Review by David Lent
Comanchería The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire is a very detailed solitaire game about making political and cultural decisions for the Comanche Empire from the time they entered the Southern Plains until the end of The Red River War in 1875. This game consists of four historical periods and each scenario takes place during one or more of those periods. In each historical period, the player strives to meet that period’s victory check objective. In addition, the player must keep both their cultural and military points above zero or suffer instant defeat.
The components for Comanchería are good quality. There is a map, counters, dice, cards, a rulebook and a playbook.
The mounted map is huge and uses a point-to-point system with 6 areas, each consisting of 6 spaces. There are different types of line connections between spaces. Solid lines can be crossed by anything, but dashed lines cannot be crossed by colonial war columns and colored lines are used by enemy subjugate and settle events. The right side of the map has the Enemy Instruction Display which is the AI used to control the enemy.
Comanchería’s counters look good and are reasonably big and thick. They consist of informational markers, events, Rancherias (your base camps), enemy settlements, tribes, war columns and band counters (Comanche warriors).
There are four types of cards in Comanchería: history, development, culture and war cards. The history cards have an enemy action table, which determines what enemy will activate, the victory objective and a special rule that is only used while the card is in play. Development cards have special rules that either go into effect when the card is revealed or when the card is purchased into a player’s hand. Culture cards are either brought into play by a scenario setup or by purchasing them during Passage of Time. There are 3 levels of these cards and you cannot purchase a higher-level card unless you have the lower level card. These provide persistent effects during game play. War cards dictate enemy movement and have special rules that apply while the card is face-up in the war events box.
Normally, in my reviews I explain the rules in a pretty detailed fashion. Comanchería will be an exception to that, because it is extremely detailed and as such I will only give a broad overview of the rules instead of a detailed explanation. The sequence of play has four phases. They are the War Column Phase, Operations Selection Phase, Operation Execution Phase and Operation Cleanup Phase.
In the War Column Phase, a war card controls the enemy movement and combat occurs when the war column enters a space with one of your bands or an allied tribe. In addition, attrition can occur on a war column that doesn’t have combat if you roll less than the war columns strength. What’s really dangerous about war columns is they can destroy Rancherias and reduce your military points. Remember; if your military or cultural points fall to zero you lose.
During the operations selection phase, you choose either: Take Actions, Culture, Planning or Passage of Time. I’m only going to list the major things that happen during these operations. Take Actions allows your bands to use their movement points to hunt, move, raid or trade. Culture allows you to increase culture points, but increases the likelihood that you must do a Passage of Time. Planning might increase your Mahimiana or Paraibo’s medicine value and in addition your Paraibo may get a headman action. Headman actions can be used to increase action points, buy development cards, return success counters to the draw cup or convert culture points into military points. After that, you can move your Rancherias. Passage of Time allows you to create new units, strengthen units, place a new Rancheria and purchase culture cards.
Some of the actions you do in this game cause you to do a success check. Success checks can cause enemy action points to be drawn. Enemy action points are later used by the enemy to “pay” for actions.
The possible enemy actions are ally, culture attack, encroach, hunt, peace, raid, recover, settle, subjugate and war. Comanchería uses the enemy action display to control the enemy turn. When it’s time for the enemy to use their points they roll a dice and check the history card to see what enemy force activates. After that, they roll to see which action chit is flipped over for that enemy force. Action points are used to “pay” the action point cost of the events from the top down and they are resolved. The used chits are moved to the inactive side of the display. Once there are not enough action points to use any more events the remaining events are moved to the top of the display and starting from the bottom of the inactive display, those chits are moved to fill in the empty spaces from top to bottom. This provides a more random order of executing events than just drawing them from a cup.
The first two scenarios in Comanchería are relatively easy and are won by area control and moving a Rancheria to another area, The later scenarios range from moderate difficultly to extremely difficult. The first scenario is used with the tutorial in the play book to help you learn the game.
GMT lists this game as a complexity of 4, but I think that is too low. Fort Sumter has a complexity of 4 and can be learned in less than two hours. Comanchería has a steep learning curve and I had to read the rules, play the tutorial in the playbook and watch the author’s videos on Youtube to really learn how to play the game. The rulebook is well written and the player aid cards are very useful, but the rules and mechanics are completely different than any other wargame I have played, so only a little bit of my decades of wargaming experience helped me learn this game.
Comanchería is a fun to play solitaire game once you figure out how to play it and some aspects of it are really clever such as the AI. It’s nearly impossible for any two games to be nearly the same, so it has really high re-playability. However, I think the players who would really appreciate it the most are intermediate and advanced wargamers who like super detailed thematic games and most importantly are willing to put in a serious investment of time to learn this game. Casual wargamers would be better served by a solitaire game that is easier to learn. This is really a game for the top tier of wargamers and not novices.
Buy your own copy here.
See the components in the unboxing video below: