Spotlight on Games
1001 Nights of Military Gaming
- H - On to I
- Hai Lu Kong Zhan Qi
A Chinese game whose title means "Chinese Sea-Land-Air Battle Chess".
Different versions are produced both in the Republic of China and the
People's Republic of China. Its inventor and lineage are unknown, but
are all somehow genetic with it.
Each of the two players controls forces vaguely derived from World War II.
They are in a hierarchy so that a higher priority piece always defeats a lower.
Some pieces, mostly obviously aircraft, have special abilities.
Players take turns moving a single piece and attempt to make captures,
the eventual winner being the one to capture the opponent's headquarters.
Multiplayer game for up to five by
Jean du PoŽl and Historien Spielegalerie resembles the
Monty Python sketch "The Hunting Club".
Eighteen hunters venture out, their owners unknown, but
controlled by dice and unfortunately ambiguous rules, to hunt
a rabbit which they will never hit. In fact they are so bad that
one accident after another is inevitable. This cute idea is
a bit too straightforward and tactical, yet unfortunately tricky
to explain. As a result, it can probably only work well
with the right kind of enthusiastic crowd and a few beers.
- Halali! (Tally Ho!, De Beer is Los)
Two-player board game from the Kosmos series set in a forest pits
humans hunters and lumberjacks against bears and foxes. Lumberjacks
chop down trees and hunters shoot animals while foxes eat small animals
and bears eat humans. All pieces begin hidden on a grid an on each turn
the player either reveals or moves a piece. Pieces move like rooks, but
hunters are limited to firing in only one fixed direction. Once space
opens up, somewhat resembles rooks in
attemping to achieve checkmate.
Nicely-presented and pleasant activity akin to solving a series of small
puzzles, but often dominated by luck.
Originally published as
Jag und Schlag
(Hunt and Strike).
Differences in that version include the opportunity for
trees to move in the same way as birds, and by either
player. This version of the game only ended when one player
no longer had any tiles on the board. There was in addition
one more duck so that all squares begin the game occupied.
The two sides were divided into two equally-large groups
in different colors, allowing the game to be played by four
May be originally inspired by the ancient north German game Tafl,
also played on a square grid with pieces moving like rooks.
The same title minus the exclamation point has also been used for
two unrelated games, one by Manfred Schüling/Perner Produktions/1994
and also by Jean du PoŽl/Historien Spielegalerie (see above).
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 8
- Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage
Wargame for two is fairly light compared to a traditional wargame.
It uses the system begun with
We, the People
movement and plenty of event cards. In addition it has battle cards used
to resolve combat. Probably the most successful game in the series.
Because of the luck of the draw issues, it may not always be very good
history, but it does work well as a game of maneuver and counter-maneuver.
People are already beginning to develop standard openings, strategies and
tactics which is much akin to the playing of
And they're using Chess clocks as well.
[expansion leaders chart]
- Hannibal: The Second Punic War
Uncomplicated wargame for two using the
A House Divided
system for movement and unit promotion. Not bad, but sometimes feels too
abstracted. There are rules problems as well. Play this one with
some of the web-suggested fixes or try the game above.
- Helden in der Unterwelt
"Heroes in the Underworld", the third entry in the
Return of the Heroes
series is once again both an expansion kit and a standalone
affair. This time heroes can visit the underworld (via the
Kerberos board). But don't think
dungeon crawl. Rather, it's the Greek underworld of Orpheus,
Persephone, Hades and the like, presented here as not necessarily a bad
place. But it is a place under threat by the an evil force
known as the Damned One (for multiple reasons, Dark One might
have worked better). While the systems are much the same, the
fascinating new wrinkle is the dichotomy of evil. This comes
into effect when players lose to a particular type of enemy.
By doing so they still receive experience, but now in the
form of a black cube, meaning that the player has partaken in
Evil. This has the consequence that any further experience the
player gains in this trait must also be evil, even should it
be honestly achieved. In addition, every time this happens,
and at other times, the Damned One also gains power. If this
goes over a particular threshhold, he is deemed unbeatable and
the character who has become the most evil. Otherwise, a
character who defeats him via pure means, generally quite
challenging, wins. Cleverly, when players fight the above monsters,
they may choose to use any of their traits, including ones where
they are likely to fail, thus giving the choice to turn to
evil. Which way to turn is a difficult dilemma throughout play
as the power of the Damned One waxes and wanes depending on
player activities. Characters who are pure may need to join the
corrupt while on the other hand, characters who have partaken
of evil may need to reform. It is even for the first time possible
for a character to encounter another and attack him or her with the
purpose of beating the evil out of him. What a great concept!
"This is gonna hurt me a whole lot more than it does you,"
you might say as you do it. In this one the boards are much
smaller than in the other versions, perhaps a quarter of the
size or less, which is a good thing if all the expansions are
to be in play at once. Each board is turned up from a deck
and constitutes just a single space
so it's much more a game of exploration than of slow progress
across the board. New characters all come in both male
and female versions and include the Bard (can sing past
certain types of monsters), Gnome (combines two skills
together), Shaman (gets +1 against certain opponents and
in certain places), Centaur (is very fast and can carry an
extra item) and Gladiator/Amazon (can repeat a lost combat).
A lot of the Greek gods are also present as personalities or
quests including not just the expected Hades and Persephone,
but also Hermes, Chronos, a Gorgon, Hecate, Minos, Orion,
Theseus, a Titan and many more. Playing time when standalone
can be considerably faster than either of the previous
entries. This leaves the only real downside, that apparently
there will be no English edition. This is not so bad, actually, as
there is very little text on the components. Players can download a
translated rules book which covers everything. This could even
be a good thing as over time it can probably get better and
better and cover some of the inevitable ambiguities. But these
are mere details. In the grand scheme this is wonderfully
imagined and makes for a good deal of fun.
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: Medium; Personal Rating: 9
Lutz Stepponat; 2005; Pegasus; 1-4
- Herr der Ringe, Der - Die Entscheidung (Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation)
Two-player game by Reiner Knizia confirms the notion that the
early 21st century will someday
be known as his English Period. Since moving to England and
playtesting there, he seems to depart more and more from
the traditional silken bonds of German gaming conventions.
Besides his work with the American wargame publisher
GMT, he went quite a ways toward a railroad game with
and this year also invented
Clash of the Gladiators
a game of battle in a Roman arena. In this one, he once
again mines the world of Professor Tolkien, exploring a battle theme
just as the most battle-oriented part of the Tolkien novel, The
Two Towers, is about to hit the screens. While one side plays
the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring, the other gets
to play the roles of nine "bad guys", not just the Nine Riders,
but some of them, plus the Balrog, Shelob, Saruman and others.
The plastic, stand-up pieces keep their identities secret so this
is Stratego crystallized
to a smaller, more perfect form. But to keep things from getting
too boring, each character not only has a numerical rating,
but is also supplemented by simultaneously-revealed cards.
(If Knizia ever wants to redo
this could be a good replacement for its combat dice.) The
cardsets differ and some are not numeric, but special effects
that break the usual rules. A particularly genius idea here is
that while most spaces have a stacking limit of four, or more
commonly, two, the line of mountains in the middle is limited to
one piece at a time, forcing pieces to risk advancing alone.
It seems that someone had doubts about play balance since
instructions specify that it be played twice, allowing players
a try at each side. This works out well, however, because each
side's tasks are rather different. While Sauron must get three
pieces to the opponent's base or successfully search and destroy
Frodo, the Fellowship must get Frodo alive into Mordor. So the
attention to theme is passable with all of the powers making
sense for their characters and the map making some sense in an
abstract sort of way. The artwork thankfully comprises original
illustrations rather than movie stills, but is somewhat hampered
by being trapped where it cannot be easily seen. Partly as a
result of that, the overall sense of playing a game tends to
overwhelm any feeling of participating in a story. Players who
find their fun in devising and trying strategies will not be
disappointed, however. How should the pieces be deployed? Should
you try to attack up the middle or around the perimeter? Since
you can never move backwards, how fast should you attack? Can
you guess where the other side's vital pieces are? How can you
arrange to have a stronger remaining deck than the opposition
and then best exploit it? And when that gets tired, additional
variant cards such as Shadowfax, Palantir and Gandalf
the White give new wrinkles.
Those who liked
Hera and Zeus
will very likely enjoy this one – there is probably less chaos here.
In the two-player realm, it is probably not as complex as
nor as long, but it does seem to last exactly the right length of time.
The Lord of the Rings - The Confrontation: Deluxe Edition
version from Fantasy Flight comes in a much larger box with
a larger board. Now the pieces stand oblong and so are more
easily viewed and read. Most interesting is that the characters
can slide out of their holders and be flipped to reveal alternate
versions. This even brings into play some new characters such as
the Watcher in the Water (great to drop in the big center space
on the good guys' side) and Master Elrond. Also available are more
battle cards. Space-squeezed collectors will probably regret the
extra shelf space requirement, but on the other hand it makes a
nicer gift if one is looking to impress. Gameplay itself, nicely
combining theme, deduction, bluff and analysis, remains
remarkable thoughtful and challenging despite the relatively simple
rules. It's my theory that every designer should create a logical
deduction game at least once and if Reiner Knizia wants to count
this one as his, I think that's perfectly fine. Now if I could only
get over the title (the German meaning is more like "the
Strategy: Medium; Theme: High; Tactics: Medium; Evaluation: Low;
Personal Rating: 7
- High Seas
Wargame about raiding and trading on the Caribbean Sea for up to four players.
Some nice concepts don't entirely gel.
[Traveling Merchant Games]
Wargame in the
system, this time set in the
Spanish Peninsula from the Carthaginians to the Christian Reconquista.
One of the better outings for this system. More thorough and also
longer than Britannia.
[barbaric VP chart]
- History of the Roman Empire
With all of the popularity and success of
History of the World,
it's surprising that no one else has tried another game on the
same system. That is, until now. Instead of finding a different
world, however, this one zooms in on the
Roman world of Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Of
course this topic is already covered in the original game.
How to do something different and yet still successful?
The interesting solution is to take advantage of the prevalence
of civil wars within the Roman empire. Each player takes
on the role both of a barbarian and also of a Roman leader (either
a late Republic leader like Crassus or, more frequently, an
emperor). And with a cynicism that is not inappropriate, a
Roman leader need not in any way try to defeat barbarians, but
may attack anyone he likes. Similarly, barbarians need not
attack the empire but are free to attack other barbarians if
they prefer. Much is familiar from the original game,
particularly the combat system, the method of drafting sides
(here chits and a special board replace the cards), event
cards, forts, fortresses, monument equivalents (cities) and
the scoring system. The new system implies some
important differences as well. On the barbarian side, over the
seven epochs some groups are re-used so that the Celts may
appear in the first epoch and again a few epochs later. The
point is that the faction may already have board holdings (which
can nevertheless be picked up if the player wishes).
On the Roman side of course the idea of continuous faction is
not indicated by the history so instead the player simply gets
a new commander (who may or may not have some special
abilities, according to history) and can spend victory points
to add more units to his army. As a result of these
systems, players no longer have chits labeled for each epoch
(there are no plastic pieces), but instead use a limited
countermix of personal pieces for Romans and faction-specific
pieces for barbarians, which are marked by an ownership marker
placed somewhere in the center of their holdings. This makes
economic sense, but is certainly a presentation problem as
it's difficult to discern what the board state is, who holds
what, who would score the most at the moment, etc. This is not
the only presentation problem. Some of the barbarian counters
printed in colors that make them 99% unreadable. These issues
are significant because they contribute to downtime and
overall length. These issues are further exacerbated by the
fact that when there are, say, four players, there are eight
sides having a go every game turn, plus the extra factions
introduced by event cards. This is a large number of context
switches which are always a large time sink. The combat system
retains the "re-roll on ties" rule also which adds even more
time. A total time of five to six hours happens easily. Other
areas of ambiguity are the scoring track which is far too
small for the size of scores which can be achieved. Anytime a
scoring track can be wrapped around more than once and each
player needs to track two separate totals, a new
system is needed. Absent this, Poker chips are probably the
best bet. Similarly the instructions are not the best with
several ambiguities to work out only with the help of online
errata plus Q&A. Another downside is that if the amount
of time to complete
doesn't deter, this is really best and intended for exactly
four players, further reducing its chances of it gracing the
game table. Some pluses are that there are no islands on which
players can hide forever and ever scoring points as in the
original. On the other hand, the Babylon area doesn't seem to
get hit as often as it should. Perhaps there should have been
a better balance of western and eastern barbarians. Why aren't
there Parthians every turn? Surely they were a permanent thorn
in the Roman side. There is
also no dramatically more valuable region or overwhelmingly
powerful nation equivalent to Rome or Britain as exist
in the original. On the other hand, this balancing
mechanism prevents some historical performances such as that
of the Vandals who have no chance of crossing the map to
Hispania and then coming all the way back across North Africa
to Carthage, which they actually did. But perhaps the single
most important thing that was needed has been done: each
turn's faction choosing order is lowest victory points to
highest. Overall it's difficult to reach a verdict. On the one
hand there is an attractive amount of history amid simple
rules, but on the other so many logistical difficulties.
There is the usual fragility in these types of games as,
particularly among the Romans, there can be petty diplomacy issues.
There is probably less overall strategy than the original as
well – most decisions are opportunistic and tactical. On
the other hand, play appears to be fairly balanced. Probably
no one who has never played the original should attempt this.
But those who are fans and take some extra steps like
collecting errata, chips and extra time to carefully set
everything up, this can be made into a satisfying, if long,
Strategy: Low; Theme: High; Tactics: High; Evaluation: High; Personal Rating: 6
Udo Grebe Gamedesign;
- History of the World
Most of the largest empires in the Seven Ages of Man sweep across
the earth to score points. Although it has its unrealities
and omissions, who can ignore such a grand sweep of all
Later Hasbro edition adds plastic pieces
to the excitement of many which is fine, but if one has a good
imagination and understanding of history, do they really do anything
but detract? Rules modifications in that edition include awarding new empires in
strict reverse VP order, probably having the overall effect of leveling
playing skill differences and lessening long-term strategy. A time-saving
rule making both sides lose in case of ties gives an advantage to the
active player. Introduced to counter this are other new rules such as
increased dice for the defender
when using forts and over seas and straits.
Curiously forests and mountains are not correspondingly strengthened ó
players of the original game should adjust accordingly. The attempt to balance
the event cards by classifying them as greater or lesser fails miserably
as it has not been correctly realized that no card works in isolation,
but always change in value depending on the context of the major empires
and board situation with which they are used.
has created an interesting-looking variant which includes more nations.
- Hobbit (Die Abenteuer der Kleinen Hobbits)
Board game based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien has nice graphics, components and
atmosphere, but unfortunately not much play value as it is mostly a
matter of luck in drawing cards. Curiously, the players are not trying
to accomplish the same goal as in the book, but to destroy the dragon
of Carn Dûm.
- Holy Roman Empire
Fascinatingly frustrating depiction of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648)
by Mark D. MacLaughlin, inventor of
The game is for six which is rare in itself, the players being Spain, Austria,
Sweden, France, Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate. Included are many new ideas
including auctioning allies, a nuanced economic and troop recruitment systems
as well as a land movement and interception system. In a game with this many
players, diplomacy and negotiation play a large role as you might
expect. However, all was pretty much betrayed by a too-small
and much errored map, artistically appealing though it may
be, and many problems with the
countermix and instructions, which didn't even provide a table of contents. This could
be a great candidate for re-publication – as it never
really had a fair chance. In game terms, it seems that Bavaria
and Rhineland-Palatinate may not have much of a chance either.
Actually, some of the history is not quite right, placing too
great an emphasis on gaining electors whereas reading the history reveals that the
electors were more the confirmation of power than the actual
power itself and these electors were usually amenable to bribes.
But this "project" was truly a noble attempt. A group at
has attempted to play this one by e-mail in the past.
[cards sorted by name]
[cards sorted by religion]
[list of areas]
[table of units]
- Holy War
Science fiction wargame (microgame) for two with a three-dimensional
movement system similar to that of
not surprisingly, also by Lynn Willis. Ostensible theme is that
a solar system is the inside part of a creature. Some of the
inhabitants of the system are defending it, but others trying to
destroy it. More interestingly, space ships come in an amazing
fourteen different varieties, each with different capabilities
and special effects. Moreover, each combat is conducted in one
of three forms (units are each rated for all three): energy,
launched or psychic weapons. Space ship combat is resolved via
a differential table while boarding is via odds table. All of
this comes at some price as the combination of many unit types
and weird board can render play rather confusing. Having really
only one scenario means that replay value is not very large.
- Honor of the Samurai
(Ehre der Samurai)
Card game reminiscent of
Groo, in which players attempt
to build up their position with cards in front of them in an
attempt to become Shogun. Nicely illustrated. There are at least
two good strategies, one to try to grab the prize right away and
hope to survive or, usually more profitably, to bide one's time
and creep up on it bit by bit. This game can last longer than
one wants at times. [Take
That! Card Games]
- Hot Spot
Science fiction wargame (microgame) for two with forces fighting
for a vital energy source on an unstable planet. The unique
feature here is that the islands beneath one's forces are very
actively floating around the map – unfortunately this feature
does not seem to be exploited very well, nor does it seem to
matter much for the outcome. Seems unbalanced in favor of the
attacking Technocrats player.
- House Divided, A
(Norden & Süden)
Seminal two player strategic-level wargame on the American Civil
War with title drawn from Lincoln's famous line: "A house divided
against itself cannot stand." The point-to-point movement system
and unit promotion ideas here were later used in many games and
what is called the We, the People system certainly owes
something to this game as well. It remains a good game in its
own right as well, if a bit abstracted. Second edition was an
improvement in terms of play balance. Third edition published
in German in 2001 as Norden & Süden.
- Hundred Years
Two-player magazine wargame on an almost ungameable topic,
a war which stopped and started for over a century. Actually,
some historians now tend to look at this conflict as two or more
separate wars (Edward's War, Henry's War, etc.), but this game
tries to cover the entire thing, and as one might expect, not
always successfully as much detail is absent. The game which
remains is quite a wrestling match in the sense that what one
is doing is not always very clear. Rather, one simply roughly
grapples with the opponent and makes sure to be present so
that when some disastrous event occurs like a bad dice roll,
it's possible to take proper advantage. It's quite a curious way
to play a game, although it can easily become tedious. One feels
however that a full-fledged effort with all the color and flavor
it deserves could do more justice to this period of history.
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