For those of you who were fortunate enough to attend the four day extravaganza of Origins 2001, it was the usual awe inspiring fun-fest it always is. See games, talk about games, play games all day long, good food, and good friends. (Throw in sex and we're talking heaven here!)
Even with all of the hoopla, one of the real standouts was a fledgling company called Eagle Games. Their booth was in constant "Oooh, wow!" mode for those who passed by. If their three upcoming releases - Napoleon in Europe, The American Civil War, and War! Age of Imperialism - play as well as they look, we have major contenders here. All of the mounted gameboards are huge and gorgeous. Twice the size of any of the new Avalon Hill/Hasbro boards, with a fine sense of artistic flair without being garish. At convention time, only the drawings of the plastic miniature playing pieces were available, but still looked impressive. All the games are grand strategy in nature, support multiplayer, and have three sets of rules ranging from Basic, to Standard, to Advanced. Think of an updated and expanded Gamemaster Series (Milton Bradley).
Sound wonderful? Well, silly me never got the nuts and bolts of how the games are played! So I went seeking answers by contacting the president of Eagle Games, and very nice fellow, Glenn Drover. With Glenn's permission, below is an edited version of our e-mail correspondence.
Ray Smith: It was wonderful to see you guys at Origins, and you created quite a buzz with your fine efforts. Everyone seems very anxious to try your releases. However (don't you hate those), I am sure that you are very well aware of the skepticism of gamers, since we have been burned too frequently with pretty components encased around a crummy game. So, my question is, could you relay to me some details of a typical turn or sequence of play or mechanics? The world wants to know!
Glenn Drover: We will be posting some play examples on our website very soon (www.eaglegames.net). We have been flat out with everything that we have going on right now: Financing (to be able to put all the pretty components into the game); Rigorous Playtesting (so that the gamers are not burned); Three sets of rules (so that the games are playable and fun for a wide variety of players); Sales and Marketing (so that the games are available to as many people as possible and so that we're profitable and around for a few years to bring you more great games). To allay your fears, I will give you some samples. Each game plays differently, though. Can you specify which game and what level (Basic, Standard, Advanced) that you would like the example from? Thanks for you avid interest. I know that you won't be disappointed.
RS: I'm glad you are taking the attitude of taking your time to do it "right". To allay my curiosity, a synopsis of the Standard version of your American Civil War game will suffice.
GD: In the standard version of the American Civil War, armies comprised of Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Leaders (Command Control) are set up in roughly historical positions as of July 1861. Players then take turns maneuvering their forces in an attempt to capture enemy cities (which are the focus points for industrial and military production for the surrounding area), or gain an advantage in battle. Strategic movement is allowed via the rail-net (up to the maximum "rail rating": higher for the Union). When two armies meet in a region, a tactical battle is fought. Both players take their armies off the board and line them up (in secret with the box between them) in four "battle areas" (left flank, right flank, center, and reserve). Then both players take turns charging or firing their units in an attempt to eliminate (destroy or rout) all of the units in one of the front-line battle areas. When this occurs, the loser must retreat and take extra losses due to pursuit (cavalry is valuable in covering the retreat as well as extra pursuit ability).
The units behave as they did historically:
Infantry are the cheapest and are very effective in battle (fire or charge).
Cavalry are useful in raiding on the strategic map and skirmishing in battle (fire or charge) (charging is very ineffective against infantry) and especially useful after battles.
Artillery are expensive, but deadly, and can fire at long range. They are vulnerable if not protected by infantry or cavalry in battle (fire only).
Leaders can lead charges or rally the routed units to give their army more staying power in a battle.
Winning major battles also allows the winner to influence European Intervention. If the South wins too many battles, Captures Washington D.C., or even (gasp) frees the slaves (though this has serious internal consequences), England and France could join the war, and then it's a whole new ball game.
The South can win by capturing six major cities in the North, or by lasting until the end of 1865. The Union must capture every major city in the South to win. Thus, the onus is on them to move forward and knock the South out.
The game can take from one to six (or more) hours depending on
how aggressive the players are, their relative abilities, and that
old devil: luck in
battle. The game rewards players who utilize the advantages of their troops and their country correctly (playing to their strengths), while allowing them the ability to rewrite history by trying new tactics and strategies.
I hope this gives you a little insight into the game. Thanks for your interest.
RS: Thank you Glenn, and best of luck!.
- Ray Smith