04th Jul2018

‘Alexander’s Campaign’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

alex-campaign-box

If you’ve been longing to recreate the historic conquest of Alexander The Great’s epic career on your own tabletop, then Alexander’s Campaign may well have you covered. That said, if you were hoping for a full on war game featuring the iconic elephants, hoplites and chariots that characterise the popular view of warfare at the time, Alexander’s Campaign is more about the friendly rivalry between some of Alexander’s Generals, who each seek to win his favour with their exploits both on and off the field of battle.

The game is very simple and is played by two or three players, lasting around an hour or so on average. A single pawn representing Alexander moves along a set path which lists an exhaustive lists of settlements visited (and often conquered) by Alexander’s army. On each turn, the players use a hand of army tiles that represent cavalry, archers and hoplites, with which they can claim locations on Alexander’s behalf, which scores them points. They may also build cities, fortifications and temples on the board in order to increase the amount of points that a location is worth.

There are a few considerations to make when attacking locations, primarily because some locations are stronger than others and a single die roll is often used to determine the outcome of combat. Failure to use each of the specific army tiles a sufficient times over the course of the journey will displease Alexander (who clearly appreciates a combined arms strategy) and result in a reduction in points. Each player is also secretly dealt a “shopping list” of locations to conquer, which will affect decision making accordingly.

Because Alexander moves just one space at a time (under normal circumstances) you might think that players have little control over their destiny. Thankfully, the archery card allows players to skip forward a space, whilst the cavalry card allows two successive attacks, both of which are methods to change the pace of Alexander’s pawn in order to influence which cities you conquer. This is important, because conquering six of the eight cities on your own secret card will result in instant victory! At the appropriate time, a player may choose to tax the province Alexander is in, which allows her to retrieve the army tokens that she has spent so far.

The gameplay in Alexander’s Campaign is very light and extremely fast. The way in which players must use their army tokens wisely in order to control the speed of Alexander’s advance is an interesting concept, although because it is fairly uncommon among other games, it is best taught by example. I also particularly like that players are incentivised to build different kinds of structure to enhance their scoring, but must spend their tokens to do so – this can sometimes be done for free following a successful conquest (such as when a hoplite is used) but build a temple, for example, is quite an investment.

The fact that players need to balance spending their tokens on building (to score points) and on different kinds of conquest (in order to avoid losing points at the end of the game) is a really neat feature, although as with controlling the Alexander pawn, it is better of demonstrated rather than discussed. The speed of the game does enable two or more play troughs in a single session, however, so anyone who feels they were inadequately prepared for the game will quickly have chance to set the record straight.

Whilst I was initially disappointed to realise that the game only supports three players, that is clearly a matter of pacing and a conscious decision. With more than three players, it would be impossible to control the pace of Alexander’s pawn effectively, which I expect could lead to frustration because players could be inadvertently closed out of the game. By contrast, I found that when playing head to head, the game could be a little bit too easy to predict, so I would personally recommend the game for exactly three players – which is fantastic given that three is often a challenging number to factor in to a games night.

The board and all components in Alexander’s Campaign are solid and well made, with colours and iconography that match the theme, although if I were being harsh I could suggest that the palette is rather muted. Importantly because of their relevance to scoring, city locations are very clearly marked and stand out nicely on the board. There are several generals to choose from (including three from a bundled mini expansion) and each has a special ability that is unique and further varies the experience.

Overall, I think Alexander’s Campaign is a fun, fast and relatively unique game that does a fantastic job of representing the great man both at a military level and also by demonstrating his interest in building, trading and so on. You will need to “imagine” some elements of the theme, but it is nonetheless present and correct. Despite not delivering the war game I migth have wanted, Alexander’s Campaign delivers something else – a fantastic and unusual take on the age old points make prizes kind of game.

***½  3.5/5

A copy of Alexander’s Campaign was provided for review by Alcyon Creative.

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