A Review of "Rebs & Yanks"
by Greg Nichols

Product: Rebs & Yanks
Players: 2 (ages 8 & up)
Company: StrataMax, Inc.
Designer: Max Michael
Playing time: about 1 hr
Cards in a deck: 40 
Suggested Retail Price: $18.00


"Rebs & Yanks" is a two-player card game with an American Civil War
theme. This is not a "collectible card game" nor is it a miniatures
game using a card format like Columbia Games' DIXIE series.  This
game borrows its game mechanisms from classic card games like Euchre
or Pinochle but includes the use of dice like a typical wargame. 
Players choose to play one of three variations of play: the Standard
game, the Standard game with Advanced rules, or play the Historical
battles option. In the last option, four historical battles are modeled
using a set number of cards per side with either the Union or 
Confederate side chosen to lead the attack.  The battles modeled are:
Antietam, Stones River, The Wilderness, and Kennesaw Mountain.

*The Cards*
The game comes with a 40-card deck and it's broken down like this:
So almost 90% of the deck can be used by either side while only
the Generals are side specific. The Generals are individually rated
for ability (called Generalship) from a +0 modifier (Rosecrans and 
Johnston) to a +3 modifier (Grant and Lee).  Sheridan and Stuart 
are Cavalry Generals so their +2 modifiers only apply to Cavalry 
cards. Each generic troop card has a modifier verses what it attacks
best. Examples:
Large formations of any type automatically receive a +1 die roll
modifier for their size.

Stragglers have -2 die roll modifier verses any troop.  These cards
are akin to the Queen of Spades in the game of Hearts - you get rid
of them as soon as possible or they'll hurt you.

Terrain cards offer positive defensive modifiers and they are named
after some famous ACW positions as well as some generic positions.
*How It Plays*

Basically, players choose sides and five card hands are dealt. There
are two options in the Sequence of Play: Draw for Reinforcement or 
Attack. You choose to do one or the other but not both. If you draw,
then your hand temporarily goes to six cards and then you choose a
discard which is laid face down in the discard pile next to the draw
deck and play passes over to the other player.  If you declare an
attack, then the defending player lays out their cards and the attacking
player matches up individual attacks (card to card) which creates a
battle. In each attack, modifiers are added up, dice are rolled and
a winner is declared.  The player who wins the most attacks, wins the
battle and gains an extra victory point.  If the battle mechanism
sounds familiar, it's because it uses classic "trick taking" to
accomplish this part of the game.


The game's box is small but wide enough to accommodate two decks of
cards (though I don't know why this is the case). The box design is
attractive and includes a tab on the top, which is punched to allow
for hanging on rod displays which, was a smart choice. The rule book
is rather large as card games go and fits snugly in the box.  It's
22 pages of small, well spaced out black and white print.  Though
the game is not complicated, the rules themselves are written as such
that one might conclude otherwise.  They are talky and at least once
they are contradictory.  Because of this, the Advanced game isn't as
easy to implement as one would have liked.  Though I found Columbia
Games' rules for the DIXIE series often dry, they were to the point
and easier to read and interpret.  Here, one feels like taking a 
machete to find the way to rules understanding.

The cards are a mixed bag.  They are well constructed with a nice 
weight and finish, which I suspect, will stand up to many, many 
shuffles and the occasional liquid spill. The artwork is fair and
serviceable but in no way approaches Columbia Games' DIXIE series.
The card layout and color is less than pleasing.  The cards were done
in a 4-color process, which lowers the cost but puts serious limitations
on the attractiveness and individuality of the cards.  And I didn't
find the actual card design all that impressive.  Given the limitation
of the 4-color processing, it would take a very talented artist to 
create a pleasing layout.  The card faces look rather chunky with blue
and gray liberally applied.  I personally like a cleaner look to my
cards but I acknowledge this to be a matter of personal taste. There is
definitely one component missing in this package (and to the designer's
credit, it is mentioned in small print on the back of the box) - dice.
This game requires two standard 6-sided dice and yet they are missing
from the final package. Why is this?  Dice are not that expensive
(especially if purchased in bulk). One can imagine this game being sold
in Museum gift shops and the like to travelers and what a disappointment
to open the box and not find the necessary dice!  Paper and pencil for
keeping score is easy to come by but I doubt average folk are going to
take dice on vacation with them. The other alternative was to have
random numbers printed on the cards and use them to decide attacks.
Since the deck (draw and discard piles) is useless after a battle is
declared, this wouldn't effect the game in any way. The only drawback
is that with so few cards(40) the random numbers would be few. Anyways,
with an $18.00 price tag, this game should have included dice.

*Comments on Play and Final Thoughts*

The play of the Standard game is fun. Adding the Advanced rules (some
are better than others) gives it more of a traditional wargame feel but
the rule book makes some of them difficult to implement with certainty. 
The 4 Historical battles are a clever idea but gamers can only get a 
feel for them if the Advanced rules are fully implemented.  Having said
that, this is a card game and it truly feels like one!  It's refreshing
to find a card game with an historical theme that actually plays like,
well a card game.  After several draws and discards to reach the desired 
hand, an attack is declared and then some small wargaming elements creep
into the play.  Wargaming elements like choosing which troop cards will 
attack which troop cards and adding some attack factors to be applied
to the die rolls will be familiar to some gamers.  And all of this gives
the game a nice balance.

There is some strategy in this game as many plays have uncovered.  There
is the choice of a defensive position verses an offensive position.  If
you get the "High Ground" card (+1 to all Defender's Cavalry, Infantry
& Artillery Cards), then I'd definitely work my hand into a defensive
arrangement and wait for the other guy to attack (the Longstreet 
strategy).  But if you get a good General like Grant or Lee (+3 
Generalship ratings) then you should usually attack. Attacking gives
you certain advantages.  The first advantage is that the attacker gets
to match up their cards against the defender's cards and maximize troop
abilities.  Also, the attacker gets a "First Attack" +1 bonus to the
dice roll on the first attack of the battle and because the attacker
gets to choose the order of the attacks, this can be a very real
advantage.  Is this actual American Civil War battle strategy?  Well 
maybe and maybe not. It was often the defender who had the advantage 
early in the war but as both sides got better at attacking (and the
Union got more capable Generals), that advantage disappeared. I can live
with the attacker having certain advantages in the game as it doesn't
unbalance the game.  An attacker can be surprised and run up against
some nasty terrain with a good General leading the defending troops.
Even though the play deck is small with only 40 cards, it's smallness
forces quick decisions. If you wait to long and the draw deck runs out,
then the battle is called off and all cards are reshuffled.  I would 
have liked to see a bit more flavor worked into the deck.  Some random
event or special cards would have been interesting.  An example of this
would be something like a "Accidental Battle" card.  Sometimes a skirmish
turned into a battle even though both sides weren't prepared. The moment
this card is drawn, the battle is on and a dice roll determines the
attacker and defender.  Or maybe a "Bad Weather" card which when drawn is
set on the table and all Generalship ratings are modified by -1 for this 
battle. I like flavor in my games and the more the better. The terrain
cards and General cards add some flavor but it would have been nice to
see a bit more. But I'm sure printing cost had something to do with
deck size. 

Overall, this is a nice fast paced little card game that though it has
a few rough edges (card layout and lack of dice), it approaches the
subject and the medium in a fresh way. This is a good beginner's game
for those young gamers first starting out. It's also a quick playing
diversion for the seasoned gamer tired after a long session of chit
stacking or block pushing.  I'd like to see a second edition of the 
game with a few changes and maybe a port of the system to another 
war.  Let's hope that game designer Max Michael is still interested
in this gaming system because it shows great promise.

(c) Gregory Nichols   
This review may not be reprinted without the author's permission.

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Page Last Updated: 4/10/03