Buy it now. They are two different games.
Slightly Expanded Review:
It is fair to say if you like HOTS then you’ll like RIII and visa versa simply because they are very successful implementations of the block gaming genre (i.e. hidden information, area activation based on card play, deep and interesting strategic options, high replay value, etc.), however RIII is its’ own unique game. True RIII shares elements that are similar to both HOTS and other Columbia block games, but to say they are twins would be like saying Memoir 44 and Command and Colors Ancients are the same game. The primary similarity between RIII and HOTS is they are both Columbia Games block games based on English history.
Excessively Cumbersome Super Wordy Expanded Review:
Since the point of this particular review is to compare the two games here goes, but keep in mind the above 'Concise Review'.
RIII Game Flow Summary -- The game simulates The War of the Roses. One player starts as the King, the other is the Pretender. The war is broken down into three campaigns. At the start of a campaign each player is dealt seven cards. After that each player secretly plays one card. Cards are revealed simultaneously. The highest number cards goes first with the Pretender going first when a tie occurs.
Cards are used to activate areas and/or bring in reinforcements. For example a '4' card could activate two areas (i.e. move all blocks located in those areas to other areas) and bring on two reinforcements. After both players move combat happens in areas where blocks of both side exist.
Combat is similar to HOTS with some notable exceptions:
• Units attack separately because any hits are applied immediately to the strongest opposing unit. So if three hits are rolled all three hits are taken off a single defending unit.
• Some units can charge. Charging means they target one opposing unit. If that unit survives it gets a bonus attack at the charger.
• Nobles do not switch sides when they are killed. Instead some nobles can be convinced to switch sides during a battle, so it is very possible that a very strong noble will switch sides and influence a battles outcome.
• Many nobles die permanently so protect your nobles.
At the end of each campaign season (after all seven cards/turns are played) whichever player has the most ‘votes’ in terms of nobles, the church and control of London is crowned king. Whoever is King after the third campaign wins the game.
Note that you do not win by killing the king. He starts the game with four successors who will take over if he dies. You can instantly win by killing the king and all successors (or the Pretender and all four of his heirs), but usually it will come down to the vote.
My first game of RIII took 3 hours, but I expect future games to come in at about 90 minutes. This is slightly faster than HOTS. RIII has half as many turns as HOTS (21 vs 45) but the strategic options are more complex so you spend more time thinking about your turn.
Attack vs Counterattack
In HOTS the Scots player is primarily the counter attacker. Higher cards move first and the English go first when the cards played are a tie. This means the Scots can always move last on the final turn of a year by playing a ‘1’. This is a consistent advantage for the entire game.
In RIII the King gets to move last in the event of a tie. Since who is King in RIII can change the counter attacker advantage can switch back and forth during the game.
Since the King get the counter attack advantage the Pretender gets the advantage of an additional powerful ‘Rebel’ unit.
Combat in RIII is deadlier. Hits are applied all at once to a single unit, and chargers can target specific units. This combined with a significant increase in the number of units that permanently die adds a lot of tension to each battle.
In HOTS you can have unlimited stacking until a year ends. In RIII each areas supports four units (cities support five). Each over-stacked unit takes a hit after the combat round. This keeps a well positioned King (or Scot in HOTS) from just over-stacking to wait the year out.
Variety of Units
You are pretty sure of what you are up against in HOTS in terms of combat effectiveness. In RIII there is much more unit diversity. You may be battling some lowly C troops or it could be a stack of A’s. They might be vulnerable to switching sides or they might be unquestionably loyal.
In HOTS there is a very finite amount of naval movement. In RIII most units can naval move from any costal area. It is a much more fluid environment.
Variable Entry Points
When you recruit a Noble in RIII you can place it in any friendly or unoccupied area that has a picture of the Noble’s shield. Most Noble units in RIII have variable entry points. This adds a lot of variety in how units come onto the board. Where you choose to recruit your units can impact which units your opponent can bring into play. I found this one out the hard way in my first game. I wasn’t able to recruit Noble A because my opponent had already brought in Noble B in that province. In some provinces up to four different nobles can recruit there. This may sound confusing but trust me it isn’t. If your noble’s shield picture is there, you can start there.
Variable Numbers of Nobles
In HOTS the number of nobles in play is static. If one dies his heir comes immediately into play for the other side. In RIII many nobles stay dead. The general trend of the game is noble depopulation.
RIII Rules Versions -- Be sure to download the latest version of the rules. The 1.02 rules are much clearer than the 1.01 rules. Also there are some nice player aide charts that will help with the setup on Boardgamegeek.
Chrome Rules -- I read the rules three times before I played because it seemed like there was a lot of chrome to remember (i.e. ‘only this unit can do this’ kind of rules, etc.). While there is more chrome than HOTS it turned out that most of these rules integrated well into the game flow and map symbols. I didn’t spend a lot time during my first game rule hunting. My advice is don’t worry about memorizing every exception rules perfectly. Get playing, then reread the rules and figure out if you did anything wrong.
Analysis Paralysis -- My only real concern for RIII is there are so many strategic options that some players could get caught up in Analysis Paralysis, especially in tournaments. That said, too many options is a good problem to have.
Keep in mind I’ve only played RIII once and I’ve played HOTS around 50 times. My real recommendation is buy them both. But if I could only buy one and I was making the choice then I would select RIII. Congrats to Columbia Games on an excellent addition to their catalog.
- Last edited Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:17 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:12 pm
Steven A Lee
Great review of a great game. I like your 'key points' style, which cuts through the fluff. Lancaster is holding a 3-0 record so far on our table, but I think this is down to inexperience (we're all new to block games). I concur, this is a must buy. I see myself playing this for a long long time to come.
Nice review of a solid game. I don't have nearly enough experience with Columbia's line of games, but so far I have been very pleased with each one that I've tried. RIII and HotS are similar but at the same time very different. There are certainly enough key differences in RIII to justify the purchase if you own HotS already. Good stuff.
I like your 'key points' style
I agree. Very readable, in all aspects of the word. This guy should write textbooks.
Very impressive Steve. Please write more reviews.
- Last edited Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:09 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:09 am