This weekend, I broke out my copy of Comanchería: The Rise and Fall of the Comanche Empire to give it a go. If you don’t know, the game was released in 2016 and is the second game in Joel Toppen’s “First Nations” series. Like its predecessor, Navajo Wars, Comanchería is a solitaire game in which the player plays from the Native American tribe’s point of view.
In Comanchería, the player takes command of the Comanche nation. The player must drive hostile tribes from the southern plains, establish dominance over the region, set up trade networks with both friendly tribes and colonial powers, and finally defend all of this against relentless military and cultural attack.
In my initial game, I was playing the Onto the Plains introductory scenario, which covers the period of 1700-1749, as I wanted to make sure that I got the basics of the game down before I invested any major time into a longer game. In this Action Point, I would like to share with you the various actions that the Comanche can take during their turn. During a players turn in the Sequence of Play, the player can take four separate large categories of actions, including Take Actions, Culture, Planning and Passage of Time. I want to focus on Take Actions, as this generally is the one most often chosen.
During the Take Actions phase, the player has the choice to activate their Bands located in various Ranchería and have their choice of performing the following: Hunt, Move, Raid and Trade. When a Band is activated, they gain Movement Points equal to their movement allowance listed on the counter. In the picture shown above, the 3-4 Band has 4 movement allowance. As long as the player has Movement Points remaining, they can continue to take actions. If a Band contains extra Horses counters, these counters can be sacrificed or used in order to gain one additional Movement Point per counter for that Band but this is not necessarily recommended as you are losing your valuable resources.
Two of the actions that I want to highlight in this post are Hunt and Raid. To Hunt, a player simply equips a Band with a Horses counter (as this Horses counter makes them more movable only requiring one Movement Point to move one space versus not having a Horses counter and requiring two MPs to move one space) and has the option of also bringing along their Mahimiana or Headman as it will make the action more efficient. The Band then must move into a space that is occupied by a Bison counter and simply spends 3 MPs to Hunt and take possession of the counter. If a Band has a Mahimiana, the Hunt action will cost less Movement Points to take, dropping from 3 to 2 MPs. The player then has the option of moving again to another location or using their remaining Movement Points to get back to their Ranchería. Players need to Hunt as they gain the meat that can then be used to Trade for goods with other Allied tribes in order to gain Trade Goods or Food tokens, which can provide a reroll of combat dice during a battle with an opposing War Column or the ability to increase the Ranchería’s population during the use of the Passage of Time action.
In order to Raid other villages or settlements, a player must also equip a Band with Horses and can take along their Mahimiana as well as they will then get to draw additional chits from the draw cup to determine success. The target space has to be an Enemy Space or a Peace Space and the player must expend one MP to initiate a Raid, and when the player enters, they will have to then perform a Success Check by drawing chits blindly from a draw cup which consists of success markers as well as Enemy Action Point markers. The number of chits that may be drawn are determined by the active Band’s strength. In the picture above, the 2 strength Band will allow for two chits to be drawn as a base. If the Band has a Mahimiana counter with it, as the Band pictured does, it will then get an opportunity to draw additional chits, and remember, drawing more chits, can result in more successes but also can provide the AI enemy with additional Action Points. The player will roll a die and then compare the result with the medicine of his Mahimiana. In this example, the Mahimiana’s medicine is a four and I rolled a die and got a result of 1, which is then compared to the medicine and if less than the medicine, you can draw one bonus chit but if less than half, you will be granted an additional bonus chit draw. So, in this example, I was able to draw four chits from the cup for my Success Check and I got 2 Success! chits but also drew a total of 6 Enemy APs that are placed in the Available Enemy APs Box for use later by the AI opponent.
With a successful raid, I decided to draw a Horses counter and a Captives counter to add to my Ranchería’s resources. You will also notice that because I drew at least 1 Success!, I was able to place a Ravaged counter on that village. This is important because one of my victory conditions is to control the Upper Arkansas area, which means I either have to remove all competing villages or make them my allies. In order to remove the villages, you must place 3 Ravaged counters on them due to a specific card, which means multiple successful raids, or if a Ravaged counter remains on a village at the end of a Passage of Time Action then it will be automatically removed. These Success! counters are then placed into the Success box on the Medicine track of the Mahimiana and can be used for improvements later. Also, if the same Band has remaining Movement Points, they can Raid the same village again and with proper planning, this can be done fairly regularly.
As you can see from this game, it is really an interesting resource management puzzle as to which actions to take. You must focus on resource gathering in order to gain more and more powerful resources to be used to either improve Bands or gain additional Bands but also to increase your influence by placing additional Rancherías and removing your enemies from your territory. In the next Action Point, I will take a look at the AI Enemy Instruction Display, which is one of the more ingenious and well designed engines I have seen in a solo game.