HANNIBAL & HAMILCAR from PHALANX This must be one of the most anticipated games of all time for me, as it ticks so many boxe...

HANNIBAL & HAMILCAR HANNIBAL & HAMILCAR

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

HANNIBAL & HAMILCAR

from

PHALANX


This must be one of the most anticipated games of all time for me, as it ticks so many boxes - ancients, the second Punic War pitting Carthage against Rome, a CDG game, a revision of an Avalon Hill  game of which I still have both the original edition and The General magazine that contained the material to play out the First Punic War and, most of all, HANNIBAL. 

Valley Games had already produced a 2nd edition of the original Avalon Hill game.  This was primarily a visual upgrade or retread, depending on your point of view.  A larger box, with more dramatic art work, hexagonal shapes rather than circles for both the military units and the point to point locations on the map, redesigned Battle Cards and a few limited changes to the rules.  I've played with both, but didn't feel the need to buy the new edition.

Their intentions of producing Hamilcar on the first Punic War, however, did grab my attention.  This promised to be a whole new design with a more focused map appropriate to the more limited geographical scope of the 1st Punic war and much more attention to the importance of the naval conflict.  But little seemed to happen. So, when news came that the Polish company Phalanx,  producers of Race To The Rhine, had acquired the rights to both Hannibal and Hamilcar, I was all agog and fired with enthusiasm for what might be.


Would they get it right?  Would it be more than another attractive cosmetic job?  Would Hamilcar just use the same map with some minor rule changes and a few different generals, as The General magazine had done?  Consequently, this opportunity to receive for review the final product was like manna from heaven and a very big thank you to Phalanx for giving me this opportunity.  So, shoulder your pilum  and, with elephants at the ready, come with me to journey back to the Mediterranean world of Hannibal and his father, Hamilcar Barca.

If you want drama, there it is immediately staring out at you from the cover of the box lid - a grizzled, one-eyed veteran, Hannibal himself.  Open the box and there's plenty more drama to come.  I've no hesitation in stating that Phalanx would have had every right to have DELUXE in large capital letters emblazoned below the title words.  Everything about the production values is first class - none more so than the generals.  The originals were cardboard standees.  These - all 24 of them - are in very durable plastic.  On the plinth that each stands on are the Strategy and Battle ratings in
  relief sculpting.  Admittedly at the moment it's pretty difficult to read these numbers without picking the model up and peering closely at the base.
Once such stack of Carthaginian units -
in this instance Hanno defending Carthage

Once I've painted them, which these figures absolutely beg you to do, there won't be any problems.  Until I do, the accompanying full-colour card and accompanying octagonal counter are more than enough to keep off board and make sure that I know instantly what these two essential stats are.  These overwhelming generals, colossi of the game board, may occasionally teeter and fall; no more so than when crossing the alps precariously balanced, not on a crumbling icy ledge, but hopefully atop a maximum tower of 10 cardboard units. 
Just three of the beautiful cards
and their accompanying counters

I like the decision to vary the images on the unit counters, but do be careful not to confuse some of the cavalry pictures as they can easily be confused [OK, I admit - I can easily confuse them] for elephants.  Also note that there aren't any actual cavalry rules in the game, despite the images and the fact that cavalry symbols are used on some of the new dice - more about the dice later.  

Having started with what is perhaps the icing on the cake, let's look at the all important map boards.  First of all, the one for Hannibal.

Instead of the original map in two halves, we have a single six-panel fold out.

If you compare this with the original board or the 2nd edition one, the colours are more muted with a matte finish instead of high gloss.  Gone too are the variety of images superimposed on the sea areas.  My reaction is mixed - some elements I prefer in the original, some in this new version.  I like the return to circles rather than hexagons, but prefer the more intense colours and gloss of the original, especially in Africa,  What I do find very strange, as did my opponent when we sat down to our first face to face game, is the contorted geographical orientation.  Or is that disorientation?  It's certainly what we both felt as we struggled to adjust to it. 

For both of us, accommodating the various useful charts seemed to underlie this strange distortion of the geography.  Distinctly odd was the final verdict.  I shall truly have to leave that to your personal taste and judgement as to how acceptable you find it.  Still, no reservations at all on all the many cardboard components. 

All are of very good quality and thickness.  PC [Political Control] markers are significantly larger -  a point I like, as are the square ones for the walled cities and full marks for the single inland walled city of Capua and the trouble taken to make sure that it did not have one edge depicting a coastal strip in blue.  Just as the map's point-to-point markings have returned to circles so have the PC counters that you place on them.  I'm sorry to see the familiar and far more military image of the eagle and SPQR standard gone from the Roman PC markers.  In their place comes another long-standing image, the she-wolf of Rome.  Still looks good, but I know which I prefer.

New to the mix are supply train markers, some much improved triangular siege point markers along with square ones bearing an illustration of a siege engine and, boding well for my anticipations and expectations of Hamilcar, warships!  All together there are four large sheets of counters.
Here you can see just a few of the octagonal general counters.  You can use these instead of the lovely, large plastic models - there will be someone out there who will want to - but each to their own [and you can probably get help with your phobia for plastic models too].

Just as the counters have gone up a notch so too have the cards.  First of all there are lots more.  As mentioned, an individual card for each General and these I greatly appreciate, especially as they serve, in practical terms, as very helpful play aids.  They contain full-colour pictures of each general with details of their specific attributes.  I tend to keep these cards and counters on a separate display with each figure currently not in play located on the card.  Then when it comes time in the Reinforcement Phase of each turn to draw for new consuls, the counters go in to a cup to be drawn from and the general cards of those drawn are placed by me to be easily referred to.  No more peering at what was printed in very small letters on the board or producing your own play aid to read from.

However, the heart of the game as with any CDG is the deck of Strategy cards.  The 2nd edition had already made some artistic improvements and yet again these latest ones have maintained the deluxe feel to this whole ensemble.
Gorgeous feel, gorgeous use of colour and a whopping bonus: an extra 26 cards that can be added to play.  And that's just for Hannibal alone.  Hamilcar brings its own separate deck of 18 Strategy cards, marked with a small trireme in the bottom left corner for ease of recognition.  This is just one of the many ways in which Phalanx really have worked everything out so carefully.  Many of the Strategy cards used in playing Hannibal are similarly identified with a small elephant symbol, but there are a substantial number with no symbol.  To play Hamilcar,  you simply add all these cards which, as you can imagine contain generic Events, whereas those cards marked with either trireme or elephant contain historical Events specific to the 1st or 2nd Punic war.
Here is a typical generic card that features in either war.  Note the boxed R which denotes that the card has a supplementary note in the Strategy Card Notes section of the rulebook.  

Just as the Strategy cards have upped their quality so have the Battle cards though this is a much more marginal change.  The one I like is the additional symbol in the top corners.  This means that you can easily fan your hand out and see at a glance how many of each type of card you hold.  Previously, without these symbols there was a tendency to have to keep checking and searching; a fact that often could give your opponent critical clues to which cards you were running short of and thereby influence their play. 
Clearly these cards can only be used in land battles and so I was very keen to see how the design for Hamilcar with its new facility for naval combat would handle this.  Would it just be a copy of land combat, but finding naval tactics of the ancient world to adorn the cards?  Or would it be a simple table to roll on?  I was very pleased to discover that, though there is a deck of Naval Tactic cards, the construct of naval combat has a totally new dimension. It brings together the introduction of Warships and the concept of being Ready or Spent, the possible play of a Naval Tactic card with die rolling on the attrition table  and the significance of an Admiral's battle rating.  It has also allowed the introduction of the largest piece of cardboard in the game: a large disc with a mighty trident on to show who had Naval Supremacy.  

As always how to acquire all this knowledge for playing the game brings us to the Rulebook.  Well there is only one Rulebook still, but there is beside a Scenario book and  Playbook.  And what books!  Gone is the early, rather coarse paper mainly with lots of black print on white and miniscule illustrated examples of play incorporating perhaps a bit of blue or red print.  Admittedly it's 20 years since the first edition, but for today's market it's definitely the WOW factor that's needed and this provides it in spades.







None of these covers may shout colour, but for me they still have a powerful, I would almost say tragic atmosphere: especially the Scenario Book with its listing, apparently abandoned vessel.  I imagine the spirits of drowned warriors and mariners clustering somewhere silently observing.  In keeping with everything that I've said about the physical quality of this product, these three books are in the same mould.  A glossy, tactile feel and profusion of colour that would grace top quality coffee-table books.  They are a pleasure just to hold and flip through the pages.

But let's get more practical and down to earth.  What's in them beside their looks?  The Rulebook contains everything from the original game with only two small changes.  One is that you can't Intercept into a location that contains enemy units - no big deal that - the other is far more significant.  Crossing passes now has a beneficial modifier, while crossing Alpine passes no longer has an adverse modifier.  Suddenly, that fabled passage of the Alps has become much easier to achieve.  I'm still not sure how much I agree with this historically, but it does open up the game much more and I think has made it even more dynamic.  So, for that alone, I'm happy.  Illustrations and examples are in full-colour and the layout is spacious making reading a very easy task.


There are some tweaks to naval movement, but not in terms of rules.  In essence, they are identical to the original, but instead of having +/- modifiers on the map, there are now red or blue dots.  These are combined with a new dice that sports red diamonds or blue dots as well.  Combined together they achieve exactly the same as an ordinary D6, under the old rules.  In fact, Phalanx have even supplied a play aid so that you can play using purely the old tables and a D6.  However, it does mean turning blue dots into negative numbers and red dots into positive numbers.  The rationale is that the new system with the specialised die makes for ease of play, but I haven't played against anyone who doesn't know the original rules.  So it's hard to judge the efficacy of this change.

The only other changes also involve new dice and that's for Land battles.  You still use Battle cards thankfully and roll for initial casualties to both sides on the Attrition Table.  But instead of the loser rolling a D6 on the Retreat Table, there are now two special dice: a large one and a small one.  For forces that begin the battle with 4 or fewer units you roll the small die, for forces that start with 5 or more units you roll the large die.  The faces of these dice carry different combinations of three symbols: a circle, a cavalry symbol and an infantry symbol.  Sadly these in a way are purely cosmetic as there is no division of units into different types.  Instead, you compare them to the instructions and identical symbols carried on the last Battle card played that ended the battle.  It's cute, but I'm not sure it's an improvement on the simple throw of an ordinary D6.

What I like least about some of these new dice is the size, as I've always found that over-sized dice don't roll well and particularly can't be used in a dice-tower [unless you have a very over-sized dice-tower to match!]



Here you see all the new dice.  The large and small blue ones are those I've just described the use of.  The top red and white dice are used for the revamped siege/subjugation rolls.  The large white one [in reality grey - don't know what my camera has done to the colour here] at the bottom with red diamonds is the one used for determining the success of Carthaginian naval movement.  Oh, and the other die at the bottom is an ordinary D6!

All in all then, rule-wise the Rulebook is virtually identical to the original, just infinitely more attractive, easy to read and containing expanded information on the Generals' individual abilities and notes about the Strategy Cards.

The Scenario Book contains the REAL meat of what's new.  44 pages long [that's 12 more pages than in the Rulebook]. it starts with the one and only, full, original whole Second Punic War 218 - 201 B.C. scenario.  What follows are 11 Scenarios of varying length playing out sections of the war and then Scenario 13 offers a modified Set-up once more for the whole Second Punic War.  This part is what I would call a completist's dream.  It also does mean that if you're pushed for time you can always indulge in a mini bit of Hannibal.

Then at last, to a fanfare of trumpets, we arrive at Scenario 14 Hamilcar the First Punic War 264 - 241 B.C.  Hamilcar retains all the rules from Hannibal - except those for crossing mountain and Alpine passes.  Reason being the more limited geography of the 1st Punic War and hence of the map.  So, no Transalpine and Cisalpine Gaul and therefore no passes to cross.  Also no Iberia and even Africa is much truncated with only two provinces, one of which, Numidia, starts occupied by mainly neutral tribes.  What markedly sets it apart from Hannibal is the inclusion of a substantial set of rules for naval movement and naval combat.  Rightly, I think, the decision was made to put these in the Scenario Book.  They do take some thought to get your head fully round them and this has significantly slowed play so far while making sure that we're getting it right. [Bear in mind that this is by contrast with playing Hannibal, which for me is like slipping on an old, familiar, well-worn jacket!].  They don't have the immediate clarity I associate with this game, but a very substantial example [three and a bit pages]of the whole of one Naval Combat does a very good job of easing you along the right track.

Finally, we come to the Playbook.  This has become a familiar and very welcome feature of many board wargames.  The normal expectation is a play-through usually of a full turn with plentiful illustrations and often followed by extensive historical and Designer's notes    This one is an unusual hybrid.  In the main, it attempts to be another way to teach the rules.  A single page historical background is followed by first presenting some of the basic concepts accompanied by lavishly illustrated examples and then at length provides a series of tutorials where you are introduced to major rules along with a puzzle you are invited to play out in order to practice the rules you've just read.  

I've already watched at least one video with a reviewer waxing lyrical about this format.  I have to say I was less enthusiastic,  mainly because it seems to be doing the same job as the rule book, but in a different way.  Whereas the typical Playbook allowed you to see the game being played and so both helped to clarify points and, what was even more helpful, showed if you had understood the rule correctly, this simply gives you the opportunity to practise for yourself the rules in stages.  In other words, it's almost like having two different types of rulebook.  Considering the quality of what has been presented, it just seemed an opportunity missed to provide what would have been the most spectacular traditional Playbook.


 So far I've largely written for those of you like me who have at least a reasonable background understanding of this game from one of its two prior incarnations.  I tend to assume that, if you have that knowledge, then you're highly likely to start with a good and, I hope, glowing opinion.  If you don't share that glow, well I could say please leave quietly now and don't slam the door, but I doubt that you ever bothered to read this in the first place.

This final section then is for those who have the wonderful experience of coming to this game with no prior knowledge and perhaps even no experience of CDGs.  I've accompanied this part with just a few shots taken from a recent game of this magnificent new edition.  For the gaming world, Hannibal was the second instance of that new development in board wargame design: the Card Driven Game [or CDG for short].  As such it was and still is definitely at the easier end of some that followed.  Many consider, as I do, that it is probably one of the finest designs.  It marries the ability for the whole war to be played in about 3 hrs with a set of rules that needs little reference to the rule book after a few games, while offering a look at a fascinating period of history.

I hope what you've seen may already have inspired you to find the nearest store or online supplier.  But just a little about CDGs as an added enticement.  
The whole package at a glance

The essence of CDG games is that each player uses a hand of Strategy cards drawn at the beginning of each turn either from a single shared deck [as with Hannibal] or in many cases each player has their own specific deck of cards [as with games such as Festung Europa and  Shifting Sands].  Each player will play one such card alternately, using either the Event described on the card or the number of points [usually called Operations points or OPs for short] printed on the card in order to carry out one action from a range of possible actions.  In Hannibal, the main choice of action is to use the OPs either to place control markers or move units. 

Hannibal already shows his ability to invade Italy

This may sound very simple.  Having said that, such movement may result in battles, sieges, subjugation of hostile tribes, attempts to intercept or attempts to avoid battle, the problems of moving by sea and many other factors will come into play.  Also one of the best features of CDGs is that there is virtually no down time and even when your opponent is taking their action, you will need to be watching carefully and possibly intervening by either counter-card play of your own or use of a specific rule of the game.

Hannibal's inroads in Italy increase
The other familiar feature of CDGs has been that movement is from point to point rather than using the more traditional hex map of board wargames, though there are a few [again Festung Europa is an excellent example] that do play out on a hex map and  occasionally area movement will be found as another alternative.

Whether you are an aficionado of this game, an experienced gamer who's somehow missed out on the experience so far or a newcomer to board wargaming, I have exactly the same advice.   Get this game in to your collection.  It is one to keep, to admire, but above all to play. 
































































































































































Conclusion U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together...

UBoot:TBG a Kickstarter Preview UBoot:TBG  a Kickstarter Preview

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Conclusion

U-Boot: TheBoard Game is an innovative U-Boat simulation that allows players of any ability the opportunity to work together in a fun, tense and immersive board game experience. If you like games: that make you think, that require lots of player interaction, that are stressful (in a good way) that are asymmetric, where your actions determine your entire experience, that are based on real military history, then this cooperative wargame from Phalanx Publishing is well worth taking a look at.  (Kickstarter Preview page)

I don't normally start reviews with my final thoughts, but if you’re interested to see if you’ll like this game, read on. The first thing to mention is that this game is entirely reliant on a mobile app and my review is based on a prototype edition of the game so any art or components pictured, are subject to change. The prototype does, however, feel very advanced and has custom miniatures in 1/72 scale that represent the 32 submariners (2 work shifts of 16 crew) under the player's control. There is also a U-Boat model that serves as a crew position reference as they ‘mobilise’ around the submarine.
Close up of the U-Boat model
I will attempt to describe the most significant rules and features of the game to let potential Kickstarter backers judge for themselves whether it’s for them or not.

Game summary

In this game, up to 4 players, take on the role of U-Boat Officers during WWII. Players choose to be either The Captain, The First Officer, The Navigator or The Chief Engineer. Each of these positions has a very different, yet equally important, role in making sure the entire crew returns home safely, hopefully with some destroyed enemy shipping to their name. To carry out their particular role each player controls a set of four miniatures which each have their own set of abilities. Effectively managing where the miniatures are in the boat at any given time is crucial to this game i.e. having the right amount of abilities in the right compartment.  This will involve so much discussion among all players, all the time, I would say this is a hybrid cooperative/social/thematic war game …
Setup at the start of a mission
There are no rounds or traditional game-play phases in this game; it is a ‘real-time’ sandbox where your crew will have to react to events and conditions that are triggered either through the mobile app or card draws. In order to react to any event, each player has to move his miniatures around the U-Boat model/board to the correct compartment to carry out any particular order. However, no-one can move their players until they are ‘mobilised’ first by The Captain. (The official Core Rules video is here.)

Mobilisation

Mobilisation allows all players to move all of their miniatures to any compartment in the submarine, (unless it has been flooded). Each mobilisation is paid for by the Captain by advancing a token on the Order Track. Once the Order Track token can go no farther the Captain must advance a token on the Morale Track to pay for any mobilisations. The Morale Track is a measure of how tired and fed up your crew is. The Order Track does get reset after every other watch (huge relief) but the Morale Track is only reduced through certain events and The Captain’s cards.
The Order and Morale Tracks
Once all players have finished moving their miniatures around the boat, The Captain can issue an Order. Again, these must be paid for by advancing a token on either the Order or Morale Track. There are consequences for The Captain pushing the crew too hard; too many orders in a short space of time will cause command and control issues. When the Morale Track token lands on certain spaces an Event Card is drawn. These are nearly always negative consequences and ultimately could lead to a mutiny and the Captain being relieved of his command. 
 The official Captain rules video is here.

Orders

Each player, including the Captain, carries out the orders, by using the abilities of the miniatures under their command, after they’ve been mobilised to the right compartment. For example, to alter course the navigator must have two miniatures with the helmsman icon in the control room; to change speed the Engineer must have two miniatures with the telegraph icon in The Engine Room etc.  In all, there are a total of 17 distinct orders that the players cooperatively attempt to resolve.
The Captain's Player Board
However, responding to orders only describes half of your actions as an Officer on board the U-boat. You will also have unique tasks that you must do in your own play area. The Captain is managing crew morale through his hand of cards which allows them to issue orders and mobilise the crew.  The First Officer is controlling the mobile app and announcing events such as shift changes as well as looking after the health of the crew.  The Navigator is plotting courses and target intercept vectors as well as making sure the crew have enough variety in their diet. The Chief Engineer is attempting to keep the boat from sinking (too far) through repairing leaks and environmental conditions.
Oh dear, things are not going well!
This sounds like a lot of things to be managing, and it is, but the designers have used a time dilation feature on the app to provide some much-needed breathing space. This allows a dynamic passage of time, which gives players just enough time, if you respond quickly, to an event before the next issue crops up. This doesn’t stop issues from piling up if you just ignore them or don’t prioritise them appropriately. Sometimes feeding the crew is not as important as putting out a fire in the Torpedo Room. However as you’d expect, things are much more frantic with an enemy nearby.  The level of player engagement, whether that’s in transit mode (sped up time) or attempting to get a firing solution (near real-time) is spot on, in my opinion.  It’s just enough to keep things suspenseful without being exhausting.

Crew Figures

Prototype Miniatures
 Your miniatures, however, will get exhausted. Each time a miniature’s ability is used one of its activation spaces is blanked off by a token. Each sailor has two different abilities; this means that the dedicated repair miniatures (The Chief Engineer’s) or the dedicated observer miniatures (The Navigator’s) may not be available for their primary duty. Any other figure can perform an order for which they do not have an ability icon but they will be less effective doing so. You will have to blank off two of their activation space for one order. Each miniature only has 3 abilities to start with, so you should attempt to minimise this inefficiency.  This is easier said than done as you’ll constantly have to decide whether it’s worth the exhaustion of one submariner (not so bad) or mobilising the entire crew so the miniature with the right ability can move, and in so doing, advancing the Morale Track to a card draw space (bad) but completing the order (good).
Thanks Cap'n
Each miniature will recover one activation space on a watch changeover - announced by the mobile app and repeated for all to hear by the First Officer. The watch changeover will cause all players to flip their crew panel to reflect the new watch, which has subtly different abilities from the earlier watch, and hopefully more available abilities i.e. they’re more rested. The miniatures remain where they were and now represent the new watch. They have in effect, taken over the corresponding submariners’ task from the earlier watch.  Some events and mobilisations will cause the miniatures to take damage which is resolved by drawing a Health Condition card.  These cards have a strip of icons on them which indicate the effect and treatment.  Each of these Health Condition effect icons will also blank off the activation spaces of the affected miniature, effectively removing them from taking any part in the rest of their watch or until they receive first aid.

Player roles - The First Officer

First-aid is administered by The First Officer. Every Health Condition requires a specific treatment from the First Officers medical supplies. For example, a ‘Severe Burns’ condition wounds and exhausts that miniature and it requires three medical supplies to treat; syringe, ointment and bandage.  Health Conditions also consider the mental aspects of U-boat service, with exhaustion, depression and insomnia all making an appearance. If a miniature ever receives a second wound card they are KIA and no longer available for that watch.
First Officer's Player Board
The First Officer will be working like a one-armed paper hangar managing the mobile app, making sure the right people are aware or remember certain conditions and administering first aid from their supply of medical tokens.

The mobile app provides several first-person views, from the bridge looking through the observer’s binoculars and through the periscope, when at periscope depth, for enemy disposition and torpedo targeting. Whilst surfaced you can use the sextant which will report the grid square the U-boat is in. All of these will require the right miniature in the right compartment to legally access the screen. The integration between what you do on the board (U-boat model) with your miniatures and the app is very well thought out. The official First Officer rules video is here.
An exciting view for the crew...

Player roles - The Navigator

Every day the crew must eat.  In fact, food is one of the primary considerations in managing the morale of the crew.  As mundane as this sounds, it is absolutely right to represent this and the mini-game the navigator has to complete each day can have a significant effect on the Morale Track and can be surprisingly strategic.  The navigator has a supply of Food Tokens with which to prepare a meal every day, which dwindles over time. In essence, The Navigator is attempting to combine ingredients together, with some constraints. For example, having eggs and meat adjacent to one another allows ham omelette to be made with no discernible effect on morale. A casserole, requiring meat, eggs and onions, adjacent to one another, will lower the Morale Track by 1.
Navigator's Player Board
On top of this, The Navigator is responsible for Strategic and Tactical Navigation. Strategic Navigation is simply getting the U-Boat to the right area by plotting a bearing on the Strategic Map – as long as you know where you are.  Tactical navigation is completed by using the attack disk and the shipping tokens on their Player Board map. Reported contacts’ relative position should be plotted and updated (as well as possible) to minimise periscope Orders. The Attack Disk is then used to calculate the best intercept vector for the optimum Torpedo firing point. This was my favourite position as it pretty closely resembles my military experience. The official Navigator rules video is available here.

Player roles - The Chief Engineer

Aside from diving, surfacing and changing speed the unique task of the Chief Engineer is to repair the boat. The VII C, as evidenced by this game is a leaky bucket! There may be times where there are no repairs to manage but when there are you will probably have to coordinate those with not only your miniatures but those of the rest of the players as well. Repairs normally will consist of having the right miniatures, with the right abilities in the affected compartment. However in the most serious of repairs, the Hull Breach you will have a small technical puzzle to complete.  I can’t really comment on the puzzle as it wasn’t included in my prototype.
Chief Engineer's Player Board
As well as the four miniatures position, The Chief Engineer also manages the positions of the two toolboxes around the boat. If some events, i.e. ‘check electrics in crew quarters’ are ignored, they will ultimately develop into an Environmental Condition. These will require one of the supplies within the toolbox to effect repair – much like the First Officers medical supplies.  The toolboxes must be carried by a mobilised sailor into the affected compartment in order to start repairs.

Repairs (and observing), unlike any other order, take time. When a miniature is repairing something one of their activation spaces is blanked off by a special repair activation token. These are coloured green, orange and red to correspond to maintenance, failure, or major failure, which could take a different amount of time and/or number of sailors to repair. The official Chief Engineer rules video is here.
This is not going to end well

The mobile app

I know there’s some ill-will in the board game community towards app-driven games but I don’t share that opinion.  The app in this game helps with your immersion (… anyone?) and integrates more with the game here than in any other app driven game I have tried (Mansions of Madness, Imperial Assault, Descent 2nd Edition).  The app provides some of the events (Morale Track provides the rest), it tracks your world position, it generates enemies, it gives a first-person view and adds an authentic feeling soundtrack. German is definitely the best language in which to bark orders!
My U-Boat credentials
This take on submarine warfare is more immersive than any computer sub-sim I’ve played (see above pic) albeit it’s not as complex. However, through playing the Silent Hunters and Dangerous Waters of this world, I think they are missing a crucial element; when I play them I don’t feel like I’m working together with a crew.  From my military experience, the crew or the people you have around you are what makes or breaks your mission.  In U-Boot: TBG, because there are four of you working together; it really feels like (as far as a game is able – let’s get serious!) you’re a crew on board a military submarine.

In most areas, the designers have got just the right amount of complexity to keep the game enjoyable and realistic at the same time. I would struggle to describe it as a simulation, in my head, they are not fun and usually end with your instructor giving you a less-than-pleasant debrief. However, I think the designers want to implement different levels of complexity within the app that you can try for more of a challenge.

Gameplay Experience

During our missions we’ve experienced amongst other events, compartment fires, leaks, electrical conditions which all divert your attention from sinking enemy vessels. We were advised to check the electrics in a compartment, we ignored that because we didn’t want to have to mobilise the crew again. Unfortunately, it turned into an electrical failure and again it was ignored. Finally, it turned into a hazard causing damage to all miniatures in that section, and any miniature that needed to mobilise through that section. Things were not going well. This seemed to cause multiple lighting failures all over the boat and we had three compartments with no lighting. At this point our First Officer suggested that we turn off the lights in the room we were playing in (we didn’t). A few chuckles were had when Toilet Cleaning was required in the crews quarters.
That's one trigger-happy crew...
On one mission we found a lone merchantman and sunk him for 2500 GRT. We then decided to go and visit Scotland, not a good idea – we were hit by multiple mines and eventually sunk. On our next mission (everyone wanted to play again), we found a small convoy. Everything got very hectic after this as we were nursing several leaks, and electric motor repairs, which led to a fire just as we were lining up on the leading destroyer. Unfortunately for us, at Periscope depth, we were distracted by all the mechanical issues and we were rammed and sunk by the enemy. In hindsight, we should have gone for the merchantmen at the back.  As ever, discretion is the better part of valour. We had such high hopes after discovering the convoy as well!

Future Development

The app is by no means perfect but I wouldn’t expect it to be at this stage. Several things haven’t been fully implemented and I’m sure that through further development the designers will add more content. For example, we were alerted to a patrolling plane but this was only an engine overhead sound, we ignored the second one and nothing seemed to happen. The deck guns aren’t implemented yet so we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. We received a new message from HQ, but couldn’t read it because the enigma machine hasn’t been implemented either.
The Hydrophone
If I have one quibble with the current gameplay, it is that the TDC screen feels a little simplistic, it’s a case of flood the tube and fire. That is probably not going to satisfy the Silent Hunter aficionados out there. I would like to see more complexity, as an option for experienced players, added to the app.

Things that are currently missing, which could be implemented are the ability to work in conjunction with other U-Boats in wolf packs, maybe even over the internet with another group of players…  The prototype only has one patrol mission in the North Sea and after playing it four times I’m ready for some more variety.  I would like to see different types of missions, namely escort missions, rendezvous missions, troop insertion missions, specifically targeted vessels, risky transits from one base to another i.e. going through the Gibraltar Straits or the English Channel, to name a few. I would also like to see a campaign mode covering the rise and fall of the U-boat in WWII. Maybe this will add experienced submariner crews with bonus abilities from successful missions. I have no idea how some of that would be implemented but from what I’ve seen so far I’m sure the final product will meet most of my expectations.

Kickstarter project

In my opinion, this project has come to Kickstarter at the perfect point in its development. It is a project close to what I think Kickstarter was originally intended.  It’s not a polished CMON product offering masses of miniatures as stretch goals nor is it a completely finished-already Queen Games Kickstarter. This is a small(ish) publisher taking on a brilliant (in my opinion) and well play-tested prototype from dedicated designers that needs more development. The game is brimming with potential and is already good value for money at £65. This will only get better as the Kickstarter campaign progresses and more elements are implemented through further design.

The designers and publishers have been very active on the games bgg page, so if you've got a (hunter) killer idea or must-have feature then get in touch with them through the game forums at bgg.

The Kickstarter campaign is currently due to go live on the 22nd January 2018. 

RUNEWARS MINIATURES GAME: LATARI ELVES EXPANSION [If you are not yet familiar with the core game, I'd recommend having a l...

RUNEWARS MINIATURES GAME: LATARI ELVES RUNEWARS MINIATURES GAME: LATARI ELVES

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RUNEWARS MINIATURES GAME:

LATARI ELVES EXPANSION



[If you are not yet familiar with the core game, I'd recommend having a look at my earlier review to get familiar with many of the terms I'll be using.]

This first expansion to the Runewars Miniatures Game brings a substantial balanced package of bowmen and cavalry along with an appropriate new hero and special unit that constitute a whole new race to join the fray.  Elves may be a familiar form, but really what fantasy world would be complete without them?

Even easier to assemble than the already simple to combine components found in the core game, the whole package was finished with minimal application of a little glue within 10 minutes.  The same solid standard and quality of definition in the sculpting remains a significant feature of all these figures.  It is slightly blocky, but this does help with the task of painting.  Only the Aymhelin Scion is slightly disappointing when compared with the magnificent appearance of the special units of the two races in the core game.
The simplest of assembly, just add the head - no glue needed at all. Most of the other poses for the archers needs only the single addition of the bow and arms with two spots of glue.  Even the cavalry units merely need the head and torso [modelled in a single piece added to the animal body and the spear arm glued in place.
Along with the figures come the essential Command dials for dispensing their orders during the game.  As with the core game, one drawback is that each type of unit comes with only a single Command dial.  So, your largest force, the sixteen Deepwood Archers, can be mustered only as a single formation from two up to four stands of 4 units each.  There is no way to break these down into two separate formations of  8 units each  divided between two stands.  A further drawback is that to field the largest formation possible [six stands of 4 units each]

Such flexibility would, I feel, help sell the product even more, as the price for this expansion is fairly substantial with an RRP of £59.99 and most suppliers discounting it down to approx. £47.  There's no doubt that you're getting an interesting addition to your forces.  

Manoeuvrability with striking power is the keynote of this race so far.  This starts with the Leonx Riders,  whose fusion of lion/lynx in their name conveys their ferocity and darting ability.  High initiative and speed make them an unpredictable force, especially as the new Hero in this expansion, Aliana Summersong, links directly with the Riders as their champion. 

She adds a mortal strike [i.e. a guaranteed hit] to all her melee attacks and deals two panic tokens as well making her opponents more likely to fail morale tests.  With her Command dial offering several movement options on the left wheel combined with a range of modifiers on the right wheel there's a great potential for dealing out nasty surprises to your opponent.  Obviously if you are facing these as opponents, remember you've be warned what to expect here!

When you match this with the solidity of the other unique figure in this pack, the Aymhelin Scion, you've got a formidable combination, as these tree creatures can immobilise units they collide with or those who collide with them.  Added to that is their power to stun!  Need I say more!  Perhaps, even more unexpected is their ranged ability - I imagine long, powerful branches lashing out with devastating effect.

Finally, the Deepwood Archers form, for the moment, the "grunts" of this race, though a further expansion will bring you pure infantry.  As archers their ranged fire is always useful and they too are typical of the light-footed speed associated with the elven folk.  Beside all these figures inherent facilities, the expansion brings new upgrades and keywords. 

As usual some of the upgrades relate purely to the special units, but there's an interesting and substantial range for the archers of which Trumpet, Raven Tabards and Packleader's Spear are just a few.  Just as the fact that you do not have enough figures to field the Deepwood Archers in their largest formation is a disappointment in itself, it also means that you cannot access the full range of the upgrades.   Nevertheless, as I indicated in my original review, this miniatures battle game has a great deal of flexibility and I certainly intend to allow myself a little licence in availing my battles of as much of the variety as the cards contain.
Trumpet, Raven Tabards and Packleader's Spear[front]
Trumpet, Raven Tabards and Packleader's Spear[back]


At first I was less than happy that the brief 6 pages of additional new material contained only half a page of new rules.  One page was instructions on how to assemble the figures [a barely necessary provision], two pages of narrative storyline, a page of components and a full page advert for the companion app to Descent: Journeys In The Dark.  However, looking beyond the all to brief written rules, you fortunately find that much else new is located the combination of the two new terrain pieces [one large and one small] with  the two cards that explain them.
The Dimoran Fissure


Though once again technically, as the terrain is double-sided, you can play only two out of the four at one time, there is no reason not to designate any of your home-made [or for that matter professionally produced terrain that you may have bought] as such places as the Wildroot Patch or the Dimoran Fissure.  The latter is a particularly nasty place to avoid as units within range one suffer an automatic wound in the End Phase of a turn.

In this respect for figure gaming, I've never been a great lover of cardboard terrain, attractively produced though these are and would much rather have solid 3D stuff on my tabletop.  Still, if you're pressed for time, they're great for a quick slap 'em down on the table and let's get started - and the Latari Memorial [seen below] has a remarkable 3D quality all of its own.



 A last modest, but useful feature of the product is the storage element.  The outer box itself is rather flimsy, but inside is a stouter cardboard sleeve and best of all is the pre-formed plastic container which comfortably holds all the figures when assembled and put in their stands, along with terrain and cards.  

So, as I hope you'll agree a worthwhile first addition to your expanding forces, if you've chosen to follow this new system and potentially a good buy too if you're just looking to expand your fantasy figure collection. 



RRP – £59.99
Online Retailer – 365games.co.uk