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The Fate of Mexico in the Balance. GMT Games’ ”Halls of Montezuma”. Board game Review. | Armchair General Magazine

Ray Garbee

Halls of Montezuma:  Writer: GMT Video games.  Designers: Michael Welker & David Fox. Worth $55.00 (On
sale for $35.00)

inspection: Does an excellent job of educating Mexican geography by way of the map.
Highlights the key events of the warfare by way of the occasion and action playing cards.

primary: Arrange instructions are unclear. Unique rulebook is a muddle that
makes learning to play the game very troublesome.

Card pushed games have turn out to be a staple of the board game
interest. Be it “Twilight Struggle”, “For the People”, or any of the growing
quantity of COIN collection video games, the card driven game appears here to stay. And
rightly so as the mechanism of the card pushed game permits an excellent mix of
history lesson, special rule supply car and an agent for conveying the
fog of struggle.


The Mexican American Struggle is a superb matter for a card
driven game. With a rich historical past of events that span political and army
affairs, the interval provides the opportunity to convey lots of info to
the gamers. You probably know the very rough define of the warfare – in 1835 the
Texians revolted towards Mexico, the legendary stand at the Alamo rallied
individuals to the trigger, and the decisive battle of San Jacinto resulted in the
unbiased Texas Republic in 1836. Over the subsequent 10 years, Texas drifted
in the direction of joining the United States. In the United States the admission of Texas
was a controversial matter that generated fiery debate and vitriol amongst politicians
akin to Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. The causes have been complicated, nevertheless it was
sure up in the knotty question of increasing slavery and sustaining the
stability of energy between North and South. Annexation was proposed and rejected
by the Senate in 1844, but taken up and passed in 1845. Annexation was a pink
line for Mexico that they were not prepared to simply accept. The U.S. president James
Polk tried a diplomatic answer, while additionally sending troops into the disputed
area. When battle broke out between the People and Mexico, Polk used this
as pretext to ask Congress for a declaration of warfare on Mexico.

This abstract glosses over a LOT of stuff together with the
California Bear Republic, the Native American state of affairs in the southwest and the
complicated position of the abolitionist movement in the annexation process. In case you
want more on the occasions resulting in conflict, read John Bicknell’s ‘America
1844: Spiritual Fervor, Westward Enlargement, and the Presidential Election That
Reworked the Nation’ for a snapshot of what was happening around the nation.

The Halls of Montezuma kicks off in that interval after
Texas has been admitted to the Union, however before a proper declaration of warfare
has been made by Congress. The game models this through the use of the two event card
decks (disaster and conflict) to point out the events leading to warfare.

The Halls of Montezuma consists of all the commonplace
features of a board game. There’s the game board (aka, ‘the map’), Cardboard
counters representing models and leaders, player assist playing cards, and the action and
technique card decks. The game’s physical elements are first price.

The map board depicts Mexico from the southern jungle to
the dry expanses of Nuevo Mexico and Alta California. Texas can also be depicted as
are representations of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.
The map is some extent to level system with factors related by strains representing
the roads, trails and cities and ports of the panorama. Along with the
map, the game board accommodates a number of holding bins and knowledge tracks
used during play.

The numerous army models and leaders and depicted with
cardboard counters. These are additionally up to the standard standards of GMT. Die minimize
and printed in shade these depicts models with a name and combat value or a named
chief with motion and tactical scores. The unit counters are quite
engaging and interesting. All sides has a spread of models overlaying the
standards of infantry, cavalry and artillery, plus a handful of Marine models.

The leader counters symbolize specific leaders and their
staffs that can command models and armies. Each leader is rated for the capability
in technique, techniques and command (which is type of an summary illustration
of logistics and span of management potential). The counters embrace a small portrait
of the chief, nevertheless it’s so small that I don’t feel that it provides much to the
counter. The relaxation of the knowledge on the counter is nicely formatted and straightforward to

Rounding out the counter mix are info markers to
point out if models are dug in or to denote the management of the cities and regions
on the game board.

There are also the charts. There are 4 distinctive charts –
a arrange chart, a turn document chart, an motion and strategy card chart and two
(2) copies of the player assist card. Most of these are self-explanatory and
convey info related to their title. I need to broaden for a moment on the
player assist card. This can be a 11” x 17” double sided card. You will use this a
truthful amount as it has all the charts and tables associated to combat decision as
properly as tables for nearly all the different actions in the game.

The occasion and action card decks are normal fare for one
of GMT’s card pushed games. It’s the normal format the place the card has an
operations point value (Ops point) and a particular occasion. For those who’ve performed
‘Twilight Struggle’ or ‘For the People’ you’ll be very accustomed to the format
and usage of these cards.

Okay, so those are the elements, however how does it play? Nicely,
every game flip consists of the following phases – Random events, Deal Playing cards,
Action Playing cards, Authorities standing/finish part.

In the random events part, the players alternate drawing
and implementing four motion cards. Some of the events will not be random. There
are events particular to every game flip which are listed on the turn document
chart. (For example, on flip 1, the US might NOT declare conflict at the begin of the

Subsequent up, the players deal out the technique cards to build
a hand for the action part. We’re getting to the heart of the game flip here.

Growth – we’re right here! It’s the action part. Right here the
gamers alternate enjoying Strategy cards with the Initiative player going
first. You need to use the card to play the listed occasion (in case you are eligible).  Failing that, the participant can use the OPS worth
on the card to carry out numerous actions (transfer. struggle, dig in, carry out naval
movement, and so forth). Some of the cards have obligatory occasions akin to the Provide

The motion part is the meat of the game. It’s fairly
commonplace stuff for anybody accustomed to card driven game (CDG) mechanics in games
corresponding to “Twilight Struggle” or “Paths of Glory”.

The flip wraps up with the Governmental standing part in
which you modify control of areas and verify to see if both player has
glad their victory circumstances. There are sudden demise circumstances based mostly on
management of territory and deployment of forces, or there’s victory based mostly on the
status of the political will of the Mexican individuals and government.

Halls of Montezuma is a card pushed game. Half of that
means it’s dynamic whereas also typically being frustrating. Being dynamic signifies that
it’s not often the similar experience twice.

The game does an ideal job of presenting an summary of
the battle as well as the geography of Mexico and Texas. The colorful map
captures the period and conveys a sense of the areas and routes that type the
panorama of Mexico.  The game captures
the really feel of the period by means of the occasions depicted on the playing cards in addition to the
leader and military formation rules.  It
definitely does a very good job of presenting the challenge confronted by the United
States typically dealing with a superior pressure while also being at the end of an extended
provide line.

Given all that, I’d wish to say that I really favored
enjoying The Halls of Montezuma. Sadly, I can’t. I’ll share why. You
know that feeling if you decide up the flawed glass and take a drink anticipating a
sweet sugary soda, but as an alternative get the cold bitter taste of lukewarm iced tea?
That was the impression I obtained from the first play by way of of GMT’s Halls of
Montezuma. I used to be excited to see this not often coated battle getting the ‘card
driven game’ remedy. I completely take pleasure in a game of Mark Herman’s ”For the Individuals”
and on the surface, this seemed a terrific matter for a card pushed game.

But from the begin I felt like I was preventing the game
more than my opponent. It began proper out of field, with arrange directions
that have been so obscure my frustration degree ramped up. Just establishing the game
shouldn’t be a chore – and the players shouldn’t need to guess the place to set
up pieces!  A selected instance of this
was there being no reference to the President monitor being on the game turn
card, simply ‘set the presidente token to Ampudia’. I spent 20 minutes combing
the map looking for an identical location. Yet one more sentence on the set-up
card instructions would have solved this.

The management flags and status counters come in an
assortment of colourful decisions with no steerage as to if the colors are
specific to a province and city or not. Do you need to match the control flag
and standing counter colour to the province? I struggled with the political will
markers. There isn’t any reference to establishing the political will markers, I had
to deduce it from studying other rule sections.

This frustration spilled over into the turn sequence
chart. Would a clearly labeled flip sequence have killed them? I feel like the
flip document monitor is making an attempt to convey info but lacks an important column
that might label the rows in the table. At first, I needed to guess which was the
random event. I ultimately decoded all this, but once more – why frustrate your
players with a confusing document when just a little extra work would clear up the

All this was frustrating, however these have been minor in contrast
to the real drawback – the rulebook. The rules – as offered – are a complicated
morass. We have been always reading by way of the guidelines…and re-reading the rules.
I’m truly stunned that GMT doesn’t have an updated clarified set of
guidelines/charts on their web site for this game.

Thankfully, hyperlinks to updated, revised and clarified
rules can be found by means of a reference I discovered on Board Game Geek. I’m
stunned I had to go this route. It’s 2019 – I anticipate a company to help its
product within its own selling and advertising channel and its own website.

Placing apart the set-up frustrations and the opaque rule
e-book, the frustration didn’t reduce. However this time I think that this is an
intentional function of the game’s design.

The Halls of Montezuma has a very dense ‘fog of war’
function when providing combat. Because of this victory in combat is a complete crap
shoot. Beyond the fundamentals of calculating firepower, all sides has the
alternative to play strategy playing cards that may affect the battle. Watching
Taylor’s already precarious assault across the Rio Grande get hit with each
Malaria and Low Ammo turned a mediocre assault right into a debacle.

Even discounting the occasion cards, the range of die roll
outcomes between opposed D10 allows for some really dramatic outcomes which might be
unattainable to foretell. The impact is just like what can occur in a charge
fight in “Fire and Fury”, although scaling the end result up from a single skirmish
end result to the consequence of the whole battle is going to outcome in some very
lopsided battle results. Personally, I’ve to marvel if as an alternative of the single d10
used in the guidelines as written that perhaps using 2d6 would have smoothed out the
frequency with which large swings in the combat differentials would occur. The
combat mechanism comes across as a extra chaotic course of than different CDG like “For
The Individuals”, which presents a better degree of predictability.

Frustrations abound for the US player. General Scott’s
appearance is tied to an occasion card. If the US don’t draw the event card, they
gained’t get General Scott, nor his invasion. With out Scott’s amphibious assault –
and the beachhead – the US warfare becomes problematic.  Without Scott, it’s troublesome to see the US
player reaching the Halls of Montezuma.

Solo players might need to give this a cross. Except for all
the frustrations already noted, the game doesn’t have any solitaire help.
There are not any ‘bots’ of movement charts to help automate the play of both aspect. A
player can definitely hot-seat and play each side, but the nature of the card
driven game means you lose some of the enjoyable you achieve with a second player.  The limited intelligence imposed by the card
decks signifies that when you can play each side, you’ll lose rather a lot of the
uncertainty that drives the pressure in the game.

Halls of Montezuma will attraction to followers of the period.
That degree in curiosity is needed as a result of the game requires somebody who’s engaged
by the period to wade via the rules and make sense of them. Whereas not necessarily
as difficult and detailed as a game like “Gallipoli 1915”, the muddle that’s
the rulebook and the frustration generated by its combat mechanism signifies that
you’ll feel like you’re preventing the guidelines greater than you’re preventing your

Sadly, that experience just isn’t my shaker of salt.
It’s a shame as you’ll be able to see the core of a fun, instructional game here, however it’s
hamstrung by obscure rules and a game system that appears to assume that if some
friction is sweet, extra friction is best. In case you are prepared to take a position your
time to type out the rules and perhaps construct a further play assist or two,
you’ll discover some enjoyment with this game.

Armchair General Rating: 83%

Solitaire suitability (1–5 scale, with 1 being nearly
unplayable as a solitaire game and 5 being utterly appropriate for solitaire
play):  2

Ray Garbee has been a gamer for the past 4 many years, Ray’s pursuits embrace the Anglo-Sikh Wars by way of the conflicts of the 20th Century and past but his passion stays ACW naval gaming. Presently, Ray works as a Product Proprietor in the IT subject while continuing to design tabletop games. His past works embrace Iron Thunder, Anaconda, Anaconda: Capital Navies, Battleline: 2250 in addition to articles in a quantity of defunct interest magazines. When not busy gaming, Ray enjoys working on his model railroad, climbing and sport capturing at the local range.

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