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GrogHeads Reviews Quartermaster General: Air Marshal Expansion

What’s in the first expansion from Griggling Games’ epic WWII game? ~

Michael Eckenfels, 30 June 2016

click images to enlarge

QMG-AM-1 Cover

In June of 2015, I reviewed a unique board game called Quartermaster General. Ian Brody designed a rather unique game, in that where most World War II games add logistics almost as a second thought to their game’s mechanics, Quartermaster General instead made logistics the centerpiece. Players would draw and husband cards to play to place armies in connecting countries, and navies in connecting ocean spaces, to conquer and deny territory to the other players. It brought a lot of chess-like qualities to a World War II-themed game, and was quite enjoyable. The game is very easy to teach; the task of knowing the timing of card play is its most challenging aspect, and really the heart of the fun of the game (as you can play cards for yourself, but you can also interrupt others’ play, too!).

(Ed note: we also talked with the designer at Origins!)

QMG-AM-2 Back

 

The developer, Griggling Games, released an expansion called Air Marshal shortly after its parent game. The main game itself only loosely simulated the air war, arguably a rather important part of the conflict, logistics or no. In some cases, expansions can add too little or too much to the core game, and often feel like a shameless money grab. In this case, Air Marshal adds a lot of goodness to the base game.

You can go to the above link to read my review of Quartermaster General; so, instead of getting into details of how the base game works, I will only speak to how the expansion adds to it.

QMG-AM-4 Cards

The biggest addition, in my opinion, are the Bolster Cards. These add a huge dimension to the game, albeit at the cost of needing to discard cards from a player’s hand. Usually they allow you to deploy extra units to the board at certain moments in the game (and only those moments); usually, these let you do this near the end of your turn – something that the base game did not allow for, in most cases. This adds a big dimension to spreading your (or curtailing others’) expansion efforts.

 

The down side is that you have to discard cards to get it to happen. Sometimes it’s just one card, but in some cases it requires a hefty investment. For example, the Soviet Union’s Bolster cards usually requires discarding a Build Army card. For the Soviet player, this is usually mitigated by the fact that you’re deploying an Army to the board, but there are often larger costs involved. This is the case in, for example, the Soviet’s ‘Partisans’ Bolster card, which allows the Soviet player to place an Army in or adjacent to the Moscow space on the board…but it costs one Build Army card and “two other cards” to do so. Desperate times usually call for such a thing, but it does give you a plethora of extra options.

 

QMG-AM-3 Contents

Importantly, Bolster cards are only used as reactions; they’re not used as normal ‘play’ cards (players must play at least one card during their turn). However, they can be discarded to meet that requirement, if a player wants – you just don’t get the benefit of what’s on the card, if you choose to do that.

 

One other thing on cards…it’s a rather random mechanic, and some people really do not like that. I’ve not met many wargamers that have an issue with randomness (being the dice-rollers that we are), so this isn’t that big a deal. Your war effort in Quartermaster General is limited to the luck of the draw, of course, and while there are no ‘bad’ cards, getting everything BUT what you need at that moment is a real possibility.

 

The next big thing this expansion adds are, of course, the Air Force pieces themselves. Eleven total are added and each of the six powers in the game get at least one (Italy and the Soviet Union only get one each). Three powers get two Air Force pieces (Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom), and only one gets three Air Forces (the United States).

 

The Deploy Air Force card lets you put these into play, into a space where you already have a supplied Army or Navy piece. You can actually move these pieces, too, at the cost of discarding a card from your hand. There is no limit to the number of spaces it can move if you do that, though, which offers some flexibility for placing these.

 

Air Force pieces are, unfortunately, not much more than damage-soakers. A player that has an Air Force piece in the same space as one of their own Army or Navy pieces can choose to lose the Air Force piece if that space is battled by an enemy player, in lieu of losing the Army or Navy piece (and therefore, losing the space!). If, however, the battling (attacking) player has an Air Force piece themselves in an adjacent space, they can choose to sacrifice their own Air Force piece to mitigate the defender doing so, and will cause that defending Army piece to be eliminated, and win the space for the attacker.

QMG-AM-Planes

I say “unfortunately” because this gave me the impression that it would give your country a lot more power on the attack…and technically, it does, IF the enemy has an Air Force itself. Otherwise, it’s a defensive piece, used to absorb the damage from an enemy player putting a Land or Sea Battle card into play. It’s certainly not a bad thing to have an extra bit of peace of mind on the board, especially in a very important land space. Often, though, players will find their Air Force pieces going to the same place – such as Germany sending theirs to the Eastern Front to mitigate the Soviet player’s own Air Forces.

 

This is where the ‘luck’ factor of drawing the right cards, at the right time, can be critical. For example, if the Soviets have their Air Force piece on the board, facing the Germans, and the Germans do not have any Air Forces in play, the Germans are going to have a bad time trying to take land in Russia…unless they have their own Air Force pieces in play. The other side of the coin is exactly the same, but perhaps a bit worse; if the Germans have both their Air Forces facing Russia, and the Russian player cannot for the life of them draw a Deploy Air Force card, the Russian player is going to find it very hard to remove Germany from their territory. In cases like this, it’s very important for each side to take advantage of these kinds of situations, so the United Kingdom and/or United States should try to put pressure on Germany in this same way, if possible.

QMG-AM-5 Rules

These are what the Air Marshal expansion brings to the table with Quartermaster General. Accordingly, the excellent rules (large print, colorful and clear design) are restructured to reflect the new additions to the game. Plenty of examples are given to very clearly show how each new concept is used, and this makes it so easy to immediately integrate the expansion into the base game. I really do like this expansion for what it adds to the base game, the main thing being new strategies and dimensions. If you own Quartermaster General and enjoy it, owning the Air Marshal expansion will double your enjoyment of the base game.


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