The English Civil was never came up as a subject in history but I find all wars interesting. Cruel Necessity puts you in the role of the English government in an attempt to preserve their way of life in the face of political and religious turmoil. Oh, and war too.
Cruel Necessity is one of the States of Siege games from Victory Point Games. I previously reviewed Zulus on the Ramparts! which is from the same series. Where that has you fighting tooth and nail in a tactical battle for survival in a single compound; Cruel Necessity zooms out to a more strategic level, where you are fighting for an entire country.
For the TL;DR version click here
Opening the Box
Specs on the Box:
- 1 Player
- Ages 13+
- 1-3.5 hours. There are scenarios that you can play for a game under an hour but the full campaign takes +- 3.5 hours
The box is the usual VPG Pizza box. Ronin even thought we were going to have pizza when I left the box on the table on day 😉 Inside we have a 2 piece cardboard board, this is actually pretty normal for wargames so don’t stress. There is also a 2nd battle board to resolve combat.
In addition there are almost 100, thick, wooden, laser cut counters along with a sir-wipes-a lot tissue to clean them. 4 decks of cards and a pair of D6. A lot of people don’t really like the typical VPG components, but I love them. I find them charming. Also cutting costs and passing those savings on to the consumer gets a thumbs up in my book!
I’ve sleeved the whole game with these:
Cruel Necessity take you through each of the English civil wars. You can play any of them on their own or you can play through a campaign encompassing all 3. It’s an undertaking that will take up all of your afternoon.
The game does a good job of explaining key events and is littered with historic information. It’s absolutely dripping with theme. I now know more about the events in the English civil wars that I had ever thought I would need to 😉
Ok, so my usual style of describing the setup and the turn sequence won’t really cut it for this game, there is just a bit too much going on. It’s not that it’s very heavy, there is just too much to cover in the context of a blog post without re-typing most of the rule book. I’ll try to keep it high level.
First there are the 4 armies trying to get to London. Each of them has a track that they follow and if they reach the end of their tracks, bad things happen. You can fight them pushing them back but it will cost you an action and you are not guaranteed success. If you push them beyond their starting point they become disordered and that will give you a breather because they will have to spend their next action regrouping instead of advancing.
When they advance they will encounter your forts. On arrival they stop moving and will besiege the forts in order to take control of them. The forts are a good speed bump but some of them provide you with action points, losing those means you will get fewer actions each turn.
You can spend your actions trying to regain captured forts or fortifying existing ones. But you have to make sure that the enemy has been pushed back beyond the fort first, again at the cost of precious actions. Should London ever fall the game will end!
Sounds simple right? Well there are 6 other tracks to worry about, these are grouped into 2 sets named “The Forces of Godly Rule and Republicanism” and “The Forces of Opposition and Despair” this is where you will track the swings in political and religious regimes of the time. If any of the tracks move too far in the wrong direction you will not only lose points but suffer an ongoing effect that will negatively impact you for the game. Should all of them reach their “F” mark then at the end of the turn you will lose the game. Spending your actions to try pushing them the other way and you will not only gain points but also get benefits like extra actions or weakening one of the armies on the board.
The core of the game revolves around the event cards. These cards represent the major events of the war. At the start of each turn you will draw a card and see what it does then you will get a chance to react and try to recover from the blow that fate has dealt you.
Typically the event will have multiple enemy armies activating, and thus moving or attacking, sometimes an army will activate more than once!
Then there will be political and religious actions happening that will cause upsets in the relevant tracks. Sometimes these will be in your favour and sometimes not. There could also be other events happening around the country which would hinder you or the advancing enemy, riots, for example. Other events can make you gain or lose action points.
More often than not the event card will indicate that a battle must occur. The enemy armies will face off against whatever forces you can muster. This battle happens off on a side board and is almost a mini game all of its own. You will, over time be able to manipulate the events on the battle board and in turn success on the battle board will translate to favorable events on the main board too.
Sometimes the event card is not an event at all, it’s an Achievement. These are special cards that you can purchase for a VP boost and a special bonus. There are some that make your fighting units stronger and others that give you bonus actions. All of them have a cost, in action points. So to purchase them you will need to give up precious actions, also you can only have 3 available at any time so if you draw a 4th you will need to remove an existing one. On top of that, to make them even tougher to get, you will also have to have a particular board state before you can purchase the achievements. They are worth it though.
If London is still under your control when the last Event card is resolved then you win!
There’s a fair amount going on, 4 armies on different tracks to your HQ, political and religious leaders that needs to be appeased and a totally separate battle map too. Yes there’s pressure. Running a country under siege should be pressured.
Each turn you have a more things to attend to than you have action points to spend but you also need to save your points to buy the achievements. You also need to spend them to get to the board to the state that you need in order to qualify for the achievements in the first place. It’s tight, tense and there are dice… yes I did not mention the dice.
A lot of actions, like combat, are determined by dice. It’s not pure luck though, you do have some mitigation but it’s not much. You can spend actions to get dice roll modifiers or purchase achievements that give you bonuses just when you need it. However, as anyone in a management role will tell you, once you give an instruction, you have no control of the outcome of that instruction because you are not actually doing it yourself.
You can make the best plans in the world but you will never know if the person you are giving it to is the fool you were prepared for or not. The dice adds another layer of tension over and above drawing those damn event cards.
Personally, love it. You need to create an overall plan, covering all of your bases. You need to decide where to push and where to hold; what can you sacrifice and what must be achieved in order to survive. Assailed from all sides it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning but there’s always hope. Careful resource management, a few risky plays and maybe a prayer or 2 and you will win the day.
Cruel Necessity is a great way to while away an afternoon lost in the throes of an imaginary version of a real war while you are sipping a nice whiskey or a cup of tea.
How does it play Solo?
It’s a solo game, as such it plays remarkably well!
Can you play this at a Braai?
You can, if it’s just you. I’ve had braais where I was alone with the cooking and everyone else was busy indoors. In that situation it will work. It’s a solo game though and most braais are social affairs so it won’t really mix well.