Sunday, January 05, 2014

Khyber Rifles

Khyber Rifles, published in 2012 by Decision Games, is part of that company's Mini Games Series.  It contains a four-page rules folio for the "Hand of Destiny" series rules, and a one-page rules sheet containing the specific rules for Khyber Rifles.  So, five pages in total, which is pretty slight.  The game also comes with 11" x 17" map sheet, 40 counters, and 18 cards, nine each for the Afghan and British players.  The game covers the year 1842 in Afghanistan, which saw the Afghan warlord Akbar Khan crush a British army, and another British army come in to teach him a lesson.

In fact, that is exactly what happened when I played the game!  The Afghans killed lots of British forces and captured Cabul, but in the last turn the British relief force retook Cabul, kicking out Akbar Khan and sending him into the mountain passes to lick his wounds.  This mattered because of the different ways that each side scores victory points.  The British player gets victory points for controlling fortified spaces, and Khyber Pass, primarily.  The Afghan players score points for having Akbar Khan in Cabul or Kandahar, and for eliminated British units.  So the Afghans just need to focus on killing British and getting their leader into a victory space at the end of turn 11, while the British need to cover lots of terrain (though Cabul is worth the most points to them).  Thus, the Afghans are incentivized to pick off British units and make a big rush towards their chosen major fort at the end of the game, while the British have to cover lots of ground.

One nice touch (though it can be frustrating) is the use of the cards.  Each turn a player turns over the top card from their deck and does what it says.  Each card tells you how many reinforcements you get (if any), what units you can move, how far each type of unit can move, and any special rules for the turn.  Thus, you can't just run all of your units around each turn, and you never know from turn-to-turn what you will be allowed to do.  I can see some people not liking this, but I thought that it added a nice "fog of war" aspect to the game.  Let's be honest, back over 150 years ago nobody had perfect C3 in the mountains of Afghanistan, so it makes sense that only certain commands get to move each turn.  It can ruin your day if you get the wrong card at the wrong time, but such is life.

Overall I like this game more than I originally thought I would.  Small games can be iffy as to whether a small rules set can properly capture a historic situation and provide fun gameplay, but in my opinion this game delivers.  It is a fun, short diversion for those interested in the historic conflict.

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