Review: Sans Alliés

Sans Alliés Review

Sans Alliés is a solo wargame. You’re the commander of the good guys in a war against an evil enemy that’s trying to build their ultimate weapon. The race is on to topple their regime before they wipe you out.

As far as I can tell; the only way to get this game, at the moment, is directly from the supplier Past Go. I was lucky enough to get in on the KS. It’s a fun little game and I think the name Sans Alliés, which loosely translated means “without allies/friends”, is really apt too.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the box

Specs on the box

  • 1 Player
  • 30 – 60 min (it really does not feel long though, it feels like a filler game, but with some depth)
  • 13 years + (I think it can go a 10+)

The box itself is relatively small. So it travels well. I’ve actually taken it on a trip to San Francisco. I didn’t play on the plane if that’s what you’re thinking, I took games with me for the 5hr layover and to occupy myself while I was adjusting to the time zone difference.

Sans Alliés Review
Everything packs away into a neat little package.

In the box we have 2 decks of cards, a set of already punched tokens, 2 D6 and a little rules booklet. The rules booklet actually felt like it was a bit of a tough read. I think that was mostly due to the small font used. There’s official errata for some of the rules but I felt it unnecessary as I understood the rules pretty quickly.

The pre-punched tokens are interesting. I thought that they were novel, but I have heard of some people receiving incorrectly packed tokens (doubles/missing). Past Go has been prompt with sending replacements.

Sleeves

I’ve sleeved the entire game with this sized sleeves, I did not use the premium ones, the cards would not have fit back into the box.

Then I packed the tokens into the left over baggie.

Theme

Here is where the game falls a bit short for me. I love games that are rich in theme and can give me some kind of narrative. Sans Alliés does not do that for me, but, I don’t think it needs to.

The premise as I mentioned is that you are fighting a WWII-ish war. There is no mention of this, but that’s kind of the feel I get from it. There are no actual names of the 2 sides in the war, it’s just you and the other guys.

You need to lead a charge through enemy held territory in an effort to siege their capital. Along the way you will liberate POW camps and clear out enemy research centres in an order to delay their development of their ultimate weapon. You have no idea what this weapon is but that you will lose the war if they ever get it finished.

Sans Alliés Review
The art is actually fantastic. Just look at the detail.

Gameplay

Setup

Sans Alliés has 2 games modes a beginner and a slightly more advanced mode. Both modes have a very similar setup. Initially you will get all of the Territory cards and use them to build a pyramid like this:

I was playing in the waiting room of an ortho while my daughter was having her braces fitted.

The enemy capital is at the apex and scattered throughout are 5 enemy research stations. In the advanced game you will also randomly setup 3 POW camps that you can liberate, if you wish. Each level of the pyramid will receive a token which shows its strength and the research level for the ultimate weapon. There’s a marker to show the current research level, it starts at the bottom row of the pyramid.

That’s the hardest part of the setup. The remaining territory cards will form a discard pile and the unit deck needs to be shuffled and placed aside. Next to the unit deck you setup the 4 unit tokens so you can make columns of units under them.

If you’re playing the advanced game you will also setup the season token. After each round you will rotate this token to show the changing of the seasons. During winter it’s harder to campaign (enemy strength increases) and during summer is easier (enemy strength decreases).

The turn sequence

At the start of each turn you’re going to draw 3 cards from the unit deck, 10 on the first turn. Not all of these cards are units though. If you draw an Enemy Breakthrough then you advance their tech level 1 step up the pyramid. You can also draw your Ultimate Weapon cards, these can automatically destroy an enemy territory but until you have captured all 5 of the enemy research stations, it’s useless.

As you draw the cards you will assign them to their various columns Infantry/mechanised/aircraft and ships. These units you will need to invade enemy territories during your turn. Different types of terrain will require different units to invade them. While you can’t use your jeeps in the mountains you can use them on the frozen tundra. Ships can only be used at sea but aircraft can go anywhere, that kind of thing.

Sans Alliés Review
A pair of vehicles and a squadron of bombers are ready to move out.

In addition to having the correct units you will also need to be able to reach that particular territory. The lands deeper into the enemy domain cannot be invaded before the lands in front of them are cleared of enemy forces. To show this each territory card will have a requirement of how many of its bottom corners you will need to see in order to invade it. So initially you can only invade the bottom row.

There’s an element of planning here, which path will you take to reach the enemy capital? How far off course will you need to go to liberate that POW camp? What about that research station?

Once you have determined if you can invade a territory you will need to build an invasion force that at least matches the strength of that territory. This is tougher and tougher as you go up the pyramid where enemy strength is really high. Once you have committed your forces you have to roll the dice…

Sans Alliés Review
In most cases you will have lost your invasion force, limiting your options in the next turn.

Usually you will only lose the invasion force, if you’re lucky some of them may survive to fight another day, if not then you might have to lose additional forces but you can still claim the win and remove the territory from the pyramid. If you’re really unlucky and cannot (or chose not to) lose additional forces then you must retreat. The invasion force is lost and you fall back to a safe zone. Take the top territory from the discard pile and cover 1 of the corners of the territory you just tried to invade AND end your turn.

If you won the invasion though, you’re free to keep going. Winning can be really good, every time you win it raises morale, so your infantry units gain strength for the current turn. If you clear an entire row of territories then then enemy suffers a setback and their research drops a level.

Liberating POW’s permanently increases your infantry strength by 1 and capturing enemy research stations allows you to not only draw extra cards every turn but you can upgrade 1 of your unit types to a more powerful version, granting them extra strength and an ability.

On top of that, the enemy research suffers a setback too! Although they can only suffer 1 per round. If you get all 5 of them then you can use your ultimate weapon cards to automatically destroy enemy territories!

Sans Alliés Review
Here you can see the strength of the different levels and the number needed to advance the enemy research.

At the end of your turn, if the enemy did not suffer a setback then you roll to see if their research advances. Roll a D6 and if you roll equal or greater than their current research level, their research goes up a level. If it reaches the top of the pyramid then they deploy their weapon and its game over.

If you manage to capture the enemy capital before that happens you win!

Conclusion

Ok, it sounds simple, and it kind of is. Sans Alliés is a remake of Pyramid Solitaire. There aren’t many heavy decisions. The main strategy is trying to figure out the best path to reach the capital and when to divert to cause a setback. In the basic game that’s easy.

In the advanced game it gets a bit trickier. Different territories might need 1 or both of the territories below them cleared before you can invade them. Some are harsh climates which will require you to lose extra units to the elements if you try to capture them, you read your invasion results 2 rows lower than your invasion roll. Factor in that there are 12 extra territories, it means you get a different game every time you play.

On top of that capturing the research stations and the capital requires an extra expenditure of infantry units to secure those locations. Sometimes you might need to scorch that stations (and forego their bonuses) rather than capture it but capturing is always way better.

Sans Alliés Review
the turn of the seasons can put the most well laid plans to rest.

Then you add in the seasons. During winter the strength of enemy territories increases by 4. That’s a lot. In summer it only decreases by 2. So you will find yourself campaigning and then regrouping to move again in the next “year”. All the while the enemy will keep on trying to research its ultimate weapon.

If you’ve had a disastrous summer or autumn you may find yourself trying a high risk winter invasion in order to provoke an enemy setback. The game has its fun little moments like these but I don’t really feel like there’s tension building. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just feels a bit easy. I know that’s not saying much because I play almost everything on the super hardest difficulty.

That’s not to say I don’t like it. I actually really enjoy it. Sometimes I don’t want to play a heavy game, or I need a filler while I’m waiting or before I try something heavier and Sans Alliés just hits that sweet spot. It’s got the right amount of thinking without being taxing. I feel like I’ve had a fun game but not like I’ve had a real brain burner. It’s my goto for a quick solo.

How does it play solo?

Err, it’s only solo, so it plays solo really well J

Can I braai with this?

You can do pretty much anything with this. Setup and tear down is super quick and can easily find where you left off when you return from turning the chops.

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