The Chosin Few Review by David Lent
The Chosin Few is a solitaire game that is supposed to simulate the events at the Battle of The Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. You wouldn’t know that this is a solitaire game by looking at the box or the rulebook, as the game does not state the number of players anywhere. I just had to extrapolate the number of players. Frankly, an omission like this on a game put out by a professional game company is surprising. The back of the box doesn’t state the playing time or complexity either. This is information a gamer needs in order to determine whether or not he or she wants to purchase the game. However, the box does have a barcode so it can be scanned when put into a game shop’s inventory or sold at the counter.
This game is won if you successfully complete all three objectives. This begs the question, “Why continue to play after you lose the first or second objective if you can only win if you win all three objectives in a row?” You can lose early though, if your Army or Marine unit loses all its steps.
Chosin Few does have good components. The thick counters are laser-cut and have good artwork. In addition, the Army and Marine units are standup counters that look good. The Chinese military units are colored wooden cubes.
Chosin’s map is a mounted jigsaw map with 4 pieces. It looks nice, but is missing key features from the original battlefield such as the Treadway bridge, Fox Hill and the airstrip at Hagaru. The map is point to point and colored arrows or a dashed line connect the spaces. The dashed lines show the path the Army and Marines may use. Chinese forces must move along the colored arrows. They will use the colored arrow matching the color of the space the US units are on. Otherwise, they use a white arrow. If a cube has multiple legal options, it will move to the space that is closest to the Marine unit. The problem with this is it’s absolutely impossible for a colorblind person to play this game. Modern game designs should use symbols in addition to colors so colorblind people can differentiate components or map features.
The cards included with Chosin have no artwork and simply state the three line of departure points that will get a Chinese reinforcement this turn, what Chinese units move and how many player actions there are. There is absolutely nothing thematic whatsoever about the cards. It would have been really cool if there were cards saying the weather is bad, so the U.S. can’t use airpower this turn, etc. It could have been balanced by having cards that says the Chinese ran out of food and won’t move this turn, etc. There is so much that could have been done thematically with these cards and it’s a tragic lost opportunity. The cards would have been more interesting if they were more variable also. Each card doesn’t have to introduce exactly three Chinese reinforcements. It could have been 2-4 per card and the Chinese movement could have been more variable also. As far as the player actions, they range from 3-5 per card. Anytime a Chinese color moves twice there are 5 U.S. actions. The turns with only 3 U.S. actions really hurt the allied player.
Sequence of Play:
1) Draw a Card
2) New Activity
3) Enemy Movement
4) Player Actions
After you draw a card during the draw card phase, you draw three Chinese reinforcements from a cup and place them on the matching line of departure markers. An interdiction marker could block these. In this case, the cube is not placed.
Next, you move the cubes (Chinese units) matching the colors in the enemy movement area of the card one space determined by the rules I mentioned in the third paragraph. If the color is designated twice in the enemy movement area of the card it moves twice. The player must immediately attack any enemy cube that enters an allied unit’s space. If the attack is successful, the enemy unit retreats to the space it came from. I found that making a house rule that has the enemy unit killed (put back in the cup) instead makes the game winnable about 1/3 of the time. Without this house rule, the game is only winnable about once out of every 30 or 40 times. If the allied unit fails to hit the attacking cube, it loses a step and the enemy unit retreats to the space it came from.
The player may now take the number of player actions designated by the card in play. He can attack for one action, move one unit for two actions or recover a lost step for three points. Attacks take place against an adjacent enemy unit in this phase and if successful the cube is destroyed (put back in the cup). If there are any unspent actions, the player may purchase air support tokens for the cost of one action each.
Air support can be used in one of three ways: interdiction, re-roll or a die roll modifier. Interdiction is the most useful as it can be placed in the action phase and it prevents units from entering or moving out of that space. It’s removed at the end of the next enemy movement phase. Re-rolling a failed attack with an airstrike can be useful, but using an airstrike to add a +1 modifier to a die roll (before the roll is made) felt like a waste of an airstrike, since you may have hit without using it.
The abridged version of the setup is to shuffle the activity cards and then shuffle the second order card into the bottom 5 cards of the deck. Next, look at the first order card to see where the line of departure markers are placed and place them there. The allied units start in “C” and the first order card gives you your objective, which is to take and hold A-1 and B-1.
Chosin Few’s first objective is easy to accomplish. However, it’s mostly just dice rolling and moving your forces to the objectives while purchasing air strikes with any unused action points. There are exactly five legal spaces that your units can use, so that means that there is zero strategy when moving your units. You just move them to the objectives and hold there until the second order is drawn.
The second objective is called “Advance in Another Direction.” It changes the location of one of the line of departures and your new goal is to make it back to space “C”. Again, there are exactly five legal spaces your Army and Marine units can use. The only strategy in this phase is determining when to move, when to fire and when to use an airstrike. This objective phase is more difficult though, since there are more Chinese units on the board. Most of the time, I successfully completed this phase. However, I did get overwhelmed a few times by hordes of Chinese units and lost due to one of my units getting destroyed.
“Breakout” is the third objective and it moves all the enemy line of departures into a pseudo ring around the bottom of the map. You finally are allowed to enter the “D” spaces on the map so you now have a total of 9 spaces you can move on. However, you are only going to use the bottom four spaces as your objective is to breakout to space D-4. When you get here, you don’t win though. You have to wait until the end of the game and try to fend off hordes of Chinese. Sure, strategically placing an interdiction marker will stop a sizable number of them (if you had extra points to buy air power). However, you just don’t have enough action points to fight off all the enemy units. To make matters worse, when both your units are on the same space they don’t get any bonus for being together. Thus, you will only use your action points to have your more powerful Marine unit fight. Once your units start taking damage, you are really screwed since it costs three action points to heal one step and your unit now has to roll higher to hit. Sorry, you aren’t allowed to put every hit on the Army unit to keep the Marine unit strong.
I only won this game legally once and it wasn’t because of any clever tactic I used. Like all the other games, I made judicious use of interdiction during the third phase but I had unbelievably good die rolls. When you only roll less than a 3 twice during a game, you’re going to win.
This game has a lot of issues, but the mechanics of the game are very fun. The issue that harmed this game the most is the absolute lack of game balance. With a win rate of less than 5%, I’m not inclined to keep playing. There’s very little strategy or theme in this game either. It’s like playing a slot machine. You win when you are very lucky and lose otherwise. This is an ok game, but not a good game. That’s tragic, because a game with mechanics this fun could have been an excellent game with proper game balancing, historically chroming the cards and the alteration of a few rules.
Buy your own copy with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2r3xR2o
View the components in the unboxing video below: