Nevsky is a wargame about the age old struggle between Latin Teutonic and Orthodox Russian powers along the Baltic frontier of the mid-thirteenth century. The game is the first entry in a new series called the Levy & Campaign Series which focuses on pre-industrial age conflicts and, as you can see from the name of the series, requires players to focus on some of the logistics aspects of warfare including providing for the payment and feeding of your vassals and their troops as well as planning out the length of service of your hirelings. This game is a very new experience for me as we had to think differently about how to go about prosecuting a war in a foreign land where you are far from your supply sources and have only a limited time to accomplish your goals before your time is up.
In Action Point 1, we covered the Service Calendar and Levy Phase as well as some of the actions that players can undertake. In Action Point 2, we examined the Command Deck and how this simple mechanic sets the tone for the game. In this Action Point, we will take a look at the Arts of War cards that contain both Events and Capabilities and bring some very important special abilities to your forces.
Arts of War Cards
Similar to the Command cards, each side has its own deck of Arts of War cards. These cards are multi-use cards as each is divided into an upper Event section and a lower Capability section. Only one of the different parts can be used on each of the cards.
Here is an example of a Teutonic Arts of War card called Tverdilo/Warrior Monks. You will notice that the Event on the top has a few symbols shown on the left and right of the card. The symbols on the left represent the Coats of Arms of the various Lords available to the Teutonic player and are shown here to identify that this Event will only be allowed to be played if one of those two Lords are present. You will also notice that on the right side of the Event part of the card is a +2 in the middle of a shield icon. This coincides with the text of the Event and adds +2 Lordship for this turn.
The Events on the cards typically provide the players with an immediate effect or temporary benefit for the current turn. These Arts of War cards are drawn at the outset of the Levy Phase.
On the lower part of the card is the Capability which is a benefit that is longer lasting than a single turn or battle. Once again the symbols on the card show the Lords Coat of Arms that can utilize the Capability. As shown on the card, sometimes the Capability will attach to an individual Lord but no one Lord can ever have more that one Capability in play. If they have a Capability and drawn a more useful Capability they must sacrifice their currently attached card. In this example, the Warrior Monks allows the player to re-roll one of their Knight’s Armor during each Archery and Melee step. This is a very powerful ability and can make a difference between losing or saving one of your Knights.
The great thing about these multi-use cards is that it boils down to a choice of when to play certain Events and when to utilize the Capabilities. If a card is played for the Event, the Capability on the bottom of the card will be lost until the card is recycled back into the deck. And if the card is played for the Capability then that Event will be unable to be played until the Capability is discarded or ends and returns to the discard pile to be recycled at a later point.
No Event/No Capability
There are three cards in each players Arts of War decks that will provide no effect if drawn. These cards are called No Event/No Capability cards and are intended to provide fewer options to the player on the turn when the cards are drawn. There are a total of 21 cards in each players’ Arts of War decks so with three of these No Event/No Capability cards they will be drawn. Just hope that you don’t draw more than one in an single hand as I have done.
During the Levy Phase at the outset of each 40 Days period, each player will draw two random Arts of War cards from their deck for either the Event or the Capability. If it is the Levy for the scenario’s first 40 Days, the Teutonic player followed by the Russian player each will draw two Arts of War cards. These cards have to be deployed as Capabilities during this first turn. If the players draw a No Event/No Capability card or drawn a card that names a specific Lord that currently is not Mustered, then the player will not be able to play that Capability and will simply miss out this turn.
If it is the second or any later Levy, the Teutonic then the Russian player each draws and implements two cards’ Events in the order that they draw them. As was the case with the Capabilities, a No Event/No Capability card means you don’t get an Event for that card this turn. There are two different types of these Event cards, including Events that go into effect immediately and cards that the player is instructed to Hold to play when the condition is met.
Shown in the picture below are two of these types of cards. With Bountiful Harvest, the Russian player will get to immediately remove 1 Ravaged marker from one of their areas. This is a very good Event as it takes away 1/2 VP from the Teutonic player. The other shown Event card is one that is to be held onto for the entire turn. This Marsh card may be held when Defending in a non-Winter Battle and it gives a very good ability in that the attacking Teutonic Horse do not get to Strike during the first two rounds of combat. They have effectively become spectators and will allow the defending Rus to get a few attacks in to eliminate other attacking units before the Horse get into the battle.
Let’s take a look at a few key Capability cards for each of the Rus and Teutons.
The Rus Capability cards that you will want to focus on are Archbishopric, Smerdi, Baltic Sea Trade and Black Sea Trade.
Archbishopric is a key capability for the Rus as it gives each of your Mustered Lords one extra Command value. This simply translates to more actions available to each of your Lords and the more you can do the more Victory Points you will score and areas you can protect.
Black Sea Trade and Baltic Sea Trade are very good for the Russians as extra Coin is always good to pay your Lords with. Black Sea Trade is better as it is harder for the Teutons to affect than Baltic Sea Trade.
Finally, Smerdi gives you access to free disposable troops when you are planning to get into a Battle or to Storm a castle.
For the Teutons, I would suggest you look for William of Modena, Treaty of Stensby and Balistarii.
William of Modena is very important as it gives you two extra abilities in one. You can get an extra Command for one of your Mustered Lords or you can use it to bring in a Lord without making a successful Fealty roll. Extra actions are always good as mentioned above and if the dice are typically unkind you can make sure to be able to Muster those lower Fealty Lords.
Treaty of Stensby is very important only if you have Mustered Heinrich or Knud & Abel. Both of these Lords have low Command values (Heinrich has a 1 and Knud & Abel) so changing these to 2 and 3 respectively is very important and makes these Lords more important to your strategy.
Finally, Balistarii is a very good combat oriented Capability as it allows your Men-at-Arms to be archers and hit your targets easier by overcoming their armor. There are other combat Capabilities like this but this is my favorite one.
Adding Capabilities during the Muster Phase is extremely important as they give you so much flexibility and added powers. They typically turn your pedestrian forces into real killers and specific Capabilities and Events can change your fate if you plan appropriately. There is that word planning again. It really is a game that you must pay attention each round and understand what you need to do in order to be successful. Once you identify your goal, look for those Arts of War cards that will enhance your ability to accomplish that goal. Then watch as you make progress against your enemy and make him pay for his lack of planning.
In Action Point 4, we will dive into the Campaign Phase taking a look at various units and dive into an example of Battle.
Also, if you are interested, we posted an interview with the designer on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2018/07/09/interview-with-volko-ruhnke-designer-of-nevsky-teutons-and-rus-in-collision-1240-1242-from-gmt-games/