Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The Halls of Montezuma is a CDG on the Mexican-American War, which while under-studied, is among the the most crucial conflicts in both American and Mexican history. It saw the expansion of America into the southwest while curtailing Mexico's influence. Perhaps more importantly, the territorial issues it opened up would lead to the American Civil War, making it a kind of Pyrrhic victory in the same way the Seven Years War was for Britain.

Gameplay (25 out of 28): The Halls of Montezuma as a CDG reminds one of Wilderness War, because it features asymmetrical forces, regiments as the basic units, and a raid mechanic. Event cards are used for a variety of purposes including raiding, the placement of control markers, and most importantly moving your armies.

Army movement is rather random and depends upon the Action deck instead of the general's strategy rating (lower is better just as it is in Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. This deck fulfills random events at the start of each turn, such as Indian raids and additional reinforcements, but it also has a movement table. One can never be sure how far their general will march, and sometimes even a fast moving man like Scott or Santa Anna will not even budge.

Battle is an involved process of choosing a lead unit, a committed unit, counting up a myriad of factors and rolling on an efficiency table. This table is quite capricious, and he who rolls higher wins unless outnumbered by something approaching 3-1 odds. This involved process is a tough slog at first, but it is much simpler afterwords.

Battle is brutal, but so are supplies. Marching around in the heat is a sure way to destroy your army, while action cards, when drawn for movement, randomly generate losses. Add to this some nasty event cards, and an army can dissolve even before it fights. Also, being out of supply is a hellish thing, for supply checks are forced through card play.

There is a Great Variety of Units:


Although American leaders and troops are mostly better, the Mexicans can raise more men in quicker time. They also have guerrilla units that can help with raids and be generated in a battle space, making American prospects of victory dim. More on this later.

Strategic (4 out of 5): The Halls of Montezuma starts off not with war, but the beginning of the border scuffles that led to war. This means that early card draws are quite limited. The Mexicans have a fair chance of winning outright at this stage if they can seize much of Texas and dominated the disputed zone 9new Mexico and Arizona). If they fail, then it is going to be a long game.

America's strategy is to first get the war started, and then the destruction of Mexico's fragile political will. This is achieved through cards, revolts, occupation, victory in battle, and the capture of political will cities. The later is random though, and this takes into consideration the chaotic nature of the Mexican government and its response to the fortunes of war.

Accessibility (2 out of 5): The rules are pretty bad here, being at times unclear. Worst of all, it is typo ridden, with the most hilarious mistake in the history of wargaming: on the turn record track for 1847 the weather goes from winter to summer and then spring. With some common sense, and the newly rewritten rules, one can slog through and get the essence of the game. That being said, there are much worse rules out there, but GMT is the gold standard, and therein lies the rub. Adding to the difficultly with the rulebook is the innovative mechanics at work, including the action deck, battle resolution, and the fact that you are not even at war when the game begins. The Halls of Montezuma is not too complex, and I found that after the first session, games flew by, and things generally made sense. One thing is for sure, this is not a game for beginners, or even those looking to get beyond something like Napoleon's War: The 100 Days

Components (5 out of 5): If the rules are below GMT's usual excellence, the components are actually a step above. The map is superb, evoking the period and being functional. In this sense it is the opposite of the map for Washington's War, which is asethetically pleasing and functional, but does not evoke the spirit of 1776. The Halls of Montezuma is a masterpiece of aesthetics and functionality, and honestly it should be studied by others wishing to do the same. There is only 1 goof: Stephen Kearny's box features a portrait of Philip Kearny, himself a hero of the Mexican War who gained famed in the Battle of Solferino, and then as a Union general in the American Civil War.

Originality (2 out of 2): From battle resolution to getting Congress to agree to war, The Halls of Montezuma is certainly orginal. In particular, I like the action deck. It is a splendid way to simulate random events, random movement, and logistics. I think this mechanic should be used in more CDGs.

I Love the Action Cards:


Historical Quality (2 out of 5): The Halls of Montezuma is effective at simulating the capricious political winds that effected both sides. The armies suffer from attrition as much as battle, and on paper the American military looks stronger. However, this is where the history starts to give way, for you'll soon find that Mexico has an army that can freely go toe to toe with the Americans and win. No historian doubts the bravery of the Mexican soldier, but honestly I cannot think of a single battle that they won. The reasons are clear enough: poor leadership, lack of supplies, inferior gunpowder, and a poor training regimen. Even though many Mexicans fought hard, many others deserted in mass, and given the way they were treated, I don't blame them. The Mexicans can raise more troops at a quicker pace and near the cockpit of action. Meanwhile, the American army is slower and plagued by volunteer regiments of inferior quality (shouldn't the Mississippi Rifles be much better than they are?). The designers made American leaders better, but not by enough. For one thing, Zachary Taylor has no battle bonus, which is absurd, since he never lost a battle! I can only surmise that, in trying to make Mexico competitive in a war where they never won a major battle, the designers overcompensated. My remedy: all American commanders received an additional +1 to their tactical rating. This makes Scott the great general he was, while Taylor at last looks like a capable fighter.

One last thing. As a historian with a lot of interest in the Irish military diaspora, whether it be the Wild Geese or the regiments of the American Civil War, it would have been cool to see a unit for the Saint Patrick's battalion, and not just a card. Still, it is a cool card.

Overall (40 out of 50): The Halls of Montezuma is a perplexing game. It simulates so much of war with accuracy and original ideas, and yet it fumbles by making the Mexican Army far too effective. The graphics are superb, the rules are a muddle. The game's originality and poor rules make it hard to get through at first, but once you do it flows with ease. In the end I like this game. Its failure has caused its price to drop and if you have spare cash and an interest in the subject or CDGs, then get a copy. It will surprise you, and it just might win you over with its tough love.
69 
 Thumb up
2.30
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Another fine review.

thumbsup

Quote:
Accessibility (2 out of 5): The rules are pretty bad here, being at times unclear.


Just out of curiosity... what does a rulebook do to get a 1 rating?

Quote:
Worst of all, it is typo ridden, with the most hilarious mistake in the history of wargaming: on the turn record track for 1847 the weather goes from winter to summer and then spring...


Possibly an early example of global climate change, triggered by the increased consumption of frijoles by the decadent American imperialists.

Quote:
The Halls of Montezuma is a CDG on the Mexican-American War, which while under-studied, is among the the most crucial conflicts in both American and Mexican history...


Absolutely correct. This game was "needed" in the wargame hobby.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Just out of curiosity... what does a rulebook do to get a 1 rating?


It is rare for me to give any rulebook a 1 in a review, but HoM really tried to be the first. Here I Stand, while not as bad a HoM, also tread into this territory.

When a game's rulebook enter the territory of a 1 rating, it usually means I cannot finish the game, and so I do not feel up to writing a review. Here are a few game rulebooks I'd give a 1: April's Harvest: The Battle of Shiloh, April 6 & 7, 1862, In their Quiet Fields II, Look Away!, and The Habit of Victory. These games were not only complex, but the rules made is impossible for me to even finish. Off the top of my head, the only rulebook I'd rate a 1 where I actually liked the game was Not War But Murder.

Quote:
Possibly an early example of global climate change, triggered by the increased consumption of frijoles by the decadent American imperialists.


Hey, what's imperialism for if not decadence?

Quote:
Absolutely correct. This game was "needed" in the wargame hobby.


I think this half the reason I like this game and why I am interested in Mexican War
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Cappocchi
United States
Los Angeles
CA
flag msg tools
Arkham Horror, Amun Re, R-ECO, Ora Et Labora, Napoleonic Wars
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Yeah, I've gone back and forth on getting this one a number of times, but this review really has me leaning back towards Yes. Thanks, Sean.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Doane
United States
Walpole
MA
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's worth mentioning that the recently released living rules available on GMT's website clear up most of the problems with the rules as published.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
It's worth mentioning that the recently released living rules available on GMT's website clear up most of the problems with the rules as published.


Its' still not an easy game to understand because of the details and unique features, but the new rules are a big improvement. Thanks for mentioning that.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Franklin
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is a very intriguing game that I'd love to play sometime. The lack of wargamers in my near community makes it difficult right now, but I will continue trying.

This is the only other game I know of the the Mexican American War besides Battles with the Gringos, Mexico 1846-62. They are on completely different scales, so I think they are both worth owning if you are interested in that period of history.

As mentioned before, understanding this era gives some hints of what is to come in the American Civil War.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Franklin
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Oops, Battles with the Gringos, Mexico 1846-62 is an expansion for Gringo!. They are part of the Great Battles of the American Civil War series. I don't think the battles included in the Battles with the Gringos expansion are as good as the ones in the original set, but it's still worth it if you're interested in this era.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Grant
United States
Washington
DC
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
No historian doubts the bravery of the Mexican soldier, but honestly I cannot think of a single battle that they won.


I'd argue that San Pasqual was a Mexican victory.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
I'd argue that San Pasqual was a Mexican victory.


I knew there had to be one, even if it is listed as a Pyrrhic American victory.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
flag msg tools
Great review, although I am flummoxed that you found Here I Stand had a bad rulebook- I thought it one of the best ever.

I know very little about this war, and it shows when I've played the game. I've no idea what to do. Moving is challenging, and those damn raids really screw the supply line. I want to play a few times more to reach the point where the game 'flows'. You review may provide this impetus. Thanks.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim F
United Kingdom
Birmingham
West Midlands
flag msg tools
Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
badge
Ashwin in front of Tiger 131
Avatar
mb
It's great that the game deals with the capricious political winds. So few games do that.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Lavoie
United States
Nashua
New Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've thought about pulling the trigger on this one for awhile, but concern over the rulebook has kept me from committing my (very limited at this point) game-buying funds to the game. Now, with a 50% discount available from GMT, I am considering it again. This review will help me make the decision. Thanks!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review Sean, of all the CDGs I have I thought Halls was the weakest link of the chain. I believe you are correct in saying the way the Mexican Army can renew itself is one of the faults of the game. Possibly this could be corrected by having the Mexican player wait second round after the American player's action was a major (army) attack to rebuild or even making the Mexican player wait untill the next turn.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Grant
United States
Washington
DC
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
sherron wrote:
Good review Sean, of all the CDGs I have I thought Halls was the weakest link of the chain. I believe you are correct in saying the way the Mexican Army can renew itself is one of the faults of the game. Possibly this could be corrected by having the Mexican player wait second round after the American player's action was a major (army) attack to rebuild or even making the Mexican player wait untill the next turn.


I haven't played HoM, but it seems that the Mexican Army should suffer from a mix of logistical and political obstacles to regenerating itself. Indecision and infighting in Mexico City should be as much of a problem as marching troops and supplies long distances across inhospitable terrain.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Franklin
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
That's a good point. It doesn't seem like the Mexican army is hampered by the political issues that should keep it from flourishing. Perhaps some of the events could be manipulated to reflect those troubles.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Great review, although I am flummoxed that you found Here I Stand had a bad rulebook- I thought it one of the best ever.


I've heard that a lot, and I just don't get it (same with Columbia's East Front). I mean I've played the game several times, and each time the rulebook angers me in some new and special way.

Recently, I think Darilian put it best:
1). I don't like how there are so many seperate subsystems. Combat is different from the Debates, which is different from Exploration/Colonization.
You have to play the game at least THREE TIMES to say that you really know what the heck is going on. I prefer my games to be a bit more consistent.
2). I don't like how the game focuses so much on the seperate mechanics that it just DRAGS. Don't get me wrong- I love long games. But waiting for the Catholics and the Protestants to figure out their debates while as the Turk all you want to do is to smash Vienna gets old quick.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Good review Sean, of all the CDGs I have I thought Halls was the weakest link of the chain. I believe you are correct in saying the way the Mexican Army can renew itself is one of the faults of the game. Possibly this could be corrected by having the Mexican player wait second round after the American player's action was a major (army) attack to rebuild or even making the Mexican player wait untill the next turn.


This might work. Any plans to try it out in a session?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt & Laurel
United Kingdom
Harrogate
flag msg tools
mb
Good review. Thanks for taking the time to produce it.

I love this game, but it has received a lot of what I believe to be unfair criticism and I'm glad that your review has redressed the balance somewhat with a very fair assessment. The rulebook certainly isn't the best, but then as far as I'm concerned this puts it on the same level as the vast majority of wargame rulebooks, which really only span the spectrum from really crap to crap to slightly less crap. Others will certainly disagree though!

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Grant
United States
Washington
DC
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'd be happy if HoM, however good or bad it is, sparked greater awareness of the Mexican-American War in wargaming circles, the way Paths Of Glory led people to re-examine WWI.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Noel Wright
United States
El Dorado
Arkansas
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
This is the only other game I know of the the Mexican American War besides Battles with the Gringos, Mexico 1846-62. They are on completely different scales, so I think they are both worth owning if you are interested in that period of history.



Strategy & Tactics has had several games on the Mexican-American War, over the years. Command Magazine had a game on the Battle of Buena Vista.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
First off, thanks for the review.

I originally was a P-500 orderer of this game as it looked to be something right up my alley. I consider myself a budding wargamer and am still trying to get my feet wet.

I could never get past the rule book. Your comments are spot on. I ended up selling the game, sadly I might add, because of the rule book. I would love to sit down and play this game as this is a time period that interests me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice review.

I have a few comments regarding the quality of the components though.

gittes wrote:
Components (5 out of 5): If the rules are below GMT's usual excellence, the components are actually a step above.


I agree the rules are poor but the components also have some major problems (see below).

gittes wrote:
The Halls of Montezuma is a masterpiece of aesthetics and functionality, and honestly it should be studied by others wishing to do the same.


I hope this game won't be studied by others as an example of aesthetics and functionality. I would give Wilderness War as an excellent example of that (for an example of a great rule book as well).

I will agree that the Halls of Montezuma map is beautiful.

gittes wrote:
There is only 1 goof: Stephen Kearny's box features a portrait of Philip Kearny, himself a hero of the Mexican War who gained famed in the Battle of Solferino, and then as a Union general in the American Civil War.


There's more than one goof. Here are some examples:

1) “West Coast” counter (map, “Rough Seas” card, “Pacific Squadron” card and set up card both list as Pacific Squadron)

2) “East Coast” counter (map, “Rough Seas” card and set up card both list as Gulf Coast)

3) Cannales counter 1 G3 0 (map lists as 1 3g 1)

4) Both Santa Anna and Valencia counters reference rule 3.9 (no such rule exists).

5) Logistics? counter (set up card, rules and map list as “Supply Phase” marker)

6) Lane leader counter is 3 4 1 (map lists as 3 5 1)

7) Mexican cavalry counters listed as 1st, 2nd, etc., MD or PrvCav but none listed as “Dragoons” but the set up card lists Dragoons.

8) There can be confusion between playing “Strategy” cards (labeled as “Event Deck” on the cards) in the “Action” phase and revealing “Action” cards in the Random Event Phase.

9) Officer cards refer to rule 7.4g which does not exist. Should reference 12.1e.

There are more.

I was very excited about this game from when it was first announced (I love the theme) until I played it a few times. The frustration of trying to figure out how to play it combined with the designer insisting I was just reading the rules wrong and was exaggerating the issues I had with it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

I think most of the criticism of the game was valid. The game was clearly released too early and could have used more play testing. How long did it take to revise the rules?

Now that the rules have been revised I would like to give it another try.

I hate to be so negative about any game but I think people thinking about purchasing this game should have a bit of warning (I certainly wish I played it before purchasing).
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
United States
New Orleans
Louisiana
flag msg tools
designer
Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
badge
Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Tom,

My god.

I recalled some of those but left them out, but others have left me floored.

That being said, by functional, I was thinking that the map is easy to read while still having a great period flavor. The goofs though, have made me reconsider this assertion.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bob Long
United States
Woodbridge
Virginia
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hey Sean
Great review. I have owned Halls now for about a year and I still haven't played it. The rules are all over the place and like you, have struggled with the HIS rules. I noticed that you rate AON and the Napy Wars very high. I just purchased these games....on their way to be delivered....so am I going to have "rules comprehension syndrome" with these two games?

I also purchased Wellington...i guess play that one first solo in order to get a feel for Napy Wars.....

Wanted to like HOM because it is one of my favorite time periods in US History. Now if only someone would design a game 1820-1860....call it "Firebell in the Night".

Hope I don't have to post any rules questions on my new purchases.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.