Designer – John Welch
Art – Tim Allen
note – Thanks to Victory Point Games for providing a copy of this game for review
Ever see 55 Days at Peking with Charleton Heston and David Niven? Ava Gardner? Pretty cool right?
Well thats pretty much the extent of my knowledge about the Boxer Rebellion ” also called The Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the “Righteous Harmony Society” (義和團 – Yìhétuán), or “Righteous Fists of Harmony” or “Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” (known as “Boxers” in English), in China between 1898 and 1901, opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity.” (source Wikipedia). Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Keep Up the Fire! puts you in command of a multi-national force that is surrounded in Peking by a Chinese hordes who are trying to their very best to come in and make mince meet out of you. Meanwhile, a relief force is desperately trying to force a passage through to Peking to save the day. Adapting Victory Point Games’ States of Siege system, John Welch puts you into a real pressure cooker as your force really is feeling the crunch.
The components are typical VPG standard, card map, cards and chits with nice artwork.very functional and nice to look at.
A new wrinkle in the system is that you have two areas of operations. The local Foreign Legation compound with all of the different military detachments manning the walls and the strategic map where you are struggling to move your relief force through enemy forces to reach Peking.
The structure of the game revolves around a set of cards which drives all the actions as well as the story narrative of the events of the siege.
Each turn starts with choosing a card which is usually split between actions or commands which can be taken at Peking by Legation forces against the Chinese forces (fire, movement, melee) and then additional actions that can be taken by the relieving force (combat, movement, build up logistics). Historical background gives you some basic information about the events that are taking place.
The Legation phase has you placing Chinese assault forces at the outer reaches of Peking taking actions to destroy them and moving them towards the city if they survive (start worrying…).
The Relief Column phase is where you try and force passage through to Peking. Pretty tough as you need to build up logistics to help or you will get nowhere. That and face assaults from Chinese forces.
The random element of the game is that success or failure is down to a die-roll in combat and Relief force progress. Typical for the States of Siege system and it works well. You have to take your decisions as to where you will take your actions to make the best impact on your progress and defence of Peking. However, the fortunes of war mean that nothing is ever certain except, your legation forces will dwindle. The success die roles are tough to make. In combat, firing means you have to hit first, and then make a good enough die roll to eliminate the enemy, or else, they will keep coming. And if you hit the enemy at Peking during a melee, you will also need to roll to damage them and guess what, you will receive the same die-worth of damage (modifiers could make this better or worse). All very harrowing. You will cringe as you watch your legations’ combat strength shrink. On top of that, you have a limited amount of commands you can take whether at Peking or for the relief force.You just can’t do everything or be everywhere you want to…
This is a game where you really feel like the deck is stacked against you. And you can’t just focus on Peking although you need to as if the enemy gets through the walls and to Fort Halladay, or if all of the Legations lose their troops, you are done. If you don’t move that relief force and get to Peking, you are done. And getting the right die rolls aren’t easy which means you need to take best advantage when the die rolls in your favour. Talk about tension!
The process works well and the game will be easily learned when if you have played other games in the series. New players will find it pretty easy to learn and play.
Interestingly, although a solitaire game, you can play with 2 players with one player handling the Peking defence and the other handling the relief force.
Did it work for me?
I am a big fan of the State of Siege system to begin with and Keep up the Fire! is a great addition to the suite of games adapting the system for different sieges. In fact, the tension has been ratcheted up a notch as the tactical situation is extremely harrowing and the difficulty of getting the relief force through is enough to make you scream. But with delight and frustration at the same time as the tide swings for or against you. This game will definitely get more play. It is loads of fun, has an interesting theme, and loads of tension. I have got to find a way to beat the Chinese hordes!!! Due to the dual tactical and strategic challenges, I would say its one of the best solitaire games I’ve played.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 9 out of 10
Not a family game.
For more information – http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=172