Thursday, August 14, 2014


Victory Point Games' Moundbuilders is a solo States of Siege game in which you play a Moundbuilder civilization in the Mississippi Valley through three eras. The first (Hopewell) is purely explore-and-expand, with no conflct; the second (Mississippian) is where you push and are pushed by five neighboring nations such as Shawnee and Natchez; and the final era is when you face the invading Spanish conquistadors. It's rated a 4 of 9 on Complexity, 9 of 9 for Solo Suitability (since that's what it was designed for--there's no 2 player option), and supposed to take 40 minutes to play.

What you get: a paper map; a mounted map which is lasercut into five jigsaw pieces so they stay together; a single counter sheet with six enemy army markers, 25 chiefdom markers, and a few special markers; a Quick Refence sheet; a card deck; a d6; and the rule book. I had a bit of trouble getting the army stand pieces into their bases--they may have swelled a bit due to the humidity--but once I squeezed the tabs a bit with needlenose pliers, they slid right into place. The rule book could have used a bit better design; it's a bit too colorful (with gray boxes, blue text, red text, etc) with the overall effect being that it's not as easy to read as if it werre just black on white. It also takes an extra moment to tell what section you're in--when you open the book it's not "ah, I'm in 9.0", it's more like "I'm in...where is it...oh, 9.0". Not a major issue; if I were motivated, I could just write in the section numbers at the bottom of each page. An index could gave gone on th back of the Quick Refence page. All the other components look good, and the cards are especially nice, with historical fluff text as well as the game mechanics text. This is a low-unit-count game, and should take only a few minutes--mostly separating the cards--to set up and get playing.

For my first game, during the Hopewell era I ended up with Peace Pipes in Dickson, Serpent Mound, Etowah and Poverty Point--the first chiefdom on the Natchez warpath was a 4 and my dice didn't want me expanding down that line or toward the Ho-Chunks. I built mounds at Toltec on the Caddo line, Pinson on the Cherokee line, and Angel, Fort Ancient and Portsmouth on the Shawnee line; resources in my empire include obsidian, chalcedony, mica, copper and pipestone.

During the Mississipian era, I was going to write up a turn-by-turn report, but "moving to the computer and typing up what I did" took longer than each turn did, so I stopped.writing and just played. By judicious use of the Great Sun and attacking where I had advantage, I managed to keep the hostile tribes at bay pretty well.

And then the Spanish arrived, and things went downhill in a hurry. Under Coronado's leadership, they marched up the Mississippi, brushing past the Natchez and only being halted two spaces away from Cahokia. The Cherokee advanced, the Shawnee advanced, the Natchez advanced, eventually even the Ho-Chunks advanced. The Natchez battered the palisades, the Ho-Chunks breached the walls, and the Spanish poured through the breach and wiped out the Moundbuilders. I ended with a score of -3, which is a "Minor Defeat".

Quick play, fairly simple, and tough decisions. Will play again.

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