Hammer of the Scots
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Hammer of the Scots brings to life the War of Scottish Independence. As the English player, you seek to subdue a rebellion led by the Braveheart, William Wallace. The Scottish player must defeat the invading armies of Edward I to win freedom. This entertaining game will give you insight into a fascinating period of Scottish history.
Best Historical Simulation Game, 2004
Best Historical Simulation Game (special award), 2003
Average Rating: 4.8 in 11 reviews
Wow only 6 pages of rules and a third of that is historical information. Being the unofficial game rule maharishi and interpreter of games. This game was up and running in a half hour with a non-war gamer. The first game actually required very little in the way of the typical scanning of rules for answers.
After the instructional first game ended and we had a solid grasp of the rules we chose to play a second more strategic game. This started at 10: 30 (My friend is usually good until about 11:30) and ended at 1:30 am. After the game was done we both agreed that it went fast and were surprised that it only took about an hour. Until we looked at the clock! Holy Cow, it was a three hour game. My friend should have been bobbing in and out of a semi-conscious state by this time. Did the company lace the event cards with some time altering chemical?
This game while short in rules is not short in strategy or tactics. It has a quick learning curve and is not bogged down in the typical war game minutia. The cards add a real element of strategy. The dice do have a tendency to create a luck factor. However it does not seem to be excessive when coupled with the other game stratagems and tends to balance itself out. Highly recommended if you like war games. I would also recommend this as an entry level game. Dont take me the wrong way when I make this last statement. This is a game that seasoned war gamers will enjoy but the rules are just that simple to comprehend.
How this games works has been talked about in previous comments.
Let me add that I started to shift from the german boardgames (eurogames) towards the more american wargames. Axis and allies is game that more or less fits the description. Hannibal, although very, very good was just a bridge to far to enjoy in the same way I enjoyd a eurogame. Finally after a long search my eye fell on this beauty. Expectations were high but now that I have played it three times...woowww. The only negative comment one could have is the low standard of material used for map and components in comparison with the typical good quality eurogame. Buy the gem.
Hammer of the Scots, by Jerry Taylor of East Front fame, is Columbia's latest block game. It covers the key period in the Scottish Wars of Independence, from Wallace's revolt to Bannockburn. Like all block games, there is the fun and suspense of not knowing exactly what forces your enemy has. The blocks are set up on edge so that only you can see your units' type and strength. The game is driven by action cards, which determine how many areas get to activate each turn. Each year is made up of five turns, followed by a winter phase. In each turn the players simultaneously reveal a card. The side with the higher card moves first, English winning ties. After all movement battles are fought in contested areas. What sets this game apart is how in eight short pages of rules you get a wonderful feeling for this tumultuous period.
Let's start with the units. The Wallace block represents his guerilla band, able to hit hard against a weak opponent, or to slip away against a stronger. King Edward and his knights pack a mighty wallop, but they usually return to England each winter. (Edward I can keep his army in Scotland over one winter, but never two.) The English infantry is poor in battle, but they can stay in Scotland to garrison English gains. Welsh and Irish infantry pack more punch, but may decide not to fight their Celtic brethren. With the optional schiltrom rule the Scots infantry is better than their English counterparts - but not if the English have longbowmen!
The blocks in the game are the Scotish nobles. Stronger than the infantry, but weaker than the English knights, the nobles have three unique properties that set this game apart. Firstly, you have to win over the majority of the nobles to win the game. Secondly, if a noble is eliminated in battle, it switches sides! The noble, or his successor has been forcibly persuaded to ally with the victor. This are both an English and a Scots blocks for each noble to accommodate this. Thirdly, in winter all nobles must return to their home areas. If these areas are occupied by the other side, the noble is forced to change his allegiance. This rule leads to a whole gamut of interesting tactics.
The game board is a beautiful map of Scotland, divided into about twenty areas, fourteen of which represent the earldoms. These are shown by the noble's coat of arms. The same coat of arms is on the noble's block, which makes finding their way home in winter very easy. Each area shows how many units it can support over winter, and each border is colour coded to show how many blocks may cross it. Highland areas can only winter one unit, and movement in and out of them is restricted to two blocks.
One area represents the north of England. Every winter all English except the infantry must return to the force poll, and a new levy is drawn randomly and set up in England. Edward may in the invading force, or he may be off campaigning in France or quelling baronial dissention in England. Between the luck of the card draw, and the variability of the levy, the fortunes of war will ebb and flow. This feels right. When Edward I came north in force, he did indeed hammer the Scots, and yet there were years when Wallace or Bruce pretty much ran amok.
The card deck contains twenty action cards, which allow one, two or three areas to activate, and five event cards. The events allow you to: 1) pillage an adjacent force, 2) build your own forces, 3) win the allegiance of one noble, 4) make a sea move from any friendly coastal area to another (this leads to some surprises!) and 5) call a truce (which can save ones bacon if played as the last card of the turn!) In addition, if both players play an event simultaneously, the turn is over. This simple mechanism elegantly simulates the on-again off-again nature of this conflict.
There are many historical touches presented with a minimum of rules. Edward I can winter over in Scotland, while ineffectual Edward II can not. A Norse block, representing the possible intervention from Norway or the Lord of the Isles, can strike suddenly at any coastal area. Wallace may always slip back to the Selkirk Forest to winter. Moray is so anti-English he will never switch sides. The Scots may support an extra unit in the areas with the principal Scottish cathedrals, representing the influence of the pro-Scots clergy. The Scots may even crown as king one of Balliol, Comyn or Bruce, but nobles of the opposite faction immediately defect to the English!
With a few blocks, a simple map, a small deck of cards and a slim rule book Columbia has produced a gem of a game. It is well balanced. It has a great historical feel. There are all sorts of surprises in store. There are many tactical and strategic options. The scenarios play in about three to four hours, and they are very replayable. This is a classic. So, out thy guilders, hasten yee to thy nearest hobby store, and purchase yee Hammer forthwith!
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Columbia's block-gaming system, using Stratego-like pieces that hide enemy strength until combat, first appeared in the 1970s. It is splendidly adapted here to a battlefield much smaller than in the company's previous designs: the Scottish Wars of Independence during the reigns of Edward I and Edward II.
The English side, much easier for newcomers to play, has the benefit of large numbers. However, the English must traverse all of Scotland, fighting a guerrilla war along the way and enduring the ravages of attrition due to winter and starvation. The Scottish player may feel daunted at first, before discovering that fortunes can change dramatically as the wily Scots recruit local allies and take advantage of unique movement abilities at opportune moments.
This year's undisputed winner captures the intrigue of the period and is easy to learn and to teach others. It has even attracted a devoted following of non-wargamers.