…all this bloody marching! I wish old Harold would make his mind up. First we trek up to Nothumbria (a desolate, miserable hole, it must be said) then leg it Down to old London town and now we’ve got to high-tail it over to the South downs.
Now what’s all that about? You’d think the country was under attack or something!
It ain’t ‘alf played merry ‘ell with the instep of my carpet slippers, I can tell you.
Normans Set Sail
(An example of the 1066 OST from the creative talents of Francesca Hall)
Recreate the infamous Battle of Hastings!
A promise has been broken, an evil omen is in the sky, a crown is at stake, and history is about to be made…
1066, Tears to Many Mothers is an asymmetric, competitive, tactical card game in the style of Magic the Gathering, but non-collectible. Each player, as either Normans or Saxons, musters troops and resources to overcome the various obstacles in their way before the two armies clash on the battlefield at Hastings.
Every card in the game is inspired by a real person or event from the time. With a focus on quick, tactical play and a thematic re-imagining of the events of the time, there is no deck building required, each player simply grabs their deck and shuffles, then play begins.
(taken from BGG intro)
What’s All The Fuss About?
A historical card game!
It is no secret that I am an absolutely ginormous fan of Hall or Nothing’s first project Gloom of Kilforth which was, in fact, my very first review just over twelve months ago. As such, the fuss here is that twelve months later on from GoK, 1066 Tears to Many Mothers finds its way to both sides of my table… the fuss is mostly my anticipation for a head to head game set during the shenanigans of the Battle of Hastings. Not just that, but Tristan has spent a great deal of time working on a system that allows either side to be automated. Now this definitely builds my anticipation. A game set during a significant part of British history, art matching that of the Gloom of Kilforth and a solo variant to boot. That is what the fuss is about…
but all this excitement could well be just a little premature. is it going to meet my ridiculously high expectations?
let us find out…
Immersion or Subversion?
Ania Kryczkowska set the standard for imagery and subsequent artists meticulously vetted by Hall or Nothing Productions has resulted in yet another sumptuous collection of 170+ pieces of wonderousness. Now I always say great art alone maketh not a good game but bloody hell, these images really help create such an atmosphere that we could quite easily imagine ourselves at Hastings amidst the fracas… So, this does help build part of that immersive feel but it is not flashy, shiny shiny! There is a true gritty realism to each image. Beyond the lengthy time I have spent merely looking at each card I have in my hand, I have actually played nine games so far, and surprisingly the units available, the event effects, attachments and various skills and abilities all bear true historical accuracy. Just as an example, we can easily see how beneficial long range archers are or heavy cavalry or shield wall, as they are exemplified in game-play. The game is somewhat abstracted in its nature/layout (mostly in the way cards are laid on the playing surface) but even so, their function in the game really gives us a true a feel of this historical conflict.
This is not a game of miniatures taking to a sculpted battlefield, trying to accurately represent Harold’s demise but by goodness as a card game, it really does immerse us into the antics of 1066.
….oh, the art, the art…
There is strong hand management element to this game in as much as each card we hold in our sweaty little mits, has a cost payable via various means (including abilities from cards already in play, discarding cards in our hands etc) …so holding back strong cards or playing weaker cards for optimum use.. all add to a strong tactical application. There is no deck building, as we play with a set deck, but how we utilize the cards that turn up is key to our strategic warplan.
The game its self is really split into two games in one. Initially both Saxon and Normans frantically race through a variety of Objective cards (each requiring addressing with abilities or traits on cards that we put into play) in their bid to reach the all famed Hastings battle field which, if memory serves me right, actually took place about 11km from Hastings on Senlac Hill, near a small town called Battle. Even during this section we are mindful that cards played now will also be those that will come into full effect when both sides face off on the final battle field.
This leads us to the second part of the game where all protagonists are hell bent on destroying each other and the locations (the three wedges)
It is with the same mechanics that both parts of the game are played, where we prepare, deploy cards and address Objectives or Wedges. I wont bore with technical details but the way the game dictates deployment, paying for cards using resources generated from multiple means (as previously mentioned, discarding cards from the hand, through resources generated by cards in play and card special abilities) provides us with numerous difficult choices, but simultaneously multiple ways of solving our dilemmas.
It is pleasant to find multiple use cards… but in this case it is not an over crowded rectangle filled with confusing iconography. The majority of cards have three principal uses. Discard a card=generation of a resource… simple. A cost icon=resource cost to deploy. Three attributes for combat/confrontation and a box for special abilities/skills.
We might find that we have a field stocked full of units but we do have to be careful with the application of their attributes… Predicting what might be of most use to us can cause big headaches. Tire (alternative to the WotC copy-write Tapped) a character to use an ability or attribute for a certain task and it is no longer able to help us face unforeseen event cards, for example, or help in challenges over Wedges, and so you see we have to plan very carefully.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
I really don’t need to say much here. Tristan has always insisted on very high component quality and this game falls in line with those standards. There have been complaints along the development path about the game needing to be cheaper and then through increased Kickstarter pledges, the game could receive upgrades. What a load of overly warn pants! If a game is going to be made well, there should be the intention from the very beginning that is made to the highest standards possible (withing cost and time restraints of course).
If I were to make two complaints…no that is a terrible phrase to use, as I am most definitely not complaining…
These two areas that could use future improvement, they would firstly the special Traits rosette on certain characters has small black number with a white boarder. The result is that in subdued lighting conditions this is not so easy to read. I think either solid black or solid white would be a better future choice to aid clarity. Now the second is very minor indeed. The box in my view needn’t be as big as it is for the components inside. I can see it is important for shelf presence and definitely shows the cover art off to great effect, but I would be more than happy to have received my game in a much smaller box… however, but this has absolutely no bearing on game quality. This is just a personal observation.
Thanks to Chris Pearson pointing me in the right direction, I have a (( LINK )) to a document Tristan Hall has created to help with the aforementioned issues with Trait numbers.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Tristan Hall
- Art: The Creation Studio, Ania Kryczkowska, Arkadiusz Banas, Guillaume Manuel, Mark Bulahao
- Music: Francesca Hall
- Graphic Design: Darren Marks, Tristan Hall
- Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions
- Play Time (or recess for those of the US persuasion):30-40 minutes
- Gangs of One: 1-2 players
- Age of Consent: 10+
- DOB: 2017
Drinking & Singing
Ye Ghad! This has turned out to be a pretty exceptional solo experience for me. The AI opponent gives us s real run for our money, generating an intense, competitive battle. Ordinarily, I would not have expected a head to head battle game to be at all usable by soloists other than in the old ‘play yourself at chess’ technique, but I stand and nod my head in acknowledgement of a rather well thought out system for the soloist. There is nothing tacked on to pacify the louder soloist protagonists. This is a solid solo system that, certainly for me, works very well. As a multiplayer game, we soloists actually experience an intense game that is just as thrilling and challenging as the live player head to head.
As a Light to slightly mid-weight strategy game (well, that is the feel for me). I don’t necessarily get deeply involved with all character’s special abilities as part of my planning (and suspect there may be some very hardcore strategists that find the game a little light) but my experience playing the game tells me this really is ‘bang on the money’. A great balance of strategy, excitement, challenge with an over balance of exceptional art. I will add, as a slight disclosure, I was very fortunate to have opportunity to be involved in a small way with the play-testing of this game, but that was no guarantee the game would turn out great and I certainly had no idea how fulfilling the finished game would prove to be in comparison to games played in the early days.
(This section has become a little shorter as I am now adding a new section in to address the AI bots in games below)
Bots and Wotnots:
(a new addition to solo reviews) As a head to head (player verses player) game it would not be an instinctive thought to expect this to be playable by in an solo fashion, primarily as a live opponent is constantly making decisions firstly based on their own strategy, but secondly as a reaction or preemption of the enemy’s own actions.
Now 1066 comes with a four page Solo Rule book that covers all the rules governing an opponent that works for both Saxon or Norman AI players. In essence the AI plays as we do, using a certain restrictiveness regarding hierarchy of deployment, defeating its own Objectives and Wedge battles. The small differences in actions an AI player has compared to us, the intrepid soloist, comes down to resources. A table of increasing resource availability (in addition …or subtraction to those available on the game surface provided by played cards) is used to allow the AI to play their cards. The AI does not have a hand of cards as we do but draws cards from its deck each turn and deploys with in the restrictions for its side of the table.
Initially the AI is a little restricted with resources, which results in its weaker cards coming in to play. However, as time progresses, it becomes more affluent and can replace its lowly arrow fodder cards with strong, heroic Noble characters. Some of this resource restriction acts as a method to replicate the human player… as we would struggle initially to build up enough resources in the early stages of a game to bung down our super powerful Nobles and such.
The system on the whole is very simple for us, the real player, to manage. There is no book keeping and no decisions to make on the AI’s behalf. Any restrictions to card placement (some units have row preference etc) are identified in the solo rule-book. Many card abilities are activated immediately which might not normally be the case for our side, but this compensates for the AI not having the deductive powers we possess. Then there is a list of abilities/actions that are ignored by the which do not become active. All in all this makes life so much easier for us, allowing us time to plan our own cunning strategy. I have only played once thus far as the French team, as the remaining eight games have been Saxon based, but I have yet to feel the AI is a weak, meaningless buffoon of an opponent. It grows in strength, as we do, and although not always deploying cards as we might, the games have often been ridiculously close. In fact the three games I won have been right down to the wire, me usually being on the back foot playing catch up.
In conclusion; although this is not a bot as such, it is a semi intelligent AI system that suddenly makes an otherwise unusable game for the soloist, a great challenging head to head experience.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: As a two player game one player is always going to win. With the solo game, however, we are trying to defeat an artificial intelligence. It is a significant challenge working through the Objective deck and then attempting to be victorious at each of the three Wedges, but victory is achievable. It is not easy and the few victories I have achieved came about right at the last minute. This is very much an edge of your seat game.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: 1066 comes with two rule books. The base game is a twelve page guide logically/sequentially laid out, relaying the game-play in a well ordered fashion which I felt did its job effectively. So far I have not come across any situations not covered in the rules (but there is a 1066 Facebook page that welcomes discussion from players, all of whom are willing to help with game questions) The solo booklet of four pages length similarly makes light of explanation. I did find I had to refer to the Foe Deployment/Foe Playing Cards section repeatedly as numerous cards had exceptions to rules that I had to double check regarding placement and abilities but nothing that left me baffled or confused. I think, in two short documents, the game rules have been well conveyed to those reading them.
- Lucky Buggers: The random draw from both our and the AI decks adds a luck element to the game but it is how we optimize the cards we have drawn. How we play them to their most effective. So, at the end of the day, with the absence of dice, there really is little left to random chance that is beyond our control.
- Lows and Highs: The setting is one of extreme violence and heavy bloodshed. The illustrations have a distinct gritty realism but although hint at the violent exchange, they do not portray any disturbing imagery. So, from a visual perspective the game has great realism but without the disturbing aesthetic of war. The game its self is a race, a battle, a massive challenge which leaves us elated, dejected and any range of emotions between the two but at its conclusion, the forty minute roller coaster ride of a game leaves us with a feeling akin to children disembarking a theme park ride…’again, again’
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: I was extremely lucky to have one of the gorgeous play mats that were available during the Kickstarter campaign which helps with setup and overall aesthetics of the game (but not integral to game play) and as such all components can be accommodated on the mat. Leaving a space for my hand of cards, I would say a playing space of 83cm x 50cm should be quite sufficient to play comfortably.
- Set It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: If the two protagonist’s decks are kept separate it will take a matter of moments to shuffle each and plonk them on the table. Ordering the three wedges and locating the Objective cards adds a staggering couple of seconds and, of course, there are the red and blue tear/wound tokens to place near by. This is a really quick set up and shouldn’t take more than a minute or, perhaps, two for both set up and packing away.
Me, Myself and I:
We, and really I do refer to Me, My self and I in this instance… yes all three of us, were most surprised by the game. I knew before hand it was going to be quite good. I knew production quality would be high. I had no doubt the art would be spectacular and I had tried the early game/solo rules but none of this actually did anything to prepare for the very first production game. It really was a spectacle… and such an engaging challenge. I know the decks are set and the Objectives remain the same from game to game, but in my first nine games not a single game played out in the same way. Even when I found some strategies that appeared to work in one game, apply them to a new game and everything goes completely to pot, as unexpected events/opponent characters chuck a homping great spanner in the works.
This has most definitely pleasantly surprised me, playing much better than I expected…sadly my games take for ever as I frequently become distracted as a card I have not seen before rises to the surface ans I feel compelled to study it at length.
Yay or Nay?
It would be foolish of me to try and create suspense by inferring I might not like the game…then surprise you all by saying it’s OK. With out a doubt this is a battleicious success and, through subtle use of long range archers, defeats the BSoMT 1d8 die into a resounding (8). Yes, I have had some insider dealings with the game in its earlier stages but that has not influenced my verdict. For my table, this really is a very decent solo adaptation of a multiplayer game, engaging, gorgeous to behold, and challenging to play. This is a gaming system that looks like it could be the template for a good number of subsequent historical conflicts.
This is definitely a title I recommend soloists consider, whether a history buff, battle connoisseur or just a solo gamer that loves great art.
..Harold’s has just copped an unfortunate… arrow to the buttock cheek. S’pose it could’ve been worse… he might ‘ave taken one to the eye….
….oh! Me an’ my big gob!
…looks like I’ll have to be learning French right sharpish now!
Something For The Weekend, Sir!
1066 on BGG:
Hall or Nothing Productions:
1066 Overview by Ricky Royal:
1066 Runthrough solo by JPlay:
1066 Rules Overview Gaming Rules:
Clubit-Boardgame Teach and Play: (please note there are several important errors in game play during this video… it gives a good feel for how games of 1066 play, but I suggest you don’t use this as an accurate rules video)
Hall or Nothing Productions on Twitter: