“ah shall say zees only woonce!”
Baaah, it’s no good, I cant keep up a dodgy “allo, allo” French accent. As stereo types go, yes, they hit the mark on UK market.
Why all this foreign accent nonsense you are no doubt wondering. Well wonder no more. I am nipping over to France for some good food, relaxed atmosphere and good weather… anything is better than being stuck in grey Tory Britain.
…but what is this? Have I inadvertently travelled across La Manche into 1940’s occupied France? This is no summer vacation…
I will have to lend a helping hand to the resistance, or I will never get past the German guard outside la boulangerie…
(Press play for an ambience of 1940’s France to accompany your read)
So France is in the death grip of Nazi Germany and we soloists have to engage in “la petit guere” to throw off the yoke of the oppressors, and free the home land. Nice and simple you would suppose… we shall see
What’s All The Fuss About?
Maquis is a solitaire worker placement game by Jake Staines that pits us in the midst of occupied France worker placementing our way to achieve variable goals, in a vain attempt to throw off the oppressors. It has been available as a print and play game for some time over on BGG, but is now going to Kickstarter with Side Room Games.
Immersion or Subversion?
Aesthetically it is immediately apparent where we are. The imagery and choice of rendering lends itself to a distinct 1940’s France. The way gameplay is set up does not have a stuffy giant heavy Euro feel. The board is compact and has a layout in the genre of Pandemic or Arkham Horror. This, it must be pointed out, is integral to the worker placement element of the game. The actions carried out by our stalwart resistance workers requires clear pathways between their current location and safe houses, in order to complete their allotted tasks. Integral, because patrolling German forces and local sympathisers, the unpatriotic rotters, patrol the streets (their deployment governed by the game) making life at best very difficult and at worst, lead to our arrest and incarceration …with the prospect of interrogation about certain artworks of the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies. The simple gameplay allows for us to focus on the variable win objectives, whilst the intense puzzle solving nature of the game and allows us to become fully immersed for twenty or thirty minutes of wartime cloak and daggers.
All in all Maquis is a very simple, streamlined affair, compact and with only a small number of components. This doesn’t mean to say it is boring and the simplicity by no means dilutes the gaming experience. As a worker placement, this is the principle theme…placing workers. I our case we have a finite number of French resistance protagonist with which we seek out locations that will unearth various resources such as food, weapons, equipments, intel and so on, whilst the game… the AI deploys German patrols and French Police. All is not so simple as first thought. We are at liberty to deploy resistance workers around the city from the safe house (provided another worker from either side is not present at the same location) but if we are to reap the benefits of the location, the location, we must be able to trace an unguarded path back to the safe house. The AI is semi intelligent as it is driven by the Patrol deck. This consists of s series of cards that contain three locations. Working down we place the patrol in the first unoccupied space on the list… if, however all three locations are occupied by either side, the war starts to look a much bleaker place for us as they will attempt to arrest and detain us.
There is a moral track in the game which inevitably drops as operations become more and more difficult. This has great bearing on the game as it influences the number of available AI workers. This figure is usually influence by the number of Resistance workers when we are at high moral (as workers will usually out number the figure on the track) but as the moral drops, each moral space has a an increasing figure in it and will make the AI effectively stronger.
The principal of the game is to try and fulfil two mission cards which can range from assassination to assisting allied paratroopers. Each usually requires a certain number of resource tokens to have been collected, and occasionally, for these to be at specific locations. Some resources enable the acquisition of more valuable resources, but what ever our goal, we have a mere fourteen turns to complete both missions. Failure to do so and we lose. Allow the moral to drop below 0 and we lose. So we have a lot to do in very little time, constantly hounded by German patrols.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I was playing with my own print and play copy, so cant comment on the quality of final components, but as the photographs show, it definitely is a fantastic looking game from a graphics/icon/ illustration point of view
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Jake Staines
- Artist: Ilya Baranovsky
- Game Publisher: Side Room Games
- Playtime:(recess for those of the American persuasion) 20+ minutes
- Gangs of One: Solo
- Age of Consent:
- DOB: 2019
As a solitaire wargame, it is soloable, but is it an enjoyable experience for the player? Yes. Simply put. It is a real brain puzzler at times. We have so little time to collect the resources needed for each of our missions and forever have our progress hampered by the occupying forces. It is possible to plan a way ahead of ourselves, but just as in real life, the certain substance hits the fan, and we have to think quickly on our feet, We must always have a plan B or even C at the ready. Particularly because of the mission card win mechanic, we find a huge amount of variation in game play. Some demand a simple quantity of resources while others are time sensitive, so it is rare two games will be the same. Add the randomness of the patrol deck and deployment of the patrols, and we see that the replayability/longevity of this game is going to be high. It is, as I found during my games, both highly engaging but often highly frustrating… seeing the finish line sooooooo close, yet just not able to get that last resource back to the safe house.
Bots and Wotnots:
I touched upon this before, by mention of the patrol deck. The AI for the most part, in its patrolling action, simply blocks a path that resistance could potentially take back top the safe house so requires no maintenance or upkeep from the player. The AI patrol workers, however, do require an artificial intelligence which is provided by the Patrol cards. Each card has three locations illustrated in descending order of preference. The first unoccupied space is the location to deploy a patrol. If all three are occupied, the AI will try and arrest a resistance worker, starting back at the top and working its way down the three locations until a resistance pawn is present. If it turns out that all are under German occupation, then it is not place. A nice, simple mechanic that effectively deals with decision making on behalf of the AI. And as the deck will be regularly shuffled, once exhausted, to make a new draw deck, there is little we can do to pre-empt the appearance of German forces.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is no walk in the park, although I guess some of the resistance workers must walk through a park to get back to the safehouse. It is a very tight run game. There are a lot of resources needed to fulfil the Mission objectives and we only have fourteen turns to meet our goals. It is not so complex or difficult task to achieve, but will undoubtedly take several attempts before tasting the sweet taste of success.
- Rules is Rules is Rules:Lucky Buggers: There is a degree of randomness with regard the AI German patrol deployment, but without that the game would be bland and very predictable. Any other problems we encounter will only be of our own doing or miscalculations. The absence of our spotted cubed friends means luck doesn’t play too big a roll in the game.
- Highs and Lows: The war theme… or I should clarify, the theme of war time atrocities is not present here, fortunately. The game is somewhat abstracted but still lends itself to the ongoing struggle faced by the Resistance during WW2. So we are neither horrified or depressed. One can experience great frustration at falling at the last turn, but from a game experience, it is all positive… and even in defeat we can look to rectify previous mistakes and take on the occupying forces once more, to liberate France from their vice-like clutches.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: I don’t know the size of the final published game (checking the Kickstarter campaign will give more information) but my PnP copy fits onto a piece of A4 paper, making it a particularly compact footprint
- Set IT Up Just To Tear It Al Down Again: As there are very few components and only two small decks of cards, Maquis can be very quickly set up… in a matter of five minutes or so, and quicker, still, to pack away.
Me, Myself and I:
I am not a huge wargame fan, but with games such as Maquis, the game itself is not specifically about war, in that we are not running about the countryside shooting at each other aimlessly… the game is a strategy game set within a war time setting and much more to my liking. I enjoyed the puzzle solving element, the simplicity and the serious challenge it posed.
Yay or Nay?
You don’t need to be a wargame fan to enjoy this title. It is most suited to those who enjoy a challenging logistics puzzle. Sneaking about in the dark shadows, Maquis sneaks the BSoMT 1d8 die back to the safe house for a very creditable (6)
Now I don’t know just how conspicuous this large yellow rucksack filled with contraband weapons will be… and there are six checkpoints between me and the safe house…
…this could be a very short trip… I knew I should have joined the football team…they all got away in the crowds
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
A look at Maquis, the print and play boardgame