The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland, the new hexagonal game about the war from 1978-1979 between Uganda and Tanzania. Not that this is a particularly complex game, and is very long. It runs about 90 minutes, enough to change sides and play again.

The board shows a map of Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin Dada, with one player on each side of the conflict. For eight months, the two countries fought a war that eventually led to the flight from the country of Idi Amin. Each turn represents one month of real time. Other nations such as Libya and Mozambique to join one side or the other, the new recruits come on board. Tanzanians come across a narrow strip of territory on the southern tip, and have a need to capture a couple of key to winning cities. Uganda has to endure long enough to keep Tanzania invaded by them. Supplies are a constant factor for both parties, but in his country Ugandans are rarely excasos resources. Tanzanians have the numerical advantage, however, not have the resources to feed themselves through territory and take quickly.

The Last King of Scotland, map
The Last King of Scotland, map

Although this is clearly a war game hexagonal counter, a couple of good design choices make everything more efficient. First, the variety of units is rather low. The differences are expressed exclusively in numbers over the counter, so it is easy to evaluate the troop strength. Large units such as armor and artillery special dice roll hit on a lower number. It’s all very clear and quick to learn. Another good measure is that the units are either on the board or killed. The only condition to worry about is whether a unit is out of the game or not, meaning that this supply route is interrupted and the unit will be severely hobbled if struggle. It is a long way to go to make the game less intimidating.

This is not a game for those who do not like the dice. I pitched battles in some 11-12 of them to determine the outcome. Even stronger is the initiative roll each turn. That is a particularly strong swing, but I’m fine with that because I like dice games.

The Last King of Scotland, components
The Last King of Scotland, components

The Last King of Scotland is a compelling game, cleverly designed. Despite my almost total lack of experience in war games, he was quickly brought into the conflict. I struggled to learn to use the land and my units. The map shows some points that were a delight to discover. My biggest concern was that it would get in the game and setirme totally lost, but I did not have to worry.

And apart from developing an understanding of tactics, I met a lot of fun too. This is due in part to the rhythm that the clips along very well. Tanzanians feel they have to race against time and the Ugandans are just outnumbered. There is good stress and pressure on each side, and while you might find that pressure a bit strenuous in a party of four hours, in a 90-minute experience fast-paced as it works very well.

The simplicity and the fast pace means that fits my personality and style of play too. And I just had a good time, which is perhaps what impresses me.

The Last King of Scotland, tabs
The Last King of Scotland, tabs

The mounted board fits like a puzzle, and it feels great. Graphically the game is just great, clean and easy to read. It is not at all difficult to handle the cards, as they are thick and rounded. My biggest complaint in the production goes to the rules, a particular bugaboo I have with VPG. This time, the problem is compounded by the fact that this is the first in a series of games in African wars. That means that the first half is rules for the entire series, the second half is specific rules for this iteration. That makes it look anything up to a kind of headache, although it’ll be nice to future installments.

If you’ve always been a little curious about trying wargames, The Last King of Scotland is a great game to start. It’s intuitive, clean and fast and looks good, better than most war games. It is also relatively cheap at around 35 €. And perhaps most interesting, now I have a fascinating historical insight into a little known war. It can never become a dedicated wargamer, but this game shows me the appeal of piles of counters on a small map.

Game Type Wargame
Recommended Age +13 years
Language English
Players 1 – 2 Players
Game Time 90 minutes
Difficulty Hight

Zulus on the Ramparts!

Zulus on the Ramparts! is a board game of the category wargame inspired by Rorke’s Drift in 1879. The player assumes the role of the 140 British soldiers who faced more than 4,000 African soldiers in the legendary siege in which the first were incredibly to finally retire victorious enemy. No tokens representing the army of His Majesty only a deck of cards and some markers. Yes Zulu regiments are represented by several chips symbolizing the four main formations attacked Rorke’s Drift and “life points”.

On the map we see represented the missionary position and four “ways” to move toward him. These “pathways” oval divided into five cells each representing the advance of the Zulu regiments. If any of them reaches the red square that is the “Victoria Zulu” tab, the game is over for the player, who has failed to repeat the heroic historical result.

The record of Zulu victory begins in the red box with a 0, but may be delayed by the player up to two positions, making it harder to reach their target Zulus. In other parts of the map are in certain markers and letters reporting things like water scarcity and ammunition, the arrival of the night, forming a reserve platoon or building defenses now.

Zulus on the ramparts!, board
Zulus on the ramparts!, board

Before starting the game, we put in a bowl a series of round tiles that represent both the progress of the various Zulu regiments as various events. We must also prepare before starting the deck in a specific way, leaving from the last 4 cards (shuffled at random) of relief column that ends the game (if you have not done before) and inserting the letter Night (hampering the fight) to about half of the deck.

First thing we do each turn is, remove one of the fas of the container and make it effective: execute the corresponding event in the case of one of these or, in the case of an advance (most likely) will move the number of spaces the corresponding Regiment (iButho) Zulu.

If you still survives then the player performs the main phase of action, where you can choose from several options: forming the reserve squad, trying to put out fires, build a barricade, distribute ammunition and water, shoot / melee attack heroes and draw cards. The latter represent the official historical fence and give the player important assets and greater flexibility and can often “sacrificed” in exchange for decisive action. The player usually has a five-card hand that is renewed at the end of the day. These letters will or will these heroes who have seen or bursts of gunfire. Heroes can also shoot or use special skills stronger and be used for various actions on the board as the platoon booking form or build the barricade. For all these latest features, normally we should have “fallen” hero to the table with a prior action.

Zulus on the ramparts!, tabs
Zulus on the ramparts!, tabs

The shooting and fighting are made by rolling dice. According to the letter we use, we can pull a number of dice (typically between 1 and 5) depending on the distance at which the Zulu regiment are. 6 eliminate a life point of the enemy formation (having from 2 to 5 points); May 1 will be withdrawn the box back.

Once selected and implemented the action, the player ends his turn by drawing a card from the deck if you like, and removing (dropping) a hero.

The game may end in several ways: the most common is the Zulu entering the enclosure, as already in advance, meaning that the player has lost. Alternatively, remove all English Zulu regiments. The third way to finish the game is when the “Column relief” letter is at the end of the deck appears. At that time, the player has points that may have been gathered or lose based on a scale to determine which side has won and his margin of victory (may be less, epic, tie, etc).

Game Type Strategy, Wargame
Recommended Age +12 years
Language English
Players 1 Player
Game Time 25-35 minutes
Difficulty Medium

Fortress America

With this premise worthy of Red Dawn or the context of 2013 Escape from LA, we find a classic eighties ameritrash (sorry if the term offends someone) re-edited and enhanced for today, Fortress America.

And if the invaders conquered enough US cities, fall nationwide. But if the United States can protect their cities long enough, the invading forces will end the invasion … more yankee and eighties, impossible.

The invaders players have a limited number of troops used to conquer 18 key cities in the USA before they have time to reorganize.

Hand this time from Fantasy Flight Games have a box filled with good quality plastic (of course), with your futuristic helicopters and tanks, and a nice dash in my opinion, simple lines that remind me somehow of the film, War Games.

Fortress America - board area
Ready to invade!

The invaders players have a limited number of troops used to conquer 18 key cities in the USA before they have time to reorganize. The Americans, with their scattered forces across the country must rely on reinforcements to grab organize local militias and its huge and powerful laser cannons to defend their nation.

Fortress America - troops
These rudders on your Stealth bomber are very cool, but do little to be invisible to radar …

Bad points to note, the wait between each turn of the invaders.

Simple combat system and given enough time to wait between each invader player, the game fulfills everything you might expect from a game of this genre, pure fun, some strategy and chance, much chance.

On our departure Las Vegas managed to resist until almost the end of the game, delaying the advance of Asian (perhaps quedasen playing the slot) in a sample of what a dice game with many mechanics without controlling somewhat chance can do with your finely planned strategy. Finally the USA capitulated after a series of attacks and counter attacks unfortunate (for the US) on the east coast.

Fortress America - troops
Detail troops

The rules are simple, the issue really unusual and I particularly funny, clean fun unpretentious, it’s not a game for every day, but a game from time to time may be healthy, includes some optional rules to give a little more strategic direction and to the invading powers not earn block.

Highlights bad, the wait between each turn of the invaders, the player controlling the US not rest, but the rest can go take a somewhat between each of their turns, which makes it difficult to stay focused and makes the game you go over three hours.

In Fortress America, America must defend three deadly invading armies: Asian Alliance Pueblo West, the South Central Federation and the Euro-Socialist Pact East. Players assume the role of the United States, trying to protect themselves from foreign threat, or the role of one or more of the invading armies, fighting in a spectacular battle to acquire important territories.

If the invading forces conquered enough US cities, the US defense breaks and falls the nation. But if the United States can protect their cities long enough, the invading forces fail and your raid is over.

It includes over 300 detailed plastic miniatures.

Game Type Wargame, Science Fiction
Recommended Age +12 years
Language English
Players 2 – 4 Players
Game Time 150 minutes
Difficulty High