I’ve been on an American history kick in my board gaming habits over the last few weeks, possibly due to a recent family reunion near Washington, D.C. Over the last several days I’ve run for president in the 1912 election in Bull Moose a couple of times (unsuccessfully) and fought the American Revolutionary War six times in 1775: Rebellion (sometimes successfully, sometimes not). I’ve enjoyed both games tremendously, but today I am here to review 1775.
1775 is a game from Academy Games for 2-4 players. It is designed by Beau Beckett and Jeph Stahl and takes 2 hours or less to play. In 1775, the British and the Americans square off in the war of British aggression (my American slant on things). Each side is composed of 2 armies – the Continental Army and the patriot militia vs. the British Regulars and the loyalists. The goal of the game is to control the majority of the colonies on the board at game’s end. If there is a tie, the colonies become part of Canada!
The most a game can go is 8 rounds, and it can end as soon as 3 rounds if either side has played its Truce cards. Each individual army (4 total) has its own unique deck of 12 cards, containing movement and event cards. Each round, each army will get a turn, with the order randomly determined by drawing an army color from a bag. On an army’s turn, it’s owner must play one movement card and can also play any event cards that are appropriate, at his or her option. Movement consists of moving a number of armies (whose units are represented by its colored cubes) from one of the many spaces on the board to another. If troops from both sides end up in the same place after movement, battles are fought until only one side remains. The board is beautiful and cleverly designed to create many tough choices. Certain colonies, like Virginia (7 spaces) and New York (9 spaces) are harder to control than others, like Delaware (1 space). Even the orientation of the map (basically the east coast of North America) is visually jarring, in that the bottom of the board is the Atlantic coast and the top of the board is the western edge of the colonies.
Battles consist of rolling six-sided dice that are mathematically weighted to represent the unique attributes of the armies. For instance, the British Regulars have a 50% chance to hit or miss, while the colonist based militias (patriots and loyalists) have a 33% chance to flee the battle and return on that army’s next turn as reinforcements. This excellent design choice keeps the historical flavor and war game “feel” to 1775 without requiring players to consult charts and graphs and do math. All you need to know is that loyalists are cowards and the British Regulars are a little tougher than the Continental Army (whose dice have a 1 in 6 chance of fleeing). For true war gamers this might be a letdown, but for me and those I have played with, it is a most welcomed feature that makes 1775 easily accessible and more likely to hit the table often.
I highly recommend 1775. It provides a great historic backdrop for tightly designed game play with interesting strategic decisions. Players can recruit Native Americans to join their armies, and event cards can bring the French and Germans into the fray. This adds to the historic flavor as well as the strategy. The dice rolling provides all the excitement you’d expect from that mechanic, but the unique dice never make it feel unfair, which is something that other games can’t boast. I also think that 1775 could be a great teaching tool in an American history classroom, due to its simple mechanics and immersive qualities. In our games, we had plenty of verbal sparring on either side of our battles, with “for the King” and “take that, you British scum” being bantered about after dice rolls were resolved. All in all, 1775 provided some of the best gaming experiences I have ever had. Pick it up and you’ll see!
Thanks for reading, and keep nerding on.
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