Monday, October 08, 2007

Hammer Of The English Was More Like It

I haven’t had much chance recently to play board games, mostly because my schedule has precluding getting together with like-minded folks to play them. Fortunately, the power of the Internet has enabled to play at least a little bit. Last month I started up a few play-by-email war games, and although one died an untimely death, and one is still in progress, one turned out really well.

That game was Hammer of the Scots. I had picked up a copy in a trade earlier this year, and I’ve wanted to give it a try. Fortunately, the CyberBoard implementation is quite good, even if there’s a lot of back and forth with the revealing of cards. I was able to find a capable opponent through the Point2Point forums (Hi, Shana!), so I was all ready to go.

We finished up the game last week, and I won the game rather handily as the Scots. (I controlled all of the nobles at the end of fifth year.) I liked it, and I’d like to think that my victory didn’t color my perception of the game. The game has pretty much all the hallmarks of a game that I’d like: limited control, simple rules, complex emergent behavior, and a reasonably quick playing time. In particular, I like how you need to think tactically in individual battles and turns but strategically within years and with an eye to wintering. That it pulls this off with so few rules is impressive. The asymmetry of the two sides is interesting as well. The English have to bring up most of their units (and all of their most effective ones) from England every year, but they come in at full strength. The Scots get to build more units in place as they take more valuable areas, but the units come in a minimum strength. The English are also at a disadvantage when it comes to converting nobles during the Winter phase, as their nobles have to go home first. As I play more games, I find that I like these sorts of asymmetries, as they make playing a particular side much more interesting.

You’ll probably be hearing more about this, as we’ve started up another PBeM game of it. We’ll see how well I fare as the English.


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