Playings; 4, 12 hours (3 Carthaginian wins, 1 Roman)
Habitual Hannibal players will be surprised at the win ratio above. The smart money has it that the Carthaginians have a hard time at this game. I can only plead playing solitaire and wonder that I may have missed some obvious Roman strategy.
To those less well informed Hannibal is the update of We The People. The basic concepts remain the same with both players having a hand of cards which are generally played with the players alternating and the game turn ending with the last card. The number of cards dealt varies from 7 to 8 with the game turn and the Carthaginian generally has 1st card play. There are less cards than in We The People but all cards are mult-use. All cards are numbered from 1 to 3 allowing 1 general of that strategy rating or less to move 4 boxes. Hannibal and Scipio Africanus are 1s (so is Varro who is also terrible in combat) so can always move regardless what number is on the card. The 3 rated cards allow 1 new combat unit to be placed with a general instead of moving. The number also allows the player to place that number of political markers instead of moving a general. Finally each card has some event or special ability that is used instead of placing markers or moving 1 general. Some of these events allow the movement of more than 1 general or allow a single general to move 6 rather than 4 boxes. Other events will only apply to 1 player and will have to be ignored if drawn by the opposition. Some of these event cards are played out of the usual sequence, during an opponent's move or during combat and if so used will result in 1 player having more than 1 card to play in a row at the end of a turn.
Apart from the multiple move and enemy events situations each card has 3 possible uses, plus with a full hand of cards there is a free choice of what order to play cards in. Cards can also be discarded with no effect, this counts as a card play and is rather pointless because there should be somewhere no matter how out of the way in need of a control marker. The cards are the heart of the game and the pack will be cycled through completely twice in a game, a very few event cards are removed if played others can come up 2 or 3 times but will not always be relevant to the time and player holding the cards.
Victory is by eliminating Hannibal or seriously reducing the opposition's control markers. Individual markers are of little importance but the boxes of the map are divided into areas with control going to the player who has most control markers in each area. Some areas like Transalpine Gaul provide no benefit others provide allies in combat if battles take place in that area and are used in the turn and game end victory tallies. Both players total up the number of militarily significant (as defined by the rules) areas that they control at the end of every turn. There are 18 of these areas, some may be controlled by neither player because not all their boxes have control markers for either side. If there is a difference in the number of these areas controlled by the players, the loser must lose a number of control markers equal to the difference. If the player is unable to remove suitable control markers he has lost. If the game goes to game end (all mine did) the player with the most of the 18 areas wins. I hear that a lot of games have been lost with Hannibal and TAHGC have suggested that his death should cause the Carthaginian to lose 5 control markers rather than instantly lose the game.
The control markers are straight out of We The People although they are somewhat easier to justify in this period. They can be considered as the goodwill of the locals in a box. When a number of boxes are treated as an area then control of boxes in that area is the degree of favour held with the local ruling caste. The period showed up the defection of many of the areas on the map, notably chunks of Spain and Africa. Hannibal's strategy in Italy was not to take Rombut to win over her allies, he had some success but not enough, taking Rome may have been a better ploy but will be hard work in this game. The play of control markers can be considered as the payment of money to local princes, sending of ambassadors with promises and privilidges. If things go bad control markers will be lost showing a loss of prestige as might be expected. This concept holds together rather better than control markers as measures of Tory or Rebel sentiment in We The People where it seems a little too easy to sway the public.
Control markers are also lost as a result of battles, the loser having to remove half of his battle losses worth of control markers. Some event cards will also remove enemy control markers, Sicily, Corsica/Sardinia (1 area),1 area of Spain and 2 areas of North Africa can be lost in this way. At the end of a turn any isolated control markers are also removed. Isolated markers are those that cannot trace a path of control markers to a friendly force, city, port or tribe. Cities and tribes are special control markers that are hard to remove, generally requiring an enemy force in the box and more than 1 card play of combat. Ports are pretty common so it is quite hard to remove control markers by isolation. All these mechanisms remove control markers they do not replace the boxes with friendly markers, only a very few event cards will do this. Generally once a box has been emptied of its control marker either side can fill it up but only through play of a card and not using that card as an event or for movement. Consider a player using a card to move and attack the enemy, say he wins and inflicts 4 losses on the defender who now has to remove 2 control markers. The defender gets to choose where these markers are lost from but if he is willing to play a 2 or 3 card as his next action those spaces can be filled up before the original player has a chance to capitalise on them. Out of the way inland control markers can be removed which an opponent can place his own markers on but will probably have to remove them in the end of turn isolation phase. Also markers can be removed in places such as Gaul proper (not Cisalpine Gaul) which have little effect on the game. Things only start to go wrong when a player has few surplus control markers and has to lose more, leaving gaps that can be incorporated in the opposition's control chains or removing port control boxes which cannot be isolated.
Both players begin the game in control of large chunks of the board, there are plenty of spare control boxes to cope with the odd setback. There also certain obvious early game ploys to capitalise on the situation. The Carthaginian will always have the option to place control markers 1st in the game. He generally goes 1st unless the Roman plays a card enabling more than 1 general to move, in which case he won't be placing any control markers. In Cisalpine Gaul there are 2 pro-Carthaginian tribes which count as control markers, this area requires 3 markers for full control and its other boxes are empty, a quick card play to fill up these boxes will get Hannibal a base in Northern Italy. The Romans could do to control Spain but 3 of its 4 areas begin the game full of Carthaginian control markers. If the Roman does not use a very early 3 control marker play to move in on the 4th area the Carthaginian will.
With a lot of effort being spent on playing events and placing control markers the military events are not as important as in many games. They cannot be ignored because the only way to convert an enemy control marker to a friendly one without a specific event card is to have a friendly combat unit in that space. To really get anywhere a general has to move into a box then in subsequent card play convert that space. This sort of action invites the opposition to drive the force off leading to battles and both sides' forces splitting up as they try to convert control markers away from enemy interference.
Battles themselves are the weakest part of the game from a solitaire angle. Both sides draw cards from a separate deck to that used for all other purposes. 1 card is dealt for each combat unit in the friendly force, 1 for each point of tactical ability of 1 leader for each side (the big shot leaders are 4s) plus 1 for each relevant ally and 1 if the box contains a friendly tribe. For battles in Spain, Italy and Africa control of an area gives the use of ally cards to that side in any space in that region. All the Spaniards turn up in Spain but none of the Africans, no one but Sicilians shows up in Sicily. 2 of the African areas supply 2 ally cards each rather than 1 and the Roman can only ever claim 2 allies in Italy, the Carthaginian can get up to 6 (although with 6 he is pretty close to winning). No player can have more than 20 cards although this level is very hard to reach (Hannibal with his 4 for tactics, 10 maximum combat units and 6 allies - possible only in Africa or Italy) Even so hands of 10 to 15 cards are quite common. The defending player can try to avoid battle by rolling equal to or less than his tactical rating but will lose a battle card if he fails plus the original attacker can continue to pursue if he has movement remaining and rolls equal to or under his tactical rating.
The concept of combat is simple enough, there are 5 different combat card types and a 6th that can be used as any of the other 5. A card is played by the attacker and if the defender cannot match it he has lost. If the defender matches and can roll equal to or less than his tactical rating he gets to be the attacker otherwise another card is played by the original attacker which again must be matched. Naturally the fewer cards in play the better chance of playing a card that cannot be matched, except in small battles there will be a lot of cards played before 1 player loses. When a player finally loses both players take the same loses based on the number of pairs of cards played and the loser alone loses additional units based on a pursuit die roll which can eliminate a force. All but 2 of the cards are much the same and a good bet is take the most common card in your hand and keep playing it until there is only 1 left and then switch to the 2nd most common. Probe cards are less common but reduce all losses from retreat so are none too attractive. Double Envelopment cards increase losses through retreat but automatically lose the initiative if matched, the attacker becomes the defender in the next card play which is not a very attractive option. Hannibal can play 1 card of any type as a Double Envelopment card encouraging him to use this ploy if he has a good stock of this card already in his hand. The rules list how many of each card is in play so you can be sure that if you have 9 Flank Rights in your hand the opposition will not have any although he may have access to any of the 4 Reserve cards. To make full use of this card system the battle deck needs serious shuffling between battles to break up all the matched pairs.
Having played this battle system against an opponent in We The People I can confess to unlikely card combinations coming up which allows obvious victories to go down the tubes, the chances of this go down as more cards are in play which may explain the increase in use of combat cards in Hannibal. For solo play 2 hands of cards have to be dealt with both dummies going for the most common card ploy, although with Hannibal it is sometimes worth using Double Envelopment cards, juggling 2 sets of cards and trying not to look too hard as to what is in each hand is not an ideal system.
I was surprised at the win rate for the Carthaginians in Hannibal I think that it is difficult for them to win. I like the game as it gives a certain amount of historical flavour. Wargamers want their games to be balanced but in my reading of the historical situation Carthage had probably no chance of victory because of the discrepancies of manpower and resources. One campaign that was successful despite the odds was the 1st Crusade. I have the original version of Fall of Rome which I enjoyed playing.