Unhappy King Charles

Unhappy King Charles is an excellent wargame, full of flavour, depth and replayability. Disclaimer: I know Charles Vasey personally, and have a lot of respect for him, but this has not affected this post.

I have played “Unhappy King Charles”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/18748 once over Vassal and three times face to face, but only managed to finish one of the face to face games. I did not want to comment sooner, as this is a deep game and I wanted to get a clear idea of it.

I knew very little about the English Civil War before I played Unhappy King Charles. Andy Daglish recommended Cromwell, the 1971 film about the English Civil War, starring Richard Harris, Alec Guinness and Timothy Dalton. It slips into a pseudo-Western at some points, but the acting is superb, with Richard Harris dominating the screen.

I will not summarise the game mechanics of Unhappy King Charles as the description at the BoardGameGeek is enough.

*Comparison with other CDGs*
Unhappy King Charles’ mechanics are based on We the People, but this game is significantly longer and more complicated. I have played a few card driven wargames and UKC is at a similar level to Shifting Sands and more complicated and longer than War of the Ring or Twilight Struggle. I found UKC a bit more complex than Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, but the rules are much harder to get through – more below.
Length – six hours, but we are slow. I think we could get this down to five hours. Fast, experienced CDG players can get this down to three to four hours.

The rules were the only area where I really think the game could have been better, as they are verbose and hard to read. On the other hand they are very hard to misinterpret and we had almost no rules questions. This is always a tough balance, but they just did not work for my learning style. I considered putting together a concise summary, but real life has intervened. While we were on holiday, my wife read a novel of several hundred pages in almost exactly the same time it took me to parse these rules.

# Read the rules first. I found the playbook tedious and it did not help my understanding much. I never usually read strategy guides, but *do* read Andy Daglish’s hints in the playbook. The learning curve is too great in this game otherwise.
# Print “Andy’s reference sheet”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/39150 – as it clears up some particularly unclear parts of the rules.
# Don’t bother with the counter displays and use normal counter stacks. The counter density in this game is very low, so they are a waste of time.

There is no open front and Unhappy King Charles plays like a swirling WW1 dog-fight. It is the opposite of an Operation Market Garden game or a Battle of the Bulge game, where the gameplay is linear.
The way to win is to concentrate on the control markers and to try to isolate the opposition’s markers for removal.
Counter intuitively, it is usually best to disperse/evade if you are at a disadvantage, as the penalties are very light.

I don’t have room in my life for many games of this intensity and depth, but I am happy I made space for this one. 9/10