I received a prototype review copy of 1955: The War of Espionage, which was designed by Kevin Nunn, from Nicholas Vitek at Living World Games. 1995 underwent a successful funding campaign on KickStarter. Living World Games is also an advertiser on Purple Pawn.
1955 is a two-player tactics card game. The board consists of six tracks representing countries. The allegiance marker on each country’s track indicates its allegiance; the goal is to a) move the allegiance marker of the opposing player’s home country to your side of the board, or b) move any three allegiance markers to your side of the board.
Most people playing this game will have already played Z-Man Games’ 1960: The Making of a President, and it’s a nearly perfect description to simply call this game “1960-lite”. Supposing that you haven’t played 1960, the game plays as follows: Each round you play two cards from your hand; at the end of your turn, you draw back up to five cards and may move your spy meeple to any country.
Each card can be played either for its direct influence value, which moves a marker in a country 2-4 steps toward your side of the board, or its special ability. The special abilities can have varying actions, such as moving several different markers 1 step each, moving your or your opponent’s spy, increasing your hand limit, and so on.
Playing a card for its direct influence value is not as simple as it sounds. A card can be played for influence in the country named on the card, or in the country in which your spy is located, or in your home country; however, different rules apply in each of these cases. In some situations, you add or subtract 1 to the influence of the card, and in some situations you may add an additional card to boost the influence value. In addition, when your opponent plays cards for influence, you are allowed to drop as many cards of a certain type as you like to counter his play, but only in your home country or in the country in which your spy is located; again, certain rules apply to boost or subtract from the value.
Exactly when you do each of these things is a little confusing, and I hope they are cleared up by the time the production version of the game rolls off the assembly line.
When you first play, you tend to want to play cards for their direct influence; it looks wasteful to play them in an other way. As you play more, you realize the potential of playing the special abilities. That’s a good thing, because without the special abilities, the game would devolve into a nearly endless game of tug of war. Even with the special abilities, it can occasionally feel like tug of war for a few turns, but someone usually top-decks a card to break the loop. One alleviating effect that the rules provide is to “lock” a marker once it reaches the end of a track, although one card type can unlock it again.
I can’t tell you about the components, since my copy is a prototype. The graphics will be spiffed up, but remain generally the same; I find them to be serviceable. The spy meeple is cute.
70% of the games sent to me to review are pretty bad; 1955 is an exception. It’s a nice two-player strategy game. I wouldn’t call it great, but I enjoy it and would play it again. It takes about 30 minutes to play.