It’s finally arrived.
After much anticipation, hanging around the post box, and thinking they’d missed me off the mailing list. 1066, Tears to Many Mothers was finally delivered by our fair postwoman.
So, here’s my first look at the game in the flesh. I’m going to open her up, take pictures as I go, and reveal what delights await inside.
Tears, as I shall refer to it from here on in, has actually been around for some time now, but not in it’s current, beautiful state.
Created by Tristan Hall, it was originally a print and play game, downloadable from BoardGameGeek (BGG). It hit the scene in 2014 to much acclaim, becoming a Golden Geek Best Print & Play Board Game Nominee, and in 2015 an Origins Awards Best Historical Board Game Nominee. Not bad for his first game.
Obviously, the game is based on the Norman conquest of England, where it ended in a defeat for the Saxons under the leadership of King Harold. William, the Duke of Normandy, went on to become the first Norman King of England, William I, also known as William the Conqueror – though he was also often referred to as William the… Well, it was something that is unprintable here! The game centres on the Battle of Hastings, as well as events leading up to it.
In June 2017 Tears hit kickstarter, where 1,906 backers pledged £75,366 to bring the game to life, no small feat for what is a essentially a card game – no miniatures to turn heads here, and it really doesn’t need them… Lets take a look.
When you first pick up and look at the box, you can’t help but stare into the eyes of the Norman crossbowman, poised to launch a quarrel directly into your heart. The artwork is impressive to say the least. You can almost smell the tension radiating off the man as he decides whether to pull the trigger or not.
It really is a great cover, very clean – take away the game’s title, leaving just the awards and designers name, and you’d still be able to say exactly what this game is all about. It’s a cover that I would be more than pleased with hanging on the wall in my house – stunningly atmospheric.
The box is made of a nice, thick cardboard with a glossy finish, giving the whole thing a feeling of quality right from the start.
Turning the box over and we get a paragraph of flavour text, introducing the main players, Harold and William, quickly followed by a brief description of the game, “… an asymmetrical, competitive, and non-collectable card game of tactics and war… recreates the momentous events of that seismic year in British history…” Asymmetrical, a word I love to hear when describing a game – it means that the players aren’t all trying to achieve the same thing with the same tools, they may have different objectives, be armed with different components, or even play to a different set of rules! Either way, it makes for a very interesting game.
There is also a contents list, so I can see straight away that this is a card dominant game, very few tokens are included, and there is a separate rule book for solo play… yippee!
On the side of the box it list the game spec – History card game; 1-2 players; Ages 10+; plays in 30-40 minutes. All nice and clear, no ambiguities here!
Taking off the lead reveals an identical picture to the box art; this one adorned the main rulebook.
Lifting that out leads to another rulebook, this one for solo play, and is only 4-pages cover to cover.
Underneath that there is a large cardboard inlay. This box is well oversized for its contents, probably to hold any up and coming expansions, and you’ll either love that or hate it. Personally, I like boxes to have plenty of room inside to expand in to, and it also means that the rulebooks can be of a good size too – no trying to leaf through tiny booklets, with a squintingly sized font to read, here!
In the centre of the inlay lie the components, and it’s obvious that the tokens are well cut as they’re already falling from their punchboard.
Lifting things out, there are three sets of cards to unwrap, a small punch board of tokens, two bags of wooden tokens, and two character cards along with a little note telling me to, ‘…use these two updated cards to replace their namesakes in the game.’
Scanning through the main rulebook the first thing I notice is, once again, the fantastic art – it just pops out at you, especially the image on page 5. The faces portray so much feeling, your eyes are naturally drawn there, and you can almost feel the anguish, fear, and terror, in some of them.
The font used is large and easily readable, which is a big plus. There also appears to be plenty of examples and a breakdown of all the information contained on the cards.
Gameplay appears to be broken down into 4 phases – preparation, deployment, wedge, and objective – and, at only 10 pages in large font, the rules seem to be straightforward.
A quick look at the solo rulebook tells me the game is played mostly to the normal rules but incorporating a number of differences. The rules seem to be fairly comprehensive, but to understand the fully I would have too first read the main rulebook, so I can’t comment too much on how solo play unfolds. There is a resource grid on the last page, which at a glance adds a resource value to the cards on display. There are 3 difficulties – easy, normal, and hard – so the game should have plenty of replay-ability for those of us who intend to play solo.
There are two bags of wooden tear shaped tokens, red and blue, which I am guessing may be used to indicate damage. These are a very nice addition, I love the feel of wooden tokens, and they bring a little bit of extra quality to a game over cardboard tokens.
There is a single punch board of cardboard tokens that contains a large first player marker, and the modifier tokens – 11 with axes (might) on them, and 11 with crosses (zeal). These tokens are nice and large, and practically fall from the punch board, though on closer inspection a few of the corners are starting to slightly delaminate, but that shouldn’t present too much of an issue unless they are regularly handled.
Opening up the cards and flicking through them, trying not to be too distracted by the artwork. I can see that the card statistics are very easy to spot, and the use of red and blue to distinguish which cards belong to which faction is very effective. The cards themselves are of a good weight and have a lovely glossy finish. The backs of the cards are make identification of which faction they belong to really easy, being either a blue shield, or a red one.
The flavour text is excellent, especially if you’re a history buff. There are a lot of factual references, and I find myself stopping to read nearly every other card. There has obviously a lot of research been done to bring this game to life and give it an air of historical factuality.
A big plus point for me is the fact that a good number of cards have a specific action listed on them that is used purely for playing solo; this gives me a good feeling that the solo game is going to be much more than a late addition to the game.
Skimming through there appears to be a really good variance of cards – very few are repeated. There are events, characters, units, objectives, attachments, tactics, and leaders, all of which are particular to a specific faction, as indicated by their colour. Each card has a cost indicated in the top left hand corner, inside a red rosette, and this is the number of resources required to play that card. Other statistics listed on the cards, though not on all of them, include zeal, might, health, and the number of resources generated. Most cards appear to have an ability listed, and they also appear to be varied in their use.
There are also three wedge cards, used to indicate the wedges, which are basically columns of troops.
There are a couple of summary cards, a game summary and a battle summary, I may have missed another set of these whilst skimming through, but I’m surprised there isn’t a set for each player. They give a nice summary of set-up and game play, which is always a welcome addition.
Finally, there is the inclusion of four baggies, and it’s good to see these turning up in most games these days; no longer do I have to hunt around for where I put my own stash of them!
Opening up and rifling through the box leaves one with a couple of over-riding impressions.
Firstly, the great artwork – it really is stunning, and I was surprised to learn that the original artist, Ania Kryczkoska, had left the project part way through. I say I’m surprised because I had already witnessed her stunning artwork before, and it’s very difficult to spot her work from that of The Creation Studio, who took over the art for the game. The atmosphere created by each piece of art is breath-taking, especially considering that this is a fairly well priced game, and will really gives the game a presence on the tabletop.
Secondly, the depth of history contained within the game. The cards impart so many facts that you could learn all about the battle, its tactics, and the background of the people concerned without picking up a single book. I love historical war-games, and I’m really hoping the gameplay meets the promise of the components.
Finally, looking at it as a whole, it all comes across as a quality product. The components are first class (we shall see how the card tokens hold out), the rules appear to be straight forward, and the theme is spot on, at least for me it is!
I’m pleased that a suggested further reading has been included within the rules, and it also points out that Francesca L Hall has written a music score to accompany the game, something that seems to be cropping up more and more in new release games.
I should also mention that the game includes three promo cards for ‘ Gloom of Killforth,’ a previous Hall or Nothing game, which is a nice addition.
So, all that leaves me to do now, is to actually play the game – so look out for a review coming in the not too distant future…