Andy Ravenscroft
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Imagine if you will an alternative universe, one in which the development of sophisticated family games with high production values occurred mostly in the United States rather than mostly in Europe.

Imagine that in this universe a game was published back in the early 90’s that brought ingenious mechanics together with theme in a way that created a challenging game with a great narrative.

Imagine Hannibal, the long lost American Euro.

I know it’s generally regarded as a wargame, but strip away some of those superficial wargamey elements and you can hear the thumping of its area control heart.

Yes, at its heart Hannibal is all about area control. Most of the time you win by controlling the most regions on the game board. You do that through judicious use of your hand of cards to advance your control of key regions.

If you strip down the rules, they really aren’t that complicated. The rulebook is dressed up with the standard wargamey Dewey Decimal system of numbering the rules (see section 10.2.5), but it’s nothing that couldn’t be sorted out by a few hours with a eurogame rules writer. A Euro-oriented rewrite and ‘Hey presto!’ you get a rulebook like 1960: TMOTP.

If it’s really that simple, then, let’s see if we can describe it in a couple of hundred Euro-friendly words.

OK. Each turn you get a hand of cards that you can spend either as points to move armies, place influence, or as a special action. If you move your army pieces on to a space containing an opposing players army pieces, there’s a battle that you resolve with a special hand of cards which you use to play a mutant version of Snap in which the first player who can’t match the other player’s card loses. If you lose a battle you lose some of your army pieces, and you lose some of your area control markers.

There are a few special rules that involve figuring out whether or not you can do something like withdraw from a battle or take the lead at Snap, but most times it’s just a matter of rolling a dice and getting the right number: 1,2,3 you win, 4,5,6, you lose. Not terribly complicated.

And that’s it, really. There are a few other rules about which general gets to be in charge of your army, and what happens when you try to avoid a battle or have to retreat, but the core of the game would look at home in many a Euro. This is not to say that it isn't more challenging to play than the average Euro, just that it isn't as wildly different as it might first appear.

What is most different about Hannibal to me is the feel of the game. There is a story arc, derived from the history on which it is based, that you don’t get from the typical Euro.

By the way, lest my intentions be misinterpreted, let me state for the record that I come to praise Hannibal, not to bury him. Or something like that. My perspective on the game comes from my own gaming arc: playing SPI and Avalon Hill wargames in the 70’s, through picking up my first euro (Hecht im Karpfenteich) in 1992, and the long and winding road that led through Settlers, El Grande, and their myriad sons and daughters.

Hannibal was one I missed along the way, and it’s a shame because it would have felt ahead of its time back in 1991. From the standpoint of 2008, though, it’s still a great game - a Euro dressed up in helmets and shields – a relative that the Eurogames of today didn’t even know they had.

I look forward to the cross-fertilization that Hannibal will bring to the design of Euro games. Surely this great marriage of mechanics, theme and strategy, although late to the table for most of us, will invigorate the Eurogame gene pool.

I look forward to meeting in future years the sons and daughters of Hannibal.
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Iain K
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gobbeg wrote:

Imagine that in this universe a game was published back in the early 90’s that brought ingenious mechanics together with theme in a way that created a challenging game with a great narrative.


As luck would have it, just such a game was published in *our* universe. It's called "We the People".



PS - Hannibal was released in 1996 - so yes it would have felt ahead of its time in 1991
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gobbeg wrote:

What is most different about Hannibal to me is the feel of the game. There is a story arc, derived from the history on which it is based, that you don’t get from the typical Euro.

Right. That's because it's a wargame where fidelity to the theme is actually important, and not a Euro. For the same reason, the game includes a number of minor oddities and inelegancies that don't fall directly out of the core mechanics - tribes (two types!), restrictions about moving/intercepting/retreating over mountains passes (two types of those too!), an entirely clunky system of determining the Roman commander and special rules describing what happens when two commanders share control of an army, and many more.

Sorry, I just don't buy "Hannibal is a Euro" for a minute. It's not even sort of kinda like a Euro. It's a wargame through and through. Sure, the rules are mostly pretty streamlined, but still a large number of them exist solely for the purpose of historical accuracy. If it were truly reviewed as a Euro, it would be rightly derided for including far too many rules (such as those mentioned above) that have only a minor impact on gameplay while adding more for the player to remember. But if you got rid of those little rules, it wouldn't really be about Hannibal anymore - then it would be a Euro. But as it stands... most definitely a wargame.
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That's a nice review of Hannibal. I did play it all those years ago when Avalon Hill first released it and it was indeed a new and exciting experience! Of course, back then I didn't know what a Euro Game was despite having played games like Civilization for years. Ok, so Civ took 12-14 hours to play but it was a primordial Euro game - there's not much doubt about that.

Some 10 years after discovering Hannibal I was introduced to Euro gaming - the first one being Reiner Knizia's 'Ra'. It was a whole new world and my poor old collection of hex based wargames became sadly neglected for a few years while I bought and played nothing but Euros. Inevitably though, while continuing to love my favourite Euro games, I found that their abstract beauty left me yearning for the blood and guts of human history.

So now it is the search for the perfect 'crossover' game that keeps me buying new games. The ingenuity of Euro style game mechanisms coupled with the drama and sweep of history produces (to steal a phrase from Wynton Marsalis) "a cocktail that is irresistable". Hannibal came very close to achieving this perfection and I suspect some of its sons and daughters are already among us.
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So much bl...,I mean ink, has been shed over definitions. "War Games," "Ameri-Trash" (not the same thing), "Euro Game" - everyone pretty much has their own idea what these categories mean and what fits in each category. I don't think of Hannibal as a War Game, at least in the traditional hex and counter sense, nor do I think of it as a Euro. I wouldn't even call it a hybrid cross between War Game and Euro.

But, to even have a proper discussion about such terms, we would all have to agree on what the terms mean - and I don't mean statements like, "well I don't know what the definition is but I know one when I see one!" Statements like that simply strike me as a confession and demonstration of ignorance all in one breath.

I think Mark Herman started an entirely new game genre with his landmark We the People which we now refer to as Card-Driven Games (CDG). Successors was next out of the stable although strictly speaking it was not a CDG in the same sense as WtP or Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (the third in the series from Avalon Hill). A CDG has at its heart the requirement to play a card to do anything in the game. The card play may have a simple quickly implemented resolution or it may trigger a series of activities that take a while to resolve, but the fundamental act of playing a card to set any of these in train is at the heart of the mechanic.

Since those three, GMT has produced most of the rest of them and they range all over the map as to theme and treatment. Hannibal is a CDG that resembles a war game (however you choose to think of them), while Twilight Struggle doesn't appear to be like a war game at all (unless you want to include the Cold War in the category). CDGs can be two-player or multi-player and can use area movement, point-to-point or traditional hex movement schemes. Their themes and treatments can be grand-strategic right down to tactical in focus. They probably require more DPS (decisions per second) than any game category I can think of.

So, Hannibal "not really a war game?" No indeed - but it remains one of the first and greatest CDGs to ever be published. Well done to Valley Games for bringing it back to the community!
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Re: Hannibal “not really a wargame” Shock! Horror!
Meh. All wargames are essentially area control games with varying levels of complexity in regards to control marker placement and movement. You could as easily say El Grande is a wargame with all the chrome stripped out.
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Bubslug wrote:
I think Mark Herman started an entirely new game genre with his landmark We the People which we now refer to as Card-Driven Games (CDG). Successors was next out of the stable although strictly speaking it was not a CDG in the same sense as WtP or Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (the third in the series from Avalon Hill).


Actually, Successors was third in the series. Mark Simonitch, who developed the game from an original Richard Berg design, and used We the People as inspiration for Hannibal, originally concepted Successors to include a straight-up Alexander the Great game. When it quickly became obvious that the period after Alexander's death was way more interesting and balanced (not to mention multiplayer friendly) the game rapidly took shape as the third in the series -- and the first CDG to work with more than 2 players.
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I would say Hannibal feels a lot more Wargamey than WtP. Haven't played Successors, but am looking forward to trying out the reprint. Both of the Racier CDGs feel very wargamey. Perhaps it's the lack of counting up of factors that makes WtP and Hannibal seem less wargamey.

Here I Stand feels pretty wargamey to me, though I'll bet a lot less so than Pax Romana. Age of Napoleon is another weird CDG offshoot, feeling at once very wargamey and also totally abstracted.
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What about RISK?
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Yes there seemed to be a bit of divergence in the CDG evolution plus some variations on the mechanic that are quite interesting, with more on the way as this approach to driving the action seems to have really caught on. Looking at the original Mark Herman model, those CDGs became two families of games - two player games following on from WtP and Hannibal, and those that flowed from Successors as multi-player games.

The Herman model CDGs have admittedly returned somewhat to their "war game" roots. On the two player side, For The People put a stake in the heart of battle cards for good (Successors didn't use them either), returning to the use of CRTs for combat. The Raicer designs have been mentioned (Paths of Glory and WWII: Barbarosa to Berlin), and Empire of the Sun from Mark Herman and Stephen Newberg even returned to hexes. The first game to buck the trend was Twilight Struggle.

The multi-player versions followed a similar path. Wrey Ferrell's Sword of Rome retained much of the appearance and feel of Hannibal (minus the battle cards) but departed from the area control nature of the earliest CDGs preferring to set the contest over "Victory Points." All the other multi-player CDGs focus on achieving success through VPs as well, but somehow they didn't end up feeling quite as much like war games as the two-player CDGs, perhaps because we tend to think of war games as being exclusively between two-players for the most part. But the war game roots in the multi-player CDGs were still apparent.

This VP feature is shared by both sides of the family for that matter. Each follow on has had its own approach to defining what VPs were and how to get them, but the Othello-like approach to political control/area control featured in WtP and Hannibal has been abandoned along with the battle cards.

As for designs that depart from the Herman model, Age of Napoleon is Reynaud Verlaque's variation on the CDG engine which is a phased game where cards are used in quite different and interesting ways. Martin Wallace's Liberte and his most recent release Brass are card driven games quite distinct in their own right and neither are anything like war games. Nero and Waterloo were card driven games of a totally different sort which I hesitate to mention other than to illustrate what most likely will turn out to be an evolutionary dead-end. Richard Sivel's Friedrich and El Grande by Kramer and Ulrich represent yet other directions card driven designs can take; the first has a definite war game feel to it while the second has no such feel whatsoever despite having a theme suggesting open conflict (triumph of Euro sensibility over traditional consim design?).

There is nary a game published today that doesn't rely heavily on cards to either drive or enhance the game play. We've come a long way since "Chance" and "Community Chest." The "Herman Model" CDGs may still most closely resemble war games but they all have a lot more to them than simply "pushing counters."
 
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Peter White
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I could easily imagine Hannibal rewritten with fewer martial details in the spirit of an area control Eurogame, but, alas, the Hannibal we have has a long way to go.

Once you have really mastered the basics of combat, you are ready to graduate beyond being a "C quality" player, and spend most of your time thinking about area control. Those basics do not come easily to non-wargamers.

There is a certain "Go, but with lots of randomness" feel to the game. There is the tactical game. And there is the strategic game. They are separate...and intertwined.
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Its a card-driven wargame. Sometimes there are games which straddle several categories and are hard to pin down. This is not one of them.


Has anyone tried using the plastic mumakil from War of the Ring to represent the Elephants in Hannibal?
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Richard Berg
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> "Mark Simonitch, who used We the People as inspiration for Hannibal, originally concepted Successors as a straight-up Alexander the Great game. When it quickly became obvious that the period after Alexander's death was way more interesting and balanced (not to mention multiplayer friendly) the game rapidly took shape as the third in the series ..."

Wrong.

SUCCESSORS was my design from start to finish . . . and it was designed before WE THE PEOPLE came out (altho, Mark Herman, being my best friend, and I are always in close contact). The game was originally conceived for AH as a two-game package, including one game on Alexander the Great. AH dropped the latter because they felt it would all cost too much, and that SUC would have more market oomph than AL. (The Alexander design, somewhat reworked) eventually appeared last year for GMT.)

Mark Simonitch was the (very very valuable) Developer for SUCCESSORS (NOT the Designer, altho that title in no way diminishes his contributions). It was his idea to change the original system I had handed in somewhat to make it feel more like WE/PEOP and HAN . . . with my acquiesence. Mark has redesigned, somewhat, the original SUCCESSORS which will be published by GMT this summer.

Amazing how many people think they know what happened . . . no harm, to be sure.

"There is nary a game published today that doesn't rely heavily on cards to either drive or enhance the game play."

An overstatement, to be sure. There are many histogames that use cards . . . and there are many that do not. Biut one does see them more than we have in the past . . . mostly because they provide the designer with many options, and the players with lots of touchy-feely goodies.

The world is constantly changing . . .

RHB


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All too often Euro translates to "innovative and different" and wargame transaltes to "new theme, same hex and counter mechanics". Rubish. Wargames (i.e. games about war) can be done with new mechanics and have been for decades.

The real distinction to be drawn is consims: Does the wargame serve as an aid to better understand the history? Can you read an article and set up the game to gain further insight to what the article was talking about and even sometimes reenact what the commanders had to deal with.

Folks bridging from Euros to wargames do so for different reasons. Some actually want to choose a topic to study. Others are looking for a new mechanic but at heart still want the same types of mental puzzle challenges they find in Euros.

Hannibal is a wargame, but imho not a consim.
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Richard Berg
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"All too often Euro translates to "innovative and different" ..."

I find as many Euro-type games to be remarkably similar in mechanics and flow . . .

"Hannibal is a wargame, but imho not a consim."

As a student of the era, I disagree. Within the context of the game's focus, and ignoring the use of battle cards (which are distinctly not simulation oriented), HANNIBAL is as much a simulation as one would want . . .again, at this level. I think any gamer can learn a lot about the 2nd Punic War playing HANNIBAL. And it IS a game, not a teaching tool.

RHB
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BROG wrote:
"All too often Euro translates to "innovative and different" ..."
I find as many Euro-type games to be remarkably similar in mechanics and flow . . .

I agree. That is why I think some people are complaining that Euros are getting stale. There's a lot more low risk 'formula for success' imitation than there was in the Euro market 10-15 years ago.

Quote:
"Hannibal is a wargame, but imho not a consim."

As a student of the era, I disagree. Within the context of the game's focus, and ignoring the use of battle cards (which are distinctly not simulation oriented)

but at least for me that is the key piece in making a wargame also a simulation. The details that I can get off of text (while still great edutainment) I can get from the books. The consims that give me a 2-D layout of the war/battle with a real sense of distance and let me watch the movement unfold in a changing model are the conflict simulations. They have their faults in that they often show too much detail to capture the fog of war, but as a visualization tool they are excellent.

Quote:
HANNIBAL is as much a simulation as one would want . . .again, at this level. I think any gamer can learn a lot about the 2nd Punic War playing HANNIBAL. And it IS a game, not a teaching tool.

RHB

I agree with this -- but again "at this level" it doesn't capture the properties of a conflict simulation model (for me). Perhaps our differences come from me thinking in terms of non-game computer modeling (which does work as a teaching tool to teach or describe the subject) when I think of simulation and you working with a pure definition of the industry. Yours is probably better for this forum, but for anyone new to the hobby coming from a computer math background contrasting to mine is a worthy footnote.
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A Euro is a piece of clockwork. A craft of perfection, it will go on ticking once created.

A wargame is a piece of legislation. Once created it is beyond the control of its creators and its shape is defined through implementations and endless debates.
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stephen newberg
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WalterLai wrote:
A Euro is a piece of clockwork. A craft of perfection, it will go on ticking once created.

A wargame is a piece of legislation. Once created it is beyond the control of its creators and its shape is defined through implementations and endless debates.


Pretty good, I like it. Can I steal it?

Otherwise, Richard Berg is on target, IMO. We must stop agreeing like this, Richard.

pax, smn
 
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WalterLai wrote:
A Euro is a piece of clockwork. A craft of perfection, it will go on ticking once created.

A wargame is a piece of legislation. Once created it is beyond the control of its creators and its shape is defined through implementations and endless debates.
How about RISK?
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"We must stop agreeing like this, Richard."

To be sure . . . bad for our public images.

RHB


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BROG wrote:
> "Mark Simonitch, who used We the People as inspiration for Hannibal, originally concepted Successors as a straight-up Alexander the Great game. When it quickly became obvious that the period after Alexander's death was way more interesting and balanced (not to mention multiplayer friendly) the game rapidly took shape as the third in the series ..."

Wrong.

SUCCESSORS was my design from start to finish . . . and it was designed before WE THE PEOPLE came out (altho, Mark Herman, being my best friend, and I are always in close contact). The game was originally conceived for AH as a two-game package, including one game on Alexander the Great. AH dropped the latter because they felt it would all cost too much, and that SUC would have more market oomph than AL. (The Alexander design, somewhat reworked) eventually appeared last year for GMT.)

Mark Simonitch was the (very very valuable) Developer for SUCCESSORS (NOT the Designer, altho that title in no way diminishes his contributions). It was his idea to change the original system I had handed in somewhat to make it feel more like WE/PEOP and HAN . . . with my acquiesence. Mark has redesigned, somewhat, the original SUCCESSORS which will be published by GMT this summer.

Amazing how many people think they know what happened . . . no harm, to be sure.


First off, apologies for forgetting you, Richard!!! Sheesh... and it wasn't that long ago.

I worked at AH at the time and joined when Mark was fairly deep in development on the new version of Successors, so I missed that early pre-We the People history, though I did get the inside scoop on why some of the changes he made were made (including the dropping of the version that included Alexander).

At the time, AH was really trying hard to make their games more mass market. One of my first tasks was designing a simpler version of Successors for 10 year olds, thus the short "minigame" rules that came with the original edition.

Anyhow, I have great memories of playtesting Successors over and over with Mark.

-J.C.
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tppytel wrote:
Sure, the rules are mostly pretty streamlined, but still a large number of them exist solely for the purpose of historical accuracy.


Please admit you misspoke. HRC does a good job of giving a player the feel that they are fighting the 2nd Punic War, but it's hardly about "historical accuracy." It's about a fun game. I love HRC, but it's not "historically accurate."
 
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cmontgo2 wrote:
Please admit you misspoke.

In the context of the OP, not really. Compared to a Euro, Hannibal is historically accurate. Serious consim'ers might say it's merely "historically flavored". Whatever... it's just a matter of degree. You're obviously not going to play out the entire Second Punic War in three hours with the kind of historical accuracy you're expecting. But for what it is, Hannibal does a decent job of the history.

Do you always necro six-month-old threads to pick nits like this?
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Bubslug wrote:
So much bl...,I mean ink, has been shed over definitions. "War Games," "Ameri-Trash" (not the same thing), "Euro Game" - everyone pretty much has their own idea what these categories mean and what fits in each category. I don't think of Hannibal as a War Game, at least in the traditional hex and counter sense, nor do I think of it as a Euro. I wouldn't even call it a hybrid cross between War Game and Euro.


My definitions:

* American-style: wrap mechanics around a theme.
* Euro-style: wrap a theme around mechanics.

It's a continuum; in this sense, Hannibal is firmly in the former camp. "War Game" is nicely fuzzy. The classic war game is extremely American-style (as the above definitions go) -- start with a particular theme, and create special mechanics for every bit of it. Simulation is the name of the game. I think Hannibal is a couple steps removed of this, but not really too far.
 
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blinks wrote:
Bubslug wrote:
So much bl...,I mean ink, has been shed over definitions. "War Games," "Ameri-Trash" (not the same thing), "Euro Game" - everyone pretty much has their own idea what these categories mean and what fits in each category. I don't think of Hannibal as a War Game, at least in the traditional hex and counter sense, nor do I think of it as a Euro. I wouldn't even call it a hybrid cross between War Game and Euro.


My definitions:

* American-style: wrap mechanics around a theme.
* Euro-style: wrap a theme around mechanics.

It's a continuum; in this sense, Hannibal is firmly in the former camp. "War Game" is nicely fuzzy. The classic war game is extremely American-style (as the above definitions go) -- start with a particular theme, and create special mechanics for every bit of it. Simulation is the name of the game. I think Hannibal is a couple steps removed of this, but not really too far.


The battle of sweeping generalizations? I'm as guilty as the next person but this appears to be quite a reach. The distinctions above seem to invite "chicken vs. egg" arguments. Using the above criteria what is Dune (recalling that the original theme intended for its unique mechanics was a game set in ancient Rome)? On the other hand, War of the Ring may be the finest marriage of theme and mechanics since Dune. American-style or Euro? I think of Dune as more of a Euro and WotR as more of a war game, but maybe we would agree on that looking back at those definitions again.

But when it comes to Hannibal and the other CDGs - the base mechanics are similar (with variations that may or may not have anything to do with the theme) and the theme is woven into the design - much as Avalon Hill used to do with their "hex and counter" approach to their war games. SPI used basically the same hex and counter design concept but tossed in buckets of chrome in order to have their games appear more as consims than those of their rival (AH).

Yet in both cases, using your definitions, they come out as Euro-style? I think getting into the "which came first - theme or mechanics?" discussion more confuses than clarifies the issue.
 
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