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Heroes of the Great War: Limanowa 1914» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First experience with this awesome game rss

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Peter Sasvari
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I had the pleasure to take part in one of the beta play-sessions before the Kickstarter campaign. I was very excited about the game, as I like to play competitive strategy games where I'm not on my own and where pure luck has very little effect. In advance I hoped Limanowa is such a game, I was prepared for a long learning session, where I stand no chance against the more experienced players - the developers themselves!

Let's see what this game is about!


Setting and theme

The game is set in 1914, during the early events of the First World War. The Battle of Limanowa is not as famous as other more prominent scenes of WW1, like Marne, Gallipoli or Verdun, but equals those in fierceness, cunning tactical maneuvers and heroes fighting on both sides. Personally I don't know as much about WW1 as I would like to, my knowledge is mostly limited to the history lessons in high school and some movies, but this didn't hinder me enjoying the game.
After the game I was so excited that when I got home, I read up a lot about this period to know who my allies and enemies were. I checked historical and current maps of the region, and was a bit amazed how accurately the game board follows real life maps: the terrain, the roads and the rivers are more or less where they are in reality.
Like in good old chess the opposing sides have similar units (sometimes only just the names differ), and are equivalents of real fighting units, which were there at Limanowa during WW1.


Gameplay

We played with unit tokens instead of the 3D printed figures as those were still in the making. The devs showed me several 3D units and I must say they are very detailed and resemble the original fighting units as closely as possible. To be honest, playing with tokens was a bit easier for me, because I didn't have to remember the look of the units, only their names. This was my first session playing Limanowa, so I needed every help I could get.
We played three rounds, testing two scenarios. At the first game I was just watching the four devs playing a 2v2 battle just to get to know the units and learn the rules. Every scenario has it's own set of rules and all of them are played on a single board which is similar to an 8x8 chess board, with the added twist of being hexagonal instead of square. We played with the same four generals (Eck and Orlov on the Russian side - Hadfy and Szurmay from the Austro-Hungarian forces), our army varied from scenario to scenario.

The first game I played I was leading the Hadfy Group. The Szurmay Group leader and I tried to attack from two directions, trying to corner the Russian forces. It turned out to be a bit too daring strategy as we could not use our artillery to it's full potential: the Orlov player buried himself into a town and while my forces stormed him, he managed to kill my general with a quick counterattack and Hadfy died a hero’s death. My army was beheaded, but still strong: I could repel the attacking Russians, killing two of their units (one of them was an officer, which are very strong units!), but I could not recover from the loss of Hadfy. My ally tried his luck against General Eck and with a combination of some battle cards, we almost managed to break through the enemy's defence line, gettin Eck out of action for at least two turns. If we could manage to regroup and get our artillery and infantry units into good positions, the still living, although wounded Szurmay could kill Orlov, who was barely standing on his feet! We knew we needed a quick attack, otherwise the Russian reinforcements would arrive before our next opportunity and we would be greatly outnumbered. Szurmay attacked blindly and he found his nuts between two stones very quickly: General Eck was on his trail and one of the officers from the Orlov regiment could kill him in a retaliation. By losing both our generals we lost this game, but were not disappointed: the battle was fair, we didn't think for a moment that we are near defeat. Losing Hadfy was a tactical mistake on my part, but it was not the end for me, I still had some units and cards in my hand.

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The second scenario had a simple goal: take a small, but important town from the hands of the occupying Russian forces. The Austro-Hungarian forces came down from the mountains, the enemy Russians were in the valley, we had the high ground, it seemed like an easy victory for us. Oh man we were so wrong. We didn't have generals in this scenario, so we didn't have to fear from a rushing strong unit coming out of nowhere or anything like that. We tried to encircle the Russians, using the terrain for our advantage: from the mountain top my artillery cannon could reach the target town, shooting anything in it when I had a time for this action - and here came a big, gamechanger tactical decision: should I shoot to a fortified target, risking a miss and with it loosing one of my actions in that turn or should I just move some of my units into a better position and with that, potentially giving out more damage on a long run? Moving my units was dangerous as the enemy was very close to us, with almost every move our soldiers could engage in melee combat. Long story short: while my ally was busy on the rear wing, I could slowly and securely advance in his direction and after we could join our armies, the enemy didn't stand a chance. We could completely eliminate one the Russian players, but this was very risky: although this took him out of play for the rest of the game (which only took 3 rounds after that), we had to carefully manage our troops and not let them fall prey for the enemy machine guns and uhlans, which could have easily destroy even the strongest of our units. All in all this was a very exciting game, we only had two more rounds before the enemy victory.

All three games took somewhere near an hour to finish on average (one took approx. 50 mins, the other a bit more), so these were quick matches I think, at least I was prepared for longer games.
The cards are balanced against each other, meaning if you have the counter card for something, they equal each other out, but if you don't have it, you can find yourself in a serious disadvantage. Luck has some place in the game, but it can be countered with good strategical decisions - of course if you can't roll good numbers and the RNG gods don't have you in their favor, you have to be on your toes to win.

We didn't have time to test the big four-board scenario, which would be the Battle of Limanowa itself, but the devs said it takes 2-4 hours to finish. That match contains all the fighting units, all the cards without any restrictions (as mentioned earlier the smaller scenarios have their own rules, own unit sets and limited card pool), the weather comes into play and some other refinements.

There's a very good synergy between the units, they fill the gaps in strengths and weaknesses of each other. Just to mention an example: if both the scout unit and the artillery are in visual range of the target, than that target can start to dig his grave, because it will be blown into smithereens in a second. Of course this requires some luck and very careful battlefield management of at least two units, but sometimes it's worth it.

Who is this game recommended for?

As I mentioned, I don't know much about this time period, but historical knowledge is not required in order to enjoy Limanowa. The only disadvantage is that you won't know the names of the places and generals, but these are not immersion-breaking: you can just simply call them "generals" and "towns".
It's very easy and quick to learn the basic rules of the game, there aren't many: the main rules are how and when you can move and attack (determined by the number of actions you have in a turn), how and when you can play a battle card (determined by the number of cards in your hand and whether you are in the preparation, the main or the closing phase) and how to count the damage done by your units. The later can be a bit tricky and requires a bit practice, but luckily the game comes with many-many sample battles showing detailed step-by-step calculations of every engagement.

The rules are very simple, they can be explained in 10 minutes to almost everyone. Just as with chess, the fine details, the tactical tricks, the strategical depth of the game can and have to be learned on the go. Finally a game where the phrase "easy to learn, hard to master" has a true meaning, not just buzzwords!

I can recommend Battle of Limanowa to everyone who wants a modular game, which is both cooperative and competitive at the same time and thanks to the core of the game, has almost endless replayability. If you are a fan of games like Age of Empires or Axis & Allies or similar strategy games and always wanted to alter history, this is your game.

I really hope, there will be another edition of this game as well, with different setting: I would love to play this set in the Ancient Rome or somewhere in the Middle Age, or even maybe with some sci-fi setting, like Starcraft or Star Wars.
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