This is the first foray of Columbia Games into the card-driven wargame market, and it is an admirable one.
One foldable area-movement cardstock map, colorful and functional.
56 hardwood blocks
one sheet of labels depiciting infantry, cavalry, leaders and the major clans involved in the rebellion.
25 cards (twenty action cards and five event cards)
One 8-page rulebook
The components are very clear and functional. The cards are very utilitarian, and not very sturdy. Fortunately, they fit well into standard deck protectors. For those unfamiliar with a block game, the label is placed on one side of the block and is positioned such that rotating the block provides step reduction while simultaneously hiding its identity and strength until it is tipped forward for combat. The blocks are mass produced; inspect them for major imperfections and place the labels as to cover them. If any blocks are comletely unservicable, call Columbia and they will happily replace them. A large FAQ is available that answers any questions that may arise in the course of gameplay.
With Hammer Jerry Taylor took a vast departure from the standard card-driven wargame: since We the People these games have been characterized by a large stack of cards depicting major events of the conflict. These cards are largely unique and A DETAILED UNDERSTANDING OF THEM IS ESSENTIAL TO PLAYING THE GAME. The complex interactions of these cards makes the learning curve for these games much steeper than the rules would suggest.
Mr. Taylor, on the other hand, uses twenty movement cards (values 1-3)and five event cards (herald, sea move, pillage, victuals, truce)combined with an excellent set of rules to very accurately simulate the conflict with a minimum of chrome. The key to the game system is the scottish noble blocks. There are 14 total; 13 of them are duplicated on both the english and scottish sides. Control of a majority of the nobles is fundamental to victory.
The course of the game is very simple; set up your starting forces, simultaneously play cards. Higher card or event card goes first. Two event cards end the year early (more on this later). Each movement point moves one group of blocks either to another area or into combat. When opposing groups of blocks occupy a space together, combat occurs and is resolved. Scottish noble units that are destroyed are reincarnated in the enemy army at minimum strength. After hands are emptyed or two events occur simultaneously, winter comes and all nobles go home. At this time the other novel mechanic comes into play: each noble has a home territory he is tied to; possession of this territory at the start of winter converts the noble to your side. During the winter phase attrition occurs and armies are rebuilt based upon replacement values of each territory.
A very novel system in that it models all sorts of incidents in the historical conflict without having any "chrome" rules. It is clean and tight,with low unit density. Very replayable, and the requirement to control the schizophrenic Scottish nobles makes for a great dynamic. It has some odd quirks, like no marker to keep track of the date, but overall is a wonderful evolution of the card-driven wargame genre. A must-buy for anyone who likes two-player conflict games. And, I must say, Columbia Games is the friendliest, most responsive company I have ever dealt with. I am 100% satisfied.
"And, I must say, Columbia Games is the friendliest, most responsive company I have ever dealt with. I am 100% satisfied."
I agree. Very nice company. I made an order in the morning one snowy day up here in sweden, in the evening I got a confirmation email that stated that they had send the package!
Somethimes I just love being 8 hours behind (or before ?)