Playtesting the Seven Years War

My 7YWFG playtest kit

The Napoleonic Wars from GMT is one of my favorite games. Affectionately known as Nappy Wars, it covers an interesting period of history. It's a strategic level game on a grand scale. The large deluxe map is beautiful and impressive to see when a game is in progress. It's a card-driven game and I really like that mechanic. The cards let the game follow history without completely scripting play, but it also leaves uncertainty. As a player you know what events might occur, but you don't know when or even if they will happen. It puts you in a siutation very much like the one faced by the real historical commanders. Faced with tough decisions and working with incomplete information, you gain a different understanding of history, of why things happened the way that they did. It's very elegant.

Nappy Wars a multiplayer game that is well liked in my local gaming group. It's part of a series that includes Wellington, another game that I really enjoy playing. Ok, there is another game in the series, Kutuzov, which I don't like much at all, but hey, two out of three ain't bad.

I was excited to hear that GMT was working on a game that uses the same system but would cover the Seven Years War. That's another period of history that fascinates me. Although there are games on the Seven Years War, the definitive game has yet to be done. Applying the Nappy Wars system seems like an excellent approach.

The Austrians (Dale) and Prussians (Erik) are eager to get going

The Seven Years War: Frederick's Gamble has been under development for several years. I played a demo version of the game at GMT weekend in fall of 2015. I have also seen it playtested a number of times at BottosCon. When I saw a request for additional playtesters back in February, I jumped at the chance. I was given access to the rules and a VASSAL module for online play.

I knew that several of the guys I play live with in Boise would be interested in the playtest since they like Napoleonic Wars as much as I do. When I checked with them, they wanted to try the game but were not too enthusiastic about online VASSAL play. We're not solitary nerds playing on the computer in our basements. We are highly social guys who wanted to play face-to-face. (-:

So I put together a physical playtest copy. I started with Napoleonic Wars, stealing most of the counters that we needed. I went into the VASSAL module and got the graphics files to make a copy of the map and additional counters to complete the set. As a playtester, I also had a file with all of the cards which I used to print a real card deck.

Gen Montcalm joins our game

It was a lot of work. Cutting out and stickering all of the extra counters was really time consuming. So was cutting out all of the cards. Doing the rounded corners was really a pain. But it was worth it as I ended up with a very workable playtest copy.

We have played the game twice so far. The first was a learning game, just pushing pieces, getting a feel for the mechanics and the game situation. The second was a real game, which ended in a three-way tie among France, Britain and Prussia (possibly incorrectly - Prussia might have lost out on a VP due to a rules oversight).

Our group really got into it. One night Erik even brought along his replica of an eighteenth century French uniform. It's a replica of the uniform worn by Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham during the war.

I got a chance to play another game, this one hosted by the designer Greg Ticer, at GMT weekend in April. I'll say more about that in my next post.

The game has been very interesting. The changes from Nappy Wars have done a good job of translating the game to the Seven Years War period. I'm interested in playing it more. It will take a couple of plays to really decide on play balance. I also need to learn to play the game better. Unfortunately with summer here it is hard to get enough people together for two or three consecutive weeks to play a whole game. So it might be a while.

I have enjoyed playtesting the game, to get a chance to get an early look at the game and to provide feedback to the designer and developer as it is finalized. And yes, I have preordered it through GMT's P500. Nice as my playtest kit is, I'm looking forward to getting the real game.