Monday, August 24, 2009

Review -- HIBERNIA


It's rather clichéd to suggested good things come in small packages, yet the old saying fits so nicely in terms of the war game Hibernia.
The box is small, and the game components are too, which is both a plus and a minus, bit in the end you end up with a generally positive feel out of a small, light war game which is not weighed down by historic detail, but rather follows the same general gaming vein as Risk, a game we are almost all familiar with.
The game components are small wooden cubes which come in four colours. The colours chosen contrast well, so knowing whose pieces are whose is easy. The pieces, while small, are easy to grasp, so moving them around the map detailed board is not difficult.
The small size though means this is a game that you don't want small children around at all.
A simple six-sided die is included, with each side a colour, again straight forward and functional.
The board is small too; only 7 X 10 inches. It has descent thickness, and sort of an antique map look in terms of graphics. The map depicts Ireland in the Iron Age.
The board in my box doesn't lay completely flat, which is not good with such small play pieces to keep in place, but a few hours under some heavy books should address the situation.
The small size of the whole game makes it a nice one to take with you, since room is not an issue to play Hibernia, although a picnic table would be out if there was a breeze. The game plays with three, or four players.
Creator Eric B. Vogel, who released the game only this year. It is self-produced, which really makes the game 'feel' more interesting.
As for mechanics, Vogel uses a few nice elements.
The die roll for example actually adds some randomness to the game that isn't bad. Roll blue, green, red or yellow allows the active player to play into an area matching that colour. Black rolled is like a wild card allowing you to go into any area.
A player gets a second move on their turn which is essentially a free 'black roll” so you get to combine some strategic moves in a chain of events sort of way.
You score points along a soring track by holding countries of the colours along the track. So if a player has red, blue, blue, yellow in front of them on the track, they have to hold those colors to advance.
Battles are not highly strategic though. Place two pieces into a county occupied by an opposing force and you win that area.
If forces are equal at the end of a player turn, both are eliminated and the area becomes vacant for future conquest. Of course this means players will look to eliminate opponent's from certain colours to slow their advancement along the win track.
In some respects the game has a sort of race-theme feel, with the war game aspect less dramatic in terms of game play.
Of course the rule set is on an 8X11 sheet, including examples, so you can appreciate you don't get bogged down in a lot of detail.
Still, as a light little war game, that is so economical in terms of size, it's hard not to like Hibernia.


-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 29, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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