Richard III: The War of the Roses Review

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Richard III: The Wars of the Roses is a game by Tom Dalgliesh and Jerry Taylor, published by Columbia Games. It is for 2 players. In this game, players will take part in the historic stuggle between the House of Lancaster and the House of York for the throne of England. The game is played over 3 campaigns that are divided into 7 game turns. All total there will be 21 game turns. Each campaign will be linked with a political turn. The player that can claim the crown and hold onto it or eliminate all their rivals will be declared the winner.

To start, one player take the red blocks of the House of Lancaster while the other takes the white ones for the House of York. The black rebel block is set aside for the time being. The map is placed where the Lancaster player sits at the north edge of the map and the York player at the south. At the start of each campaign, all the cards are shuffled together and 7 cards are dealt to each player face down. The rest of the cards are set aside until the next campaign. Players will check the list of units in the rule book for the location of each block. Some blocks will be placed on the map, while others will remain in the player’s pool until recruited. Minor heirs will remain in the pool until an heir is killed, entering on the next supply phase. Enemy nobles, begin the game on the other player’s side. However these units can switch sides with successful treachery rolls. These pieces remain off the board until the defection occurs. Once everything is completed, the game can then begin.

The start of each game turn begins with each player playing one card facedown. The cards are revealed and the higher card get’s to be first player that turn. If an event card is played, the event is dealt with and that player is the first player. If both players play an event card, the value of the card will determine the first player. As stated earlier, there are 7 game turns for each of 3 campaigns. Each game turn has 4 phases. Those phases are the card phase, the action phase, the battle phase and the supply phase. The card phase, I just described. However it must be noted that the point values on the cards will determine the amount of movement and recruitment actions that the player has in the next phase.

The next phase is the action phase. Players gain points from the card phase that they can now spend in this phase. Each card point equals one action point to take on either moving or recruitment. For moving, any blocks that are in one area are able to move one or two areas for 1 point. If they enter an enemy occupied space they must stop there. There are limits for crossing borders, sea movement, as well as rules for pinning opponents. For recruiting, a player may choose 1 block from their pool and deploy it onto the map at full strength for 1 point. These pieces can not move the same turn they enter the battle field.

Once both players have completed moving and recruiting, the battle phase begins. Battles are fought in any order as chosen by the first player. Battles are resolved in sequence alphabetically. Units can either fire, retreat or pass. Once all blocks have taken a turn, one round of combat has been fought. Combat lasts a maximum of 4 rounds. If the battle has not been won by the attacker at that time, they must retreat. Players may attack from different borders but must follow the rules limit for crossing borders. Each block rolls dice equal to it’s current strength and hit for each roll that is equal to or lower than it’s combat rating. Hits are applied to the enemy block with the highest strength at that time. The highest or senior heir present in the battle have the option to charge. Retreating units must move to adjacent friendly or vacant areas. Victorious units may regroup by moving blocks to any adjacent or vacant area. Eliminated pieces are removed from the map and possibly removed from the game depending on the type of unit, whether King, heir, noble, levy, mercenary or rebel.

During the battle some units like the King, Warwick and Pretender may each attempt a treachery roll instead of firing or retreating. To perform this, the player chooses a block on the field and rolls as many dice as the block’s loyalty rating. If all the rolled numbers are even, the block defects to that player’s reserve at current strength.

The final phase is the supply phase. In this phase, players will simultaneously determine if supply limits and exile limits apply. They will then take losses for surplus blocks. Once this has been completed, one of the three campaigns is over, as long as all 7 cards have been played. A political turn is then played where the pretender may usurp the throne. Armies will also be prepared for the next campaign. Play starts back over and goes through another campaign following the different phases. This continues until the end of the third campaign’s political turn or 5 enemy heirs have been eliminated. The player who is the King is declared the winner.

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COMPONENTS
As is the standard for Columbia Games, this game is composed of lots and lots of brightly colored wooden blocks. These are very nice and are really sturdy. There is a rather large sheet of stickers that must be placed on the blocks. This will take awhile but is a rather enjoyable task. Don’t ask me why, it just is. The artwork is a little different from previous games that I’ve played. Mostly consisting of shields and crests of the different places. It all seems very historical and really cool to look at. The maps are made of thin cardboard but they lay flat on the table and look really nice when put down. As I’ve stated in other reviews, I’d really have liked a thicker map board but it’s not really a major issue. There are a set of regular old ordinary dice included with the game. Nothing special about them, they’re just dice. There are also a set of cards for determining action points. These are fairly good quality. The artwork isn’t really in color but is still not that bad. I’m guessing that the portraits were probably based on real historical figures. A pretty neat touch if you ask me. As always, you can expect some really good stuff inside this box.
9 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is really nice. It’s put together well and reads fairly simple. The flow of the game comes through in the pages of the book. The artwork is similar to that of the cards and in black and white. The book itself is in black and white as well. Not sure why this wasn’t like other games from Columbia and in color but not really a big deal. I will say that the picture examples of block types are in color at least. Like with Julius Caesar, a lot of historical facts and references have been included along the outside of each page. Just another cool piece to nice set of rules. There’s a lot of information here to learn but is not as daunting a task as it might seem. Everything is laid out to where even novice war gamers like myself can easily understand what to do. I really like what was presented.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I really enjoyed this game. The block mechanic has quickly become a favorite of mine. It’s really simple to use and understand. This is definitely a step up from games like Julius Caesar. There’s a bit more to deal with and more to keep track of than in the previously mentioned game. Even so, it’s still a smooth ride down a historical battlefield. The added depth of game play is heightened with the ability to turn the other player’s units to your side. I also like the addition of the cards. This brings me back to Julius Caesar and the love that I have for that game. The theme is very prevalent throughout the game. You will definitely feel like you’re caught up in the historical conflict between York and Lancaster. Like with all war games, this does take quite a bit of time to play though. Don’t expect to sit down for an hour and be done with the game. Unless of course you’re just really bad at playing. Even with the longer play time, the game really plays well. It’s just a matter of carving out the time to play it.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
Richard III: The Wars of the Roses is a medium to light heavy weight war game of historical conquest. The art work is really nice throughout. The pieces are great and are lots of fun to play with. There’s lots of strategy and you will find yourself in a bit of a brain burner at times. Analysis paralysis has been known to set in from time to time as you try to figure out the best course of action for your units. The history and theme of the game is very prevalent throughout each step. I definitely recommend this game for history buffs as well as those that have a passion for war games. It’s also a great little teaching tool for home schoolers like myself, as it allows the student to actually play a part of history instead of just reading about it. I really enjoyed this game. You will too. So saith the King.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Columbia Games at their site.

http://columbiagames.com

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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