That all changed this past weekend. Looking through my bookshelf of games we were trying to decide what game we should try and relearn. We just needed a break from Command & Colors Ancients (which is our favorite game at the moment). We were also looking for a game we could play by email using vassal. I was trying to push my friend into GMT's "Elusive Victory" as we had played "Downtown" before but he felt it too complicated for the moment. My friend has always had a love for Pike and Musket period and happened to see "Thirty Years War" on the shelf and said let's play that. At first I tried to talk him out of it but was not successful and I am glad I did not.
This is a strategic point to point movement game using strategy cards to resolve your movements. The map is colorful and it comes with both 1/2' (leaders and game markers) & 5/8' counters (troops), and each side gets it's own draw deck that are nicely designed. Basically the componets and map are what you have come to expect from GMT games. The rules are 32 pages, but really about 20 is what needs to be read and the print is of moderate size so takes up more pages. We basically set the game up and read the rules on the fly. I was really surprised at how easy they were to pick up on, but this could have something to do with us having played other point to point movement card driven games. The game box rates complexity at 4 (out of 10, being hardest) and I would have to agree. The rules are simple and well written for understanding. In about 3 hours we had muddled through about 6 turns (a turn represents two years of real time, and is sub divided into 6 activation phases, each player getting 6 activations with Protestant player going before Catholic player). I believe once you have an understanding of how to play, you could expect to play all 15 turns in 3 to 4 hours. You have three choices on how to play. Early War Turns 1 through 5. Intervention Turns 6 through 8. Apocalypse Turns 10 through 14. Each with a clearly defined setup and special rules (like what cards to take out of the deck etc.). Finally you can play the campaign game which is all 15 Turns.
We had a blast playing the game, so much so we are currently playing by email through vassal. So mission accomplished. I believe that the game has a lot of replayablity with you being able to try out different strategies. Lastly the grognard player of the Thirty Years War may not like it for lacking more in depth rules, but that's not what this game is about.
Simple to play, gets you into the flavor of the period. So much so I went out and picked up GMT's Musket and Pike series game "Nothing Gained but Glory". While not directly about the 30 years war, it will be a good stepping stone to a tactical game on how warfare was carried out for the period. If it's a good system there are several other games in the series that cover the English civil war, and several about the 30 years war. I shall give a review of the system in the near future.
Below is a picture of the game Early War setup.
I should also mention that I found myself wanting to read more about the period. Looking at the games sources I found a recommended book on the period called "The Thirty Years War, by C.V. Wedgwood" and plan on picking that one up. I'll let you know what I like or don't like about it.