Before I begin I was sent a review copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would prefer to watch a video of this review you can check it out below. Get your own copy here.
So you know what type of game has never really clicked for me? Roll and Writes…or Flip and Writes, or anything any writes. I just have a hard time getting excited by them, in general. However, lately I have wound up with some review copies of this type of game and have become more intrigued with them. Then I lucked into a copy of Hadrian’s Wall, and thought I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. I was wrong. So. So. Wrong. Like Ranch dressing on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrong.
Like and other _____ and Write game this one sees you gaining a set number of stuff at the start of each turn. In this case, you get a stones worth of stone, and a metric butt-ton of meeples. (See since it takes place in England we use stones as a measurement of weight, and I am pretty sure that butt-ton is another one of their unique measurements.) You then use those resources to start filling in bubbles on the pages in front of you.
By filling in these bubbles you will earn more resources, that you are then able to spend to fill in yet more bubbles and earn yet more resources which let you, you guessed it, fill in more bubbles for more resources.
At the end of each round, or year the barbarians will invade. This is managed by flipping a few fate cards, and looking at the top of the cards. The arrows will tell you which side of the wall is being attacked, and if you have filled in enough bubbles on that side of the layer mat, then you will be safe, and, you guessed it, get to fill in some more bubbles which might let you get more stuff!!! If you fail to defend the wall, don’t worry, you still get to fill in some bubbles. So really, you are never left out…isn’t that nice?
After 6 years you will total up your points and the highest score wins.
So what do I think?
The euro style spending of your resources is just delightful. This is, perhaps, the best feature of any of the ____ & Write games that I have played. It makes every single round super exciting because you are continually filling in bubbles, which get you more resources which let’s you fill in more bubbles. There is something strangely exciting about spending a yellow meeple to fill in a bubble, which gets you a yellow meeple, then using that meeple to fill in another spot that gives you a blue meeple, then you use that blue meeple to get another yellow meeple, which you then use to get a black meeple and so on. It is wonderfully addictive.
Additionally, though I did not mention it above, I particularly enjoy how each round you are selecting a card that will give you a unique end game scoring condition, this makes your strategy every game just a bit different.
The game is attractive, if not a bit busy looking. Usually, here I comment on a lack of diversity in game art, but I have a bit of a harder time criticizing it when all of the characters, which you almost never see, are ancient Britons…so perhaps it makes sense. Though on the other hand, they certainly could have just gone for it and ditched the historical nature of the art, since again, it is almost never seen.
I will also note that it is definitely possible to crush yourself in this game. Since, everything is so tightly interwoven one little mistake can wind up having huge side effects several turns later if you misspend just a few resources.
This is a multiplayer solitaire style game. There is a tiny bit of interaction, but you can easily play the whole game and never even look at another player. This might not bother you at all, but it is something to keep in mind. I also suppose it would be nice to have a few more cards for each player, so the end game scoring conditions were even more varied.
Bringing it all together
Hadrian’s Wall is the hands down best ____ & Write game I have played. It has levels of complexity that far exceed what I imagined was possible in this style of game. Playing the game creates true joy as you can find yourself playing turns where it feels like you have created a perpetual motion machine, one that only stops when you make a mistake. The board looks a bit busy…cause it is busy, and this is a game that has very minimal player interaction, but for me, I do not care because it is one of the most addicting games to enter my collection…ever.
Stop yapping, and start laying bricks!
* Delightfully complex game where every action is connected to something else
* Highly addictive
* Looks a bit busy, but that is because it is busy, so much going on
* Despite it complexity the rules are easy to understand and pick up
* Almost no player interaction whatsoever