Battle for Hill 21802 Apr 2013 0
Strategy card games are a unique avenue to walk down. You?re not constructing units, there is rarely, if ever, a hexagonal playing field, and gameplay is generally very quick and fast. I?ve never paid much attention to these types of games as I believed that some of the games are bereft of strategy. How wrong was I, and in spades.
Large Visible Machine?s entry here is Battle for Hill 218, a rather apt title as the objective is plain and simple: secure Hill 218. The theme is set in World War 2, with detailed cards showing sepia-toned images of the card?s unit type. The actual objective of each game is to occupy your opponent?s base, or have the most cards remaining after the deck is exhausted. This objective may seem rather easy, but Hill 218?s AI can easily put up a tough fight on Normal mode, and be downright brutal on the Hard mode.
Gameplay is relatively simple: each player starts by drawing five cards, then they put two cards away into the Mulligan pot and then re given two more cards to have a hand of five cards. The player that goes first plays one card only, after that, two cards are played each turn. The important factor here in the game of Battle for Hill 218 is that a player?s base must always be occupied by a card. Bases are directly ?north and south? of the Hill 218 card, and if that card is ever destroyed, it must be occupied before any other card is played in position. This becomes an important strategy as you?ll read on.
At the player?s disposal are seven cards: Artillery, Heavy Weapons, Infantry, Paratroopers, Special Forces, Tank, and Air Strike. Of these, only Air Strike does not occupy a space, but is rather an asset players can only use twice to take out an enemy card as one of their two moves per turn. Each of these cards have special attributes which follow an interesting gameplay mechanic that at its core makes the experience of Battle for Hill 218 a challenging title.
In order to reach the enemy?s base, destroy it, and then occupy it, players must play their cards on the square playing grid that surrounds Hill 218. This is related to the card?s Supply diagram, which dictates where a card can be played on the field. Units like Infantry, Heavy Weapons, and Tank can deploy in a cross-like pattern from other units, but Special Forces can deploy on a diagonal while the Paratroopers card can deploy anywhere it wants. The critical mechanic here is that the supply line must reach back to the player?s base. This is a great gameplay mechanic that will challenge you to not only making sure your lines aren?t cut, but trying to do the same to your opponent.
The Attack diagram is another important and critical gameplay mechanic that can easily spell victory or disaster for you on a moment?s wink. Like the Supply diagram, this can range from being cross-shaped, diagonal, or even extended, which is only featured on the Artillery card. There are two different types of attack, a crosshair icon needs support, while an explosion symbol means that the card can destroy another unit without support from another unit. The only cards that can destroy a unit in this regard are the Artillery and Tank, which will be a key piece in every battle. This is where some of the tactical challenge of Hill 218 comes into play, as you?re setting up your units to support each other in their advance and to protect yourself.
Last diagram on the card is the Support display. When a unit?s Attack diagram only sports a crosshair, a playing card will need a nearby unit to have its Support diagram match up with the intended targeted unit?s space. For example, the Heavy Weapons card Support diagram covers all eight surrounding spaces around it. To the upper right of the Heavy Weapons card is an enemy unit. If a player places an Infantry card down next to the Heavy Weapons card, that Infantry card will be able to destroy the enemy?s card. However, if the Heavy Weapons card was instead a friendly Tank unit, that Infantry card would not be able to destroy the enemy card because the Tank?s Support diagram only covers the space above, below, right, and left of it.
In actual gameplay, these above combining factors create an equally challenging, equally frustrating experience. Sometimes the luck of the draw does not favor you, or the enemy cuts your supply line and none of your units can get into position. The AI in this regard is cunning, almost to the point of omniscience, but I have been able to defeat it within three moves on the Normal setting, a personal record. However, a lot of my battles on that difficulty generally boil down to running the deck out and barely winning, while the Hard difficulty is going to definitely give any experienced player a run for their money.
The audio side of Battle for Hill 218 feels very suited for it; the music is very dramatic with a foreboding tone with a mix of drums and string instruments that lend weight to the action that will unfold. There isn?t any World War 2 period music as one would expect for a World War 2-themed game, but it doesn?t need it. It can be repetitive, but there is an option to silence it. The sound effects are crisp and each card has a unique effect to it as it is played, such as troops marching for the Infantry card and the rattle and clank of treads for the Tank unit. As with the music, you can opt to silence the sound effects, and not miss anything critical, although if the enemy uses an air strike card, you might not realize why one of your units disappeared on the field until you get the hang of it. In my opinion, Battle for Hill 218 can be played with all sound or no sound without any major detriment.
Graphically Battle for Hill 218 gets the job done. The menu is laid out very well and gives no trouble in navigating through them. The cards themselves, as mentioned earlier in this review, feature detailed World War 2 images for units, and the battlefield itself looks like it takes place on a topographical planning map you?d see in real combat operations. On my iPad 2, the card?s details in text and on their diagrams appear a bit low from the standard view, but the symbols and their indications are for the most part serviceable in gameplay. You are able to zoom in and out on the field with the iPad?s pinch and zoom function, and tapping a card will bring it up into a larger view to look into its detail much more easily. The game?s pace is not terribly fast or hectic, so this isn?t a big offender against it, but those that play on the iPhone might have some trouble.
The multiplayer function was tough to get to, in part due to the game?s system of synchronous play. This means that each player is playing against each other in real time. This can make sense in that Battle for Hill 218 can be a very short and quick game, but finding a living opponent on a whim is very difficult. The other option here is via Bluetooth, which is handy for synchronous games within the same room (or under the table during dinner). There is no hotseat multiplayer, as there is the chance of peeking at an enemy?s cards, but that is something that can be handled by a blacked-out screen to indicate a player change.
Overall, Battle for Hill 218 is an enjoyable strategy card game that is great for quick and challenging games. While the objective never changes, the game never ceases to lure me back to it at multiple times of the day to try and beat it in fewer turns or with different strategies. The gameplay is relatively simple and easy to get into, but mastering it is another monster all together. This would be great for wargamers looking for a different type of game to sink their teeth into and the sessions help keep the tactical mind active and throbbing. You can pick it up on iTunes for a lovely price of $2.99.
Review written by: Scott Parrino, Editor-in-Chief