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Subject: Review: Hammer of the Scots: An Excellent Game: So Many Colons rss

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Anders Young
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Dayton
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It’s in the top 50, but not a whole lot of people are talking about Hammer of the Scots. A lot of wargamers don’t seem to like it as much, preferring and recommending games like EastFront II, or Rommel in the Desert, in its stead. Eurogamers and lovers of American themed games don’t seem too into it either--I’d assume its wargame label, cheaper components and ugly box probably put them off. Still, it’s a game I wish more people would look into. It plays great, as good depth, and has interesting, dynamic sides that play very differently from one another.

I’ll admit that I didn’t care about Hammer of the Scots, and hadn’t even heard of it except in passing, until a local game store started carrying Columbia Games’ products. Seeing it on the shelf, I vaguely remembered it from the top 100, and going home that night, saw it there, sitting at number 41, one place above Memoir '44, a favorite of mine. Its rank, as well as a few inquiries into the game itself, led me to go back to the store the next day and pick it up. A friend who was with me, upon seeing the art on the front, made a strange sort of grimace when he looked at it. It seemed to say, “God, that is ugly.” It’s true that the cover artwork is somewhat blurry and poorly cut and pasted in various places, but I wasn’t deterred.

Underneath the slip cover and inside the box, the game is a little sparse in terms of pieces. You get fifty-some wooden blocks, a sheet of stickers, a cardboard map of Scotland and twenty-five cards. Of the components, the cards are the only thing I can really complain about. Blocks don’t bother me, the map is pretty heavy cardstock, and though I’d certainly prefer a mounted board, I’m not going to cry over it. The cards, though, are pretty thin, pointed on the corners (which I fear will lead to fraying), and sadly, very ugly. I don’t know much about design, but I am rather surprised anyone would publish anything that looked like that--they looked like they were hand cut into rectangles, and worst of all, the images were pixilated. In addition to that, I’m pretty sure they aren’t any standard card size, and thus won’t fit very well in any sleeves or protectors. Despite the let down, I shrugged it off and read the rules. They were simple, especially for a wargame, and the rulebook was only about eight pages and only had a few exceptions. After a few minutes of reading, I was ready to play.
The game ran great, with nobles being traded back and forth through victories or losses in battle, the English brought in troops from the south, and though I lost Edward I pretty early in the game, making me unable to winter the English king in Scotland, I still did okay and had a lot of fun. Combat is a bit of a dice fest, but I don’t mind. I enjoy rolling dice, and over the course of the game everything evened out. In all, I was very impressed.

What I enjoyed the most about the actual game play is the difference in strategy and abilities of the two sides. If you play the Scots and then play the English, you’re not going to find yourself doing the same things. And, even though the sides are quite different, one doesn’t feel significantly more powerful than the other. I’ve read, and my roommate claims, that the Scots seem to have an advantage, but I don’t know if that’s true. I personally have lost playing both sides.
Other than the somewhat shoddy components, the only thing that does anything to bother me is the handful of events determined by the roll of a single die. Some English troops, for example, simply flee battle and disband if you roll above a certain number. I get that they’re supposed to be either Irish or Welsh, and may decide they don’t want to fight their Scottish brethren, but it stills irks me.

With far more good than bad, and with the bad being mainly contained to a few mostly unimportant elements, I would recommend Hammer of the Scots to anyone, including, and perhaps especially, Eurogamers. There is some luck, yes, and you do roll a good number of dice, but the mechanics are streamlined, simple, and somewhat elegant. There are no fiddly rules or numbers to keep track of, and you can just focus on your strategy and troop movement. It’s definitely a game I do not regret buying, and I plan to play it a good amount in the future.

I have read some people saying that Hammer of the Scots is a good introductory wargame, and that’s probably true. I’m not super interested in the genre (and I don’t have any real experience with it), but if there are more like this game, I would certainly buy and play them.

Also this was my first review.

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Seth Owen
United States
Norwich
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Just a note. Better-quality cards are now available from Columbia for $6 and are probably included in game you buy from them, although I'm sure there are plenty of games with older cards in the retail pipeline. Also the rules have been updated. http://www.columbiagames.com/cgi-bin/query/cfg/zoom.cfg?prod...
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Hammer is the first microbadge I purchased back in the day. I love the game. You do roll dice and luck is a factor, but the strategy element is so strong that it overcomes it. The better player is going to almost always win.
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Jeff White
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wargamer55 wrote:
Just a note. Better-quality cards are now available from Columbia for $6 and are probably included in game you buy from them, although I'm sure there are plenty of games with older cards in the retail pipeline. Also the rules have been updated. http://www.columbiagames.com/cgi-bin/query/cfg/zoom.cfg?prod...



???

What do you mean better quality cards? I bought my game about 2 years ago and got the 2nd edition. They look like the ones in this picture:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/309210

Are there better/newer ones from GC?
 
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Seth Owen
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BullBear wrote:
wargamer55 wrote:
Just a note. Better-quality cards are now available from Columbia for $6 and are probably included in game you buy from them, although I'm sure there are plenty of games with older cards in the retail pipeline. Also the rules have been updated. http://www.columbiagames.com/cgi-bin/query/cfg/zoom.cfg?prod...



???

What do you mean better quality cards? I bought my game about 2 years ago and got the 2nd edition. They look like the ones in this picture:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/309210

Are there better/newer ones from GC?


Yes.

The first edition of Hammer had some plain cards. This was quickly followed by a second editoin of the cards in full color. These full-color cards have now been reprinted with some changes in the wording for clarity.
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