Game Review: Churchill by GMT Games


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Number of Players: 1-3
Time: 2-4 hours
Age: 13+
Game Type: Diplomacy
Gamer Type: Committed
Complexity: 8
World War II has spawned its share of games. Some good, some bad. Most of these games take a look at the sequel to the Great War as a snapshot: who wins, who succeeds, and who controls the world during the Cold War. However, World War II did not happen in a vacuum. It was a political event that changed the landscape of politics for the next approximately 100 years. GMT’s Churchill looks not only at the politics of the war itself, but also at the impact of the war – which makes for a very interesting scoring system.


Story

The story falls in line with many of the other World War II storylines. You play a leader – Roosevelt, Stalin or Churchill – as you protect the world from the Nazi scourge. The politics revolve around the choices during the war in a series of conferences. While the conferences are based on real events, the results can deviate from actual history. The choices each leader makes can turn the tide of the war, ending it after 10 conferences or after both Germany and Japan are defeated. The historical notes are ever-present, but the choices help you write the story. 8 of 10.


Artwork

As with all GMT games, the box design is brilliant. Most GMT games have a same H*L dimension which makes them look stunning on the shelves. The box art for this game is stark, which is fitting for World War II. As with most GMT games, there are military chits which move across a military map; this gives a strong feel for the war gamers out there. The cards are historical stills – while I am not usually a fan of stills, they play well in this game. The feel of the game – as odd as it is to say this – is bureaucracy, which is perfect for the theme of the game. This draws you into the politics as much as it draws you into the warfare, which is a great balance for the period of time. 8.5 of 10.


Mechanics

This game uses a unique multi-board structure to carry out the actions of the game. Not that the concept of multiple boards is unique – this is vouge in gaming right now – it is that the boards are directly tied together and the effects of one (the politics board) are played out on the other (the war board). The randomizer in this game is the cards, which should appease the Eurogamers. In the game, there are a series of conferences. In these conferences, leaders place event cards (issues) on the board and then use their staff cards to move the issue in their favor. This allows the players to see who has won the conference. The victors of the conference move the needle of control on the war map based on how the issues are determined. This creates a high level of variability, which can help earn score in the game.


The most unique feature is the scoring mechanism, which may be one of the more complex systems I have seen. Having the most points at the end of the game is not enough to win. Depending on whether the Axis surrendered or if the time runs out, you have two different sets of rules. In some cases, having the highest score pays off, in other cases, it causes the other two teams to unite against you in the after-effects of the war (the Cold War). This means you have to win big – or have the right political ending to win. As in world politics, this makes diplomatic gamesmanship one of the most difficult aspects to predict; you may not know the winner (even if its you) until the final scores are tallied. 8.5 of 10.


Strategy

Oh, how do I play my cards? In each round you get your leader and seven cards (six if you actually use your leader). This lets you move the seven issues more in your favor. With only one pass, you need to decide what to do with your staff to move the needle in your direction the best you can. Offense is a strong strategy for the Brits and the Soviets, as both of their abilities play well in this area. Conversely, defense favors the United States, whose ability lets them win ties (or pick the winner of they are not in the issue). Rush can be played out, if there is an issue you really want to ensure is placed somewhere, and engine building revolves around what order you play your staff cards and how you use your ever-important pass. Further, you need to be careful where your score is – are you going for a massive score to leave the other two players in the dust or are you going to have to “play it cool” to ensure when the dust settles you are in the best position possible? 8 of 10.


Novelty


Political games are interesting. First of all, there are not many of them. Second, they are complicated. Third, they can leave hard feelings at the end of the game. To this point, I have not seen a “Holy Grail” game in this area that balances out the “perfect” diplomatic game. Churchill comes very close to this. The mechanics of the game integrate in a way that makes sense. While it is complex, once you play a few rounds it cleans up well. It also alleviates the “hard feelings” as players are playing collaboratively, but also competitively – so you see a lot of “frenemy situations” – just like the real war. 7 of 10.


Overall


This is a strong game, one of the stronger games I have reviewed this year. While it is not a quick pick-up-and-play game (the boards take a while to sort), it is a good game for players who want to commit the time. With a score of 40, this game is a solid offering in both the war game and diplomacy segments of the market. As with all GMT games, you get what you pay for and this is a superior game which you will not find at many off-the-shelf stores. It takes time to read the rule book, but once you do, you have a great game which has ample replay value for you and your friends. Also note that there are autonomous rules.

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Christopher W Smithmyer
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