Rome at War: Hannibal at Bay
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Tactical level game of the the four great engagements Scipio's successful campaign in North Africa against the great Cartheginian General Hannibal in 202 BC. Designed by noted Ancients authority Stephen C. Jackson, this groundbreaking game introduces a stunning new "miniatures" look to the playing pieces with dramatic three-quarter views of legions, phalanxes, cavalry, Velites, and other combat units set against the game board's backgroud. Played out over a historically appropriate geomorphic game board, Ancients games will never look back.
There are several valid complaints about this game. The rule set is not clear, and the game is rather expensive. However, there is a pretty good game in there. If the rules were better written, I'd raise my score to 4-stars.
As a light war game with some fun decisions and easy play, the game works. Unfortunately this level of fun is only reached after hacking your way through the rule set.
The game is more than just 'crash your front line into your opponent's and hope for sixes'. The use of area movement actually gives you more options for facing and maneuvering. If my opponent just wants to crash his front line into mine, I can guarantee he will lose. A two word summy of the play of this game would be: flank management. The Roman Legion is by far the best fighting force in the game. Unfortunately, they usually didn't bring enough cavalry along to effectively guard their flank. Protecting the Roman flanks while still being agressive enough to fully utilize the Roman legions is not easy. The Carthagininans are faced with the opposite task. Take advantage of cavalry charges on exposed flanks to whittle away at the superior Roman infantry.
The rules actually hide a really good activation system. I am currently reading the rules to Eylau (basically the same system). The Eylau rules seem accessible and clear. I don't know why Avalanche Press deviated from the way the rules were presented in Eylau.
There have been many complaints in several different forums about the lack of scenarios. Some of this is also valid. One of the 5 scenarios is rather trivial and only useful as a teaching tool. Of the two scenarios I've played more than once, I've found them to be balanced. More scenarios would be nice, but I've played this game six times, and look forward to playing it again. I think I've gotten my money's worth.
Pretty to look at, boring to play pretty much summarizes this effort. The game just doesn't 'feel' right, and I'm not talking about the non-hex based map. The rules are unclear and even the example card is messed up.
If mindless dice-rolling fests seem fun, then you possibly may enjoy this one. Advance your line and hope that you roll a bunch of 6's. One of my Eurogame buddies did play this with me, and he enjoyed it.
The suggested retail on this package is outrageous. The sparse components and poor scenarios rate maybe 1/2 the price. To be fair, the box is very attractive--but I don't purchase games to look at the box.
Simple GBoH from GMT is the much better choice.
When I think I about Rome at War, one thought instantly comes to mind: why bother?
Physically the game looks nice, but for the money it should have included a lot more counters. You can barely play any big battles. I get the feeling of being set up to buy more and more games in the series just to be able to play many battles.
As a game, it's average. Move up and roll lots and lots of dice, getting a hit on a 6. There are some tricks in the use of cavalry and light infantry. It will take several games to become proficient.
The weak point is the history. There are some very unrealistic things that occur. Engaged phalanxes can ooze down the line and side step from one space to the next. They can even move backwards and exchange their position with the rear units! The board edge is a magic border that allows the losing side to escape into safety. If winning the game, it pays to stop attacking and concentrate on recovering your units to run up the victory points.
Plus the rules, though short, are ambiguous and don't cover important points.
Did you know that a recovered unit doesn't count as a loss?
The game could have been better, at least a 3 star game if it weren't for the unrealistic events and poor rules. But it's not that fun a game, try Simple Great Battles of History instead.