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Quick Looks: Won by the Sword

Won by the Sword went down like Fat Man over Nagasaki on most wargame forums when released by GMT back in 2014. Lots of misprints on the components and errors in the rules gave it a bad rep to such an extent that GMT decided to bail it out with a patch. James and I have played a couple of games reworked version, it still rides like a bike with two missing gears but its probably the most innovative and insightful design to hit the scene in the past 10 years.


The rules; they work fine for the most part, James is clearer on the gaps than me, he reads them, I'm the opponent. What I will say is that they work if you can put the daddy pants on and make common sense decisions to fill any minor gaps.



Forage; Some games are about movement, some about concentration of fire, some moral, others unit composition, some bluff or even supply routes. Won by the Sword is about burning peoples villages and taking all their food, mostly just to stop your opponent doing it. This is the 30 years war, armies are big and supply chains  are poor, so armies ravage southern Germany for food and booty. Each turn end every army has to consume a certain amount of forage tokens or take corresponding losses, equally large moves or deploying for battle all costs forage. Forage is generated by scourging the land. What this leads to is strategic deprivation of your opponents likely objectives and cat and mouse with the balance of your force. In English what I mean is this; You want to try and burn the areas your opponent is likely to go, even if they are your own country, and you want to split your forces up to maximize foraging but with out getting caught in a battle. Concentration of force is a big deal here.

At the most basic level this is a game where each player has 1-5 armies and has a set of target cities to take. The siege, combat and CDG elements of the game are all slick and well thought through. It's the forage that makes the game really something though. It leads to double think, moral ambiguity (a great feature in any game) and high tension gambits. Armies are made up of dozens of counters on display hidden behind a screen, as such you don't know who has run out of food, and how large a force really is until you drag it into battle.

Book I borrowed off Pete on fortress design in this era

The only major downside is the scenarios. They are fine, but they all boil down to start your armies here and take these cities. They feel rather samey given how easy it is to traverse the map. 

In many respects its a shame this system had such bad teething issues as this could the first game in a fantastic series. Who knows perhaps Ben Hull will come back to it.

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