Replay: Stronghold – Part One

Posted by James (admin) on November 25th, 2009

Please note that the Valley Games version of Stronghold (released March 2011) has massively updated rules to make them clear as the original rules were very confusing and had many conflicts.

Stronghold is an epic game.  It is filled with relatively simple options and decisions but there are lots of them and no definitive answer as to which will be right or wrong.  The players act and then re-act to one another and there is little (or even no) downtime as play passes back and forth between invader and defender.

Having played Stronghold a couple of times, I thought I would post some further thoughts on the game  (following-up on my initial review.)  I discovered that not only is Stronghold epic but the length of this post was to become similarly epic too.  So, below is the first of a three-part Stronghold replay report.

I should point out that Stronghold has a lot of different game mechanics and I won’t be trying to explain all the rules; however, I will mention some basics as I go.  If you’re interested, the full rules are available for download.

Both sides have troops which are white (strength 1), green (strength 2) or red (strength 3).  For the invader these are goblins, orcs and trolls, and for the defender these are marksmen, soldiers and veterans respectively.  The defender starts with a fixed amount and can train some to be better; whereas, the invader draws 14 (in a two-player game) at random from the bag of 200 units each turn.

It’s at this point you realise that losing troops is all going to be part of Stronghold and giving your units (cubes) names will only make it more painful when you lose them.  This is especially so for the invader as they will discard troops (along with resource cubes) to make equipment like shields, siege engines and bridges as well as lose them in battle.  The defender just needs to lose units at a slow enough rate to give themselves a good chance of winning the game.

The core gameplay mechanic involves hourglasses.  Each time the invader performs an action, the defender receives hourglasses which are the currency the defender uses to take actions.  The more the invader does, the more time the defender has to prepare.  The invader can use (discard) better troops to perform actions more quickly so they don’t give the defender as many hourglasses.

In addition to using units (manpower), the invader has brown resource cubes too which are also required to build equipment and siege engines.

The first really nice game mechanic that you encounter in Stronghold is the invader’s set-up.  It is at this point that the invader player selects what tools will be available to them during the game.  To do this, the invader draws two cards for most phases and picks one.  These phase cards dictate what tools and options the invader will have in each phase of the game.  Once picked, they do not change.  So, if the player doesn’t pick the battering ram, they will not be able to build a battering ram at any point of the game.  The selection of the phase cards sets the invader’s strategy right there.  With several cards for each phase and each having different mixtures of tools/options on them, each game could be quite different.

I’ve only played with the recommended starting configurement so far (which is a nice inclusion as you have no idea what to pick on your first play) and I look forwards to the various other options, especially the battering ram, in future.  This should really increase variety when playing the game multiple times and longevity is a good thing.

The game usually starts with the build up and preparation of invading forces and they will probably build their support weapons and equipment before launching full troop assaults.  Siege weapons usually get built early on to start harassing the defender.

The way the siege weapon cards work is excellent.  When built, each siege weapon starts with a deck of 7 cards – 5 misses and 2 hits.  Each time it fires, a card is drawn – any hits are put back in the deck but any misses are removed.  This is a great simulation of a weapon finding its range.  Plus, the defender and the invader can both take actions to add extra cards to the deck too.  It does mean quite a bit of shuffling with decks of just a few cards but I like how it works.

The siege weapons the defender has are a bit different as they all use the same 6-card deck containing cards which say what type of enemy is killed, i.e. a goblin, an orc or a goblin, any unit, and one card which is a complete miss.  No cards are ever removed from or added to this deck.

End of Part One.

For more, check out part two and part three of my three-part Stronghold replay thoughts where I’ll cover traps, attacking the walls and trying to defend them, and more.


3 Responses to “Replay: Stronghold – Part One”

  1. Karacan Says:

    Just as a note, because I’ve seen this played wrong several times: Dice will not simulate the Defender’s Siege weapons, because they are not shuffled every time you fire a cannon or swing a pole. Instead, ALL cannons use the same deck, and only afterwards are shuffled.

    This means that firing three cannons, only one of them has a chance to be a complete miss. This is quite important for the Defender. 🙂

  2. Eisley Says:

    Hi Karacan,

    Thanks for letting me know my error. I’ve edited my report and removed that bit. That rule would have made quite a bit of difference in my game as I drew the complete miss card far too often. Good to know.



  3. Karacan Says:

    You’re welcome! It’s a fantastic game, but the way the rules are written is something else…

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