Theme and What is it?
It’s post World War II. The Cold War is raging and it is all anyone can do to keep the world from self-destructing. In Leaders, you represent a leader and his nation seeking to keep a balance in the world or to dominate it. This is an app-assisted board game that lets you play as the United States, USSR, France, Germany, United Kingdom, or China vying head-to-head to take control of the world’s destiny.
There are three types of victory in this game: Military, Technical, or Mission. To achieve a Military victory, a country has its military control enough areas on the map that adds up to 95+ Production Points. To achieve a Technical victory, a country must acquire at least Level 2 in the three different Technology categories. To achieve a Mission victory, a country must complete at least 7 missions.
Using the Leaders app, choose number of devices to be used for managing the game, number of players and countries involved, and the general scenario to be run. The players get a set of colored pieces based upon the one selected during setup.
The app will provide guidance as to how to initially seed the game board based upon the player order, country selected, and scenario. There is also the ability to modify the settings for a game/scenario such victory conditions, timers for player turns, special abilities, etc. The multi-device option allows for parallel play to cut down on play time.
In addition to the base game, there are expansions for different countries available for purchase through the app.
Each turn starts with the player entering the number of Production Points into the app, as one of the victory conditions is determined by it. Following this, each player turn has four phases: Withdraw, National Events, Command and Battle, and Headquarters. Some phase results and actions are visible to other players and others are not.
Withdraw phase is where units in excess of one are removed from the game board and Drop Zone, returned to the player’s Base Camp.
National Events phase reports the resolved effects to the player from previous player and opponent (Espionage, completing technologies, achieving missions, etc.).
Command and Battle has the player place units around the board in effort to defend territories, prepare for invasions, and battle other countries.
Headquarters has the player spend his Production Points to acquire new military units, spies, diplomats, technologies, etc.
Starting the game off was more intuitive and had more information than when we played Lost Galaxy, another app-assisted game by Rudy Games. Playing it got easier over time and the app cleared up a bit of the confusion over time. Even app-assisted, the game took my group our usual +1 hour when learning a new game. The customer support for questions and comments was quite prompt (about 24-hr turnaround being I’m in the US and they are in Germany), courteous, and helpful.
Game Build Quality
The major physical components are the game and player boards, dice, player pieces, leader cards, scenario tokens, and the app.
The game-, player boards, and tokens are made from a nice quality, sturdy cardboard. The paper laminate is fused well with the cardboard, they will hold up to a lot of use.
The dice are roughly standard size, made of a lighter wood with rounded corners. The colors used are black, grey, and white. The rounded corners and lack of heft to the dice can lead to them bouncing and rolling all over your table, a dice tower is advised.
Player pieces consist of wooden cubes (generic, found in multiple games) and plastic military units (soldiers, tanks, planes). The quality of the components is good but a number of the pieces need some additional shaving of excess from seams. Count your pieces though, there are a lot of them per player.
The leader cards are decent card stock. Since they aren’t really used other than for reference, they should hold up over time.
The app has a similar quality to that of Lost Galaxy, simple and few controls with the exception of the Headquarters phase. We only noticed a couple of bugs but, like Lost Galaxy, there is a quick and easy means to submit issues to customer support.
The art is well done and evocative of the game’s theme. The game is set during the 1960’s, using the countries’ leaders of the time (Kennedy, Mao, de Gaulle, etc.). The art and player pieces are simple and generic to the time frame. The military-related stuff (logos, font, style) reminds me of plastic toy soldiers from when I was kid. The layout of the game and player boards are not complex, easy to navigate.
The fun factor is based upon the theme of the game, world domination and the Cold War. The variety of victory conditions helps keep players on their toes as a country’s strategy could change at one turn to the next.
Age Range & Weight
Age range states 13+. I would agree based upon the maturity of the theme but wouldn’t necessarily agree based upon the complexity of the game, to me it’s more like 10-11. The weight of the game is mitigated a lot by the app.
This game isn’t very complex once you understand the flow of phases while using the app. The app does most of the heavy lifting for you and manages what my group thought was about 2/3’s of the game. The game and player boards are a physical representation of counting Production Points and the countries’ sphere of control (supporting Military victory), and unit battles with rolling dice (one of the more satisfying aspects of a board game, the tactile element). The remainder of the game (purchasing technology, units, performing other actions like diplomacy and espionage, etc.) is managed within the app – the aspects that lead to the Research or Mission victories. The brief rules card included with the game gives an outline to everything but there are a lot of nuances and fiddly bits within the app, especially in the Headquarters phase that isn’t explained well or easy to find; to become familiar with it all would require a time inside or outside the game tapping all the icons and finding out what they do. I can see the appeal to game as it doesn’t require too much time reading rules, complex setup, etc. so I would say this is a gateway game to other military conquest/world domination games like Risk, Axis and Allies, and other similar games using world maps, military units, territory-based point allocations, etc.