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 *Overview* "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. Examples:
*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. *Components* 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