Battles of the Ancient World I : Review
After listening to Dan Carlin’s latest Hardcore History podcast on the Persian Empire I had a hankering for some phalanx’s and good old fashioned ancient battles. This is an era that gets overshadowed by, well, just about every other genre. How many games do we really need about World War 2 Tank Battles? The niche for ancient battles is pretty narrow, but luckily HexWar has a few offerings for those ancient gods of war.
Hexes and Phalanx’s
As a name like HexWar would suggest, you play a set of scenarios on a hex’d out grid. Each of the scenarios is a recreation of a historical battle. One of my first games was the Battle of Arbela (also known as Guagemela), recently covered on Bruce Geryk’s and Troy Goodfellows video analysis. It was interesting to see how the game laid out the units and dealt with some of the historical questions about cavalry. (It wasn’t really addressed in BotaW) There is scythed chariots, but they simply feel like other mounted units. Nor, as Troy mentioned, are there rampaging elephants. (Much to my dismay.)
But beyond a few little gripes it’s a smooth playing game with a nice little set of scenarios. At first I was worried that the unit count would be too much, but I am able to finish a scenario in under twenty minutes. This has been my threshold for a mobile game, any more than that and the tap-tap gets to be too much. Each turn was only a few minutes long, so it was a nice casual balance between peak Grog and usability.
A Few Issues
One feature that didn’t work for me is the zoomed out map. My units blinked in and out like some sort of Greek firefly. This was really a bummer as it’s tough to get a good sense of the battlefield zoomed in. Though, in hindsight, it probably made it more realistic. But still, not working as designed.
I’d have liked a handful more scenarios for the money. The app, at $2.99, comes with 4 scenarios. They are definitely replayable, but instead of offering 4 different apps withh 4 or 5 scenarios, I’d have liked about 7 per game. This gives me enough time to play them through and then come back for a round and it’s fresh again. At just four scenarios they all sorted of blended together.
Surprisingly Interesting Combat Mechanics
The combat system was beyond what I expected. At times the units all felt the same, but once the battles raged on I realized I was missing out on some critical information. This made me slow down and pay a lot more attention to the units. Why did my legions lose? Why did those swordsman do so well? The balance of the game is good enough to make these decisions important, and not just historical fluff. Even the positioning of the Generals are very important and lets you really swing a flank like a bronze mace.
HexWar has struck a good balance between content, mechanics, and a light enough engine to make the game playable. It’s not without a few bugs and some flaws. Waiting for all of the enemies units to move, even at elevated speed, is a slow operation. The game is also a solid I Go – You Go game without any interrupts. It could really use some interrupts and it would help Cavalry and Archers to feel more fluid. Right now they seem to fit into an odd spot.
If you’re a fan of the genre, and c’mon, you should be, it’s worth the $2.99. As far as sales go, it doesn’t look to go for sale often, the last time it was at $0.99 was Christmas 2015. It’s not without flaws, but I’d say it’s well worth the price of admission.
4 / 5