Hadrian’s Wall

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“Hadrian’s Wall Roll and Writes have evolved! Usually a quick playing affair where you roll dice, or draw cards and fill in boxes on a sheet to score the most points. Sometimes these are themed like Railroad Ink or sometimes they are just a bit Kathy like Ganz Schon Clever. Hadrian’s Wall comes from Garphill Games, known for their West Kingdom and North Sea Trilogies. And …
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Awards

Dice Tower

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Combo-driven gameplay
  • Broad range of strategies
  • Simultaneous play

Might Not Like

  • Minimal player interaction
  • Thin cardstock and lack of colour-blind friendliness
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Description

"Hadrian’s Wall Roll and Writes have evolved! Usually a quick playing affair where you roll dice, or draw cards and fill in boxes on a sheet to score the most points. Sometimes these are themed like Railroad Ink or sometimes they are just a bit Kathy like Ganz Schon Clever. Hadrian’s Wall comes from Garphill Games, known for their West Kingdom and North Sea Trilogies. And while it’s their first Roll (Flip) and Write it maintains their signature gameplay and depth. The box is heavy - because it contains not one but two pads. Each player will take a sheet from each pad and line them up together in front of them. This represents your Roman outpost with a broadly military sheet and a broadly civilian sheet. Each round you will receive a mix of different coloured meeples and resources. You will spend these to cross off parts of your sheets. You will definitely need to upgrade your wall and defences as at the end of each round all players will be attacked and potentially lose points at the end of the game. But ignoring the civilian aspects of your sheets will see you missing out on valuable bonuses and scoring opportunities. The meeples and resources you receive are dependent on a central card draw and also one of your own cards. Each player has an identical set of 12 cards which are shuffled, each round every player draws two and chooses one to gain meeples and resources from and one to tuck in the top of their board to score at the end of the game. It is worth trying to score as many of these six cards you will tuck over the course of the game! Despite being in depth and having a lot going on Hadrian’s Wall plays smoothly and is combotastic! You will soon be chaining together actions like some of the smaller roll and writes, while feeling like you have played a meaty game. Player count: 1-6 Time: 30-60 minutes Age rating: 12+"

What’s The Big Idea?

Life in Roman Britain isn’t easy, particularly when dealing with the unruly Pict tribes in Caledonia. In order to provide protection to Roman Britannica, Emperor Hadrian decreed in 122AD that a wall be erected. In Hadrian’s Wall, you play the role of a general responsible for building a section of the wall.

Over the course of 7 years, or rounds, you will construct sections of the wall and its defences; establish cohorts of soldiers; build infrastructure; and manage the garrison’s economic, social, religious, and legal affairs. At the end of each year the Picts attack. Fail to adequately prepare for this? Risk the disdain of the Emperor. At the end of the game, the winner is the player with the most points. As every school child knows, the Romans loved their victory points.

How Does It Play?

Hadrian’s Wall is a flip-and-write push-up-the-tracks game with some engine building. Each player takes two sheets representing their fort and garrison, as well as a deck of player cards. This creates their play area. Every round, players will draw two cards from their deck. Play one as an “offer” card for an immediate resource bonus and some in-round gameplay options. Play the other as a “path” card, which will grant an end-of-game conditional scoring bonus. Each round players gain resources from three sources: by flipping the top card of the “fate” deck and gaining the workers and resources listed there; from their “offer” card, and finally from any production bonuses on their player sheets as play goes on. During gameplay, these workers and resources will be spent to fill in tracks on your sheets.

The game is heavily resource-management focused. The resources of the game are the four different types of workers, as well as the generic “resource” token. It represents a variety of different resources.

The workers in Hadrian’s Wall are divided by colour. Black workers are the soldiers, used primarily for adding to the wall guard, manning the fort, and scouting; the blue workers are builders, used primarily for building both the fort, and the various buildings you can construct; the purple workers are slaves, used primarily to assist in building the infrastructure of the town; then finally the yellow workers are “civilians” which are primarily spent on the five different citizen tracks in the game. These are traders, performers, priests, “apparitores” (the legal class), and patricians. Filling in these tracks is typically a prerequisite for much of the infrastructure of your town. You can’t build a market until you have a population of traders for example!

Once set up, play is simultaneous. Each section of your player board is divided into a variety of different tracks and tables. They will have a listed cost (and, if relevant, prerequisite) that you must pay to fill in. Tracks, as a general rule, must always be filled in from left to right, and once filled cannot be undone. When you fill in a section of a track by paying the appropriate worker or resource, you may get an immediate, one-time bonus, such as a new worker or resource.

Alternatively, it might allow you to fill in a section on a different track. This allows you to create combos during gameplay. For example, you might spend a blue “builder” to fill in a section on the fort track. In so doing, you gain a yellow “civilian”. You spend this civilian on the “performer” citizen track, which immediately gives you a new blue “builder”. You then spend this builder to fill in the next section of your fort. This gives you an immediate bonus in “discipline”. You also gain a bonus in “shield” which can be used to defend against attacks. Play continues until all players have used all their workers and resources, or have no legal uses for their remaining resources (any remaining are discarded, so you want to use them all).

At the end of each year, the Picts invade! A player draws a number of cards from the top of the Fate deck equal to the round and difficulty level. Each card has an arrow pointing either left, centre, or right. This is the section of your wall attacked. For every square in your left, centre, and right cohort that you have filled in, you can successfully deflect one attack. If you deflect all attacks, you gain “valour” (another scoring track) based on which year it is. For every attack you failed to defend against, you gain disdain.

However, there are a couple of other ways to negate attacks. This can be done either through building temples and gaining the favour of the gods, or engaging in diplomacy. There are also ways you can remove disdain once gained. At the end of seven rounds, you add up all the points on each of the four scoring tracks, all the points from your Path cards, and detract any negative points from disdain. The winner is the player with the highest score.

Impressions

The first time you set up Hadrian’s Wall, your initial thought is likely to be, “Woah”. There is a LOT going on with your player sheets. There are several hundred boxes and circles you can fill in; you would be forgiven for wondering if someone has tried to turn an Excel spreadsheet into a board game. However, despite this, gameplay is intuitive. Once you realise that the game is mostly a series of tracks, and the tracks are governed by very simple rules (fill in from the left first, and ensure you meet any prerequisite before you fill), it starts to make a lot more sense.

For new players, you might want to take your turns sequentially for the first round. Watch each other and learn the game. But, after the first round, the game’s concepts should be clear. There is a lot going on in the game, and you will not be able to do everything, so you will end up focusing on certain areas (guided in part by the path cards you play).

Hadrian’s Wall includes a variety of mini-games within its various subsystems: the trading goods is a set-collection mini-game where you are trying to gain all 6 types of goods (rather unimaginatively numbered from 1-6, rather than being distinct different types); the gladiator mini-game is a push-your-luck game where you draw a fate card to determine if your gladiator lives or dies. You gain rewards based on their victory or defeat; and the scouting mini-game is my favourite as it sees you drawing out tetrominoes on a 5×4 grid, gaining resources when you cover them over, and scoring valour as you complete rows.

Player interaction only comes from the trading goods and scouting, as the offer card you play each round will give your neighbours the option to use the scouting tetromino printed on your offer card by paying you a soldier, or the trading good printed on the card by paying you a resource.

Finding ways to cleverly chain the way you spend your workers and resources is at the heart of Hadrian’s Wall, and there is nothing more satisfying than paying a single resource to fill in a box that then triggers a cascade of bonuses that see you gain a bunch more workers/resources, and fill in a few extra boxes. In this, the game reminds me a lot of games like Everdell and Tapestry, and the way you try to combo together what you are doing to give you the extra resource or two that you need to just keep going for another turn. If you like that kind of combo-tastic gameplay, this gives you that in bucketloads.

In terms of the more negative aspects – because of the sheer volume of choices in what you can do, this might be quite analysis-paralysis inducing. As someone who is colour-blind, I disliked the choice of making the builder meeples blue, and the slave meeples purple – I often struggled to differentiate between the two, and it felt like a poor choice, especially given the industry is generally getting more aware of colour-blindness issues. On the subject of the slave meeples – the rulebook is quite clear that these are slaves, and slavery was a core part of Roman life (it is also worth pointing out that slavery in Roman times was very different to the chattel slavery of more recent times), and makes the point that not including it would be a historical disservice.

As someone who studied Latin for 10 years through school, I agree with the rationale, although perhaps a single disclaimer box in the rulebook is not quite enough, as we are never really compelled to think about the consequences of our actions when we quite literally use slave labour. Whilst the game does offer a path to emancipation through the legal courts (if you build the courthouses you can convert slaves into builders), overall I think more of a discussion of the role of slavery in the game may have been warranted within the rulebook, or in the game’s mechanics.

Otherwise, some players may be put off by the fact that this is very much a multiplayer-solitaire game. There is a little interaction with other players, but it is minimal. Personally, I don’t mind this – I quite like that style of play. But if you like a lot of player interaction, look away.

Finally, from a production perspective, whilst the art is generally good, from a component perspective the cardstock could have been better. This is the standard cardstock Garphill games use, and I have always found it thin and flimsy – if you see yourself playing this a lot, you may wish to sleeve. Also, it seems a shame they decided to print two huge blocks of player sheets when they could have simply produced 6 dry-erasable player boards. It would have massively reduced the weight and carbon footprint of the game, and improved quality of life during play, as it is easier to erase marks if you change your mind or make a mistake! I laminated some sheets that I use for the solo game when I play it.

In Summary

If you love spreadsheets, combo-tastic gameplay, and games that allow for simultaneous play whilst providing lots of choices, Hadrian’s Wall is a game for you! Fans of games like Everdell, Tapestry, That’s Pretty Clever, and Fleet are likely to enjoy this one.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Combo-driven gameplay
  • Broad range of strategies
  • Simultaneous play

Might not like

  • Minimal player interaction
  • Thin cardstock and lack of colour-blind friendliness