Fields of Despair
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- Fields of Despair: France 1914-1918 is a 2-player hex-based strategic level block war game set on the Western Front of the First World War. Players take control of the Allies or Central Powers fighting the war on land, at sea, and in the air all the while making tough economic and technological decisions at home.
- 2 players
- Ages 13+
- 3 hour playing time
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Fields of Despair: France 1914-1918 is a 2-player hex-based strategic level block war game set on the Western Front of the First World War. Players take control of the Allies or Central Powers fighting the war on land, at sea, and in the air all the while making tough economic and technological decisions at home. Fields of Despair has a unique block system designed to maintain the fog of war throughout the entire game. In most games, block combat values range from one to four. In Fields of Despair the range is zero to twenty. The range in values makes Fields of Despair a very deceptive game. Players can build up a large force with a single block instead of giving away their strategy with a stack of blocks. Movement is simple and free flowing. Players are allowed to "make change" during the movement phase. Thus a block with a combat value of 16 could be broken in two blocks of 8 before moving, or conversely two blocks could be combined into one. Zero-value blocks known as "Deception" blocks could also be part of the exchange. Thus after every movement phase you never really know the strength of your enemy. The fog of war isn't lost after first contact with the enemy. Blocks remain hidden even when enemies occupy the same hex and stay hidden until one player decides to allocate an air squadron for reconnaissance or sends his men across no man's land.
Legal DisclaimerFields of Despair: France 1914-1918 1-2 players, ages 14+, 180 minutes By GMT Games
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|Are Batteries Required||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Item Dimensions||12 x 3 x 9 in||12 x 9.12 x 2.12 in||12 x 2 x 9 in||15.75 x 5.91 x 15.75 in||9.12 x 12.25 x 2 in||12 x 3 x 9 in|
|Item Weight||—||3.53 lbs||—||2 lbs||—||—|
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Each round players engage in a host of activities before they get to the board. The German player draws cubes from a bag, which indicate what is happening on Germany's eastern front; the German player may also use his submarines to attack Allied shipping- targeting either the Allies economy or their troops. Players also receive a number of cubes which act as their currency, which allow them to change infantry to cavalry, buy logistics points (needed for some maneuvers), increase technology, bid for initiative, and more. Players move into the action phase where they first (in initiative order) place their air units over enemy hex in the hopes of seeing their unit strength. The opponent can then place air units in the same hex, or in other hexes to spy on his enemy. If air units are in the same spot they conduct a brief round of combat. Next, the active player moves his units (all things being equal, infantry can move two, cavalry three), though units must stop if they enter an enemy's hex, or into an unoccupied territory of the enemy. Once movement is completed, the active player declares an active hex which he may then place an artillery token, and the opponent may do the same in that hex- until both players pass. Players then roll for their artillery, and if the active player decides to press the attack all blocks are revealed and players roll simultaneously for hits. If the number of strength points of one side exceeds 12 (the number of dice in the game) then charts are consulted to see how many hits the enemy takes. Players score his on a roll of 5 or 6, but only on a 6 if there is a fortress in the territory. Each battle only lasts one round of combat, then players move on to the next combat hex for battle there. However, if players have successfully overrun an enemy position, they may engage in breakout combat, moving infantry one more space or cavalry two more spaces, then optionally attacking. Once all of the battles are resolved, the opposing player begins the same sequence all over again. Units are refreshed and new units enter the game, according to the scenario. Game rounds continue until certain events take place (like three major Russian victories) or until the stated end of the scenario. Players gain points for capturing certain objectives and whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins Fields of Despair.
Fields of Despair is a very smart and engaging wargame. The fog of war system is always a fun addition to a wargame, and here it is a wonderful part of the overall tapestry. In addition to the hidden blocks, the fog of war also extends to the fact that players can have fake air and artillery units to bluff the other player into committing, as well as deception blocks, which contain no strength points at all. The way players use air units for reconnaissance, leading to air battles, is not only highly thematic, but incredibly fun as well. Artillery duels and basic combat are also intense and worth the price of admission alone- especially with the high numbers which means higher stakes! The abstraction of the Eastern Front and the Naval War are also done really well here, and see players drawing cubes of certain colors from a bag to represent events in Russia and on the high seas. These systems lend just enough thematic and balancing agents to the game, but don't take away from the action that is the Western Front. Technology is likewise interesting here, as players can evolve their artillery to include poison gas and can then equip their troops with gas masks. Players also must frequently make sure they are within the supply capabilities of their country, and cut off units become Out of Supply. The game is filled with tough strategic choices- do you commit a massive army to a fortress battle in the hopes of wearing down the enemy from sheer attrition, or do you send an army far forward to cut into the front line, hoping it won't get cut off? Do you bluff with artillery on some unimportant sector of the field, or do you commit everything at the battle you both know is important! This game is a beautiful dice fest that is a joy to play, and will force you to make those tough decisions!
I do have one criticism, however. The economic system, where players are allotted a certain number of cubes each round to spend on various projects does seem a bit too abstract, and further more there should have been a better way to keep track of spent cubes as it can become confusing at times. Still, it's a relatively minor complaint in a game that brings so much goodness to the table. Some players will no doubt be turned off from the game's length- the opening scenario plays in about three hours. But if you are like me then you won't mind the longer playing time. This is definitely a game that's length does not outlast the fun it generates. World War I is one of my favorite game themes, and I have played many- wargames and more conventional board games (Axis & Allies 1914: WWI, The Grizzled, Wings for the Baron, Wings of Glory, The First World War, Hapsburg Eclipse, etc...) and now Fields of Despair may just be my favorite!
The Discriminating Gamer