Reviewed by Herb Levy

TEXAS GLORY (Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 1-2 hours; $49.99)


Thanks to the efforts of Fess Parker and Walt Disney, kids growing up in the 1950s learned a lot about Texas history watching Davy Crockett battle at the Alamo. Now as adults, they (and other historically minded simulation gamers) can expand their experience with Texas Glory, designed by Tom Dalgliesh, Dan Mings and Carl Willner, as players reenact the entire struggle between Texas and Mexico from 1835-1836 in the latest in the line of Columbia “block” games.

Rather than using cardboard counters or plastic figures, Texas Glory comes with wooden square blocks to represent Texan and Mexican forces as well as raiding Comanches. Blocks come in a variety of types including Leaders (powerful blocks used to activate and command all blocks in its hex AND adjacent hexes; Mexican Leader Santa Ana has a larger command range of TWtexasgloryO hexes), Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery with each having numbers and symbols on it to indicate movement and combat capabilities. There is also a large map of the area, 25 cards, 4 six-sided dice and an 8 page rules booklet.

The unmounted map is printed on heavy stock with a hexagonal-grid overlay and covers Texas from the Gulf of Mexico to the south, Fort Jessep in the east, Laredo to the west and Comanche country to the north. The map also denotes those towns friendly to each side as well as neutral towns and Indian villages. In addition, there are “Holding Boxes” representing areas off-map. Critical, in terms of game play, are the 18 Victory towns on the map, 7 marked with green stars (friendly to the Mexican player) and 11 marked with blue stars (pro-Texan). Red bordered stars indicate Cities that my be besieged (along with The Alamo and Goliad).

As mentioned, the game covers the 1835-1836 campaigns when Texas tried to free itself from Mexican rule and presents three scenarios (1835, 1836 and a campaign that links both). All scenarios follow the same four step game turn procedure: Card Phase, Movement, Combat and Supply.

The 25 cards in the game are valued at 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 Command Points (CPs). In addition, some cards are “events” that affect the character of a turn (such as the activation of the Comanches, an equal opportunity hostile who can be put to use against either Texan or Mexican forces) while others have a “burn” symbol on them. Each player starts the game with 3 of these cards and plays ONE of them face down. The cards are then simultaneously revealed. The player with the highest valued card gains initiative (ties won by the Mexican player) and goes first. (If an Event card is played, that card awards initiative to the player using it and is resolved first regardless of value.)

During the Movement phase, a player may Move or Forage at the cost of 1 CP for 1 Move or 1 Forage. Movement is affected by terrain and other factors (a Forced March, for example, increases a block’s movement rating by one but at a possible cost of a loss of strength, measured in “steps”). Foraging allows a block to regain a maximum of 1 step per game turn. Another option is burning a town, a type of foraging that also costs 1 CP. This requires that a card with a burn symbol be played on that turn. By doing so, a player may burn a friendly Victory Town AND gain 1 step. Alternatively, a player may opt not to gain 1 step and move instead. When a town is burned, it becomes a neutral area with a reduced supply ability. An orange block is placed on the area to show its burned condition.

Combat occurs when enemy blocks meet in a hex and is resolved in a simple, straightforward fashion. Each block may fire, retreat or pass once per Combat Round. The strength of a block (which, in game terms, means how many combat dice may be thrown) is indicated by the number of diamonds displayed on its top edge so that, for example, a block with 4 diamonds is allowed 4 dice in combat. Blocks may be reduced in strength which means they are rotated 90° counterclockwise to a lesser “step” with fewer diamonds. In addition, all blocks have a letter rating (A, B or C) along with a number rating (1, 2 or 3). Blocks rated A attack before those rated B, B before those rated C. The number associated indicates what number rolled lands a hit. So, for example, a block of A3 will attack before B or C blocks and score a hit with a roll of 1, 2 or 3. If, by the third round, the attacker has not defeated the enemy block(s), the attacker MUST retreat but, if successful, the victor may advance to any friendly or neutral hexes adjacent to the battle scene. Defeated blocks are removed from the map. (Enemy artillery, however, if defeated, is considered captured and replaced by an artillery piece of the winning side.) Apart from regular combat, forces may also conduct sieges at the Alamo, Goliad or any City. Forces under siege benefit from a doubling of their defense rating. Both attacking and defending forces may pass or cannonade (using artillery). The attacker may also storm the location (which takes away a defender’s third combat round) while the defender may sally (attack from the besieged city) to try to break the siege. While the defender maintains control of the city for Victory and Supply purposes, the besieger controls the hex for all other purposes. Finally, forces must be supplied.

Each hex is able to supply a certain amount of blocks. A regular hex can supply 2. Settlements increase this support with a City adding 4 to the total. Friendly blocks exceeding the supply can lose (based on a 50-50 die roll) a step. Next comes reinforcements as the Texas player may draw 1 face down block from his Draw Pool and deploys it in a friendly city NOT under siege. The Mexican player has no Draw Pool. His reinforcements go directly into his Holding Box during the Supply phase of turns 1 and 2 to be used in the subsequent Movement phase. After the Supply phase has been finished, both players draw 1 card (to replenish their hands up to 3) and the next game turn begins.

Victory is determined based on scenario played. For example, in the 12 turn 1836 scenario, the Mexican player wins if he the Texan player controls less than 4 Victory towns. The Texan player wins if he manages to eliminate the Santa Ana block OR if the Mexican player fails to meet his objective at the end of the 12th turn.

Block games excel at “fog of war” and it is no different here. Block strengths are only revealed when engaging in combat. Until then, the commanders of each side have to make shrewd guesses as to where enemy strength lies. An advantage to the game is that it sets up quickly and plays quickly too. (It would have been a good idea, however, to include a play aid chart for combat terrain modifiers for each player. As it stands, that chart is only found inside the rules booklet. Players should have easier access to something that fundamental.)

Of the three scenarios provided, 1836 is the most satisfying but no matter which is played, the key to victory lies in being able to maximize efficient card play (and those all important CPs) with Leader activation to give you more “bang for the buck”. The game manages to present the historical choices that the actual combatants faced: the Texans need to decide when to fight and when to withdraw while the Mexicans must determine how cost-effective it is to siege The Alamo and Goliad while keeping in mind the need to maintain control of Victory Cities for an eventual win. One of the main strengths of the game is its balance. Often, winning comes down to the final turn which means that all decisions made during the game affect the outcome and can be pivotal. This also means that a player seemingly in a losing position has ample opportunity to rebound and go on to win. This keeps interest high throughout play.

Texas Glory combines historical accuracy with an ease of play that makes this simulation a worthwhile excursion back in time. – – – – – – Herb Levy

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