Monday, December 08, 2014

Hold the Line

Hold the Line is a two player war game simulating battles from the American Revolutionary War.  The game uses a 13x9 hex board.  The base hexes reflect open terrain, but the game comes with dozens of terrain tiles that can be placed on the board to change the terrain.  Each scenario describes how to set up the board to reflect the terrain for the battle you will fight.  The scenarios also describe how to set up the starting forces for each side.

There are a few different units in the game: line infantry, light infantry, militia, cavalry, artillery, elite infantry, and leaders.  Units are differentiated by their morale, range, and movement ability.  Line infantry are the toughest units in the game, but don't move fast.  Light infantry can move twice as fast but aren't as tough.  Artillery can get eliminated with only two hits, but have longer range.  And so on.  Each unit has its uses, and knowing when to move what type of unit into position is important.

Combat is simple.  Whenever a unit fires, it rolls three six-sided dice.  At maximum range (two hexes for all units except artillery, which has a three hex range) you inflict a hit with a "6."  At short range (one hex for all units except artillery, which is shart at two hexes away) you inflict a hit with a "5" or a "6."  Artillery at range one hits on a "4," "5," or "6" on a die.  A unit can also fight in close combat, but that takes two actions instead of one.  This gives the attacker a greater chance to hit, and may retreat the defending unit from their space.

Let's talk about those actions.  Each turn a player gets a number of actions as dictated by the scenario, plus a random number of actions (between 1 and 3) from the roll of a special die.  You can spend actions to move units, have units fire at enemies, and have leaders rally units (removing hits suffered from combat).  You can only take one action with a unit per turn, so you sometimes have to decide if it makes more sense to fire with a unit, or move it into a better position, or have a leader rally it to improve its staying power.

The scenario that you are playing will tell you what you need to do in order to win.  Usually, one side is trying to earn a specific number of victory points.  You score victory points by eliminating enemy units and capturing victory point markers on the board within a specified number of turns.  The scenario instructions will also describe any special rules used in the scenario.

Overall the game plays pretty well, and you can play most scenarios in 60 to 90 minutes.  I do have two quibbles with the game, though.  First, the game only comes with four victory point counters.  These serve double duty, indicating victory point locations on the board and marking total victory points earned for each side on the victory point track.  If you have to have three or more victory point markers on the map, then you don't have enough to mark earned points on the victory point track.  A minor problem, to be sure, but it was annoying.  A potentially larger problem is that the rules do not describe how to capture victory point markers on the map.  Do you have to close combat them?  Can you just use a standard move to move right over them?  Do you have to end your movement on that hex, or can a light infantry or cavalry unit capture multiple victory point markers in one turn?  It turns out that you just move over them to capture them, but that should have been in the rules.

Overall, this is an entertaining little game that fills a niche in my collection.  While not perfect, the variety of scenarios gives it a lot of replay-ability, and the length means that I don't have to blow an entire weekend to play it.  There is also an expansion that adds scenarios from the French and Indian War.