Turning Point Review by David Lent
I was at a local game auction a little over a month ago and was perusing the used wargames before the auction started, trying to find ones that were unusual, valuable, unique or suitable for introducing new blood to wargaming. I picked up Turning Point and saw that it had a small rulebook, big counters and a map using squares instead of hexes. What really stood out is the fact that it’s card driven. I immediately suspected that this might be something that I could use as a gateway game to get regular gamers into wargaming. After all, most of us are middle-aged or senior citizens and we need new blood in this hobby to keep it going after we are gone. Fortunately, the bidding wasn’t too competitive and I got it for $14.00
Turning Point has two scenarios that were turning points in the war they were fought in. The Battle of Freeman’s Farm is a relatively simple American Revolutionary War scenario that doesn’t use artillery, cavalry or leaders, making it great for learning the rules. Players get victory points in this scenario for eliminating enemy units or occupying victory point spaces. After playing this scenario, gamers can try The Battle of Lundy’s Lane from the War of 1812. It uses all unit types, but has different cards than the first scenario. This scenario can end early if one side loses 15 battle points. Otherwise, the side that has lost the most battle points by the end of the game loses.
The components for Turning Point are good quality. As mentioned previously, the two maps uses squares instead of hexes and they have the terrain effect chart on them, along with a summary of battle point effects (modifiers). There is also a turn track on the map that shows what units for each side enters per turn and where. However, the rules do not explain reinforcements fully. E.G. what happens if the phasing player does not have enough movement points on his cards to get all reinforcements on the board? Do they remain off board until the next turn or are they out of the game permanently? My opponent and I agreed that any units we couldn’t get on the battlefield during our turn could come in on the next turn. I’m surprised this was caught during play-testing as it came up on turn two.
I was very happy to see that both players get a player aid card which lists the scenario instructions, sequence of play and battle information. Games flow much better when the opponents are not constantly passing charts and rulebooks back and forth and can find all the information they need to play on their very own player aid card.
Cards are what drive Turning Point and they have movement points, battle points and an action listed on them. A player may only use one of these features on his card and then discards it. Some of the special actions a card can do are bringing a reduced unit back to full strength, artillery fire, give bonuses to elite units, increase battle points, counter attack (cancel enemy attack) and rapid move, which lets all of a players units on a road move 5 movement points instead of having to do regular movement.
Each scenario dictates how many cards each side receives per turn. Each turn consists of an indeterminate number of player rounds. The phasing player may use no more than 5 cards during a round. The turn continues until both players have passed or used all their cards. The only exception is if one player uses all his cards, then the other player can only play one more round.
The sequence of play is:
1) Shuffle and deal cards
2) Determine initiative by the player who draws the card with the highest BP
3) The player with initiative passes or plays 1-5 cards in a round
a. Pass or play a card for it’s action or movement points
b. Make up to one attack for each card or group of cards used for the same purpose
c. Continue until you pass or have used all 5 cards for MP, actions or BP
4) Next player passes or plays a round
5) Continue alternating rounds until both players have passed or the players are out of cards
When a card is played for movement, it may be split up between units. The cost to enter squares is on the terrain effects chart. Infantry may use no more than one card for movement. However, cavalry may use multiple cards for movement. There are no zones of control in this game, but the stacking limit is one unit per square. All units have a facing (yes, flank attacks are possible). Units pay one MP to change its facing by one side. No unit can change its facing by more than two sides per round though.
Battles do not use dice in Turning Point; they use battle points to determine who won. Each side first determines their base battle points from their units involved. They then determined multipliers, addition and subtraction of battle points. Terrain can give benefits to the defender and flanking causes the attacker to double battle points. Rear attacks cause the attacker to triple BP. Cards may also be played for their action to affect BP. After this, each player plays cards for their BP. The attacker must stay within his 5-card limit for the round, but the defender does not have to. The player with the most total BP wins the battle.
If the attacker is the winner and has less than twice the BP of the defender, the defender may stay in his square and lose a step or retreat. If there is nowhere to retreat to, the defender is forced to lose a step. As mentioned, there are no zones of control so the defender can literally retreat right in front of an enemy unit legally. This felt taboo, since wargames rarely allow you to do this. If the attacker has double the BP of the defender, then the defender must both retreat and reduce. If the defender wins the battle, nothing happens unless the defender doubled the BP of the attacker. In that case, the attacker must pick one of his attacking units to lose a step.
The most effective tactics in this game are flanking, attacking from the rear and surrounding enemy units. Since attacks that don’t double the defender’s BP only cause him to retreat, it is imperative to use cards, flanking and attacks from the rear to get as much BP as possible to force the defender to lose a step and retreat. If you’re really clever, you can surround the enemy and cause him to lose two steps after you double his BP since he will have nowhere to retreat to.
I really enjoyed playing Turning Point, because the simplicity of the rules combined with the excellent player aid cards allowed me to concentrate on tactics instead of constantly looking up rules like is done in very complex wargames. Constantly trying to find ways to flank, attack from the rear or surround the enemy is what fun wargaming is about. After several games, you’re familiar enough with the cards to know how to best use them and they greatly enhance the overall gaming experience.
Turning Point is a great game for experienced gamers or for new players who have never experienced a wargame before. It even has some solitarie rules, so you can play when an opponent is not available. I wholeheartedly recommend this game and plan on continuing to use it to introduce new gamers to this hobby.
Buy your own copy here.
View the components in the unboxing video below: