The title “Forest of the Impaled” may sound a bit bleak, but it’s a fantastic bit of fun condensed into four quick-playing turns. In this historical boardgame, you will assault or defend late-mediaeval Transylvania and Wallachia in the role of one or more of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, Vlad III “the Impaler” Dracula, his brother “Radu the Fair,” or one of the Sultan’s generals.
Mechanically, the game is light, but don’t let that fool you; each side has a very sticky situation to deal with, and very different strengths and weaknesses.
As the Ottomans, you have an overwhelming numerical advantage, both a 2:1 advantage in numbers of potential troops, and also a 6:1 advantage in numbers of generals!!! … but you must capture 7 castles in Wallachia and Transylvania in 4 turns, all the while defending yourself from the historical Dracula, who is no slouch on the battlefield.
As Dracula, you are outnumbered heavily. But in addition to your much better leadership skill, you’re on home turf, you know the mountain passes, you can recruit locally, and you can live off the land, whereas the Ottomans must maintain supply lines if they want to eat. Oh yeah… you have one other advantage. You can turn Ottoman dead, your dead…or your living troops, for that matter, into “impalement markers” which cause Ottoman armies to pass morale checks which are very likely to split their armies into fragmented leaderless groups which you can mop up in detail….and you just need to keep one castle each in Transylvania and Wallachia for 4 turns to win.
This game plays very well with two, but absolutely shines with more. Most games that even attempt “fog of war” do so clumsily. Here it’s handled very naturally by forbidding allied generals to speak to each other (about the game) unless they occupy the same space on the board.
Surprisingly, it also plays well solitaire! There are no traditional “solitaire” rules…no “AI” to run the enemy troops, but it’s still a blast to sit down and run both sides in a sort of schizo-solitaire. It also plays to extremely close and nail-biting conclusions this way, which speaks volumes to the game’s play balance.
The game board is a beautiful roll-out fabric map of the area, and the pieces are wooden rectangles which will make your play area look like the maps in military history books, and the striking red and black pieces are a perfect complement to the theme.