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Rob Bradley
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Intro: I was expecting something different with Hold the Line, I am not sure why, even after reading other reviews I wasn’t expecting what I got. In any case, Hold the Line is a very good game but with a handful of little nitpicks thrown in.

Components: A few other reviews raved about the high quality components. I to am impressed with the components. I have to say, you must understand where the reviewers are coming from when reviewing the components. I am not sure exactly why, but war-games generally have crappy components compared to Euro-games. Hold the Line is Euro-games quality in a wargame. The map is a board, not an unmounted sheet. The counters are of heavy stock with rounded corners and punch very nicely and not some thin card you need to cut out and "Clip". Very, very nice compared to most war-games. I hold no punches though, read further.

I do have a few complaints about the components though. These are as follows. The terrain tiles are placed on the board a’ la Memoir ’44. However, the tiles are slightly smaller than the hexes. This causes some alignment issues when there are several tiles in a row unless you have a small gap between each tile. If you are severely then you may be bothered by this. Also, the tiles have art on both sides which is gives more options for future scenarios, however, some of the tiles have the same art on both sides of the tile. To me this is pointless and must have been an oversight. I also have to mention that most of the units have a rectangular counters, while other units have a smaller square counters. This seems like a neat way to identify unit types or stacking limits or movement capabilities or something, but the designers seemed to decide willy nilly on what has a rectangle and what has a square counter. One of them gave an explanation (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/339820), but it still makes little sense to me on why they chose what they did.


The last complaint I have is regarding the rulebook. First off, the lack of a turn summary or terrain affect reference sheet hurts the game. The terrain effects cover two pages in the rules and they are on opposite pages, so while you are learning the game, you have to constantly turn back and forth. A terrain reference sheet would have been ideal. Secondly the Advanced rules list some nice rules to use for leaders (11.6) in which leaders get some cool abilities and tells you which leaders you should use for each scenario. However, when you set up the scenario, that info isn’t listed. So after you set up a scenario, you have to flip back to 11.6 to find out which leaders to place. I know this is a small gripe, but simply adding the leader to the scenario set-up would have been an improvement. There are a couple other minor annoyances with the rules layout but nothing too terrible. For example rule 8.55 describes what happens to a leader when it is stacked with a unit that gets eliminated. This is in the close combat section. I needed to look this up during a fire combat and I looked in fire combat section and then I looked in the leader section and I couldn’t find the rule until I happened upon it in the close combat section. The last rulebook complaint I have is a lack of an index. I mean really, if you bother with a numbering system for rules, why not summarize it in an index either at the beginning or end of the rulebook.

Ok, I just spent a fair amount of time trashing on the components and rulebook. I am only so harsh because others have been so glowing. I do like the counter art and the art in the rulebook. The rulebook is fairly well laid out and it was easy to learn the game. The scenarios are easy to read and set-up and the victory conditions are clear.

Gameplay: To tell the honest truth after reading the rules and solo playing my first scenario, I was very disappointed in the simplicity of the game. It seemed to offer little strategic depth and felt like Memoir ’44 without cards. That is not my impression now however, please read on.

You start your turn by rolling a die that has 1’s, 2’s, & 3’s, you add your starting action points based on the scenario to that and that is how many actions you get during that turn. The units (all except for the dragoons) can either move or fire, and as such the defenders have a huge advantage. The units all have the same number of dice rolled (3d6) for combat regardless of the unit type or its MP (morale point value). The units become eliminated when they get reduced below 1 MP. It seemed the attackers have little choice but to march forward, while the defenders get to shoot at long range, then move again adjacent to the defenders, where the defenders get to fire at close range, and then the attackers can finally either fire combat or close combat. The close combat is generally the best, but takes 2 action points. The winner is who attains the most victory points. A victory point is awarded for each eliminated unit plus the scenarios usually have some sort of victory additional victory points generally being defended by one side and trying to be captured by the other.

I have always felt that in this type of game, where you have more units than action points and victory points are awarded for unit elimination, it provides an unrealistic approach to battle. It is the same reasons I bash Memoir ’44. It diminishes numerical superiority by only allowing you to move a certain number of units in a turn handcuffing most of your units. It significantly reduces the usefulness of lesser units. Why would I ever use action points to move a lesser quality unit into combat if a better unit is available? The victory conditions make fielding lesser units a liability rather than an advantage. For example, Militia only start with 2MP, so they are eliminated in two hits. I would gladly give my opponent a handful if extra militia units to set on the board., just because they are easy pickings. Tell me, in a real battle, are extra units ever a liability? Ok don’t answer that, but you get my point, in this game, they give your opponent a VP.

After, multiple plays, I have seen the strategic depth. And all (well most) of my complaints about the victory conditions have gone away. I didn’t see it at First, I was running my units blindly into the buzz saw and the attackers were getting slaughtered and the defender won ever scenario (except for the woefully unbalanced Harlem Heights). I have since realized this game is about absorbing MP losses and falling back those units and replacing them with fresh, high MP units, wearing down the defensive line, running your leader to the reduced unit to rally them and then reforming and attacking again. The more I play, the more it is really starting to feel like the formation based combat of that era. When/if the defenders break, that one hole in the line can really mess up the works. Not only does it usually create an alley toward the victory conditions it also reduces the defenders ability to reform and you can usually then have these little pockets of infantry you can pick off. The defender still wins most of the time, but with this new strategy, I have been able to increase the odds dramatically.

Conclusion: I was initially disappointed with the game, but after giving it a few more chances it has grown on me. I have a much greater appreciation of the game. I raised my initial rating for a 7 to an 8 and I can see this rating going up as I explore more strategic options. It is not without faults as I have pointed out, and for a re-tool of an existing game (Clash for a Continent: Battles of the American Revolution and French & Indian War) I would have expected a cleaner implementation Additionally my play has been more streamlined with the use of a player aid by gnomus. Please give it a thumb if you download it. If you are interested in a quick and easy war game of the revolutionary era, give it a try. It is easy to pick up, easy to learn, and offers enough depth of play to hold interest after repeated plays.



EDIT:
I must point out that I have been using most of the advanced rules. These are almost a must and increase the depth of play. Use the normal rules only for learning the game or teaching the game to someone new to gaming.
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Arthur Dickie
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South Leverton
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An excellent review. I instantly "took" to Hold the Line. I have no problem with the notion that I am not able to move all my units in every turn. This "simulates" command and supply issues in a neat way without the necessity of some of the cumbersome mechanics of "simulation" type designs. I think that Hold the Line's variable action point system is better than the C&C random card draw in this regard.

Thank you too for your comments regarding my player aid. It's good to know that someone finds it useful. Here's a link if anyone is interested: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/36899

I'd recommend the French and Indian Expansion too. If you're interested, I amended the original player aid to include the expansion rules: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/37554
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Barry Kendall
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Lebanon
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A good review, fairly stating your criticisms and equally fairly balancing early impressions with the perspective of experience.

I like this game so much that I'm in the process of "miniaturizing" it using Old Glory's 10mm period figures. Most of these come in single-rank lines five men wide, including Continentals in hunting shirts or uniforms and tricornes, Militia (which also serve well for Early Continentals), British Line and Grenadiers, Light Infantry for both sides (individually based!) and Continental Riflemen (hunting shirts, mostly), Woodland Indians, Officers, guns and gunners, mounted dragoons and Command stands (with flag and drummer as well as officers and color guard) for each side.

Hessians can be represented by using Prussians or Germans from the OG Seven Years' War 10mm range.

Four "line" stands (two side-by-side, in two ranks) fit in "HtL" hexes.

At the same time, I have a few quibbles. I agree that the "Advanced" rules are a must once the basic game has been mastered, and the differentiated Leaders make things much more interesting (in miniature, Leader Quality differences can be represented by different-colored horses denoting Leader ability).

But some few things have been lost in the transition from "Clash" to "HtL." In the Princeton scenario, for example (supplemental to "Clash," included in "HtL") Continental line infantry has been "standardized" at Morale-four in HtL; in its "Clash" incarnation, some Continental Line was "4" and others "3." This also occurs in some other scenarios. I believe the variable strengths were more reflective of the uneven strengths and abilities, particularly of Continental troops, through most of the war.

Some of the "Optional" rules in "Clash" have been dropped from "HtL." Some of these were good enough to be preserved.

Some of the "Clash" scenarios were outstanding (Germantown was one of the best in either game) and anyone who really likes "HtL" should track down the "Clash" scenario book (available from Worthington) posthaste.

The "Rally" action in both versions is, in my mind, one of the most valuable features of the game. As the reviewer demonstrated, knowing when to pull units out of the line for replacement with fresh units is a key to playing well. Another key is balancing offensive activity with keeping one's army in relative order (as in, using a Leader and command point for Rally purposes) so that there's still an army by the end.

I'm glad to see a gamer patient enough to give a game a solid chance after an uninspiring initial encounter with it. In this era of new-game fever, many good games suffer for lack of a thorough exploration by players.

I'm looking forward to the future with this design approach and hope the Mexican-American War volume comes sooner, rather than later. I think the system would also work very well for Spanish-American War and Moro Wars actions in a combined volume down the road.
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Rob Bradley
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gnomus wrote:
I have no problem with the notion that I am not able to move all my units in every turn. This "simulates" command and supply issues in a neat way without the necessity of some of the cumbersome mechanics of "simulation" type designs.


I agree and after playing this game more it does work. The most obvious problem with this mechanic however, is a force of double or triple the size should almost ALWAYS win. With this mechanic, the two armies have almost even odds regardless of whom has the greater numbers.
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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Nice review! My only complaint about the game is that the rules weren't cleaned up as well as I'd hoped between Clash for a Continent and Hold the Line. There is a FAQ and some errata in the Files section that folks should get a copy of and toss in the box.

If you really like the game, you may wish to track down a copy of the original Clash for a Continent. All the scenarios in that game are compatible for play with Hold the Line.
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Bartman
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Quote:
I'm looking forward to the future with this design approach and hope the Mexican-American War volume comes sooner, rather than later. I think the system would also work very well for Spanish-American War and Moro Wars actions in a combined volume down the road


Agreed 100%. This system is very elegant and with tweaks, would work well for many eras. WG has in various places talked about a Plains Indians Wars version, and even an ACW version. Last I saw they said they hoped for 4th quarter 2009 for the Hold The Line: The Mexican-American War Expansion Set, so let's cross our fingers. The other version they used to have posted on their website was a Zulu Wars version of this system, but it has since been taken down.

WG seems to be trying to develop a broader spectrum of games at this point (just announced their first foray into a "Family-style" game), so the "Clash" system (I still refer to it as such) will probably be slower to develop as far as expansions go. Just a guess of course. One thing I CAN say with certainty is that if they continue to put out new versions of this system that have the same beautiful components as HtL, I will buy them.

Clash for a Continent: Battles of the American Revolution and French & Indian War was one of the first games I bought after discovering BGG. It remains one of my favorites. As stated above the game converts to miniatures very well, but with the beautiful components WG has produced for this game, you don't need them to have a great looking consim on the table.

Great review, thanks.

Cheers,
Bart
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Rob Bradley
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gnomus wrote:
Thank you too for your comments regarding my player aid. It's good to know that someone finds it useful. Here's a link if anyone is interested: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/36899


Thanks for posting the link. I was just too lazy to link it in the review.
 
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grant wylie
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Thank you to all for the comments on this game. As one of the designers and owners of Worthington Games it is appreciated, (even the complaints as hopefully we don't repeat mistakes,,,,I don't ever repeat mistakes, really, ask my wife,,,,no wait that would be a mistake, don't ask my wife.....)

thanks and happy gaming,
Grant Wylie

Worthington Games
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