Transcript of our podcast from 03 October 2009
by Moritz Eggert
I got some very positive feedback about my last segment on solitaire gaming, so I think I will continue talking about some solitaire games that I like in the future. Let's start with a very new game that just recently arrived on my doorstep, and that game is "Where There Is Discord - War in the South Atlantic", a solitaire simulation of the Falkland War by Daniel Hodges. Yes, my friends, I am talking about a wargame here, so if anybody wants to leave the room because they're scared, they're welcome to do it.
"Where There Is Discord" came virtually out of nowhere. It is not published by any major company but is a private effort from a first time publisher who in addition donates all the money earned with the game to veterans of the Falkland War. I read some buzz about the game on boardgamegeek and decided to order it out of a whim. Imagine my surprise when I received a HUGE parcel with a sturdy game box rivalling any big box Fantasy Flight game. The production value of this game is absolutely amazing and has to be seen to be believed. The game contains two huge sturdy game boards (no flimsy paper maps), a large selection of huge, heavy duty counters, and a large, full-colour and glossy rulebook along with another book especially for events. You will need a very large table for this game, think Arkham Horror and you know what I mean.
The graphic design uses a mixture of photographs and graphics to represent every ship, airplane, submarine and carrier that was in any way involved in the Falkland War - everything is authentic to the last detail, and the counters are very large and easy on the eye.
I won't go into details about the Falkland War here - it was a relatively inglorious and kind of embarrassing affair for both countries involved, Argentina and Great Britain. It lasted only 30 days. More people were suffering from trauma effects after the war than were actually killed in it. Still there was more dangerous fighting going on than many people think. The beauty of the game lies in the fact that it doesn't shy away from these ugly facts, instead giving a realistic picture of how it felt to fight this modern war from both the point of view of the generals and the British government.
The player plays the British and has to handle a lot of different things. Most importantly he has to protect his fleet, which starts the game slowly approaching the Falkland islands, while being constantly harassed and attacked by Argentinean submarines, planes and surface fleets. To prepare for these attacks the British can distribute their forces however they wish, and where they expect the most opposition or danger. An interesting mechanic is the use of situation report cards. Each turn you can decide if you want to advance your battle plan or if you want to linger on. The more advanced your battle plan is, the harder the Argentineans will try to hit you. Once they go past your submarine screen or your advance fleet things get tricky, especially when the Argentineans use their dreaded Exocet missiles. This part of the game reminded me a little of the old Avalon Hill game "B17" - there is lots of dice rolling involved, but you have also a lot of decision making to do, especially regarding the use of your 2 carriers with their fighter squadrons, which are hugely important for your defence. Actually there are many similarities to the feel of "Battlestar Galactica" by Fantasy Flight - your ships are constantly attacked and every loss is a hard blow. You really do care about every single counter, and never is there a feeling of being superpowered at all.
Once you have advanced your battle plan to Operation Sutton the invasion of the Falklands begins and you have to deploy your ground troops for the dangerous landing. Here the game moves to an abstracted map of the Falklands where the Argentinean troops have usually already mounted a grim defence. The last 10 days of the game see the British try to conquer as many landing beaches as possible - the victory level is dependent on the number of beaches conquered, with 10 being the perfect result.
But this is not all - an equally important part of the game is foreign politics and the domestic opinion about the war in your own country. This is where the very interesting event cards come in - each round you draw one and one of many historic or alternative events can happen. In contrast to other games each event actually gives you a choice how to proceed - the event book is a big booklet with one page of info for each single event card - talk about historical detail and you got it! For example your country might become disillusioned with a war, and public opinion demands a temporary halt to the proceedings, a 1-day truce. Now you can decide if you want to press on against public opinion or heed the wishes of the people of your country to restore some belief in the government.
The domestic and international opinion track is the center of the game, as once domestic opinion falls to zero you immediately lose the game. Also international opinion plays a big role - at the beginning of the game other countries are on your side and help you with espionage and radar info, but once the international opinion falls you will continuously lose support from your allies, much to the detriment of your war efforts.
This is what happened in my first game of "When There Was Discord" - My attack on the Falklands was super successful, but I had lost too many ships on the way to Argentinean attacks, which angered my populace - game over because the government was overthrown in disgust!
I can only incredibly recommend this game - it is not only interesting for wargamers but for anybody interested in solitaire designs or good, immersive games. A big kudos to the designer for choosing an unusual and rarely used topic, and for trying something really new with a great conviction and love for detail that is rarely seen. The game can be ordered reasonably priced by http://www.Fifthcolumngames.co.uk.
©2009, Westpark Gamers