16 April 2014

Book Review: Victory By Any Means Campaign Guide

"Victory By Any Means is a Human Moderated game of interstellar exploration and exploitation. To call it a board game would be slightly misleading. Indeed Victory By Any Means and its predecessors have somewhat more in common with role playing game..."

Published on 8 MAR 2006 12:00am by Scott Parrino
  1. science fiction, turn-based, strategic, spaceship combat

Introduction

Victory By Any Means is a Human Moderated game of interstellar exploration and exploitation. To call it a board game would be slightly misleading. Victory By Any Means is played using a map but the map is generally of player design and constitutes only a small part of the actual game. Indeed Victory By Any Means and its predecessors have somewhat more in common with role playing games, which interestingly are derivatives of wargames, than the typical war-based board game does. The player keeps notes about his or her empire and the Campaign Moderator keeps the notes about any non-player entities and the galaxy in general. These sorts of games require a great deal of patience and are not for those who need the quick gratification of a game played in a single afternoon.

Layout & Design

The Victory By Any Means Campaign Guide has a full color cover. On the front is the Victory By Any Means logo and book title. On the back, the standard blurb tells the potential buyer about the book. I own a PDF version of the book but it is available through retail outlets if the buyer wants an actual physical copy that they do not have to print out themselves.

Inside, the book is printed entirely in black and white, and the few graphics are computer generated. However, a lack of artwork does not detract from the overall feel of the product, which is professional and readable. The interior design is reminiscent of many B5Wars products and there may be some design influence there. The text is legible and employs no odd fonts that might confuse the reader and no odd background graphics on the pages; each page is printed on plain white paper. Italics and bold face are used to differentiate text.

The rules layout is fairly typical, and the book is well organized. The rules themselves occupy the vast majority of the book, close to 90 pages worth. Though this may seem like a lot of rules, part of the length of the book is due to the larger font size, thus making the book slightly longer than it might otherwise be. The rest of the book has a selection of Appendices ranging from potential maps, to turn sheets, to possible alien races one can use in the game. One item I did not like was that there were several blank pages for notes at the end of the book. It seems to me to be a traditional practice but, in the days of computers and copious amounts of notebooks, an unnecessary one.

Overview

Players can play with or without a Campaign Moderator, and the designers apparently felt that this was an important feature. As long as all the players involved can be reasonably honest and neutral when it comes to certain actions and events, play without a Campaign Moderator should cause no hassles for the players. It just requires more paperwork for everyone involved. It is even feasible to play a solo campaign of Victory By Any Means.

However, with a dedicated Campaign Moderator, Victory By Any Means, like many games, steps up a notch in enjoyment. Access to a Campaign Moderator allows the players of the various empires the luxury of keeping secrets and anonymity. This adds an element of uncertainty and immersion not possible if playing without a Campaign Moderator. It also allows one person to take care of the campaign minutiae, while the players concentrate on their own empires.

Chapter One is a brief introductory chapter that includes a very nice definitions section which new players and old space hands alike will find useful. This includes the materials for play, which are fairly small: the Victory By Any Means book, 2 six-sided dice, and 2 ten-sided dice. The Victory By Any Means manual also mentions needing plenty of time and this would certainly be necessary to complete a game of Victory By Any Means.

Chapter Two covers the organization of the game and the preparations for play. This section takes the player through the process of generating the galaxy and getting the terrain (systems, planets, and jump lanes) ready for play. When using a Campaign Moderator, this chapter is of slightly less utility to the players, but its good to know how the system works anyway.

Decisions about galaxy creation are rolled, allowing variety and randomization. This is especially important if no Campaign Moderator is present for the game. If a Campaign Moderator is present, then she could theoretically choose the various aspects of galaxy creation by hand to tailor the playing field to his or her liking. Several pre-built scenarios are also included.