A Few Acres of Snow
Time: ~80 minutes
Times Played: 8+
A Few Acres of Snow is a two-player game that pits the British against the French in the Québec and New England regions as they vie for control during the French and Indian War. Designed by Martin Wallace, this is a two-player deck builder that features a slow burn through your cards as you’re not forced to use them all each turn or discard them at the end of the round. But don’t be confused, this is also an area control game at heart and there are a few strategies one can take to ensure that their armies emerge victorious.
To start, one player takes the French side of the board (Blue) and the other takes the British side (Red). Players will sit facing one another on opposite ends of the board. There are colored square locations that are settlements, which will be indicated by cubes and colored circle locations, which are cities and will be designated with discs.
Each player is given a Core deck of cards to start the game. There is also an Empire deck that can be drawn from and a Location deck that grants a player cards when they settle on a location on the map. Lastly, there is a shared green deck that both players have access to. This deck contains Native Americans, Fortification cards, and Settlers, all with varying abilities.
The decks are asymmetrical as the British cards feature more Settler and Ship emblems and the French cards feature the Bateau symbol.
The deck building aspect of this game tends to be compared to Dominion more often than not. I unfortunately have never played Dominion so I cannot compare the two. I guess they’re both deck builders?
But basically, the idea is to manage the deck of cards available through drafting and gaining new cards. When cards are bought and obtained, they are added to the discard pile and when your current hand is exhausted, you reshuffle and those new cards are mixed with your old cards and added to your deck.
A Few Acres of Snow features a Reserve area, where you can place cards (for a cost) that can be stored for later. The game also includes a few cards that help players deal with the luck of the draw, such as “Governor”, which lets you remove one or two cards from your deck permanently.
The cards themselves allow you multiple options. While this is a ‘wargame’, there are also peaceful actions to take such as expanding, settling, and trading. But there are also the conflict specific actions such as raiding, sieges, fortifications, and ambushes. Some cards have multiples uses and create the crux of the decision making for the game. Do you play it now to clear space for a better card you are waiting for or do you hold on to it, hoping to create a combo with another card? The cards are the decision making of the game and will dictate the strategy taken.
The game ends when a certain number of settlements have been built or captured. There are points based on raids, sieges, and settlements as well. The player with the most points is the victor.
The first few games will take a upwards of a hundred minutes to get accustomed to the strategy of the game. I don’t think this could be streamlined to an hour but I’m sure someone somewhere will prove me wrong. Our plays sat at a comfortable eighty minute mark.
Learning the game wasn’t terribly difficult. There was not a lot of set-up and the rules are fairly clear. After a few plays, we did not need to consult the rulebook for any clarifications.
A Few Acres of Snow didn’t really ‘click’ for us until the third playthrough. It’s not overly complex or difficulty to learn but the nuances of strategy and making optimal plays weren’t known on our first or second playthrough. There were many instances of “I should not have done that” or “ugh, I wish I had that card” that were mitigated with increased playthroughs.
I really enjoyed the artwork for the game. The components were your typical wooden cubs and plastic chits but I thought the art was beautiful. The images on the board and cards really set the tone for the time period and what kind of game this was going to be.
The board design is great as well. On an initial look, you might think that the map portion is too small compared to the size of the board but I feel that it works perfectly. There is space for everything and helps keep track of the cards coming in and going out of each players hands. I personally loved having designated spaces for the different piles of cards as it really helped us learn the game.
We’ve never been the biggest fan of deck builders but A Few Acres of Snow had enough going on that it’s not just a deck builder, which intrigued us. We are both history buffs and at the time of purchase, had enjoyed other games with a historical background.
With all that being said, A Few Acres of Snow did not resonate with us. This is a deck building (duh) direct conflict game where you’re basically trying to ruin the other players plan and their deck by throwing what you can at them. Normally, this is exactly the type of game that we would be looking for but the interaction often led to stagnation. If one side went with a military strategy it almost forced the other side to as well, which then led to thick decks of plodding military actions where you hope to catch a glimpse of a card that lets you do something, anything, else.
Defense and attacking are where the stagnation really appears, particularly following successful defences. You and your opponent are just cycling through cards, possibly changing one or two just to have another shot at taking a region on the map.
For the differing play styles, there didn’t appear to be many different options. I cannot say that Ambushes were ever fully utilized and Raids, while great on the surface, rarely came to fruition as players would mirror one another.
This game also tries to merge two genres and fails to capture the audience of either. For war gamers, this is not a war game at heart. I never felt like I was playing tug-of-war for control and influence of any regions with any great strategy but instead, just rehashing what had already been done.
It also doesn’t ever really feel like a war game. I think it’s a game with military elements but if players go into this with a certain frame of mind, they will be disappointed. Which is the same for eurogamers, as this game comes down to player interaction. Do you like/want player interaction? Are you okay with destroying someone else’s work and/or having your own messed up?
If this game could cut down thirty minutes of play time and be played in under an hour I would like it a little more but it still wouldn’t see the table. Nothing really pops from this game. It sat on my shelf for years and was only played when a friend asked to see what it was about. Nothing about it jumps out and screams ‘play me!’
There is also the issue of the Halifax Hammer (which has since been resolved with an errata). Basically, the British player would settle Halifax and trim their deck to eight cards utilizing the reserve action. This would allow them to draw the same eight cards over and over again as they marched on Louisborg and Québec, thus putting them in prime position to win the game. It was the most optimal strategy and Martin Wallace even admitted that the game was broken, which is disheartening. This has been corrected in updated rulebooks but its worth noting as it typically comes up in any discussion about the game.
A Few Acres of Snow is currently out of print and I wouldn’t say is worth tracking down. We just traded our copy this past weekend as it didn’t see the table in almost a year and I’d rather someone else enjoy it. It’s a great concept but just didn’t work for us.