It’s winter, so it seems like it’s time to cover:
A Few Acres of Snow is one of the latest titles from British designer Martin Wallace and his company Treefrog Games (Mayfair in the US). It’s a game for 2 players aged 12 and up, and takes around an hour to play. The game is all about the so-called French and Indian War of the 18th century, which was a conflict between the French and the British in Canada. One of the big selling points about the game is that it’s Martin Wallace’s take on the deck-building genre. It’s got some great buzz going right now (already #45 at BGG), so let’s see how it works.
In the game, one player is the French and the other is the British. Each side has town discs (12 for the British, 9 for the French), village cubes (18 for each), and a siege location marker. In addition, there are 12 fortification discs and 2 siege strength markers. Along with player aids and money, you also get a board and 110 cards. Each player begins the game with an initial draw deck, made up of cards with dark red (British) or dark blue (French) borders; an available location deck, made up of cards with light red or light blue borders; an available empire deck, also made up of cards with light red or light blue borders; and a disc or cube in each of their starting locations on the board. The French player begins with 5 money, and the British player starts with 12. Neutral empire cards (green bordered) are placed face up beside the board. Each player draws five cards from their initial draw deck, and you’re ready to play. The British player goes first.
The first thing you do on a turn is check to see if you’ve won a siege by having an attack strength of 2 or more than your opponent. This would allow you to take over the location and capture their disc or cube. As the defender, you need a strength advantage of 1 or more to win. If the defense wins, the attacker loses a siege card. After this check, you then get to perform two actions, and you can do the same one twice. There are five types of actions: Expansive, Aggressive, Financial, Card Management, and Other.
- Settle a Location: Here, you’ll be able to place a cube in an unclaimed neutral location. Play a location card that connects to the neutral spot (as listed on the card), and a second card with the appropriate mode of transport (also indicated on the location card). If the intended location has a settler symbol, you must also play a third settler card. After claiming the space, you’ll take the matching location card and put it in your discard pile.
- Develop a Location: Turn your cube into a disc by playing the matching location card and a settler card. This doubles the location’s VP value, and you can only develop a location with a VP value.
- Fortify a Location: Play a fortification card and the location card for the place you are fortifying to place a fortification disc under the cube or disc that is there. This increases the location’s siege strength by two and makes it immune to raids.
- Beseige a Location: Play a location card that connects to the place you want to besiege, another card with the correct transport symbol, and a card with a military symbol. The first two are discarded, while the military card goes on your siege space. Place your siege location marker on the location. Using the appropriate siege track, place a siege marker on one for the location, then adjust it based on the presence of a fortification and any defense modifiers for the location. This siege will continue until someone wins.
- Reinforce a Siege: Play a card with military symbols to change the siege value in your favor. This can only be done if you can trace a series of connections back to Quebec (as the French) or Boston (as the British).
- Raid: Play one or more raid cards to raid a location along a road, river, lake, or trail connection. Spend any necessary money for using Native Americans. Your opponent then has an opportunity to block. If your raid is successful, you take the cube or disc that is there. Your opponent will replace a disc with a cube.
- Ambush: Play an ambush card from your hand. If it is not blocked, your opponent must take a card with an ambush symbol from their hand or reserve and return it to their empire deck. If they have no cards with ambush symbols, they must show you their hand to prove it.
- Priest/Indian Leader: If you play one of these cards, your opponent must give you a neutral Native American from either their hand or reserve.
- Take Money: Play a location card and take the amount of money shown.
- Merchant: Play a card with a ship symbol, then play as many cards as you want, taking the indicated amount of money from each.
- Trader: Play the trader card, then as many location cards as you want with a fur symbol, taking two money per card played.
- Piracy: This action is only available to the French player, who can play the Louisbourg card in conjunction with a ship card to steal two gold from the British player. Any money the British player can’t pay comes from the bank.
- Draft One Empire Card: Take a card from your empire deck or the neutral cards, paying any money necessary. The card goes into your discard pile.
- Discard Cards: Discard one or more cards from your hand. The first one you discard is free, all others cost one.
- Place One Card in Reserve: This gets cards out of your hand so you can use them later. You can retrieve the cards at any time during your turn and don’t have to spend an action to do so (though you must take them all and pay one gold per card you retrieve).
- Governor: Play this card to take one to two cards from your hand and return them to the deck of available cards.
- Intendant: Play this card, pay two money to the bank, and take a card from your discard pile to your hand.
- Home Support: Playing this card does not count as one of your two actions – it is free, and allows you to draw three cards from your deck.
- Withdraw from a Siege: This is another free action, and is the same as losing the siege.
- Pass: Do nothing.
At the end of your turn, draw back up to five cards. If you need to reshuffle your discard pile, do it. The British player wins by winning a siege in Quebec. The French player wins by winning a siege in Boston or New York. The game can also end if there are no sieges in progress at the start of your turn and you have placed all of your discs or cubes on the board, or if there are no sieges in progress and you have collected 12 points worth of opponent pieces (cubes are two points, discs are four points). At this point, you add up your points from locations and captured pieces to determine the winner. If there’s a tie, the French player wins.
So, what do I think? The term deck-building 2.0 has been thrown around with this game, and I can see why. For one thing, it’s a board game. For another, it’s a pretty thematic experience. Martin Wallace is always very good about having strong themes and strong mechanics, and this is another good example. It’s interesting to see how a designer like Wallace incorporates a popular mechanic like deck-building. Every card has the potential to do a lot for you, and while it seems like you’ll have a lot of choices to make, I would assume your hand will limit your options. So, while the theme is not as interesting to me as it may be to others, I definitely want to play this one. It looks like a good time.
On a final note, I’m going to be taking a short break on the blog. I’ll be back on the 30th with the next installment in the ABCs of Gaming, and a few end of the year/beginning of the year posts after that (at least two, maybe more). Happy Holidays to everyone, and thanks for reading!