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Subject: Hearts of Iron: The Boardgame rss

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DH
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''I have here in my hand an undertaking, signed by Mr Stalin himself, whereby the Soviet Union undertakes to refrain from any further territorial ambitions in Central Europe. Herr Hitler was present in person at the meeting, and agreed that our aims are in concordance with those of the German Reich, for peace in our time in Europe.''
Neville Chamberlain, Fall 1941


'God bless Craig Besinque' was my first thought as I opened the box. I don't know about you, but I was genuinely heartened to see an ampersand in a product about WWII, rather than the interminable 'of.' 'Of.' I'm sick of that banality. Band Of Brothers. Call Of Duty. Clash Of Clans. X Of Y. N Of Zero. Verb Of Noun. So it makes a pleasant change to see an ampersand in a title, A&A notwithstanding.

I will admit now that I've been quietly excited about this one for a while, but my thoughts remain objective. The contents of the box are rather nice, if mildly unspectacular. The map is clear and colourful and of a durable stock, the cards are very nicely done and again of decent quality, and the wooden blocks are large enough and clear in their markings - and for me, as a sufferer of Daltonism, that is a massive boon. Three decent player aids, a playbook and a rulebook printed to the usual GMT quality. The chits are a little small and underwhelming, but this is not a counter-heavy game and so I don't mind that at all. The box itself isn't quite up to the usual GMT high quality, but I accept that tradeoffs must be made to keep block games affordable. Nonetheless, the overall impression is very positive.

The game is almost certainly the best grand strategy boardgame I've ever played. There. I've said it. That is my impression, and I will not be offended if you choose to stop reading now. It's all here, it really really is. Politics, intrigue, research, failures and successes, paranoia of your rival's intentions, everything. Is that a feint into Rumania, or a precursor to jumping off into Southern Europe? If I order them to back down, do I have the power to back up my threats? Is that a navy on patrol or is he redeploying overseas?

It is a simple and straightforward game, deepened by emergent gameplay. The whole rulebook is about 15 pages and that covers more-or-less every situation that may arise. Contrast this with other games I have where the rules run to 40-50 pages and still don't cover it all. The very best games are simple but deceptively deep and allow the players to, you know, actually play the game rather than battle their way through the designer's intentions, guided every step of the way. This is a straightforward system, honed over years of testing, and has a succinct and clearly (beautifully) written rulebook and playguide.

This is, crucially, NOT a wargame in anything other than the loosest sense. The designer makes no claims otherwise, and as such this is an adequate consideration of the military activity of the period. This simple but key fact allowed me to sell it to my group who have been thoroughly turned off 'pure' wargames over the past few months, and they enjoyed it - or if they didn't, they lied to my face very convincingly. Don't buy if you're after a wargame of the period, but if you've any interest in politics and alternative outcomes this is a must-buy. I've been lucky to have played a lot of truly brilliant games in the past 12 months - this is the best of the lot, and I don't say that lightly.

Disclaimer here: I have played only one game so far to completion. Thanks to time constraints in the first instance, and the dual machinations of a fire alarm followed by a friend's cat on the table, it has only been finished once. Cats, the bane of the hobby. Why they love boardgames like catnip is beyond me, and I am certain my own moggy will one day die a horrible cardboardy death (I still anxiously consider the animal's furballs for traces of the German 18th Army from Paths of Glory, my very own Missing Legion). The completed game resulted, remarkably, in Allied victory through Atom Bomb development in 1944 whilst the Axis and USSR battered at one another, so it was reasonably plausible.

Overall? Not bad. Not half bad at all. This one will be seeing a lot of table time in the coming months and years, and it is definitely going to scratch my alt-WW2 itch nicely until Hearts of Iron 4 arrives. Two thumbs way-way up indeed.
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Thibaut Palfer-Sollier
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dontpanic69 wrote:
The game is almost certainly the best grand strategy boardgame I've ever played.
[...]
It is a simple and straightforward game, deepened by emergent gameplay.

Could you please STOP? RIGHT NOW?
This and Churchill. My wallet. Can't handle any of them.
STOP FOR GOD'S SAKE!
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Mark Buetow
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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We've played twice in the past two weeks. It really is a brilliant game. First game, we danced around until the Axis attacked the West only in 1943. For some reason, I thought the Soviets were my friend, until they took Delhi and sucker punched Berlin for the win.

Second game, a different player. I was the Soviets. It seems only natural to put troops on the border, unless that makes the Axis nervous enough to make Poland a Satellite and he does the same. "Screw tech!" were his words the first round and he loaded up on Action cards. He smiled his way through nearly all of Eastern Europe and we let it happen. No surprise he declared war on the USSR and made a quick move to take Leningrad and advance on Moscow. Too late the West declare against the Axis. A failed assault on Berlin and then Moscow fell, giving the Axis a military victory in 1939.

There really is so much going on and its going to take me some time to work out the good combination of diplomacy and military strength to prevent my getting pushed around.

Great. Game.
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Bill Powers
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Thank you for the review and I cannot agree more. If this is not the best game I have played, it is in the top 2-3.

At the WBC I played in/kibbitz on/watched, 10-12 games and no two were the same.

Some wars started as early as 38, some not until 44.

I saw/played in games where each of the 3 sides attacked first.

The tension in every game is palpable. Each player waiting for another to burst the 'war bubble' first.

My friend and I were at the WBC from Monday to Sunday and could not get this one on the table enough. We also never had an issue finding a 3rd player.

Kudos to Craig for another outstanding game.
Bill
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Luke Hughes

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Any two player experiences?
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Peter Gibson
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Nice summary! I've got my copy on the table and am hoping to get a first game in next weekend.

Minor quibble though, I have been quite disappointed in the way the rules are written and edited. For a GMT game these are probably the worst set I have seen in terms of how the information is communicated to the reader.

Not the worst ever mind you - just the worst for a GMT game. Compared to the rules for a Mark Simonitch game I think these compare poorly.

Still very excited about my first game though!
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Roger Hobden
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Nice review.

 
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401k? More like .357
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dontpanic69 wrote:
, deepened by emergent gameplay.


I am going to use this as often as I can, in as many documents as possible. You just can't buy this kind of nipple-swelling gravitas.
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