The Fallacy of Rank

Players 2-4
Length 15-20 minutes per player
Equipment Required 3 piecepacks (2 players can get by with 2 piecepacks, using two suits each, but 3 is preferred.
Designer Keith Lacey, Will Schneerberger and Joshua Tempkin
Version 1.0
Version Date2004-06-29
License public domain


Each player controls an army led by two commanders, represented by pawns. Your goal will be to eliminate the enemy leadership.


Reviews & Comments

Stratego was one of my favorite games when I was young, but the problem I eventually ran into was that game play became predictable. Soon thereafter, I lost interest. Still, I've often wished that the basic Stratego mechanic could be improved upon. Well, now it has! The Fallacy of Rank is, at heart, Stratego reworked for the piecepack, and souped-up with action tiles that are used to cause special effects. In that respect, it's not too unlike Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation or some of the "block" war games such as Hammer of the Scots. A whopping three piecepacks are required to play, but they were readily available and this fact did not affect the judging.

Two to four players command armies (18 coins and two pawns, all of one suit) trying to destroy one another on a big field of tiles. As in Stratego, soldiers (coins) are deployed with their values hidden, but here the locations of the commanders (pawns) are always known to all players. Initially, both commanders and only 14 soldiers are deployed, with the remaining four soldiers kept in-hand as reserve units. Each turn, players may either move one deployed piece one space orthogonally or take a tile action. If a piece moves onto a space occupied by an enemy piece, both pieces are revealed. Then, both players simultaneously reveal die values to declare any "boosting" which is enabled by discarding non-null coins or tiles from the hand. A brief lookup table is consulted to determine the results. Tile actions are invoked by discarding a tile. The last player with a commander still standing wins.

The rules are concise, well diagramed and fairly well-written, although there were a few minor points of confusion. These were all easily resolved with questions to the authors. The Fallacy of Rank theme is a classic battle with elements of surprise and the fog of war. Excellent, if somewhat hackneyed. Mechanically, the game is also quite good, and the time estimate was right on. Others in my gaming group especially liked the option to discard coins or tiles to boost the values of coins already engaged in battle. Remember the Alamo! The only real complaint we had was that there is a relatively minor king maker problem in the multi-player versions. If two or more players decide to arbitrarily gang up on someone else, it's not fun to be that one player under the gun. But the hidden information does moderate that a bit. Some players didn't like having to look at their coins repeatedly, and others found memorizing what coins and tiles had been discarded a bit of a chore, but those are really just matters of taste. Setup and tear-down also takes a bit longer than most piecepack games, but with three times as many pieces, that's understandable and acceptable. Play did not seem fiddly at all, and I was able to get into character thematically, which was fun.

Unfortunately, the original appendix that came with The Fallacy of Rank was far from adequate. It listed several different aspects of the design followed by "all three authors" on every point. That seemed a bit forced to the judges, and I asked for clarification. What I got back was a rough estimate of contributions for the same categories, which did fulfill the requirement to keep the game in the contest. But we still had to take off points for the original version's inadequate appendix.

Conclusion: If you like Stratego but find it lacking depth, you'll probably like The Fallacy of Rank as the next step up. Alternatively, if you like traditional war games, but want something that plays in less than an hour, The Fallacy of Rank will fit the bill nicely. Score: 22.66

-- ClarkRodeffer

Oct 19, 2004

CategoryGame ThemeWarCategory MechanicHiddenIdentityCategory MechanicLimitedUseActionsCategory MechanicMemoryCategory MechanicRectangularBoardCategory