Dec 122013
 

It is the outbreak of the American War of Independence! Hoozah! Crazy colonists are stockpiling weapons, getting drunk, carousing at bars, complaining about stuff and generally shaking up the established social order. All bluster, say! And we hate bluster! A couple of Redcoat units and some saber rattling outta sort this mess out. In 1775: Rebellion from Academy Games, 2-4 players get to control the major factions on either side of the conflict. One the side of the Brits you get the British Regulars, the Loyalist Militia and your allies, the Hessian mercenaries. The Americans get the Continental Army, Drunk Patriot Militia and as their allies, some French Regulars. Also included is the only group screwed by both major factions, the Native Americans. This is, at its core, an area control game integrated moderately with history and theme and sprinkled with dice rolling but steeped in strategy. Best paired with Anchor Steam, Yuengling, Sam Adams or any patriot minded brew. To be fair, the Brits can sport sport some Bass or Newcastle if they felt left out. The German Hessians are lucky to get out of bed in the morning.

Basics:

  • Designer:  Beau Beckett, Jeph Stahl
  • Year Released: 2013
  • Category:  American Revolutionary War, Educational, Weuro-game, Whiny White People, Drunk Hessians
  • Game Mechanic: Area Control/Area Influence, Team Play, Battle Cards!
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Suggested Age: 10+
  • Playing Time: 75 minutes

How do I set this up?

Full set-up of 1775: Rebellion. Image attributed to the Academy Games website.

Full set-up of 1775: Rebellion. Image attributed to the Academy Games website.

Scenarios: The game provides three scenarios: the main scenario is the 1775 Campaign and that is what is referenced throughout this review. Another Introductory scenario is provided which plays in 30 minutes and serves as a wonderful tool for teaching how the game plays. Since this is a entry-level wargame (really more of an area control game) I thought this scenario is severely overlooked and was very helpful in preparing new and emerging gamers into the genre. The third scenario is the Siege of Quebec and, according to the rulebook plays well for 2 “experienced” players. It also uses the full cache of cards, which is something I would like to see played eventually.

Factions: Players then choose which faction they want to play – Continental Army, Patriot Militia, British Regulars and Loyalist Militia. For two player games, each player takes the two factions for either the Americans or the British. For 3 players, one player will need to play both factions of a side.

Place Starting Units: Each colony is represented on the map (with a few liberties taken) and each colony can be further divided into areas. Within those areas, there is sometimes a City Area. That City Area is the staging point for reinforcements and fled/recovered units which will be placed throughout the game. Setting up units is as easy as looking at each area on the map – see those colored cubes? Place them in that area. Done. Wait…

Place More Units: Now the players will place four additional units into any areas that already contain that faction’s units. Each player will drawn the Turn Markers from the sack to determine the order of placing additional units.

Reinforcements: I don’t always call for reinforcements but when I do, I put them in the Reinforcement Stockpile. Each player will have a stockpile of reinforcements or as normal people call them – piles of uniformly colored wooden cubes. These cubes are pulled at the beginning of the Reinforcement Phase for each player and through various Event Card Actions.

Place Control Flags: The game comes with a bunch of two-sided round tokens, these are placed into colonies once one side controls it. To start the game, the Brits control Delaware, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The ‘Muricans control Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Player Draw Decks, Draw Cards: Each faction has their own deck to draw from. For the standard scenario (1775 Campaign) use cards numbered 1-12 and put the rest back in the box. The player’s shuffle their decks and then draw three cards. If play with teams, feel free to share your hand and attempt to plan, coordinate and silently mock the opposing player[s].

How do I play?

Image credit: Chris Norwood from BGG image #1857012

Image credit: Chris Norwood from BGG image #1857012

At the start of each round, a blind pull from the sack will determine turn order. Each faction has a Turn Marker (a colored blank die) in the sack which corresponds to the color of their units on the board (blue, white, red and yellow). Once a Turn Marker is drawn and placed on the Turn Order Track, that faction takes their actions for the round.

Each round consists of four phases for each faction.

  1. Reinforcements Phase
  2. Movement Phase
  3. Battle Phase
  4. Draw Cards

Reinforcement Phase: During this phase the Active Player gets two actions: She can place four units of reinforcements plus she can place, into any city of a colony currently in control by her side (English or American), any Fled Units (units who fled from any previous engagements through rolling the “Flee” side of the battle die). If the Active Player has no Fled Unit then none are placed. If her supply of reinforcements is less than four then she places whatever is left. If her side does not control any colonies then no reinforcements are placed. Certain cards allow additional actions to be played during this phase. Have at it!

The Hessians arrive! Image credit: Academy Games website.

The Hessians arrive! Image credit: Academy Games website.

Movement Phase: During this phase that Active Player plays one Movement Card (or the Truce Card which will bring an eventual end to the game). Movement cards will indicate how many armies can move how far and whether or not the movement is by land or by sea (see what I did there?). Any Event Cards can also be played at this point.

Armies vs. Units: In 1775: Rebellion, each cube on the board represents a faction’s unit. A faction’s army is a combined number of those units in the same area plus any allies which may also be there – Hessians, French, Militia groups or Native Americans. When moving an army through application of the Movement Cards, the Active Player will gather an army (including at least one of his own faction’s units) and then move them en masse a number of areas dictated by the card.

Event Cards and Truce Cards: Each faction has a unique deck of Movement and Event Cards. The event cards represent historical personages and events which will have some effect on the game in favor of the faction playing it. The Event Cards will indicate at which phase they can be played (Reinforcement, Movement or Battle phases). Each faction has their own Truce Card which can be played as a Movement Card  and placed along the side of the main board (or on an auxiliary board “The Treaty of Paris” which came with some (?) games). From the third round on, this board is checked at the beginning of the round to determine whether all the faction’s Truce Cards are played. If so, the game ends.

British Factions - cards, dice and control tokens

British Factions – cards, dice and control tokens

Battle Phase: With so many units, armies and factions on the board, the battles come hard, fast and often (at times, simultaneously). Happily, resolution of any engagement is just as fast. After the Active Player’s Movement Phase, it is very likely she moved an army into an area occupied by an opposing faction, or a few armies into separate areas held by opposing factions. In this case, the Active Player determines which battles take priority. For every battle, the Active Player (the one moving an army into an occupied area) is the aggressor and the defending faction gains initiative to roll first.

Resolving Battle Dice: When battle commences, each faction with units in the fray will roll their battle dice for their own units as well as making decisions based upon those rolls. The number of dice rolled is dependant upon the number of units in the battle (one battle dice per unit to the maximum number of battle dice for a faction). So if you have a maximum of two battle dice (say for the Continental Army) then even if you have four Continental units in your army, you still only roll two battle dice.

It is also worth mentioning that not all battle dice are created equal. British Regulars have no option to Flee on their battle dice so they never run from a battle due to their training. Militias (Patriot or Loyalist) have a 33% chance of a unit fleeing. This brings me to the point of what the dice do when they are rolled. When a Hit face is rolled (a target), one unit from the opponent’s army is removed and placed back into the Reinforcement Stockpile. Opponents get to decide which unit is removed. When a Flee face is rolled (a running dude), the player removes one of his units and places it in the Fled Units space on the board. The last option is the Command Decision (the blank face of the dice) which when rolled operates as a well orchestrated retreat allowing one of the faction’s units to be moved into any adjacent area not occupied by the enemy if the player so chooses.

The Draw Cards Phase: The Active Player draws her hand back up to three cards. Then another Turn Order Marker is drawn and a new Active Player goes through the same four phases. This continues until all factions have taken their turns. Once that happens, the win condition is check (Truce cards) and the round marker is moved up one space and it begins again!

How do I win?

The easy answer is that you win by controlling the most colonies when the final truce card is played. But outside of that very general statement it seems that a few strategies at the beginning are important. First, get the Native Americans together and use them to your advantage. Second, controlling Rhode Island seems pivotal to the game as it gives quick access to Massachusetts and Connecticut through capturing a colony with a single area. Also the south is generally avoided in the games I played but, then again, I really don’t have a war-gaming mindset and it is quite possible that the southern colonies hold some potential use.

And lastly…Use the Command Decisions! Tactical retreat is pure gold in this game and it is worth losing a few units to gain some influence in adjacent territories.

[Dis]likes:

Good combo of luck and strategy: While the outcome of battles is largely based upon the luck of the roll, there is plenty of strategy with the area-control aspect of the game. Aligning with the Native Americans at opportune times; playing the correct cards in conjunction with your partner faction; knowing when you use the Command Decision to your best advantage; figuring out the best time to lay down the Truce Card. Overall, there is both strategy and luck at play. I even liked the blind draw for Turn Order at the beginning of the round.

Nice, simple rule-book and ease of play: Army movements and combat resolution are both smooth as buttermilk poured over Ben Franklin’s French-lovin’ derriere (I understand his milkshake brings all the boys to the yard). The options are diverse but not overwhelming and I would use this as a gateway “war-game” any day. It is easy to teach with the delightful introductory scenario that provides the flavor of the game in less than 30 minutes of play. Mind you, the abstraction of the battles to three possible results (Hit, Flee, Command Decision) will not appeal to everyone. It is pretty much distilled down to “Send ’em in. See what happens.” with very little tactical muscle to flex. It is a game of movement and grand strategy.

Asymmetrical Play: It felt like “A Few Acres of Snow” for beginners and, again, places this game firmly in my “Gateway” camp. I love that factions differ from each other in both the battle dice and cards.

Cooperative/Team Play: While not an official variant, 1775 played well with 6-8 people by splitting them up into cooperative teams. It stretched out the play time but the increased table-talk and deliberation was totally worth it. This really reduces any downtime between turns as you will likely be discussing strategy with your partner or rolling dice to defend against opposing armies. Their is a nice consistent flow of play throughout the game.

Art: The art in this game is delightful. I giggled and clapped my hands when I saw the revolved shoreline on the gameboard map. It was just so very perfect. The diversity of color on the board was accessible enough to differentiate between the colonies even after tested for colorblindness. However, the set-up icons for units would probably be difficult to differentiate.

Some Historical Inaccuracies for Gameplay Purposes: This doesn’t really bother me too much but some may take umbrage at the inaccuracy.

Fiddly Control of Colonies: The fact that a colony’s control by one faction hinges on one cube from the opposing side can be a bit fiddly in my book and it really pushes the limit of the theme. Are you telling me that control of my colony is completely lost because some rag-tag militia moves into it? Madness!

Comparison to 1812: The Invasion of Canada

Same designers, same publisher but are there enough differences to allow space for both games in a collection? First, I think the two games play with similar mechanics (area-control), theme (early American warfare) and combat components (dice/cards) so if any of those things strike your fancy then I would include both in a collection with preference given to 1775 over 1812.

From the set-up the feel and pace of the game begins to diverge. In 1812, most combat falls along two choke points on the while in 1775 the play is more disparate with a veritable rainbow of multi-colored cubes vomited about the board. The difference is the scope of decisions feel much wider with combat occurring earlier, more often and from more fronts.

Combat and factions seem largely similar with Army Regulars and Civilian Militia while the Native Americans were downgraded from faction to ally. This is a change from 1812 which also reduced the player count from 5 to 4 (boo!) but upgraded the options for the remaining players. Meanwhile additional reinforcements are included with the Hessians and the French. This provided a more balanced experience as the Native Americans are open to use by either side rather than as a set faction for the British.

The one thing that may sway a person to choose something else is that but 1812 and 1775 provide nice strategy games with little tactical movement on the combat front. If it is tactics you prefer then having both these games will not be your best move. If you like strategy in about an hour then go for both.

Would you rather…

Would you rather play 1775: Rebellion or 1812: The Invasion of CanadaI would easily play either but the style of play in 1775 suits me better. It is one part better map and featured locations; two parts that I prefer the directional freedom to move around that is available in 1775 over 1812; and one part just the feel of the game is better for me. Part of it is that the game is quicker moving into the action quicker with less build up. Armies start moving and conflict erupts almost immediately.

Would you rather play 1775: Rebellion or Small World? Wow. 1775, hands down. Here is why – if I am going to introduce area control and combat to a new group of non-gamers, I will take the historical relevance, fluid movement and ease of play in 1775 over the flashy, colorful but bulky theme has turned more people away than attracted them to the game. Not everyone understands the player powers of the various fantasy races but the chasm between the American Revolutionaries and the British Loyalists strike a familiar tone.

Bottom line?

1775: Rebellion is an wonderful introduction to area-control, historical themed board games and, perhaps, as a step towards more complex war games for the non-gamer or euro-gamer. The rules are simple, the play streamlined and the movement fluid. It is easy to pick up the basics after one round and the game does not require a massive time investment to get the feel of it. I would happily recommend this game to the war-game (or just game) curious and would be happy to attempt some of Academy Games other titles (Freedom: The Underground Railroad is sitting on my shelf right now, in fact…).

1775

About John Pappas

I'm John ~ a short, mustachioed Library Director of a small branch library outside of Philly. I'm a father, geek, librarian and zen practitioner. I wear glasses, play board games and tend to read pretty much anything that comes across my desk. I organize and host three gaming groups at my library ~ The Golden Gamers (65+), Tabletop Gaming at the Library, and a Game Design Guild. The name of this column "Roll for Fire" comes from my love of Flash Point: Fire Rescue [ and cooperative games in general] and the desire I have to watch it all burn down.

  2 Responses to “Viva la Revolucion! A Review of 1775: Rebellion”

  1. One clarification: I believe Siege of Quebec doesn’t use the full deck — but rather, only the cards with the “Fluer” symbol. It also doesn’t use the whole board (only the portion from New York and northward).

    • Steve, you are correct. Thanks for the clarification. I haven’t had a chance to play that scenario yet and hope to get it to the table soon with my SO.

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