Design and Tim Allen for the map. At first glance, it all looks great and immediately sparks interest.
As is typical in solitaire games, there is some programmed process in the game flow for the non-player side so this isn’t a very simple game but once you get into the flow, it moves well enough.
The Historique phase of the turn starts with drawing cards (3-4 depending on whether or not the Seven Years War has begun). These can be French Actions, French or British Provisional forces which are used for combat, Military Leaders or British or World events. Each card is resolved immediately by adding to your hand, placing in the tableau as forces and Leaders available or deployed (British) or resolving immediately in the case of events. Cards not in your hand will either be in the draw pile, “Bottomed” or recycled for later use, discarded or removed from the game.
Leaders which are used to govern combat and movement come with a number of battalions at their disposal, a leadership rating (used in battle) and a reputation scale which starts at mediocrity and can change due to their accomplishments or failures.Some also come with special abilities. British Leaders are place in different areas of operations according to campaign priorities.
The British phase covers leader availability and rallying, movement of the British forces, assaulting fortresses and declaring defeat if Montreal falls. The French phase has you rallying leaders, receiving and spending action points to make forces available, build fortifications and Trading Posts. The Housekeeping phase has you checking to see if you have defeated the Brits, Sacking useless leaders, resetting markers and reshuffling the deck if the Seven Years War has begun.
The process isn’t the smoothest I’ve ever come across. It took me a couple of turns to get the flow of things as I needed to refer back to the rules a number of times, which to be honest, I would expect in a solitaire game, especially with a bunch of cards with different information, but I was soon able move through the process faster.
The information and history is just so interesting that I wasn’t bothered about the system so much in any case. The use of the cards is very effective and really takes you through the story of what went on during this conflict. There is a high degree of tension as you try and decide where to make your stand against the marching British forces. How soon do you fight? Can you afford to give up certain fortresses? Great stuff. Yes, there will always be a luck of the draw element which sees you get hammered but this also adds uncertainty inherent in military conflict and in my minds adds to the theme and leaves me coming back for more.
Did it work for me?
I am quite pleased with Empires in America. Again, Victory Point Games know their audience and they are becoming quite adept at providing small solitaire games which are great when the game group isn’t around. This is a good design, a little clunky, in getting into but once you’ve been past the first 2-3 turns, you are there pretty much. The card mechanics give you a number of options and drive the tension very well. What’s more, it is really fun and gives you a real sense of the historical flavor and events.
Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 8 out of 10
Nope. This is a solo game and will certainly be of interest to military history buffs and grognards alike. Now if your kids are interested in this kind of thing… who knows?
For more information about Victory Point Games go to – http://victorypointgames.com/