Board game reviews, strategy tips & session reports
No. of players: 2
Amount of time to play: 120-180 min
Age requirements: 14+
Set-up time: 10-15 minutes
Germantown: Washington Strikes Back! is a war game that reenacts the Battle of Germantown. One player is the Americans and the other is the British.
Germantown is the seventh game in the Battles of the American Revolution series. It has just one scenario. The scenario reenacts the Battle of Germantown. Even though the Americans lost, this battle was influential in helping French decide to get involved and help them in the war.
The plan was a surprise, four-pronged attack. There was dense fog the morning of the attack which helped hide the Colonial troops. Unfortunately it also made it hard for them to find their target and get there in a timely manner. Between the fog and a drunken General Stephen the army fired upon itself. This caused a panic among the ranks and though some forces did well they had to retreat.
The British player gets a decisive win if they defeat 17 or more Strength Points (SPs) of non-militia non-artillery units. This number is reduced to 12 SPs if Washington is off the board. An American decisive win depends on if the army panics or not. If they don’t panic, you win if you have units on the British entry hex with no adjacent enemies. If they have panicked, you must have been the last to occupy the Chew House and occupy the Market Square without any adjacent enemy units. Either side can win a substantial victory if you lower the opposing army’s moral to zero. Marginal victories occur if the game lasts until the end of the tenth turn. If you have a 2 VP margin over you opponent you win. VPs are calculated for occupy specific hexes and leader casualties.
Each turn you roll a d10 and add you army’s moral for initiative. Whoever wins goes first. They are considered the phasing player and may move their units then rally broken units. Next the opposing player can fire their artillery units defensively. The phasing player resume control and can fire with rifle units and then engage in close combat. On some turns reinforcements enter the battle to bolster your forces.
Different units have different stats and fight better or move farther than others. Close combat involves figuring out your Dice Roll Modifiers (DRMs) and selecting tactics. If you have momentum chits (that you gain by fighting well) you can spend one to re-roll the combat result.
After they are finished the player that lost initiative goes through the same steps. At the end of the turn you check for the victory conditions, advance the turn marker and start the next turn.
I have to say I am not a huge war gamer and Germantown is not a typical game for me to try out. But I live in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. I live on a street named after one of the American generals. You can pretty much pinpoint my house on the map. So I wanted to try this war game out.
The components for the game are well-made and look great. A mounted map might be nice but the one provided does the job. The rules are organized but I wish there was an index and play example. I recommend downloading the updated rules here.
I really like the way the mechanics duplicate the real-world circumstances. The drunk general randomly determines his movements and might fire upon his allies. Certain turns you roll to determine the thickness of the fog. These small details do a lot to immerse you in the game. They can also be altered to create what if scenarios. What if General Stephen was not drunk? Or the fog was not so heavy?
I like the momentum chits. They help remove some of the randomness the dice bring to the game. And represent the drama of the fight well.
Since artillery only fires on the opposing player’s phase, you always have something to do. There is not significant downtime when it is not your turn.
Germantown is fairly complicated and though it does get easier the more you play it your first play may take a long time. The updated rules will help a bit with this and experienced war gamers might be more familiar with the game mechanics.
If you are interested in the American Revolution, I highly recommend Germantown. And though I have not played the other games in the series I think you’d enjoy them too. If you are a novice war gamer looking to gain more complexity in your games, this might be a nice stepping stone for you.
Score and synopsis: (Click here for an explanation of these review categories.)
Strategy 4 out of 6
Luck 4 out of 6
Player Interaction 5 out of 6
Replay Value 4 out of 6
Complexity 5 out of 6
Fun 5 out of 6
Overall 5 out of 6