Saturday, 22 September 2012

A Few Acres Of Snow (Part 2) - Cards & Opening Move Options

This is my second in a short series of blog entries on Martin Wallace's A Few Acres of Snow. In Part 1 - Starting Up, I looked at the initial board set-up, the British and French starting decks, locations and scoring.

Here in Part 2, I will provide an overview on the available cards and look at some first turn options for the French and British players respectively. GaryB (French player) and I (British player) will also give you a feel for our thought process over the first turn of play.

Remember that I'm not trying to re-write the rules here, Treefrog have done a good job with that already. Instead I want to give you a feel for how different elements in the game work.

Empire Cards

As you begin the game only the French player has empire cards in his starting deck, a Trader and a Regular Infantry. The Trader, when played as an action with location cards that have the fur symbol, will provide the player with 2 money for each fur card played. The Regular Infantry provides two levels of military support during a siege, but is vulnerable to Indian ambushes (the small Indian head symbol).

The two empire cards in the French starting deck
Both players can use actions to add empire cards directly to their deck, paying the associated cost as required. As with location cards the British/French players have their own stock of empire cards in their colours, but both players have access to the three (neutral) green empire cards.

Neutral green empire cards available for both players to claim
The green Settlers card costs seven money to purchase and can be used when settling a location that requires a settler to be claimed, or when developing an existing location from a village (cube) to a town (disc). The green Fortification card costs three money and has a dual function; If played with a location card the location can be fortified and protected from Indian raids. It can also be used to block Indian raids if it is discarded during an attack. Finally the green Native Americans card (which is FREE) can be used to ambush military units held in a player's reserve or in their hand, to raid settlements not protected by a Fortification or to block raids/ambushes from an opponent.

British military cards, the French player will have almost identical options in their empire deck
Typically empire cards will help you with military operations (see above), with development or with deck management. It's up to you to balance these out, as every new card added into your deck makes it a little bulkier and perhaps less efficient.

From the military cards above we have covered Regular Infantry, Militia is similar, but only offers one military strength. Rangers are slightly more powerful in that as well as providing one military strength they can also make and block raids/ambushes and are not vulnerable to Indian ambushes. Military Leaders are worth one military strength, but critically do not cost an action to play and Siege Artillery is worth three military strength whilst costing three money to play the card each time, This is on top of the initial purchase price of eight money. 

Some British (non military) empire cards
Other empire card options include Home Support, which allows you to draw three cards from your draw deck as a free action, thus speeding up your deck a little. The Bateaux enables travel along certain routes on the map. The Governor is one of the most crucial cards as it allows you to remove one or two cards (empire or location) from your hand, effectively thinning down your deck. Very useful! Finally the Indian Leader, when played, can extend an Indian raid attempt by one location or steal a Native American card from your opponent's hand.

Some French empire cards

I've included some French empire cards above to give you a flavour for the slight differences from the British empire cards. Coureurs de Bois are the French equivalent to the Rangers and perform exactly the same role. The French Militia card is slightly more powerful than it's British counterpart as it is not vulnerable to Indian attacks and can block raids/ambushes. The French Priest is the same as the British Indian Leader card and the French have one new card not present in the British deck, the Intendant. This card costs two money to play and can be used to take a card from your discard pile and add it to your hand.

Location Cards

Location cards are much more straight-forward and get added to your deck as and when new locations are settled. Remember that you start the game already controlling some locations, so these location cards are already in your deck. Below I walk you through a typical action to settle a location:

Settling "Deerfield" from "New Haven"
As the British player I already own New Haven, so with the right cards in my hand I can settle the valuable Deerfield location. This move will cost me one of my two actions in a regular turn (both players only get one action during their first turn of the game). I first need to play the New Haven card as it has a connection (via Bateaux) to Deerfield. Adding the St. Mary's card, using it's Bateaux symbol to make the journey and completing the settlement with the Boston card for it's Settler* symbol. I can now take the Deerfield card from the location deck and add it to my discard pile along with the three cards just played. I will also add a red cube onto the Deerfield location of the board to show that I have settled it.

* note that some locations do not have settler symbols on the board. These locations do not require you to play a card with a settler symbol in order to claim them.

Opening Hand Options

The board is set-up and each player has been dealt their opening hand and given their starting monies (5 to the French player and 12 to the British player who always plays first)
We've seen from Part 1 that both players start from a pre-set board position, but that they receive a random 5 card draw from separate British and French pre-set starting decks. In this example I'm playing the British and have drawn the following starting hand...

My British opening hand
I want to put some early pressure on the French an use my one action to settle Fort Halifax from Pemaquid. To do this I need to play the Pemaquid card (the starting location) and the travel option required to get to Fort Halifax from Pemaquid, the Bateaux. I don't have a Bateaux card as such, but I can use the Bateaux symbol on the St. Mary's card to do the same job.

Fort Halifax doesn't require me to play a settler as well, so I place Pemaquid and St. Mary's into my discard along with the newly settled Fort Halifax card (from the locations deck). I also add a cube into Fort Halifax on the board. As it's my first turn of the game I only get this one action, so I draw two new cards from my deck and pass over to the French player, GaryB.

I settle "Fort Halifax" as my first turn British action
British player's thinking: By settling Fort Halifax, I can put myself only two links away from Quebec to the north (bringing it within Native American attack range) and I can look to fortify Fort Halifax soon to block both Pemaquid and (the as yet unsettled) Deerfield from potential raids.

... meanwhile GaryB, the French player, has drawn the following opening hand...

GaryB's French opening hand
 The British have taken Fort Halifax early, but I have the Quebec card in my hand and am not too worried right now as I can block any raid on a location by simply playing (and discarding) the card for the location being attacked. I will used the Louisburg card ability to perform piracy as my action and take two money from GaryG's stash! To do this I must play the Louisburg card along with another card bearing a ship symbol in the parchment area.

GaryB performs "Piracy" to claim two money from GaryG as the first French action
French player's thinking: I still have time to protect Quebec from any threat that Fort Halifax will provide, besides GaryG hasn't drawn any Native American cards to make that attack yet. Instead I will try to level up the money situation a little and give myself some extra cash to spend.

Play will then move onto turn #2 and the British player will complete two actions. In part 3 of this series we will move deeper into game-play in the match between GaryG and GaryB.

<<< Part 1

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