1812 – The Invasion of Canada – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Extremely high quality release. Stunning mounted map. Family friendly. Great value for the money. Unique subject.
Failed Basic: Needs an index and a play aid sheet. Some rules clarifications needed. Naval battle rules not included. No solitaire system.
Academy Games, best known for the release of the award-winning Conflict of Heroes World War II game system, turns its attention to the little-talked-about War of 1812 with this new, family-friendly game release during that war’s 200th anniversary.
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England had been at war with Napoleon since 1799, minus a few months of peace in 1802–1803. Finding the attrition rate among its sailors difficult to deal with, the UK begins impressing sailors from the new country of America, claiming the sailors are actually British sailors who jumped ship. At the same time, the British are raiding American merchant ships that attempt to slip through its naval blockade to trade with France. In addition, American expansion often leads to conflict with the North American Indian population, which begins to fight back with a new degree of co-ordination; exaggerated reports claim that the British are not only providing the Indians with firearms but actively fomenting conflict between the tribes and the American settlers. These and other issues, including a desire to secure for the United States British-held lands in North America, led to war between the U.S. and England, precipitating an invasion of the British territory of Canada in 1812.
Academy Games’ grand-strategic boardgame 1812 – The Invasion of Canada, looks at the conflict from an abstract standpoint and serves as the perfect jumping-off point for learning about this often-overlooked conflict. Its basic abstraction (the game rules themselves are only 6 pages long) makes this game “family friendly,” ideal for introducing new players to the hobby of wargaming. For experienced wargamers it provides an afternoon of beer and pretzels gaming. This is the first of Academy’s new Birth of America series; each title will examine a particular element of American history. Already, Academy’s website for this series promises two more games, one about the Underground Railroad and another covering the Revolutionary War.
Inside the gorgeously illustrated box for 1812 – The Invasion of Canada is a beautiful, full-color, mounted map of the midwestern section of North America, including Michigan and Ohio and the areas of Canada that border the Great Lakes. Cards are included for each of the playable factions (American Regulars, American Militia, American Indians, British Regulars and Canadian Militia), along with special dice and large and small colored wooden blocks that correspond to each faction. There are also markers for designating which areas are controlled by British or American units and a chess pawn used to keep track of turns.
1812 – The Invasion of Canada game system
The game system for 1812 – The Invasion of Canada is streamlined and easy to learn. After setting up the map per the scenario to be played and placing the large blocks in the bag provided, a player randomly draws one of the cubes from the bag. Each faction is color-coded: blue for American Regulars, white for American Militia, green for Indians, red for British Regulars and yellow for Canadian militia. The color of the first block drawn determines which faction goes first, second, third, etc. Instead of counters, the small wooden blocks are used to represent armies. The map is divided into territories with objective cities and waterways marked. It shows how many armies start in each territory and where reinforcements may be “mustered” into the faction’s armies. Bodies of water are the only terrain that affects play and includes lakes Ontario and Erie as well as rivers and fords.
Each player draws three cards for his or her faction. These cards include options for movement over land or water, special events such as “Napoleon Defeated” (which frees up more British troops to be sent from Europe to North America), and personalities who can influence play such as Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison.
Each turn, a player must play a Move card—which shows how many armies can be moved using that particular Move card—and can then play up to two special cards from his or her hand. The player moves up to the number of armies allowed (which can be groups of smaller unit blocks) and attempts to invade territories. When opposing armies are in the same area, special cards can be played and dice are rolled for combat.
Each faction has a certain number of dice. There are three symbols on the dice—Hit, Flee and Command Decision. A Hit means that one enemy unit must be taken off the board; Flee means one of the attacker’s own units must be moved to a section of the board that serves as a holding area for units that will re-enter the game in a later turn; and the Command Decision result means that one of the attacker’s units must move away from the battle but is not removed from play. Each faction’s dice are different. The militia units tend to flee more than others. British units tend to hit more often and never flee. Knowing what your units are likely to do gives you interesting strategic options based upon your force make-up. A force can include a mix of factions and a wise general may, for example, mix British Regulars in with Indians and Canadian Militia in order to have a greater chance of killing the enemy. The game is co-operative in that factions on each side can work together to form, move and attack with a degree of co-ordination not seen in many other games (British, Canadians and Indian factions on the British side and American Regulars and American Militia on the American).
Once the battle is over and only one side remains in a territory, the players put a control marker (British or American) on the objective (if the territory contains an objective) and then draw their hand back up to three cards. At game’s end, the side that controls the most enemy territory wins.
1812 – The Invasion of Canada plays very quickly. A game can be completed in two to three hours making it perfect for an afternoon of playing. The rules can be learned very quickly, but the simplicity does not mean the game is without substance and surprises. An extensive section of the rulebook is given over to a history of the War of 1812 and makes for fascinating background reading.
The game has its flaws, but none of them are major. There is no index but the rules, although short, do require some referencing during the game. A handout detailing some of the options available during each turn would also have helped during play.
The game focuses on the land combat during the War of 1812, with ships used only to ferry troops. Since combat on the water was so prevalent and important during the war, an advanced section for ship combat would have added more playability and historicity to the game without detracting from its abstract nature. More cards would also add to the options available to the players.
Nonetheless, 1812 – The Invasion of Canada is a great game and a perfect kick-off to Academy Game’s new Birth of America series. For players of all ages, this game is highly recommended.
Armchair General Rating: 90 %
Solitaire Rating: (1 is low, 5 is high) 2
About the Author A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!