Hadrian’s Wall is Designed by Bobby Hill (insert King of the Hill reference here,) with art by Sam Phillips (Raiders of Scythia/Circadians) and produced by Garphill Games and Renegade Games. It is a flip and write game that sets up in under a minute (yes – I timed it) and gives you opportunities to find huge combo chains. It’s set in 122 AD, when the Roman Emperor – Hadrian Augustus ordered a wall to be built that would separate the Picts from England. During the 6 rounds (years) you will build walls, recruit soldiers, builders, servants, civilians, gain resources, construct buildings such as markets, landmarks and the theatre, participate in gladiator combat, scout and defend against attacks from the Picts.
Each round begins with flipping a fate card. These are multi-use cards that dictate which type of workers and how many resources are given to each player at the start of the round. Players then flip over two of their own personal cards and chooses one as an end game bonus to work towards and one to receive the workers/resources listed. Players will then receive any ongoing bonuses from their player sheets. Players then spend different workers to build or acquire different bonuses. When their workers for the round are all spent, the Picts attack. Multi-use fate cards are flipped based on the round and difficulty level. Each flipped card dictates which of the three locations the Picts will attack and you hope you defended well enough to withstand the damage. For every attack that got through, players will receive disdain (negative points).
There are so many routes to victory, I am not going to cover them all, however I will give an overview of some of the different areas on the player sheets. The top left section is all about building the wall and the supporting structures. This is the primary way to get workers and build your cohort, so you can defend against Pict attacks. You are limited by how far you advance your Fort.
Below the wall section is the production / round bonus sections that is also limited by your Fort’s (infrastructure) progress. You are able to receive extra resources, workers, builders and attributes each year.
The bottom left is the attribute tracks representing your renown, piety, valour and discipline. These tracks award you bonuses as you go up them and each box gives you a point at the end of the game for each track.
There are 5 citizen tracks in the center of the player sheets representing traders, performers, priests, apparitores and patricians. These tracks relate to the buildings on the right side of the player sheets. Most buildings on the right side of the player sheets require you to spend workers/resources to construct them. You must first build the buildings before you can use them. The gardens give you huge one time bonuses, letting you color in 4 and 6 boxes in different areas. If you can synergize this with being where you want to be on the various tracks, you can end up with a ton of bonuses. The baths allow you to negotiate and remove some negative points from any disdain acquired from Picts successfully attacking. Diplomats allow you to try and negotiate at the wall and try to prevent some of those unwanted attacks, and finally the scouts allow you to play a Tetris mini game for bonus valour while grabbing some resources along the way.
Art and Graphic Design
I think the graphic design and art for Hadrian’s wall are both top notch. The player sheets are very well laid out and have great visual reminders for everything you may forget. From outlining a bonus when you acquiring it, to help you remember to shade it in once you use it, to having visual queues on the wall to help you remember what is limiting you from building further to the right. Everything on the right side of the player boards is color coded to help you remember which citizen track relates to it and the citizen tracks themselves have little visual aids to help you remember when you advance them enough to unlock a new building.
The solo game is exactly like the multiplayer game other than you deal yourself two cards from another deck that you can buy, simulating players to your left and right. Every time you use a dummy player’s card for a Tetris piece, the Picts will attack one extra time on the last round, making you put some good thought into it. It is a beat your own score type of solo game, giving you different titles for different score ranges. For this type of game, I would not want an AI to deal with. There is something therapeutic to marking off these bubbles and boxes and I do not want to focus on running 1-2 AI, I want to just focus on me and my current strategy I am trying to piece together as I go.
Tired Dad Thoughts.
Hadrian’s Wall has single handedly redeemed weeknight gaming for me. I can finally get a medium weight game played on a Tuesday. Like I mentioned before, this game really does set up in under a minute. You rip off two of the player sheets, grab a pen, and set out your 4 worker types and resources. Hadrian’s Wall feels like one of my top five games – Paladins of the West Kingdom, by making you do what you can, with what you are given. Both games give you different types of workers at the start of the round and demand that you find the most combo-licious opportunity that presents itself. Pair that with Fleet the Dice Game (my favorite and only roll and write) for a relaxing (heavier) wind down to a day making important choices and coloring in bubbles. I can’t ask for too much more than that.