Brief Border Wars: reviews at Moe’s Game Table

Over at Moe’s Game Table, Maurice Fitzpatrick gives his impressions of Brief Border Wars, both the system and each of the four games in the volume. He likes it!

And a few days later, he puts up a complete and mostly positive review, using a partial playthrough of the Football War game.

Thanks Moe!

I put here my notes to his review:
 
You are right, this game does a few things differently and it is not for everyone. I’ll also say that many of the questions I’ve answered on BGG are from long-time players and are in the nature of “rules say X, can you confirm you really mean X”. This often happens when I try to do something a little different; as I go on designing games (more than 25 years now) I encounter more and more players who mentally port over rules and assumptions from other games they have played. 
 
Map legend missing is an unfortunate slip. My original maps that I sent in to Compass had separate tree, hill and urban icons that were obvious; Mark Mahaffey came up with the little roundel device and I thought it was clever – the woods and mountain icons are obvious enough and that’s two of the three terrain types down. Many people figured out on their own that a black top semicircle meant an urban area but that’s not a good excuse: yes, a map legend would have made it simple. If there is a Volume II quad I will address this point, of course, as well as adding a long combat example so fewer grognards will be thrown by the options added to what is otherwise a simple bucket of dice combat system.
 
Speaking of combat, I agree reformatting the combat results explanations in the rules as a table would have worked, except space demands and layout would have broken the table in two parts across columns. The Sequence of Play aid that comes with each game presents the combat results as a more compact bullet list, which is part way there.
 
Cards and chaos: Each side has the same number of potential moves and/or combats in its deck, the randomness is in how and when they come out. Moe remarks accurately that the armies in these games are bad, disorganized, second or third-string forces in impromptu conflicts and this game mechanic underlines that. Players are overall commanders and they are in the role of chaos managers, in a way that most wargames don’t ask them to be. Sometimes chaos gives you the shaft, and sometimes the other guy gets it (and if you’re playing solo, you always get it!). But, as noted, this gives the game a lot of replayability.
 
Certainly not all players react the same way to chaos in their games, this may be too much for some (and I know full well there are players out there who dislike even having random event tables in a game), so I can suggest a not-random way for them to play:
 

Take out the 2 Random Event Cards and each player starts the game with their allotted 20 Action Cards and 6 special Actions. Each turn a player plays a total of up to 3 cards of their choice from their deck, alternately, beginning with the scenario-designated tie-winning player. Some cards will be left over as you play up to 21 of 26 cards of your choice in the course of a 7 turn game. A workable way to play, rather dull, not respectful of chaos and not the point I wanted to make in these designs at all. But it works. And no random events. Eh.
 
Order of play of the 4 games: I didn’t have a set order in mind, all situations are rather different from each other and each has examples of special units or rules that give flavour to each conflict. No getting around that.
 
Stripes on the random event cards: that was a printing slip and not deliberate. As you noted, the random event card is resolved before the action cards are played so you go with the ones you have in hand at the start of the phase.

One more comment about the randomness of the Action Cards appearances: people are willing to blame their defeats on the cards, but their victories are always due to their clever planning and skill with dice!

I never did test the no-random-cards method suggested above, again it seemed to me to be missing the point but people are welcome to try it. I suppose it has a root in the playing card variant for Ukrainian Crisis.

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

One Response to Brief Border Wars: reviews at Moe’s Game Table

  1. Another great Train game. I really like the mix of mechanics. Sorta makes Brief Border Wars a “Euroized-wargame” (and I mean that in the best way).

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