There have been several hardcore wargames that simulate battles from the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) but given the continued 'romance' with the Spanish Civil War in literature and popular culture, it is surprising that it hasn't formed the backdrop of more board games. Spanish publisher Gen-X have responded with Rogelio Pesqueria Sánchez' Requiem, which is a card-driven two-player tactical board war game that's themed around the iconic struggle between National and Republican forces.
The game is played on a board representing a map of Spain that highlights various towns and cities and shows their connected routes. Some cities are identified as strongholds. Each side starts off with troops, irregular soldiers and a plane in some specified and some player-chosen locations. Each side also has two decks of cards: a strategy and a combat deck. Players have a hand size of six but they can draw to this in any combination from the decks as long as they have at least one strategy card and at least two combat cards. You won't know exactly what cards your opponent is holding but you will know their mix of cards.
Players both play one of their strategy cards. These are revealed simultaneously but turn order is determined by the initiative number on the card. Strategy cards that indicate Movement permit the movement of a specified number of units, tho' neither troops nor irregular soldiers can move into a town already occupied by ground units of either side. Planes that are unaccompanied by ground units tho' are at risk of being destroyed by the advance of an enemy ground unit. Reinforcement cards show the new units that you can place out at any stronghold you control or, in the case of irregulars, in a town adjacent to any of your troops provided it's not also adjacent to an enemy unit. Commander cards are played to your individual HQ board where they may give you an attack or defence bonus in a subsequent battle.
In the Battle phase, in initiative order, a player can declare an attack on an adjacent enemy unit. They specify which unit(s) they are committing to the attack and whether any commander in the HQ is leading the attack, and they play an attack combat card face down. The defending player then announces whether any planes are supporting their defence and whether or not the defence is led by a commander in their HQ. They then play a defence combat card. The combat cards are revealed and the attack and defence totals are compared. The losing side loses their units and, if the totals differ by more than 1 point, then any losing commander is also eliminated and the winning commander is promoted. Requiem's map board is double-sided so you can flip to the side that shows coastal locations to play the 'advanced' rules that add naval units and incorporate naval battles.
Requiem then is an abstracted game that's themed around the Spanish Civil War rather than a simulation wargame, and at around 45 minutes it plays much more quickly than most conventional wargames and without an overly complicated rules overhead. Requiem is very much a game about tactical positioning: your actions in the strategy card phase are likely to prove critical to the success or failure of your battle plans. There are judgement calls to be made too about when to commit units and commanders to an attack or defence: it isn't always wise to throw everything into the battle. Note also that, unlike the majority of card-driven games, combat cards aren't recycled from a discard pile: once you've exhausted all your combat cards, you don't pick up any more... And kudos to Gen-X for including two copies of both the English and Spanish rulebooks. Why don't more publishers do this?
If you're looking for a very playable tactical game that gives a flavour of the Spanish Civil War, and with only a light rules overhead, then, like Ernest Hemingway, ask not For Whom the Bells Tolls - Requiem is just what you're looking for.