2GM Tactics: Initial Thoughts & Analysis01 Jun 2017 1
This is not so much a review as it is an introductory analysis and commentary of 2GM Tactics, a card-based wargame created by Spanish companies Proyecto Enigma and Draco Ideas. We’ll be looking into this game in more detail over the next few weeks, but today I’m just going to talk about my initial experiences. Feel free to take any review-like comments as they come, however a final ‘official’ verdict will come later.
At its heart, 2GM has more in common with card and board-based games than it does traditional miniature wargames, but it still offers plenty of tactical challenges from a variety of angles: traditional table-top tactics, card-based economy & logistics as well as specific challenges presented in the vast array of scenarios.
Originally published in Spanish in 2015, Draco Ideas launched a Kickstarter for the English-language version of 2GM in 2016 which included new cards, rule revisions and components. It was successfully funded for over three times the asking amount, and the finished products have recently shipped to backers.
The company has published a similar game called ONUS!, which is another card-based wargame looking at armies of antiquity, from Rome & Carthage, to Greeks and Persians. Testing 2GM so far has revealed the potential of this system in general as a half-way way house between a professional card-game and a miniature-based wargame.
Whilst I’ve been impressed, 2GM is not without its flaws: the card mechanics could probably do with some extra tweaking and improvement and there have been some translation-related confusion that really needs addressing. Rules associated with cards especially require careful and precise wording, something that's a bit lacking here.
My initial tests with 2GM focused solely on the base box (I received some additional KS exclusive cards that I forgot to keep separate, but by and large these impressions are based on core-components only). I created two test decks – German and American, using the basic Battle Royal rules of 120 AP points per deck.
2GM is first and foremost a card-game, and there a lot of concepts one must adhere too in order to do well. Things like deck-building, economy & cost-curves, synergies & themes… these are all terms you’d hear at a Magic: The Gathering or a Fantasy Flight LCG event. Miniature games like Warhammer 40K or any other wargame that use a point-buy system to control army size have some comparisons, but it’s not quite the same. You buy the unit; it’s ready for us from the start of a match. In 2GM, you ‘buy’ cards for your deck, but then you also have to draw them before they can be useful. Basic rules dictate that if your deck & hand runs out, you lose automatically, so like many card-games there may be some that you will just never see unless you're playing right down to the wire.
From my experimentation with trying to build a deck with a reasonable cost-curve and loose theme, a 120-point deck in practical terms probably comes in at around 50 cards. Each card has a deployment cost connected with how much it costs to send to the battlefield, but this also determines its cost in terms of your deck. My German deck was 47 cards, while the American deck was 48. I decided to not play with Generals, Airplanes (and thus, no units with the AA keyword) in order to keep things simple.
As per the Battle Royal rules, natural terrain is generated at random, and then you each ‘buy’ additional terrain on top of that. Each player gets 5 AP to start with, and has to secretly ‘bid’ an amount to determine the first player. The variable is that you also roll a dice; thus, someone bidding all 5 could still lose if they roll 1 and their opponent bid nothing and rolled 10. You can only deploy additional terrain using the AP you spent on bidding, but any AP you don’t spend you take with you into your first round to use to deploy troops.
It presents an interesting choice between wanting to go first (although really, there doesn’t seem to be any innate advantage in going first- what you really want to do is put down more defences), and keeping as much back to splurge on units in your first turn. You would have already drawn your starting hand at this point as well, so you can see how much AP you need to get a decent start.
I’ve played two test matches so far – an incomplete game of 10 turns that I just used to test out the mechanics, and then a more ‘official’ game using the Solo Rules (although, not the deck-building bit as I didn’t want to re-assemble one of my decks) where I lost around turn 15.
I don’t really have any prior experience with solitaire AI or games that have procedures for simulating an opponents’ turn, but it was an odd experience. Fellow Wargamer writer Alex Connolly had a look at the 11-page Solo Rulebook and indicated that it was consistent, if not better, than other Solitaire rule-sets he's tried, but I have to be convinced.
It does give plenty of guidelines on how to construct an AI deck, as well as general tips as to what to prioritise in terms of target priorities etc... There is even a stance-chart that involves rolling and applying modifiers to determine what kind of actions the AI will do. There are also rules on how to spend the AI's AP.
There weren’t a lot of what I'd consider hard rules though; mechanics that tried to compensate for the lack of an actual player. While all these guidelines and stances were useful… ultimately I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was just playing against myself and using a lot of interpretation on what to do. I knew obviously what cards I had on both sides, I knew what the official ‘player’ team was going to be doing, and sometimes I overruled what the AI was technically supposed to do because it didn’t actually make any tactical sense.
It will require further testing to be sure, although my instinct tells me that while playing some solitaire stuff is great for learning how to play the game, 2GM is really meant to be played with actually people. (As opposed to purpose-designed Solitaire games)
So far, 2GM generally plays well and presents an engaging tactical WW2 experience. You’ve got some semblance of combined arms, you need to make the best use of the terrain and your equipment options, and there will be plenty of instances of desperate defences, reversal of fortunes and all-out assaults. It can be a bloody war, especially on the offensive.
There are some abstractions that sometimes give one a moment’s pause – for example Line of Sight isn’t a thing here. This is fine, but then you look at an infantry unit shooting through a forest AND a mountain range and can’t help but raise an eyebrow. Regardless; if you’re in range, you can attack and the only deciding factor is your unit’s Impact stat.
This concept actually gave me a great deal of confusion for a while, mainly due to information being spread out a bit too much and kind of vague. Essentially, no matter what you’re attacking, you roll against the Impact stat of the attacking units’ card – one number to cause a hit, another to cause a critical hit (potentially wiping the enemy unit off the map in one go). If the defending unit is in cover, that cover modifier applies to *your* card.
Different weapons & equipment can have their own Impact stats, which can also be modified in turn, so make sure you’re keeping track. Getting you economy up-and-running is also paramount: We will explore this in a future article but getting those command groups out early and keeping them alive is key to keeping up steam through the mid-game until you can win the advantage.
The most decisive element of 2GM is the dice rolling – even the best units still have an impact stat you need to roll against, and in a turn you could easily get nothing but misses. This goes some way to keeping the battle in some semblance of balance, even when one side has overwhelming numerical superiority. The same RNG gods can also punish you on the rolls though, but there were a few turns in the second game where the German team managed to survive the US assault due to bad rolling, to then even the scales when they rolled well on their turn.
The US economy was far too good though, so it was only a temporary respite. Battle Royal is only one game mode – there are plenty of generic and historical scenarios (as well as entire campaigns of linked scenarios) which change everything from deck-building rules, to the terrain being used, to the victory objectives.
In the next article, I will break-down in more detail the various “key” concepts of 2GM, as well as try to analyse what they mean and how they effect strategy.