Saturday, 20 June 2009

Manoeuvre

Han and I played Manoeuvre on 13 Jun 2009. He has played it before, and it was my first game, so he played the Spanish (weaker) and I played Great Britain (stronger).

Manoeuvre is a simple wargame. It is played on a 8x8 grid, and each side has 8 units. To win, you either kill 5 opponent units, or you need to have influence over more spaces on your opponent's side of the board than your opponent has over spaces on your side of the board, when the cards run out. Every turn, you first discard then draw up to 5 cards. Then you can move 1 unit (infantry 1 step, cavalry up to 2 steps). Finally you can decide to attack. You can attack by bombardment (cannons), by firing volleys (guns) or by assault (close combat). Combat resolution is by die roll. The loser may be forced to retreat, or may take injury (i.e. be flipped over to the weaker side), or both, or may even be killed straight-away.

The game is very much driven by the cards. For each of your 8 units, there are 5 cards in the deck. To use any unit to initiate an attack, you need to play a card belonging to that unit. With a hand size of only 5, this can be tricky. Also, single attacks are often not very effective. Many terrain features provide defensive bonuses, so it's tough being the attacker. To improve your chances, you need leader cards. These cards allow you to use more than one unit to attack the same enemy unit simultaneously. So you have to maneuver your units to flank or surround that enemy unit. There are very few leader cards in the deck. The other way is using two or more units to attack the same enemy unit one after the other. Or you can try to surround your enemy unit and prevent it from retreating. A unit that is forced to retreat but cannot, dies.

So the game is very much about maneuvering, and bluffing too. Getting the right cards at the right time is tough, so you have to make your own luck. You may need to keep discarding cards to get the right ones, or you may need to maneuver your troops so that you can make good use of the cards you are holding. The number of shots fired is relatively low. But then, dying is only two hits away. Also when a unit is injured, it's strength also decreases, making it a ripe and tempting target.

Despite seemingly much luck in the game, in the cards you draw, and in the die rolls, I think Manoeuvre is actually quite strategic. There is much you can control, much you can do to maximise your odds. Skillful play is rewarded. It also pays to know your deck well, and your opponent's too. You can plan ahead based on this knowledge. There is also chance for bluffing (although I'm definitely not at that level yet). You can advance a unit pretending to have some good cards for it. You can retreat a unit to lure your opponent into pursuing you, when you actually have some powerful cards for it in your hand.

In our game, Han cycled through his cards quite rapidly, and also advanced to my side of the board more aggressively. Most of the fighting took place on my side of the board. There was quite a bit of maneuvering and positioning before the first shot was fired. Fighting was intermittent, but towards the end grew to be more and more intensive. Han was more successful at killing off my units. I was soon down to 4 units. The 5th loss would spell my defeat. Then I managed to deal some damage and took out some more of his units, so that he also only had 4 units remaining. Unfortunately by then the game end was approaching as we were both near the end of our decks, and almost all surviving units were on my side of the board. Neither of us could make the 5th kill, so Han won by territory control.

My army of Great Britain, and its deck of cards.

The starting setup. You can deploy your troops any way you like, on the first two rows on your side.

Early in the battle. Only a few tentative shots fired.

Towards game end. Too bad I wasn't able to score my 5th kill. Han won the territory victory decisively.

Manoeuvre makes me think of Memoir 44, not because they are similar, but because they are wargames of about the same complexity level. Well, maybe Manoeuvre is slightly more complex. I think there is more control in Manoeuvre though, which is a good thing. In both games you are restricted by the cards you get. But in Manoeuvre at least your movement is not restricted. I never quite liked the left, centre and right division of the command and colours system, where the cards you get dictate which units (on which section of the board) you can activate. It may sound like I like Manoeuvre much more than Memoir 44, but actually I like both of them about the same - just OK. Not a big fan, but can enjoy playing.

There is only one thing I hate about Manoeuvre - the spelling. What language is this? It was a pain when I tried to search for the game on www.boardgamegeek.com so that I could record a play. It was a pain when I had to record it in my game log. It was a pain when I was writing this blog entry, such that I had to copy it onto my clipboard, so that I just had to press Ctrl-V the next time I had to type it.

3 comments:

wankongyew said...

Heh, "manoeuvre" is the original British spelling. It was the Americans who dumbed it down to "maneuver".

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't realise that the British English and US English spellings are different. I thought the designer / publisher was trying to play around with the spelling. :-P

wankongyew said...

Anyway, the reason why I was reading this post was because I noticed that you had no posts about Battlelore but did have posts tagged Memoir '44 so I went to read this. Unfortunately, you haven't really written much about it in here.