I have been very excited to get some wargames on the table, and Vijayanagara seemed like a great one to start with, because it looked to play very well solo (it includes solo bots, after all), and because it is about a section of history I basically know nothing about. After reading the background history included, and then reading up on assorted topics related to the game's subject matter, I set it up, and was ready to play.

A brief word about this game, some of which I may have already covered in the recent unboxing article. This is the first game in GMT's Irregular Combat Series, which shares a lot of bones with their COIN series. The game is driven by cards that provide turn order, but taking certain choices makes you ineligible to play the following turn. The provided playbook also provides additional historical information for each card, so I will be using the opportunity, as I play solo, to read up on the history of each card as it comes up.

Game at setup

I decided to play the Bahmani Kingdom (the blue pieces). Per the playbook, the Delhi Sultanate (grey and black) is the most difficult faction to play, followed by the Bahmani, so for my first game, I opted to play the 'mid-difficulty' faction. This also lets me interact with both of the (bot) factions, which will give me insight into how they play effectively- useful for when I manage to play this with friends.

As the Bahmani, I score victory points by adding my Deccan influence (track on the lower left) to the number of forts in play (blue circular pieces on the left) to the total Prosperity of provinces I control (which is zero at the start of the game). I win if I end with more points than the other two factions, only one of which starts with any- the Delhi Sultanate, starting with 18 points (their total will drop as we wrest control of provinces from them).

The first card flip was card #17, Sufi Shaikh Relocates. This card gave me the first choice for the turn, and I opted to take the event, which gives me one additional Deccan influence (bringing me to one victory point) and allows me to remove up to five Delhi Sultanate pieces wherever I have a Bahmani piece. At this point, the only provinces where we co-exist are Madhyadesh and Gujarat, so I remove what I can from there, a total of three pieces.

The Vijayanagara Empire (yellow pieces) gets the next choice, and after flipping through the bot system, chooses Command + Decree, spending down to 0 resources, if possible. The decree chosen is Compel, which adds two Rajas (yellow hexagons) to Gondwana.

Vijayanagara adds two Amirs

Moving further through the flowchart, Vijayanagara elects to Rally using Place Rajas. This ends up putting five more Rajas on the board, at a cost of four resources.

Vijayanagara spreads out

Seeing that makes me feel a little envious- maybe I should have spent my turn putting more pieces on the board, too. Ah well.

Moving on, with most of the choices taken, the Delhi bot elects to do a Limited Command (a command that can only affect a single location) and chooses Govern. They don't have great choices, with no Governors (black hexagons) co-existing with enemy pieces, so instead just place a Qasbah (black circle) in Malwa. This will make their ability to Conscript forces more effective later.

End of first turn

With the Vijayanagara bot and I ineligible the following turn, the Delhi Sultanate gets the only option of playing with the next card, Hindu Kush Mountains (#11). The Delhi bot almost never plays the event, and instead elects to do a Command + Decree, and after going through the selection process, ends up choosing to Collect Tribute as its Decree, generating nine resources, and following up with a Conscript Command in up to six spaces. Going through the selection process, on the handy chart, the Delhi bot adds Troops (grey cubes) to Delhi (five Troops), Andhra (two), Malwa (two), Punjab (one), Gujarat (one), and Tamilakam (one). With that, their turn is complete.

End of second turn

Next card up is Siege of Warangal (#6). The Vijayanagara bot is the first eligible faction listed, and rolls too high to take the event, so elects to do a Command + Decree. The Decree chosen is Build, and a temple is built in Karnataka.

The Command chosen is Migrate, and the bot elects to do it only once, moving three Rajas into Madhyadesh.

I am starting to add visual aids to show exactly what is going on, is that helpful?

As part of this, the Vij bot chooses to shift influence away from Bahmani, and end their turn at 2 VPs, dropping me down to 0.

On my turn, I see that the Event has the Stay Eligible description (meaning, obviously, I can stay eligible on the next card). I elect to take it, which removes the tributary marker in Gondwana, puts two Amirs there, and gives me control (putting me at 1 VP to end the turn).

Next card up is our first Mongol Invasion (Vij control). Even in a three-player game, the Mongols represent a non-player entity that threatens Delhi, and therefore specifically the Delhi Sultanate. Each time this card comes up, either the Bahmani or Vijayanagara player gets to control the Mongol (reddish-brown) pieces for two actions. In this case, Vijayanagara gets control, and elects to Amass twice (this results in six units placed into the Passes, with two of them overflowing into Punjab). If they activate again before Delhi can deal with them, this is going to be quite the blow to the Sultanate.

Next card is Bara Gazi Toph (#30). I have the first choice, and elect to do a Command + Decree, to get some more pieces on the board. My Command is to Rally, adding two pieces apiece into Maharashtra and Gondwana (costing me two resources), and then I use the Decree to build a fort in Gondwana (this gives me a victory point, and makes my units harder to take down in combat). I think I would have preferred to Migrate, in order to spread out, but I felt like more units on the table would give me more options on my next opportunity to play.

The Delhi Sultanate bot chooses the Event, as it is a Stay Eligible event that can change the board state. It provides a free attack (with no counterattack), which they perform in Punjab. They roll a one, two, three, and four, inflicting four hits, more than enough to clear Punjab of Mongol units.

Next card is The Hare and the Hounds (#32). The Vijayanagara bot goes first, and elect to take the event, going up by 1 Deccan influence, then replaces my Amirs in Maharashtra and Gujarat with Rajas, ending up at three total VPs, while remaining eligible for the next card.

The Delhi Sultanate chooses to do a Command + Decree, and elects to Govern, placing Governors (black hexagonal pieces) in Gujarat, Andhra, Tamilakam, and Madhyadesh, following up with the Collect Tribute decree, providing them eight resources and two more cavalry tokens.

Next card up is the second Mongol Invasion card of this Succession period, and it is under my control this time. I first choose to Amass, adding more Mongol cubes onto the board, and then I choose to Attack & Plunder in the Mountain Passes, hoping to remove some Delhi troops from the board, and cut into their resources.

The Mongols roll a five, three, three, and a one on their attack, and the Delhi Sultanate rolls a five and a three. The number of pieces in an area determines if you succeed, so currently, with four pieces in the Mountain Passes, the Mongols only have three successes (and the Sultanate has zero). However, each side has cavalry tokens that can be used to either modify an individual roll down one, or screen (remove) an opposing hit (unless the hit was a one on the dice). The Mongols use their (always present) cavalry token to convert a five to a four, providing four hits, and the Delhi Sultanate use their cavalry token to change a three to a two, resulting in one hit. The pieces are removed on each side, and with three Mongol pieces remaining, the Delhi Sultanate loses three resources to plunder.

Next card is The Raichur Doab (#31), and I am the only eligible player for this one. I choose to do a Command + Decree. My command is to Migrate, moving my pieces around. For the cost of four resources, I move two Amirs from Gondwana to Bengal, one from Madhyadesh to Orissa, and two from Maharashtra to Andhra. I also spend one additional resource to improve my Deccan influence by one (and drop the Vijayanagara's by one). I then choose the Trade decree, gaining six resources and two cavalry tokens. I'm feeling rather good about that turn, at least.

And finally, to end this article, the first Succession card comes up. These three cards come up in a specific order every game, provide an immediate benefit to each player, and help provide a good indication of the time remaining in the game (the game will end within two to eight cards after the third succession card comes up). This first card is the Zenith of the Delhi Sultanate. First thing to note, is that now both the Vijayanagara bot and I can start taking the Rebel command, fighting to take control of provinces from the Delhi Sultanate (the one I have results from an Event card, not a player choice). Then, each faction gets a brief boon:

- The Delhi Sultanate bot gets a free Campaign and moves a bunch of troops and a Governor into Orissa.

- I gain two cavalry tokens.

- The Vijayanagara bot gains two resources.

And with that, the first period of the game is over. The Delhi Sultanate is still clearly in command of the score, but with so many of our pieces on the board, the Vij bot and I are going to start making some noise in the next period, which I will cover in the next post.

Finally, a question for anyone who has read this far (and thank you!) - I started trying to provide some graphics in the image to show what was going on. Was that helpful? Distracting? Please let me know, so I can decide how best to present things in the next article. I realize that without knowing the game, a lot of the images will appear to be mostly a shape/color soup, of sorts, but presumably, people with some familiarity with the game will be able to more easily follow along (I know I could, if I read this again in the future).