If you are a fan of the French Revolution, then this is a game for you. It is a game that can be enjoyed on a number of different levels, being historical immersion, war game, and something akin to a tower defense game. It is the second iPad implementation brought to us by Victory Point Games, who previously brought to us Loot and Scoot. Like their previous entry, this has a heavy emphasis on dice rolling, which increasing the amount of chance that is relevant to the game and reduces opportunities for strategy. That being said – and I’ve said this before – it is fundamentally a game about war and therefore the ability to eschew chance entirely is perhaps unrealistic. Your enjoyment of this will depend on whether you think entries like this should be more about maximising opportunities as they present themselves, or being able to execute a long-term strategic plan.
As mentioned above, the context for this game is the French Revolution in the 18th Century. You are commanding the republican army and are trying to fend off the forces of the incumbent monarchy and other forces who would impose a dictatorship. This balance is measured on a track to the right, representing the relative power of these three factions (republicanism, monarchy, and despotism). There are benefits to how high your faction is in comparison to the others, and the difference between the two is relevant to the score at the end of the game.
The main thrust of the game centres around Paris, and five armies are bearing down on Paris in an attempt to claim the state for themselves (including the Vendee army, the Prussians, the British, and the Austrians). Each of their tracks allows five spaces before they can successfully launch an attack on Paris itself. If at any point at the end of the turn, a hostile force occupies Paris, you have lost. If you manage to keep these forces outside of Paris by the end of the game (a predetermined number of turns), then you win!
Turn by turn, you will have an historical event, which will determine certain environmental effects. These effects can range from pushing up or down on the relevant track the strength of the three factions, push armies forward (and sometimes back) and other things that will undoubtedly hinder your efforts. You can than execute a number of different actions, which will mostly be meeting the enemy forces on the field. Their combat strength is on a scale of 1-5 based on various factors. You roll a die and hope you roll higher.
It is also important to note that this is a solitaire game. There is no opponent, no artificial intelligence or second player. It’s you as the general opposing forces from all sides, and the board reacting to pre-determined responses. It is advertised as being suitable for a group or classroom cooperative activity, and for that perhaps there’s some merit. I remain skeptical of edutainment in most circumstances however. If you don’t like history there is clearly going to be a limited level of interest in this game.
Levee en Masse is a tight little package of a game. Everything fits quite nicely onto the main game screen and all parts of the game are accessible through an intuitive user interface even if it does try to cram far too much stuff onto the one screen. The graphics work well, even if they aren’t the most polished around. The basic animations give a bit of joi de vivre to the battles.
Additionally, even though the game has a high level of immersion into the French Revolution, if you’re anyway aware of this history and some of the ways the revolution unfolded than the necessary surprises that form this game have much less impact. After a few plays you’ll learn to anticipate certain cards, their effects, and plan accordingly. However, they do allow for a bit of diversity in being able to play in non-historic order.
6/10: A great game for history buffs, but the variety and novelty wears of reasonably quickly.Levee en Masse,