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Subject: A Review of Hold the Line -- A game of the American Revolution rss

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Swamp Hamster
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Title: Hold the Line

Basic information: Designed by Matt Burchfield, Grant Wylie, and Mike Wylie, Worthington Publishing (formerly Worthington Games), 2008.

Overall Evaluation: This is a very good game with excellent components that is very easy to learn and very easy to play. I fully enjoy this game but at the same time realize that this type of game is not the right cup of tea for everyone.

Background Theme: The game is set during the American Revolution and includes the engagements between Continental and Patriot militia against British and Loyalist militia forces in the battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Brandywine, Bemis Heights Monmouth (with morning and afternoon scenarios), Kings Mountain, Weitzel’s Mill,Hobkirk’s HIll, Eutaw Springs, and Princeton.

Format and Components: The game includes one mounted board upon which the player adds terrain tiles to vary the battle site. Terrain tiles include rivers, bridges, fords, towns, fences, forests, entrenchments, and hills. Units are represented by counters for regular infantry, elite infantry, militia, light infantry, dragoons, and artillery. These are large, thick, and very high quality counters. Kudos to Worthington and I wish more companies could follow their lead. The counters were properly attached to the sheets when I opened the box but fell off quite easily when required to be removed. No cutting, tearing, or nasty little tabs that needed clipping. Art work is superior and features drawings of troops illustrated by Gary Zaboly. Don Troiani originally produced the box cover art. Leaders are represented by smaller counters which fit very easily on top of the units they may accompany on the battlefield. The box includes three game dice and one special die to roll for additions to action points. The rules/scenario book is quite attractive and is 24 pages long. Eight of these pages are the basic rules of the game with illustrations, charts, and examples of play; two pages hold advanced/optional rules and game credits; the remaining 14 pages include scenarios. Minor issues with the rules/scenario book will be discussed later. The rules, minus the scenarios, are published online at Worthington’s website. Note that the website for Worthington Games on the back of the rules has changed and is now www.worthingtonpublishing.com. I did try the original web address and at the time of the writing of this review was automatically re-directed to the new website.

Abbreviated Play and Rules: Each scenario includes an illustration to show where to place terrain tiles and unit counters to begin the battle. Certain hexes are designated for victory points if held or captured. Each side receives a set number of action points each turn that is supplemented by a roll of the action point die...increasing the number each turn by 1-3 action points. Movement, firing, close assault, and special leader abilities are governed by available action points. Thus a player must carefully choose which unit(s) he/she selects to move and/or engage the enemy since there will not be nearly enough action points to active all of them. Units have different movement abilities. The units are not compared based on strength points as in most games but rather by morale points. When hit, a unit loses a morale point and is flipped (or exchanged) for the same type of unit with a lower morale point. Keys to success are the amount of action points each turn and understanding the unique assets of units. For example, dragoons have low starting morale points but can move up to 3 hexes and then fire (for an additional one of those scarce action points). Thus, dragoons are incredibly good for trapping enemy units when properly mixed into a game strategy.

Replay Value: Good. Each game can be different but those differences are not normally shattering. With play directed by action points, players will find they have more or fewer action points at the same point in different games. This can result in some impacts on the game but not normally dramatic unless a player has a series of super or lousy “additional action point” rolls of the die. On the other hand, the best asset behind replay value of this game is that fact that generating new scenarios is quite easy and limited in their diversity by only the number of terrain tiles, unit counters, and imagination of the gamer. These represent imaginary battles, of course, although it is quite possible to review the terrain and units of other Revolutionary War engagements and simulate with Hold the Line’s components.

Solo Play: Very good. The simplicity of the system combined with the varying amount of action points makes solo play using both sides fairly easy.

Evaluation: Overall, I found Hold the Line to be a very good game. Here are a few items I like about this game:

a. The game is easy to learn and easy to play providing for an enjoyable evening.

b. I like the varying number of action points each game turn. A player can count on a minimum number of action points each turn but the die will add from 1-3 additional action points. The difference in the roll can propel or thwart a planned strategy adding a bit of real world “chaos” in a battle. A planned attack by two units might have to be reduced to one. This in turn decreases the opportunity for successful hits via firing or close combat.

c. The map is quite functional being a mounted board of hexes upon which terrain tiles are added.

d. The rules are not complex and are digestible with color illustrations.

e. This is a good, fun game for introducing a new player to the hobby.

f. I enjoy “inventing” my own battle scenarios. These can be quite endless based on the game components.

There are a few items about this game that some may not like:

a. Some gamers who want and seek a deep tactical battle experience may find this game a bit light. While the tactical battle rules take into account different types of units, the tactical battle resolution may be lighter than some gamers prefer.

b. The game does not cover any strategic aspects of the war or campaigning before and after the battles. Each scenario begins with the two sides in place and ready to engage in tactical combat. I’m a big supporter of different types and complexity levels of games. One size does not fit all in gaming. Having said that, there are gamers who may not like this game because it does not offer what they prefer in a military strategy game.

c. Although I like the action point system, some gamers might not enjoy this type of system and would prefer all of their available units move and/or attack before the opponent’s turn (as in most hex based games).

d. There are some minor issues with the rules and scenario book. For example, scenario summaries are not written in a standardized format resulting in some battles not being adequately explained. Not everyone is intimately familiar with the history of the American Revolution. The narrative for Weitzel’s Mill never informs the gamer that this engagement occurred in North Carolina. The narrative for King’s Mountain (fought five months prior to Weitzel’s Mill) mentions that British General Cornwallis marched into North Carolina in September 1780 and assigned Major Ferguson’s Loyalist militia to cover his western flank. However, the narrative does not mention that the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780 was fought in South Carolina. Also, the rules utilize “MP” to represent the very critical morale points of units. Despite the brief note of this meaning, I continually found myself thinking that “2 MP” (or a similar designation) meant 2 Movement Points rather than 2 Morale Points. There are some typos in the rules as well.

Bang for the Buck: Excellent. As of the preparation of this review, the game is currently out of stock at the publisher but still available at some online and retail outlets where it tends to be very reasonably priced.

***As of 26 October 2015: Received a note from Worthington Publishing that the Hold the Line System will be remastered after the first of 2016. Kudos to Worthington -- this is a good system.

c The Swamp Hamster
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Mayor Jim
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Nice review...one of my favorite games...
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jonathan schleyer
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I thought this was a pretty good companion to the game because I wasn't familiar with most of the battles...

http://www.amazon.com/Battlefield-Atlas-American-Revolution/...
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Lee Massey
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Expanded by the French and Indian war expansion!
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Swamp Hamster
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Received a note from Worthington Publishing that the Hold the Line System will be remastered after the first of 2016. Kudos to Worthington -- this is a good system.
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George Curtiss
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That is interesting news!

Can you tell us any more details? Will they work with
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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who is using this system for Horse & Musket: Dawn of an Era?
 
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Swamp Hamster
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gdnuke wrote:
That is interesting news!

Can you tell us any more details? Will they work with
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Louisiana
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Microbadge: Moby Dick fanMicrobadge: Ludwig van Beethoven fanMicrobadge: WriterMicrobadge: Horse & Musket fanMicrobadge: Civil Wargamer - Beauregard
who is using this system for Horse & Musket: Dawn of an Era?
Sorry, that is all they told me in the note.
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Joe Hardy
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Thanks. This is a good review. I've been wondering about this game.
 
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