Reviewed by Chris Kovac

DAYS OF IRE: BUDAPEST 1956 (Cloud Island Games/Mr. B Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $64.95)


Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 is a semi abstract simulation of the seven crucial days in Budapest of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for one to four players created by Mihaly Vincze, David Turczi and Katalin Nimmerfroh. The game can be played either cooperatively (using Zhukhov rules) where everyone play revolutionaries against a pre-programmed General Zhukov deck or as a one vs many game (using the conflict rules set) where one player plays the Soviets vs the other players playing the revolutionaries.  My review covers the one vs many rules set though I will mention my thoughts on the cooperative version later.

To start, layout the board which shows the eleven key locations in the city connected by movement lines.  Each location has two spaces (the left side for Soviet units and the right for revolutionary units).  You use the separate setup rulebook to set up the game for either rules set as well as the rules set for the appropriate type of game. The board also has three tracks which are used to chart turns, morale and support.  One of the three clear markers are put on the initial starting space of each track (first day of the turn and on the white space of the morale and support track).  Next, the green fighter markers minus the three tank units (can be brought into the game via events) are mixed face down and two are placed per location space.  One is turned over and is active while the second remains face down and is marked with an inactive marker. 

The Soviet units are separated into snipers, militia and tanks with military units placed as shown by symbols on their respective starting locations.  Red star areas show where Soviet reinforcements can come in.  The revolutionary players then put their player marker on the start spaces marked on the board (varies with the number of players) and receives five starting cards from the revolutionary deck.  Now an event deck has to be created.

All events are divided into 1, 2, 3 and x (minor) events.  A certain number of x events are shuffled into each of the three numbered decks and the deck is stacked according to number (three on the bottom, then twos and ones on top).  The first six event cards are drawn and placed face up across the board in the event market slots from left to right.  Headline cards are also separated into three decks (1 day of revolution, 2 armed uprising, 3 the turning tide) and shuffled.  The Soviet player starts with four cards from the day of revolution deck.   You can now start the game.

Each turn is one day and consists of a Soviet phase, a revolutionary phase and a State Protection Authority(SPA) phase, each with its own sub phases.

There are five sub phases in the Soviet Phase.  The first phase is the headline phase where the Soviet player can play any number of headline cards held in hand.  Headline cards shows a number of command points in a colored background at the top left corner of the card.  In the middle is a named event section and on the bottom a number of icons which tell how the card can be played and its duration.  The Soviet player can use a headline card either for the command points or for the event.  If played for command points, the event is ignored unless the colored number background is green then the event occurs since it helps the revolutionary players (the Soviet player has the option of discarding these cards).  If played for the headline, the card effect is put into play with the icons showing how long the effect is in play.  On some headline cards, there is an SPA icon with a number which allows you to get back a certain number of cards from the SPA discard deck (more on this later). 

The second sub phase is the event step where the Soviet player can buy events from the event market.  The cards can cost from 0-2 command points.  Event cards usually have a location where they can be placed and up to two events can be placed per location.  They may have a placement bonus (units, morale boost, etc.) for the Soviet side and/or a resolution bonus for the revolutionary side.  Major event cards can replace existing minor events. 

The third sub phase is the support step where the Soviet player discards played headline cards for events and draws headline cards equal to the support level on the support rack.  The color of the calendar space tells you from which headline deck you draw.  Spaces with two colors allow you to draw cards from the event deck of either color.  The last day on the calendar track is special and no new headline cards are drawn.

The final sub phase involves replenishing the event cards in the market place.  The Soviet player can keep two events which were not bought this round putting them into the lowest cost slots then replenishing the market with new event cards.

The second phase is the revolutionary phase.  Each revolutionary player gets a set number of turns based on how many there are.  The players can choose from essentially seven different actions and movement:

  1. Movement which does not cost an action is where players can move from one interconnected space to another (via movement lines) for free.  To move more than one space a player must discard one revolutionary card per extra space. A revolutionary player may move up to two active fighters with him when he moves. Movement can be done before actions have been done.
  2. Give or take cards from another revolutionary player in the same space
  3. Resolve an active event card on a location space.  In order to resolve an event on a location space where a revolutionary is that player must have the resource icons (information, medical, Molotov, food, ammo or vehicle) shown on the resolution part of the event card from revolutionary cards or fighter markers.  The revolutionary cards are discarded and any effects from resolving the event are applied (getting new units, removing soviet units, moving the morale marker on the morale track, etc.).  It is important to resolve as many events as possible during the course of the game since by the last turn if there are five or more unresolved events the revolutionary players lose the game.
  4. Activate an inactive fighter marker on a revolutionaries’ markers location. These fighter markers give the player special abilities and usually a resource which can be used to resolve event cards.
  5. Use either a fighter’s markers special ability or play a revolutionary card for its special effect rather than resources shown on the card.
  6. Attack militia units in a player’s location.  Each militia can be eliminated by playing a revolutionary card or having a fighter marker with an ammo token on it.  If you attack three militia in a single attack you get a bonus revolutionary card.
  7. Destroy a tank. You can destroy a tank by spending cards and/or having fighter markers with three Molotov icons.  Destroying tank shifts the morale two spaces towards the green (revolutionary) side of the morale track.  Tanks attack revolutionary players if they perform an action in the same location as a tank.  The tanks roll a dice and on roll of one to three inflict a damage on a revolutionary player.  The revolutionary player must either remove a barricade marker created by playing certain revolutionary cards), eliminate a fighter marker or take a wound marker. 

After all players have performed their actions, the revolutionary players will receive new revolutionary cards equal to the morale level.  These cards are then divided up among the revolutionary players face down and added to their hands.

The third and final phase is that of the State Protection forces (SPA) of Hungary in which the sniper and militia markers on the board are added to, moved and used to attack the revolutionary players.  The Soviet player has a deck of SPA cards and can play any number of them on a turn or he can recover all played spa cards.  These cards are then resolved in order of play.  These cards allow the Soviet player to move militia or move snipers up to three spaces (or multiple units one or two spaces), place new militia on reinforcement locations (up to two) and attack revolutionary players when they are in the same space as the militia units.  Barricades created by the revolutionary player through the play of revolutionary cards can hinder the movement of the Soviet units.  To attack, the Soviet player adds up all the strength of units in an attacking space (one point for militia units and three for snipers) then rolls two dice.  If the lowest of the two numbers rolled is below the total strength value, one hit is inflicted on the revolutionary player. If both dice are below the total strength value, then two hits are suffered by the revolutionary player.

The game can end in two ways: either at the end of seven rounds when if there are five or more events currently unresolved on the board, the Soviet player wins, five or less the revolutionary players win) OR immediately if any revolutionary player is killed (i.e. receives four wounds) or if the morale track drops to below zero in which case the Soviet player wins OR if, at any time, no tanks or militia units on the board by the end of the revolutionary phase whereby the revolutionary players earn an immediate victory. 

In the cooperative version of the game where you play revolutionary players against a programmed general Zhukov deck, Soviet actions are handled by a somewhat complex procedure where cards determine what the Soviet player does.  I felt that version of the game OK to learn about how to play the game or if you wished to play the game solitaire but the one against many version was more fun to play.

This game does resemble to some degree games like Twilight Struggle or the COIN system of counter insurgency games but is unique in its approach to this historical event which not widely known to most North Americans and the rule book does have extensive historical notes on the events portrayed in the game. However, the game does suffer from a variety of issues. 

First the game is very fiddly and you have to keep careful track of what deck you are drawing cards from and when especially for the Soviet player. Second, if you are playing the revolutionary players you only get four actions regardless of the number of players in the game.  With three and four players, some participants get fewer actions than others.  In order to make the game playable we had to make a house rule that all players got two actions.  Third, the rules tended to be poorly worded and a bit disorganized having a separate setup booklet which had some rules and then separate rule sets for the two different game modes. This  meant a lot of shifting back and forth between rule books. Also, the setup booklet mentioned a number of promo components which are NOT included in the base game which was somewhat annoying.  (Why include rules form components you do not have?) 

For the Soviet player to win,  he must strategically place units and event cards to make sure the revolutionaries cannot accomplish their winning conditions.  For the revolutionary players, efficiently using their cards and fighters to quickly resolve events and keep morale high to make sure you have enough revolutionary cards to resolve events in future turns is essential.

I found Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 to be a somewhat complex game which will really only appeal to dedicated gamers or gamers interested in this historical period.  Even though I liked certain aspects of this game, with its current flaws and somewhat awkward game play, I can only give this a 7.5 out of 10. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

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