Wellington – Boardgame Review
In 1808 most of Europe was under the thumb of Napoleon, and seeing a chance to rid almost the entire continent of British influence, a French invasion of the Iberian Peninsula was undertaken. Napoleon, ever seeking ways to reinforce his claims of nobility, took the chance brought by Spanish unrest to install his brother Joseph on the throne. This act was met with mixed reactions, with some Spaniards believing that this would bring improvements and the end of the Spanish Inquisition, and for other Spaniards this led to riot. The harsh repression of the riots led to disaffection, and soon the Catholic Church and Spanish patriots were agitating the populace to fight. With this agitation and the help of the British and Portuguese came years of bitter warfare that would siphon off some of Napoleon’s best troops. Wellington, The Peninsular War 1812-1814, from Mark McLaughlin and GMT is the latest game to try to capture the flavor and essence of the war on the Iberian Peninsula.
This installment of GMT’s card driven campaign game is adapted from McLaughlin’s award winning The Napoleonic Wars. Wellington removes the diplomacy that makes The Napoleonic Wars so tense, and creates (in GMT’s own words) "a traditional blood and guts wargame with more cards in their hands and hence even more game action." How much of the action that Wellington creates depends on the willingness of the players to use that vital card at the proper time. The removal of diplomacy keeps the historical allies on the same side, and leaves out the danger of an ally turning on you.
Upon opening the box, the high quality of the components is obvious. The map is very well done, and in colors that don’t distract from the play of the game. The map has almost all the important gameplay information on it. At first this can be distracting, but as the game plays on, it is nice to not have to search for a chart.
The counters for the varying leaders are excellent, with each being unique (for example there are markers for Soult and Wellington). The markers for the troops, while a little plain, do show them in proper colors. The informational markers are well done and quite useful to keep track of events that are triggered by cards.
The cards are perhaps the best of the components. They are printed on study cardstock, and each has a period pencil drawing with an event or action that can change the tempo and momentum of the game by playing it.
The game has options to play either a two-turn or a three-turn game. While this sounds like it would make a short game, each turn has multiple phases which allows the actions of the players and the cards that they hold to dictate the length of the turn. Both games start with a predefined setup and move forward from there.
After setting up the opposing forces on the map board, each player is dealt home cards (these cards are specific to the nationality and the number varies based on the nationality being played) and each player also gets six regular cards. Play then begins with the first phasing player; in this case the British Player gets to go first throughout the game.
The active player can use cards to trigger events or to spend them for command points. Command points are needed to build new units or to move armies around the board. Battles or sieges are initiated or avoided based upon the movement of the active player. During the battle sequence, inactive players (not just the player who is being attacked) can play cards to influence the outcome of the battle. The Spanish player might play a card to benefit his British ally, but is not required to do so. It is here that any intrigue can come into play. The Spanish player can help the British player to remove a large French army with an eye towards being able to make his own movement phase easier. All of the battle sequences are handled in the "bucket of dice" method. Each side gets to roll dice based on the forces involved and their nationality modifier. Often each player is rolling a large handful of dice, with disruptions and casualties being inflicted by the number of 5′s and 6′s rolled. The loser is removed or flees and the winner can exploit their victory with looting or pursuit.
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