Game Name: A Blood Red Banner – The Alamo
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Designer: Richard Trevino
Artist: Tim Allen
Players: Solitaire game
Playing time: 15 to 20 minutes
Do you have what it takes to withstand the siege? Defend the Alamo and wave your flag of victory in A Blood-Red Banner!
Those are the tag lines for Victory Point Games latest entry into their Battlesson series although it is also advertised as part of their States of Siege line as well. I would consider A Blood Red Banner to be the most introductory of SoS titles currently available and might be one which some gamers may look at to give either series a shot. VPG is well known for their titles focusing on solitaire play and here we have another addition to their collection of solo games.
Set up takes no more than a couple of minutes as there are only a handful of counters to lay out and twenty four event cards to shuffle. The map is a representation of the Alamo as well as the routes of attack the Mexican columns may take. The rules are very simple and only consist of two pages which need to be digested and an average game shouldn’t last more than fifteen to twenty minutes.
Gameplay breaks down into flipping an event card and moving the Mexican attack column (or columns) as is indicated on the card. Mexican units begin off board and each is placed the first time their counter appears on the event card. The counter is placed in the number four box of a randomly determined attack route. Each time the counter appears again on a subsequent event card that column will move one, or sometimes two, boxes closer to the walls of the Alamo.
If a Mexican column reaches the walls of the Alamo, a die must be rolled to determine if the attackers have stormed and taken that section of the defenses. If the attackers take the center square (representing the mission itself) the game immediately ends.
Since this is a solitaire game, the player takes on the role of the Texian defenders of the Alamo. The defenders are represented by counters of the three heroes of the Alamo: Davey Crockett, William Travis, and Jim Bowie. Crockett and Travis are available from the beginning of the game while Bowie is included as an optional rule and is only activated once a Mexican unit successfully storms a section of the walls. The rest of the fighters manning the walls of the Alamo are abstracted as attack rolls.
The Texian phase takes place after the Mexican columns move and attempt to storm the walls.
Each hero counter may either move to an adjacent square or perform an attack. The defenders also receive either one or two attacks as determined by the current event card in play. Heros may only attack a Mexican column adjacent to them and connected to that defensive location by a dashed line or a solid blue arrow. Defender attack rolls can be made against any column located on a number three (or lower) space on an attack route. If a hero or defender attack roll succeeds then the target column retreats to the next highest box on the route.
Victory (although the Alamo will eventually fall regardless of the defenders’ actions) is determined by the number of event cards remaining in the deck when the mission is captured. Two or fewer cards indicates a Texian moral victory while more than two cards left in the deck will indicate various levels of Mexican victory.
At the end of the day, I think the subject matter of A Blood Red Banner defeats the enjoyment of the game right from the beginning. The Alamo will fall and there’s no way to create any sort of historical simulation that reflects another outcome. Add to this the fact that most gamers don’t find delaying actions the most exciting scenarios to take on and the battle for the Alamo is more exciting in theory as opposed to execution…
Honestly, there really isn’t much for the player to do outside of possibly moving a hero from time to time and choosing which Mexican columns to attack in order to slow down the advance – you won’t find much decision making taking place during the game. You’ll just roll some dice and wait for the inevitable fall of the Alamo. This doesn’t make for much of a gaming experience as you truly feel the game is playing you as opposed to making choices that impact any important outcomes.
Unfortunately, as with any game company worth its salt, there will come a release that’s a surprising let down and A Blood Red Banner is one of those instances. Sorry to say it’s the first Victory Point Games title I cannot recommend. As I mentioned at the start, this is the most introductory of games (thus the Battlesson tag) along the lines of the States of Siege system and some gamers might look to try out either series (or VPG itself) with this release. For those gamers I’d like to point them in the direction of other VPG titles such as Zulus on the Ramparts, The Lost Cause, or We Must Tell the Emperor as shining examples of the excellent gameplay normally found in the SoS series.