Key differences from A Few Acres of Snow
For those of you coming from A Few Acres of Snow wondering what Hands in the Sea will be like and how it will be different from Acres, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the most significant differences.
GEOGRAPHY AND SEA ZONES
The first and most obvious difference is the geography. In Hands in the Sea (hereafter just “HitS”), portions of Italy and North Africa, as well as all of Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily are represented on the board. Unlike A Few Acres of Snow (hereafter just “Acres”), all locations have a VP value. The majority of the action happens in Sicily, and it will not take long before you begin contesting these locations.
Likewise, you will immediately notice the addition of sea zones. There are four sea zones on the map. Most of the locations on the map are coastal locations that are connected to one of these sea zones.
TURNS AND SCORING
HitS has a fixed number of turns, controlled by a special card in the Carthaginian player’s deck. When that card is drawn, players resolve a random event, collect income, and score victory points.
There are a maximum of 12 turns, though in practice a game typically ends around turn 9 or 10 as the result of other game ending conditions.
There is a separate deck of historically based random events. At the end of each turn a random event will occur, and a die roll will determine who is affected.
Most random events are bad, but some are good. Dealing with these setbacks is an intrinsic part of the game.
There is also a separate deck of strategy cards. These are special cards you can purchase that let you break the normal rules in one fashion or another. Unlike other cards, these are not added to your deck, but are instead set aside as a permanent effect.
Certain strategy cards can only be purchased by one side or the other. Players may never have more than one strategy card at a time.
Examples include Planning, which lets you hold an extra card in your hand, and Spying, which lets you inspect your opponent’s hand, or even rearrange a portion of your opponent’s deck.
There is only one set of location cards. If you capture an opponent’s location, your opponent must hand over the location card, regardless of whether it is in his hand, draw deck or discard deck. It is then placed in your discard pile.
Unlike Acres, location cards (and empire cards) can be removed with an action, and they can also be placed in your reserve. There is no need for a special (Governor) card.
Each player has one fleet in HitS. A fleet can consist of anywhere from 1 to 8 warships. During the course of the game players will add warships to their fleets, move them around the map from sea zone to sea zone (or their home port), and engage with the enemy fleet, pillage the enemy’s coastal cities, and generally hinder enemy actions.
Naval battles are resolved with dice rather than cards. Leaders may be added to naval battles to improve your chances of winning.
Acres has one card that allows you to perform piracy. In HitS, this is an action that can be performed by your fleet, and its efficacy is dictated by the size of your fleet, though it can be blocked as well.
SIEGES AND FIELD BATTLES
Land battles in HitS are resolved using cards and a battle track as in Acres. However, HitS features two different types of battles. A battle against an unfortified location is considered a field battle. A battle against a fortified location is considered a siege. What’s the difference? Unlike Acres, battles in HitS are limited to a certain number of rounds.
Field battles are limited to four rounds, while sieges can last up to six. If neither player has won the battle after the maximum number of rounds has passed, the battle is considered a draw, and both players lose a card.
Certain units, such as war elephants and cavalry are also less effective in sieges, while siege engines are less effective in field battles. If you get the right mix of units in a field battle, you get a combined arms bonus. If the winner of a field battle finishes with more cavalry strength, they get to choose their opponent’s losses.
GENERAL DECK ASSYMETRY
Each side has their own set of cards. However, there is a significant difference in the types of units available to each side, and their cost. Roman units tend to be more meat & potatoes, with their tough legions and supporting allied troops. But, they also have a manpower requirement.
The Carthaginians have a greater focus on cavalry and lighter troops, and most of their units are mercenaries. They’re less expensive, and don’t have a manpower requirement, but are susceptible to bribery. They also have war elephants which, due to their somewhat unpredictable nature, have a variable strength! Use them at your own risk.
HitS has the concept of bribery, where you can knock mercenary units out of your opponent’s hand or reserve. Bribery works very much like ambushes from Acres. Certain cards, including most leaders, can either bribe or block a bribe.
Land connections are very similar to Acres, but HitS also adds rough connections, which are slightly more difficult to settle or attack.
The Strait of Messina (Messana) is also featured, and has some associated special rules.
Supply is similar to Acres, except that there are four supply points instead of two. They are Carthage, Lilybaeum, Syracuse (if captured) and Rome.
Supply may also be traced over sea zones unless blockaded. This is an especially critical point for the locations in Sardinia-Corsica, as it does not have its own supply source.
Syracuse begins the game as a neutral, independent power. Once captured it also serves as a supply point. It is probably crucial for Rome to capture it as soon as possible.
You will typically see much more combat in HitS than in Acres. This is in part due to the condensed geography, as you will very quickly be in raid and attack range. In addition, the VP scoring system is different, as you gain the vast majority of your VP for non-starting areas, and every location is worth at least 1 VP. Controlling the majority of Sicily and Sardinia-Corsica at the end of the game grants bonus VP. There are no “dead” areas in HitS, and simply developing your way to victory won’t work.
I remember a game I played in which the war elephants were virtually useless because I rolled spectacularly sucky. Fun times.
It looks pretty solid, very promising, high competitive, and with enormous replayability and durability / stability in time!
I guess that "HitS" will fill the gap that "Mythotopia" left behind; so, undoubtedly, it's gonna be the worthy successor of "AFAoS" legend...
...and, if it's not "broken" (cross fingers and knock wood!), it will overtake it!
PS Yes... it's you, Dan!
PS2 And yes... it's me!!!