Havoc: The Hundred Years War

Here’s a review some of my readers have been waiting for: Havoc: The Hundred Years War. That’s the Finnish review, here’s my opinion in English:

I first played Havoc: The Hundred Years War at the Sunriver Games demo table in Essen 2005. It was on my list of games to check out and I enjoyed my first game a lot. Getting a review copy from the designer himself was was a nice bonus.

What’s it all about?

At it’s heart Havoc is a game of card drafting and fighting for rewards. Battles are fought with Poker hands, played few cards at the time. There’s a bit of bluffing and some evaluation of what your opponents have. Players have to manage their resources to make it through the nine battles; throwing big hands around is a good way to get in trouble.

The closest relative to Havoc I can come up with is Taj Mahal. The destructive Poker bidding system where all bidders lose their cards whether they win or not is very similar, though Taj Mahal has more elements added on top of that. I enjoy the mechanic, both in Taj Mahal and Havoc.

Confusing details

Havoc isn’t the easiest game. The Poker hands are of course familiar to most people, but as the game uses six suits and the hands can be up to six cards long, there are bunch of unorthodox hands which are a bit difficult to get. One of the game’s better features, dogs of war, is also a bit confusing.

The dogs are multicoloured zeros, which can be used in regular hands, but which also have an extra function: they can be used to retrieve used cards from the battlefield. That’s a nice thematic twist, which contributes to the game’s tactics — too bad their description in the rules is somewhat complicated.

Interesting decisions

Despite these issues, I think Havoc is an interesting game. Deciding when to commit your resources into battle is interesting and the fighting mechanism works well. The game packs enough punch in the hour or so it takes to play and it works well with three or six. I haven’t tried, but it’s probably best with four or five. It says it can be played with just two, but I’m not rushing out to try it.

Considering it’s the first game from Sunriver Games, I think it’s a job well done. The rules could be smoother, but there’s little to complain about component quality. I wouldn’t classify Havoc as a great game, but it’s a good game and I definitely want to play it more.

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