26 August 2022
A good war deserves a sequel
Hold it or fold it is the first and maybe most important lesson to learn from Spies, Lies & Supplies, a sequel to the original Air, Land & Sea. Like the original, players set out three Theatres (this time Diplomacy, Intelligence and Economics) to compete over using their hand of cards. You play a card into the matching zone on your side, and then the opponent does the same on theirs. To work out who has control over any region we simply look at who has the highest total power by adding up the numbers on the cards they’ve played. Simple enough, except the game is exquisitely balanced. It has the same sense of back-and-forth play of a classic card game that you might play with a standard pack.
Most cards in the game have a power that either activates when played, or offers a continuous effect. Many of these effects are to do with adjacency – meaning the zones either side of where the card is played on either player’s side of the board. This makes for fun little calculations. For example, you might want to play a card which flips an adjacent card. This can be good or bad, playing a card face down is always worth two points, so you might want to upgrade a one cost card on your side to a facedown two card. Or you might decide to flip the six card on your opponent’s side (thereby reducing the power value by four). Or you could even consider flipping a lower powered card with an ongoing effect that’s been annoying you.
The game has a nice objective curve in it from the way the central area players are fighting over had more adjacency. Knowing how good your hand is makes all of the difference here. Winning is a matter of how long it takes the other to fold, or defeating them in battle, in a race to twelve points. You’ll get six points for a complete victory (i.e. totting up the power values and seeing who won each theatre), and a sliding scale of points depending on when your opponent folds and whether you went first or not. If you still have four cards in your hand as the first player that’s a mere two points for example. A weak hand can then be assessed as a whole and you’ll soon be folding quickly to save yourself for a better round, or choosing to test it out for a turn or two to see if your opponent’s hand is just as bad.
And in this, there’s the duel at the heart of the game. There’s great satisfaction squeaking out a victory, and you may even come to admire your opponent across the table when they beat you. In short, an excellent two player game that should be welcome in any collection.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? YES
Like many of the best two player games, the simplicity of Spies, Lies & Supplies soon gives way to a complexity developed through the actual back and forth between players
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Air, Land & Sea…
If you liked the first game, and want a way to expand it, you can use the advanced ‘mix and match’ here to get even more war for your money.
Designer: Jon Perry
Publisher: Arcane Wonders
Time: 15-30 minutes
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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