- Learning time
- 30 minutes
- First play time
- 80 minutes
Brave Little Belgium tells a story from the early days of WWI, when German forces marched across neutral Belgium to invade France and the host country – with some help from the French and British – resisted. In reality German forces won the day, but in Brave Little Belgium one player (the Belgian forces and Allies) has the opportunity to try and prevent this happening.
The board (actually paper) shows a map of Belgium with routes between various locations. Set up sees you place several wooden chits – representing forces – in certain locations for the German, Belgian, French and British forces, before the Belgian Civil Guard are also added: using dice and a chart to assign them randomly. The chits representing Generals for each army (plus some event chits) are thrown into a bowl along with three Turn End chits. Play takes place over 5-7 rounds with players – it doesn’t matter who – randomly pulling a chit from the bowl. If it’s an event, it’s placed in the Pulled Chits box on the board and can be used later. If it’s a General, then the army that General commands is activated – it can move across the map (Cavalry moves quicker than Infantry, so can charge ahead), spend un-used Event chits, and engage in combat:
Combat is simple: both sides roll for damage, and if you roll the number (or higher) on the chit, it inflicts a hit: enemy chits get flipped over and – if they don’t die instantly – their capacity to inflict damage lessens. Previously-flipped chits are eliminated if they flip again. The player who inflicted the least hits must retreat – unless they are in a Fort (Liege, Namur, Antwerp) in which case they are considered besieged and can stay in the Fort. There are one or two other rules for siege combat, but essentially the tactical movement and combat is the nub of the game.
As soon as the third Turn End chit is drawn the round is over. However any German generals that didn’t activate during the round now have the opportunity to do so anyway: the risk being (50-50 on a die roll) that you may cause an Atrocity as a result. Causing five atrocities over the course of the game is terrible for the perception of Germany around the world and results in instant defeat.
As rounds continue more chits are added to the bag as French and British commanders get involved in the scene, and a fourth German general arrives. The German side has three victory conditions which are to eliminate the Forts at Liege and Namur, and get at least one Infantry unit over the Victory line along the western end of the map. If they achieve this at any point in round five, they win instantly. If they do so in round six or seven, it’s a draw. If the Allies can hold out until the end of round seven, then it’s an Allied victory.
The guru's verdict
Exceedingly low, if not entirely absent. You're engaged even when it's not your turn as you need to be watchful as to what the enemy is up to.
The rules are actually fairly light - especially for a war game - and the burning is of a tactical nature: trying to anticipate the German manoeuvres for the Allies, and to break through the line of defences for the Germans.
The goal is always the same but there's randomness in both the set-up and the dice rolls, which occasionally throw up spectacular skirmish results. The rulebook also has some variant set-ups to help give variety to repeat plays. But the game-play mechanism (pulling random chits from a bowl) gives Brave Little Belgium an unpredictable tension as well.