|Summer 1754 - The British have seriously concentrated their forces!|
|Braddock goes down to defeat again at Fort Duquesne|
|Fall 1759: The French take Fort William Henry while the majority of the British army masses at Halifax for an attack on Louisberg|
|Summer 1760: French forces have advanced south along the Hudson Valley, capturing Fort Edward. From there they quickly seize Albany|
Where the system gets interesting is in the constraints imposed by the event cards. Those who know me know my disdain for card-driven systems, and this is not one of those! The game is very much card-assisted: neither player is ever required to play a card, and all of the cards act to enhance movement and combat, or provide reinforcements or replacements. Each player may play one card during Spring, two during Summer, and one during Fall. The effect of this system is to replicate the rhythm of 18th Century warfare. Spring is for preparing and moving forces into position, Summer is for active campaigning when you can play a pair of offensively-oriented cards that will give you a combat advantage, and Fall is for consolidation and clean up.
|Fall 1760: The French sweep into the Colonies, taking New York and Philadelphia. Where is the British Army?|
|The bulk of the army is in Halifax, preparing to assault Louisberg. Will the attack be enough to stave off French victory?|
For the British, maintaining the chain of frontier forts is essential. The towns of the interior are vulnerable. If a French army successfully penetrates the frontier and the British player is out of position or lacks reserves, the game can be over quickly. On the other hand the British have more regular units and are likely to get more reinforcements during the game, to the point where that can overwhelm the French
For the French player, his Native allies are very useful but not terribly dependable. For one, they will all return to their villages each Winter. This makes it difficult to concentrate a force of them for multi-year operations. They are best used for threatening raids and shoring up weak points. They are also prone to suffering from the "Refuse to Fight" result in combat, where during a battle they will not participate in future rounds. Militia units are equally likely to do this on both sides, but the French are far more dependent on Native units than either side is on militia.
|Louisberg falls...but it is not enough. The French move quickly to take Boston and another fort, giving them enough victory points to win at the end of Fall 1761|
While I found it a satisfying, and deeper simulation of the French & Indian War than I thought it might be, the real proof of the quality of this game was in Terri's reaction. After losing the first game in 1760, she wanted to get something to eat and then right away start another game! She said she's finding it an interesting challenge and I can tell she really wants to beat me.
Finally, this is a very good game for teaching the fundamentals of wargaming. The rules are simple, but they yield realistic results and situations. Planning and logistics are key. Remembering your long-term goal and acting every season to bring that about is vital. At the same time, combat is easy, the map and pieces are very attractive, and there aren't a lot of imposing charts and numbers. Wilderness Empires certainly isn't a study sim of the North American front of the world's first global conflict, but it is a nice, fun game with pleasing chrome, solid historical ties, and attractive components that can be played in an afternoon with both newcomers to the hobby and experienced grognards.