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Andrew Kluck
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Hudson
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I love reading reviews here on the Geek, but while I have strong opinions about what I play I rarely have the opportunity to contribute since what I want to say has already been said with more eloquence than I can muster by people with far more experience with the game and knowledge of the topic.

In this case, there are no alternatives so you're stuck with me.

Khyber Rifles: Britannia in Afghanistan is a light treatment covering the First Afghan War. It bills itself as "Minutes to Learn. Quick to play. Historically Accurate." So this review will be structured on those claims.

Minutes to Learn:
Khyber Rifles is part of The Hand of Destiny mini-game series, there is also Custer's Final Campaign: 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn available and I believe more are coming out. The core system rulebook is 4 pages, the Kyber Rifles campaign addition is just an extra page. I'll try to give a brief synopsis of the system but I'd easily be in danger of writing an overview longer than the actual rulebook.

It's essentially a IGO-UGO CDG on a point-to-point map using a bucket 'o dice combat CRT. Each side (Afghans, British) have 9 campaign cards and they keep them faced down in their own draw deck taking turns picking one from the top each turn, the Afghan player always goes first. The card will tell that player if he gets reinforcements, if and what he can move, if there are any special rules for this turn and if he has to shuffle his discards into his draw deck. The cards are pretty, small but efficient. Units are simple with one number indicating combat factor. They're either infantry, cavalry or a leader, regular or irregular, and they are all part of a specific command. The British have 4 different commands, the Afghans have tribes but the campaign cards don't restrict movement based on tribes just number of mobile units for that turn by die roll.

Combat is simple. Line up the competing units and each side makes a tactical roll getting a +1 of elite status and/or terrain. The side that wins gets first crack, picking one unit to activate. Say a unit has a 3, it rolls three dice for every 5 rolled the opponent panics one unit and every 6 kills one unit. Then the opposing player picks on of his units and does the same until everyone on one side is either panicked or dead, rinse and repeat if that hasn't occurred yet. Some units have the ability to break away before taking their lumps and units out of supply have their combat factor reduced by 1.

The back of the game cover mentions 'light tactical choices' to me that means something like the tactical card play in For the People or something similar. I was disappointed to find this wasn't the case. The players have to make meaningful choices but they aren't on what I'd call a tactical scale.

There is a bit of rules abiguity as well, perhaps it's my pedantic nature but these are three issues I had.

-Combat happens when two forces meet on one space. Supply is checked for movement before the move and supply is checked before the battle so it's possible to move from supply into a battle where you are not in supply. Yet units draw supply from forts so it seems a besieging force can get supply from the fort its besieging. While that might defy common sense Afghanistan is a harsh place and the space marked Kandahar could include the lush fields surrounding it not just the city. I played it attacking units could not draw supply from the space they were attacking and it felt right.

-I also don't believe it outright says a unit that attacked in one round wouldn't be eligible to attack again in the same round, but I ruled it couldn't.

-All of the Afghan units have crossed swords on their flipped side, some with a background in their tan color and some in red. This is relevant since the Afghan units are supposed to be unrevealed on the map until combat. There doesn't appear to be any reason for this so I'm guessing it's a misprint.

Quick to play:
I read the rules and played my first solo game in under two hours. I could probably teach someone to play and get a game finished in an hour. Two experienced players could play a game in 30 minutes.

Historically Accurate:
I'm no expert on the subject, but I've read a few books about this particular conflict. In my two solo plays I don't see any glaring errors or any obvious gamey strategies that would result in an ahistorical outcome. The Afghan leader Akbar Khan was a powerful personality, but even he had issues uniting a divided land into a cohesive military force. The campaign cards allow the British units to move farther, but restrict who can move more. The Afghan's cards allow them less range but a greater variety of strategic options. At first I thought those should be reversed, but on reflection it has bothered me less. The Afghan player has an incentive through campaign cards to keep Akbar Khan in Cabul or Kandahar restricting his offensive flexibility, furthermore, there is the possibility of his units disbanding by one of his own Campaign Cards. For 5 pages of rules and 40 units in the game maybe that's enough.

Conclusion:
Well there it is, if you've read this far you probably could have learned the games rules in about the same amount of time. My rating for games changes over time as they fall in and out of favor, but given that I'm not going to edit this review later and I've only played twice so far I'm uncomfortable giving this a solid rating here.

So how about this; it was worth $12, I'm looking forward to teaching it to my group as a filler, would play it again solo and would pick up another in the series.
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Caleb
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Seminole
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I think I can answer a couple of the questions you had (though I have a few of my own!).

Fortresses or forts only supply units if occupied by friendly units. Note that British units can only be in supply if they are inside forts or bases in the winter turns, including at the start of the game. So the Cantonment is out of supply at the start, but so would be any afghan force attacking it.

Units can attack twice in a turn if they win a battle and engage in pursuit which does not need to follow the fleeing enemy and can end them up in a space with enemy units, in which case they must attack.

The red-backed afghans seem to be a mis-print.

I have no idea what the afghan victory condition about British units in the recruit box means. In Section 27.0 it says the afghan player gets 1VP per British regular infantry and cavalry in the recruit box, full stop. Under 29.0 there is a note about tracking the number of eliminated British units to "determine whether the afghans have eliminated eight units." This makes no sense.

It seems to imply that the afghans can only earn a max of 8 points in this way. This would mean they can score a max of 13 points overall. It aligns fairly well with the British max if 14 points. But if units beginning in the recruit box don't count toward the afghans total, then the British player could easily game the system by always taking his replacements from his killed units and deny the afghan ANY points. That doesn't make sense either.

There is a thread on CSW where Joseph Miranda commented but his explanation didn't help.

One other thing. Supply is confusing in general because it affects both movement and combat. It's unclear if supply is checked before both phases. If so, then it's possible for a unit in supply to move to an attack and be out of supply at its destination, with the battle penalty associated with that. This seems pretty harsh. If supply is only checked at the start if the turn, then that would make attacking a lot easier.
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Eric Teoro
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Thank you for your review.

Your concluding statement is about as valuable a summary rating as I have seen. You've encouraged me to pick up a copy as well.
 
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Dafydd Gwynedd
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Thanks for the review.

cannoneer wrote:
There is a thread on CSW where Joseph Miranda commented but his explanation didn't help.

Do you have a link to the thread.
 
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