Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fort Night - Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis AAR

Like I said in the recent Sekigahara post, I've been on a bit of a tear recently in regards to board games. While they haven't replaced my miniature wargaming hobby, they're a great supplement, offering experiences unlike those of pushing little toy soldiers across the table. 

GMT Games has been my focus recently, since they offer a wide variety of themes and designers that cater to a vast swathe of player types - everything from dense, multi-hour games that cover entire wars, to short, intense games that can be enjoyed in just a half hour.

The newly released Fort Sumter: The Secession Crisis falls in the later category. Sam and I managed to play our first game in about an hour, but that was mostly due to having to explain the game rules and a mid-game break to talk to a few drop-ins. I'm sure that playing time will decrease drastically when we break it out again.

Fort Sumter is, as the box shows, a card-driven game in which two players take the roles of the Unionists and Secessionists in the last few moment of peace before the outbreak of the Civil War. Both sides wish to control various aspects of the United States - Secessionist, Political, Public, and Armaments - without escalating too quickly and creating public sympathy for the other side.

You can check out the game's BoardGameGeek page for better reviews than I can offer.

However, I do have to mention the rulebook and playbook for the game. The rulebook is concise - only 8 pages long, and one of those pages is the cover and table of contents - but it's colorful and easy to read.

The playbook, on the other hand, is fantastic. It presents the first round of the game in a step-by-step instructional guide, with little boxes offering reasoning for each action taken, and then also covers the "Final Crisis" round, which differs in structure to the preceding three rounds, but is as vital, if not more so, for victory.

It then presents a short history of the Secession Crisis, along with citations of events, people, and places to each of the 48 strategy cards. These strategy cards are then covered in depth. Finally, the playbook ends with design notes and strategy tips.

I should note that Sekigahara also has a Historical and Design Notes section of its rulebook, although it's not as in depth. If this is the norm for games from GMT (again, these are my only two experiences with their products), then I look forward to buying and learning more! It goes a long way in adding to the theme of the game.

The board at the start of the game begins nice and orderly, with neither playing having any Political Capital tokens on the table. As each round progresses, however, more tokens are removed from the Crisis Track, and the friction between the Unionists and Secessionists escalates.

Doing so is detrimental, as it allows the player who hasn't breached further into the Crisis Track to either influence the board with the Peace Commissoner token (who prevents the addition or removal of tokens from the space on the board where it has been placed) or even the loss of a Victory Point for reaching the Final Crisis stage too early.

For our first game, Sam chose to play as the Secessionists, while I was the Unionists.

Interestingly, the deck of Strategy Cards is actually asymmetrical. Both sides have equal opportunities to take the Political and Armaments spaces; however, the Secessionists are weighted towards the Secessions spaces (duh) and the Unionists are weighted towards the Public Opinion spaces. Control isn't guaranteed, but it's an uphill fight to control these spaces without the proper events on cards.

While I had intended to take pictures after the end of each round, the game was so quick-paced that I only remembered at the end of the third round, so I held off until the end of the game instead.

I took an early lead in the first round by controlling the Political Crisis Dimension and completing my objective, but I'll attribute that to the fact that I had read the rules, and Sam had only my explanation before starting the game to go off of. The second round was more evenly matched, and Sam prevented me from scoring my objective in the third round.

Neither of us broke into the Final Crisis area of the Crisis Track, and we solidified our control of the Crisis Dimensions we could influence. Sam controlled the Secession and Armaments dimensions, scoring 3 points for the additional possession of Fort Sumter. I controlled the Political and Public Opinion dimensions, and scored 3 points as well, as I had a bonus point for ending the game with three or more tokens in my Token Pool than in Sam's.

The final score was 9-8, with the Unionists eking out a victory, representing the Union starting with a slight advantage in the upcoming conflict.

Like Sekigahara, this was a fun, flavorful game with the added bonus of being quick. I plan to bring it to the upcoming South Jersey Gamers Association meeting and hopefully get another game or two in.

The concept of fast playing, card-driven games of influence placement to represent rising tensions could work in so many other places, so I'm hoping to see GMT's stable of Lunchtime Games grow. The next title looks to be Flashpoint: South China Sea, which pits the United States against China's incursions into the global shipping lanes in the aforementioned area. I'm tempted to get in on the P500.

No comments:

Post a Comment