|# of Players||2-6|
Piles of plastic pieces. And plenty of ‘em. That’s what I’ve always associated with World War II board games. Growing up, my best friend’s favorite game was Axis & Allies, and mine was Risk. We grew up expecting that, if it’s a wargame, then it’s going to have a million plastic pieces to push around the board as you roll dozens of dice.
That mindset is one of the reasons why I was so very skeptical when I came across the World War II board game Quartermaster General, published by Griggling Games, in which players will command only a handful of units. I mean, how am I supposed to dominate the Pacific Theater with just this? Come on!
Not helping the game’s case is the fact that a Quartermaster General is the staff officer in charge of supplies. What? Are we playing the part of a paper pushing bureaucrat, fighting back the Nazis by stockpiling paperclips?
Needless to say, going into my first game, the odds were stacked against Quartermaster General. Could this minimalist wargame game of supply management possibly succeed, or should it just surrender now before things get ugly? Join me in this overview and review of Quartermaster General, and let’s find out whether or not this game gets its wings.
Quartermaster General is a fast-paced wargame that centers around card play, as opposed to chucking dice. In the game, maintaining your supply lines, while destroying your enemies’, is critical for victory.
Players will take on the role of one or Axis or Allied countries, scoring as many Victory Points as possible each round. After 20 rounds, the coalition with the most Victory Points wins the game.
The primary way Victory Points are earned is by by occupying the starred Supply Spaces on the map. These Supply Spaces are crucial for sustaining your battalion's resources.
There are six factions available to play - Germany, Italy, Japan, The UK, Soviet Union and the United States - and all six are used in every game. So, if you play with fewer than six players, some people will control multiple factions. But each faction plays on its own, separate turn, in a specific order each round.
Actions are performed by playing cards. Each faction has its own, different deck of cards. Some factions have more cards in their deck than others, and each is specialized towards a specific agenda, so keep this in mind when playing each one. Each faction plays with a hand of 7 cards that they draw from their deck.
Unlike other wargames I’ve played, where it’s encouraged to pile as many of your units as possible into each country, in Quartermaster General, each country may only contain one piece per faction. Furthermore, each faction has a limited number of units, and if they’re all on the board, then no more are available. So, managing the strained resources you have at your disposal is critical. Much like… well, yeah, like a Quartermaster General.
Over the course of the game, all units on the board must be able to trace a line of their own faction’s units back to a Supply Space they control. Otherwise, that unit is considered to have had its supply lines cut off, and it is removed from the board.
So, the game requires a little more finesse than just building as many units as possible, wherever possible, and bombarding your enemies’ territory.
The cards in your deck dictate the actions you can take on your turn. Cards are used to build armies, increase the size of your navy, battle at land or sea, trigger an event, prepare a response to an opponent’s strike against you, and even perform economic warfare.
Each faction’s supply of cards is limited. Cards are how you take actions on your turn, but once your deck is exhausted, you’re out of cards and, therefore, out of options. In that scenario, the cardless faction continues playing, but their team begins losing a Victory Point for each time the faction would be required to discard a card, but cannot.
The game can end either when one side has armies stationed in two of their enemies’ Home Spaces, or when one side reaches 400 points. Otherwise, at the end of the twentieth round, the team with more Victory Points wins the war, and the world.
So, as you can see, for someone who grew up on the build and smash strategies of Risk and Axis & Allies, Quartermaster General was quite a different experience. It was almost jarring at first. But did this diminish my enjoyment of the game? Just the opposite.
I really enjoyed it. And my friend, the one raised on Axis & Allies, immediately wanted to play it again, and it’s one of the few games he has asked for by name when we get together.
So, despite being a World War II game that’s different than the norm, actually because of that, I enjoyed Quartermaster General.
However, I think it helps to go into the game with the mindset that it may be a different experience than you’re expecting. And, while the gameplay is fast paced, I think I actually prefer it with two players. The quick turns and synergy between each side’s faction lends itself well to bouncing back and forth between two players who are trying to formulate and enact their overall, yet segmented, strategies.
Also, since the number of cards in each faction’s deck varies, it’s possible that a faction with a smaller deck, such as Italy, could find themselves out of cards before others. I could see how this could cause some frustration when playing Italy with a full compliment of players. Each faction also seems to be geared towards a specific goal. Some factions seem to play more of a support role, while others are designed to be making aggressive moves on the board. Understanding these relationships among the factions is crucial to victory. However, not all players may want to be relegated to a role that specializes in support. This is another aspect of the game that keeps me coming back to it as a two-player game, because that allows each player to do a little bit of everything, instead of being stuck in one particular role.Quartermaster General was one of the most pleasant board gaming surprises I’ve had in recent years. I would highly recommend checking it out, especially if you periodically get that itch for world domination, but don’t always have the time or space for a several hours of moving fistfulls of forces and rounds of rolling dice. It’s earned a permanent spot in my collection, and absolutely gets its wings.