A Few Acres of Snow published in 2011 by Treefrog Games is our most influential game from that year. I can’t lie. I did not want to select this game. In fact, I originally wrote the whole post about None But Heroes from MMP because it launched the Line of Battle series which I love. However, that would be self-serving and ignore a game that appears to have been more influential than many at the time would give it credit.
A Few Acres of Snow (AFAS hereafter) was a unique deck-building game centered around the conflict between France and England in Canada. It won the 2011 Golden Geek Best Wargame and was recognized as a 2011 Charles S. Roberts Best Ancient to Napoleonic Era Board Wargame Nominee. Many games win awards. Most of those games are influential in the year they were published from a hype, player interest, or marketing standpoint. Few games set the tone for things to come and coupled with our 2010 game Labyrinth: The War On Terror 2001 – ? it is evident why AFAS still matters today.
Your Deckbuilder Got in My ConSim!
Your ConSim got in my Deckbuilder! In fact, it was a bit of both in this eternal debate. A Few Acres of Snow provided much more than a look at just the military conflict between England and France, particularly in Canada. Players were tasked with building an empire that also included Euro/4X tasks such as establishing colonies. The Dominion-esque card-builder mechanic was still the rage in 2011 and Martin Wallace brought it out of the painted on theme world most deckbuilders had relied upon and tried to plant it within the context of a historical conflict.
The game went beyond that though and established a Card Driven Game (CDG) component as well that layered multiple actions/choices upon each card which upped the wargame street-cred as well with a familiar looking point-to-point map.
Without question this was an animal not so much of a different stripe, but of a totally new species which demanded study and attention.
The Halifax Hammer
The game wasn’t problem free by any means. Fairly quickly, players began to notice an unbeatable strategy dubbed “The Halifax Hamer” that chased players away from the game (in may cases before they’d even played it). The game subsequently received a 2nd Edition that fixed these issues. This was done namely by removing one of the essential cards that facilitated the Hammer strategy.
A Few Acres of Snow’s Legacy
Critically, the game has left a significant legacy for gamers. Most obvious are the pseudo-descendants of this mashup that include:
Less obvious is the formidable breach the game made in the invisible wall between ConSim and Euro. Mechanically, this game proved that there was a broader world to explore in the way we consider conflict simulations. This has been proven out time and again by designs such as the Counterinsurgency (COIN) series, Nevsky, Churchill, Pericles and Ft. Sumter for just the GMT Games that come to mind.
We don’t need to pigeonhole ConSims. People are going to play the games they like the most. The debate over the perceived link between mechanics and the ConSim title are frequent, fierce, and inconclusive. In 2011, however, this was still quite fresh. The whole semantic argument about what constitutes a ConSim seemed like a weekly or monthly debate on BoardGameGeeks’ forums…whereas now it’s only bi-monthly(?)…
The truth is that A Few Acres of Snow demonstrated the power of blending ConSim aesthetic and topics with unqiue Euro-centric mechanics. It would be easy to gild the lily as we look back nine years. The game was flawed, some would say deeply, but this series of articles isn’t about priceless gems. It’s about innovative games that stand the test of time and 2011 was a jam-packed year.
I mentioned None But Heroes in the introduction, but the reality is that as good as Line of Battle is and as many great detailed monster games as that series has produced in the past decade, it’s really only a very good game. har har
Instead, I would say that a game like Sekigahara that also came out in 2011 deserves at least mention in this article. Sekigahara took a unique approach to block games and to a historical conflict only rarely seen in ConSims and made it universally accessible. The game was easy enough to do a tutorial video and relevant enough in 2019 that Watch it Played dedicated a video to it!
We also got Space Empire 4X which marked a significant return to Sci-Fi wargaming after it was long relegated to the Amarillo Design Bureau games of the world by 2011. Other notable titles included another Jim Krohn game Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles from Worthington Publishing which launched a refreshing new tactical wargame look at WW2. The most niche, but notable of the bunch would be Phillip Saban’s highly prized Lost Battles: Forty Battles & Campaigns of the Ancient World.
The niche nature of these games, though each is notable in its own right, fails to live up to the foreshadowing of what the remainder of the 2010’s would become for ConSims like Martin Wallace’s A Few Acres of Snow.