Quartermaster General - World War Two in ninety minutes

When I first skimmed over the entry and images on board game geek for this game I wasn’t terribly impressed. I liked the idea of a fast paced highly abstracted game on World War Two but the board looked too simple and the areas too big for a game ostensibly about supply lines. I mean Africa is two spaces. South America and Central America are grouped together as one space. So I left it, but something got my to go back and look again. I did and found careful purpose in the map and even more in the card decks that drive each nation.

Quartermaster General is a card driven game. The six nations each have a deck of varying numbers of cards, a great nod to economic capability. From this deck they’ll be operating with a hand of seven cards. Those cards have nation specific capabilities. American bombers or German U-boats will force discards from another nation’s deck as economic warfare, important because you never recycle your deck. The game has managed to make the combatants feel very unique, an impression you wouldn’t get just by looking at the simple pieces and board. On the nation’s turn they play a card, check supply lines and collect victory points. That really simple structure does indeed drive the promise of a fast paced game.

Each nation has only a small pool of pieces to conduct the war with. Germany and the United States will have ten while Italy only has seven. The distribution of these pieces is very flavorful as well. The United States has five armies and five navies as does Japan. Germany has seven armies and three navies. This is where that small oddly partitioned map starts to make much more sense. Each nation is only going to go so far and the areas of historical heavy fighting are a little more dense with spaces.

Combat is entirely deterministic as well. You never move forces into other spaces, rather forces just let you build into empty or friendly occupied spaces next to them. When you hit a space that has an enemy that’s what the battle cards are for. Those battle cards simply remove a neighboring enemy force. But that’s your play for the turn. You have to either hope the enemy doesn’t have a build card to replace their force before your turn comes around again or coordinate with an ally to claim the space. And of course the number of build and battle cards varies by nation.

So there’s the weakness of the game. You really have to understand the cards in your deck and it’s helpful to know what’s in your opponent’s. This can make for a frustrating first experience if the player is handed a deck without really knowing its capabilities. My other concern is that this would also too limit player options and force cards to come out the same way game after game. That concern was alleviated somewhat by the variety of cards and there is a maximum of twenty turns in the game and the smallest deck is thirty cards so decisions will have to be made about what is useful or not in each particular scenario. I think it’ll have some legs but I’ll have to see how that bears out.

The game has been interesting so far and I think it’s worth look. My suggestions would be to download the card list on board game geek and have that studied by the players before they go in. The rules are simple but the game is in the cards and how they combo and interact with each other.

Tom M

That sounds like it would be a terrific app or browser game.

I’ve played this a few times, and have found it be imminently enjoyable. When I played, it had the ebb and flow that I come to expect from a second world war grand strategy game. The Axis jumped out to a quick lead before the combined might of the US/UK/USSR turned the game around. It was close all the way through each time, and I’m looking forward to playing again. It is nice to have around when you don’t want to play 6 hours of one of the COIN games or 10-12 hours of Here I Stand/Virgin Queen. Or, you know, 6000 hours of one of the hex and counter second world war grand strategy games.

You left out Paths of Glory ;) I’m kidding you there because it looks like we like those same heavy games and of course I’d much rather play those. Quartermaster General isn’t trying to be those and it looks like we both appreciate that. It has grace and elegance Axis and Allies doesn’t have and plays at that high level abstraction with more character in less pieces than Axis and Allies. The timeframe works better too, Axis and Allies can really overstay its welcome. It’s nice to have a game finish in a short timeframe with a pretty good story behind it. Those cards really help detail events more than just moving and rolling would.

Tom M

Any thoughts on balance? I hear the Axis has it pretty rough.

I’m not sure, I hear it both ways. There is an optional tournament scoring mechanic that has an auto win happen if a team gets thirty points ahead. The designer has said that in the next rule set that’s just part of the game. So there’s something that might help the Axis.

Tom M

We got in two games tonight and both times the Axis got beat pretty bad. I wouldn’t read too much into that, though. In each game, there was a sense of falling prey to the cards you’re dealt. One of the losing players even used the word “deterministic”, but I don’t think that’s very fair in a game with built-in rules for deck management (Rosie the Riveter FTW!).

And we used the tournament scoring, although I’m not sure it necessarily helps the Axis. It seems to me it’s just a way of calling the game early. If someone gets ahead by 30 points, the other team isn’t likely to be able to catch up. In one of our games, the Allies hit the 30 point lead on turn 18 (out of 20). In the other game, the Allies hit the 30 point lead around turn 8, at which point they also occupied Italy and Germany, which is a game ender anyway.

I really like this game a lot. I don’t know of anything else quite like . The pacing is incredibly: it’s a fast short game that keeps all the players constantly engaged. The six nations all feel unique and it’s really gratifying to see a faction get its distinct gameplay underway. In our first game, the Japanese player was frustrated by being unable to make much progress with his limited armies. But after going through his cards and identifying a couple of important strategies, he set up an Imperial juggernaut victory point machine in our second game. What a great example of faction design within the confines of simple mechanics!

Unfortunately, you really want six players. With fewer that six, some players have to manage multiple nations, which is a weird combination of hassle (you have to keep up with multiple hands) and unfair advantage (you get to directly coordinate actions when otherwise teammates can’t talk about what cards they’ve got).


I’m glad you like it. I agree about the six players, managing multiple decks is definitely not the game intended. Boy did they ever get a lot of character into those decks. The nations really feel distinct, something Axis and Allies never did for me. Oh yea and a reasonable playtime in QG.

Never has so much theme been owed to so few components.

Tom M

Holy cats is this true. Although I totally disagree that it is a ‘weakness’ in the game. I don’t see it that way at all. You’re right about the first-time player being confronted with frustration. But I think this is true of many games. And actually, I think that is just fine. I think there are games you can grasp right away–like Tiny Epic Kingdoms, for example–and games that take a few rounds to settle into. I think it’s important for a good game to frustrate you at first. It sharpens your focus.

This is where Tom Chick’s point above, about how the game keeps all players constantly engaged, is on point. This game does keep you constantly engaged, from the first moment to the last. And you are correct too, in saying that you have to understand the cards. I don’t know that I can think of another game where discarding three out of ten cards before the first turn was more agonizing! Every card has a purpose. Every single card is important. All of us sat there at the table saying variations of, “I don’t know what to discard!” and “Hey, since I’m the Soviet Union, I only have to discard two cards, right?”

It was difficult, to be fair to your point above, to watch our friend playing Japan get so discouraged the first time out. Which, to be fair to my point above, only makes me want to break out the game and start studying the Japan cards to figure them out.

I can’t wait to play this again.


Yea I guess I misspoke when I said “weakness,” I think I was just looking to put something in the con column and I wasn’t and am still not prepared to discuss long term balance issues. The word, “caveat,” would have been much more appropriate. The manual gives a little thumbnail to the general play of the deck but a first time player really needs to read that card list or go through the deck thouroughly first.

Quartermaster General is a great convergence of thematic Wargame with beer and pretzels gameplay sensibilities snd I think it could be a great bridge to some more serious card driven or other wargames.

Tom M

Sorry guys edited out one of the greatest autocorrect typos ever…

I also put off buying this until recently. Im a big Axis &and Allies fan, among many wargames, and I love QMG!

Wish I had a regular group of 6 that could study the decks and play often. It was super fun the first time, where none of us knew any of the cards, but the game would shine with 6 veteren players.

An xpak just got funded on kickstarter. Air power units and a new card type. ETA summer.

Hey there, thanks for the kind words everyone. Make sure you use the 30 point tournament rules or else it isn’t balanced, as the allies can sometimes come from behind to take two capitals. Most of the playtest games used the tournament rules, and I realized I didn’t get a good enough sample of the final version without the 30 point rule.

There’s sort of a trade-off on knowing the decks beforehand and discovering them. When I teach the game there are often a lot of “oh wow” moments as players draw new cards, and find new ways to use them. But there’s definitely a lot more to the game once you get to know the decks. Once you get to know the decks, play becomes a lot more deliberative. Novice players will try to make the strongest move every turn, and burn their decks out or ill prepare for the late game.

One main bit of advice is to try to look at every card in your deck every game. You don’t want to discard too fast, but having a big stack of cards at the end of the game means you probably held onto some cards that weren’t as good as the ones you didn’t get to.

Lastly, the rulebook for the expansion is on our website, www.grigglinggames.com. It contains an optional rule, “reallocate resources” you can use with the base game, to cut down the luck factor quite a bit.

I think this more true of some nations more than others. For instance, in our group, we tend to give Russia to new players. You can do well enough just taking the cards as they come. But I wouldn’t dream of giving a new player Japan if I can help it. Playing as Japan – well, playing well as Japan – requires a lot more setup than the other nations, as well as knowing the limitations of your deck.

By the way, I was delighted to discover this is an absolutely kick-ass game for two players!


Tom is absolutely spot on in that assessment. And I love the way this balances out.

In a post above I speak of a friend who seemed to get discouraged playing Japan for the first time (he played it twice, back-to-back, in one evening). Well this friend came over to play the other night and while he was away from the table, he got assigned Japan again sort of randomly. As I was on the Axis team as well, I offered to switch chairs with him (I love the turn dynamic in this game, and that switching chairs can make the turn order work). I had little confidence in my ability to play Japan, but I really like this guy coming to our gaming nights so I thought I’d give him a break and give him a chance to try a new country.

He came back in and he’s such an amiable fellow that it took several rounds of “whatever you want” until he said, “Well, I’ve been studying the Japan cards, so…”

I gave up the Japan seat. If he wanted to take another crack at running Japan again, more power to him. For my part, I had not tried Italy yet, so why not?

Him taking Japan ended up winning us the game. He quietly sat there and made us points until Germany could get its war machine going. It was a thing of beauty.

There are so many little nuances to this game that reward more experienced players, and yet a beginner can jump right in and be engaged from start to finish. I love what this means for making teams when you’re lucky enough to have six players.