Review of 2 de Mayo

Review Summary
Comped Playtest Review
Written Review

November 4, 2009

by: Shannon Appelcline

Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)

An elegant and thoughtful asymmetrical wargame that plays in just 30 minutes.

Shannon Appelcline has written 688 reviews, with average style of 4.03 and average substance of 3.84 The reviewer's previous review was of The Empire's Legacy.

This review has been read 4191 times.

Product Summary
Name: 2 de Mayo
Publisher: Gryphon Games
Line: 2-Player Gryphon Games
Author: Daniel Val
Category: Board/Tactical Game

Cost: $29.99
Year: 2009

Review of 2 de Mayo
2 de Mayo is a short asymmetrical wargame by Daniel Val, recently released in a second edition by Gryphon Games.

Players: 2
Playing TIme: 30 minutes

The Components

2 de Mayo comes with:

Board: A small, 2-panel linen-textured board depicting Madrid in 1808. It's all done in shades of brown, which makes it look nicely period. There are 21 spaces on the board, representing different areas of the city. Tiny colored squares within those spaces remind you of where to place starting cubes, but they're small enough that they don't detract from your game during play.

Cubes: 41 wooden cubes: 30 blue, 10 red, and 1 unpainted. These are for the French troops, the Spanish troops, and the turn marker.

Cards: 25 sturdy cards, all printed on linen-textured stock. 22 of them are event cards, split into a deck of 11 for each player. These are all attractively laid out with a fair amount of text and period pictures.

There's also one card that's used as a turn track and another two which each list the phases of the game--and cleverly have mini-maps on the back, so that you can consult them when writing orders without having to crane around the map, move cubes, or otherwise give away what you're doing.

Order Pad: Finally, you get a nice, hefty pad of paper, with each side neatly divided into ten turns, so it's easy not only for each player to write down his orders, but also to remember exactly how many turns have gone by.

I usually include theming in my analysis of Style. Though 2 de Mayo is somewhat abstract, it's also got tons of color. The special rules for how each side moves, the victory conditions, and the special cards all really detail the conflict that was fought in Madrid on 2 de Mayo, 1808.

On their own, the components have good beauty, very good quality, and very good utility. When you add on the great theming of the game, 2 de Mayo earns a full "5" out of "5" for Style.

The Gameplay

If you're the French in 2 de Mayo, the object of the game is to kill all the Spaniards, control the entrances to the city of Madrid, and not take too many casualties, all by the end of turn 10. If you're the Spanish, you try not to prevent these things from happening.

Setup: The board is laid out and 9 French cubes and 8 Spanish cubes are scattered about the city of Madrid. 20 more French cubes are placed outside the entrances to the city, but can't be brought in until turn 3.

Order of Play: There are 10 turns, each of which has four phases:

  1. Preparation Phase
  2. Orders Phase
  3. Movement Phase
  4. Resolution Phase

Preparation Phase: During this phase, each player may draw an event card from their deck. These cards allow a variety of special possibilities, such as extra moves, extra strength in combat, new cubes, etc.

On the first turn, each player instead gets a specific card: the Spanish player gets a card which allows him to get out of one battle (and later retreat), while the French player either gets a card that gives him the opportunity to split the board in two (for the most part) or that allows him extra commands.

These cards may be played at various times over the course of the rest of the game. Note that a player can typically expect to see 10 out of the 11 cards in his deck if he wants to, meaning there's very little luck except in the order in which the cards appear.

There's also a mechanism which allows one player to stop drawing cards and thus (eventually) prevent the other player from doing so too. Presumably it's used by the player who's doing better and doesn't think he needs the extra boost from the cards.

Orders Phase: Each player writes down orders, which are movements of cubes from one space to an adjacent space. Each side has some specific rules:

The Spanish player:

  1. May write as many orders as he wants.
  2. May never split up a group of cubes.
  3. May retreat from an enemy-occupied space by leaving behind half of his cubes.

The French player:

  1. May only write two orders, plus as many orders as he wants for troops leaving three specific spaces (14, 15, 16).
  2. May split up his groups, and in fact may dynamically decide how many cubes to move for any order in the Movement phase.
  3. May never retreat from an enemy-occupied space.
  4. May bring his four groups of 5 cubes from the off-board spaces, using normal orders (meaning from that limited set of two) starting on turn 3.

Movement Phase: Now the players reveal their orders and do all of their movement, typically starting with the Spanish player, since there are no real choices in his moves.

If someone wrote illegal moves, they're punished. Otherwise the moves are all conducted. They're simultaneous, so there's no chaining of moves or any concerns if one force moved into a space and another out. The only special case comes when two opposing groups were trying to move into each others' squares; in this case, only the group with more pieces gets to move.

Resolution Phase: Finally, the players see who got killed in any spaces where there are both colors of cubes. If one force has more cubes, his opponent loses one cube. If that force has twice as many, his opponent loses two. Etc.

Ending the Game: The game ends after ten rounds of play.

The French win if:

Otherwise, the Spanish win.

Relationships to Other Games

As I noted at the start of this review, 2 de Mayo is an asymmetrical wargame. It's a pretty classic example of the genre, with two forces that have very different capabilities and very different goals. Unlike most of the genre, it's a very quick game.

I also find 2 de Mayo a curious mixture of abstract and themed. On the one hand, the movement of the cubes around the board is very abstract, as are the combats. On the other hand, the asymmetry and the individual cards are very well themed.

Also as noted, this is the second edition of the game. The components are definitely an upgrade from the previous edition, though there are no major changes. The biggest difference is that the cards are now full sized and pretty easy to read. I found them pretty illegible in the first edition because of the smaller size and my aging eyes. In addition, the cards are very sturdy in this second edition, where they were a bit flimsy in the first. The order pad is one other element that was added in this new edition, and it's yet another nice addition.

The Game Design

Generally, 2 de Mayo is a clever and thoughtful game. Its biggest advantage is certainly the fact that it's a very fast play that still has a good level of strategy in it.

I think it's the asymmetry that introduces the most interest in the game, because it requires you to play in very different ways, either dodging amidst the streets, sometimes forming up into mobs to try and take down the French (if you're Spanish), or else trying to pummel the city into submission with pure force of numbers (if you're French).

Pretty much all of the moving parts in this game add something to it. The sharp ten-turn deadline, for example, keeps things moving (by keeping the French moving). Meanwhile, the simultaneous movement system keeps both players on their toes, and introduces a bit of double-guessing (that remains interesting thanks to the constraints introduced by the French player's limited moves and the constraints introduced to the Spanish as they start combining their cubes and thus reducing the number of groups they have).

If you're looking for a relatively short two-player filler that nonetheless has a huge amount of bite in it for the time, 2 de Mayo is your game. I've given it a high "4" out of "5" for Substance.


2 de Mayo is a very clever asymmetrical filler of a wargame that can be played in just 30 minutes, yet has tons of depth to plumb during that time period.

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