Review – Hungarian Nightmare from Against the Odds Magazine
Designer – Mark Stille
Art – Joe Youst
note – Thanks to Against the Odds Magazine for providing a review copy of this game
2-players, ages 14+
The third in a set of games from Against the Odds Magazine that I’ve been able to play, Hungarian Nightmare certainly lives up to the “Against the odds” moniker in that it is I believe, the first game covering the brutal assault on the city of Budapest by the Soviet Juggernaut in December 1944. The German forces of mixed quality, are pressed on all sides and squeezed in a vice by 2 Soviet Fronts plus Romanian allies. Historically, it was a very tough, brutal city fight and so it is in this game.
The first thing that you notice is the quality of the artwork. The large map of the city is quite literally, stunning. Probably one of the best war game maps that I have ever seen. The city is marked by areas for movement purposes and this when the nicely designed unit counters are laid out, it is all pretty impressive.
Yet again, the production quality, especially for a magazine game, is top notch. The guys at Against the Odds are to be commended. Having a good visual appeal is one of the great things about war games and when done well, this adds to the enjoyment of the game. The counters, rules, charts, etc are all well laid out and accessible. The counters representing the combat units provide you with the information you need although I would have preferred larger counters for ease of reading and use.
As one would expect in a game about a fight for a city, Hungarian Nightmare is a hard, grinding slog and the mechanics bring this to life for the players. The process is as follows –
Joint Bombardment phase – The Soviets have loads of both Air and Artillery fire, the Germans, not so much…
Movement – Players take their turn moving units Strategically (call Administrative movement here) as long as they don’t enter areas with enemy units , and Operational movement where you move your forces into contact for combat purposes. The Danube Bridges are pivotal here as they can be interdicted and destroyed and this, of course will impact movement. The German player will need to think carefully about this and when it might be worthwhile to pull back across the bridges and blow them to delay the Soviets.
Combat phase – This is where both players conduct Fire, Assault and local Bombardment in a series of rounds. Whoever has the initiative conducts combat. The initiative can switch back and forth through the rounds due to a die roll. This adds tension as your plans are subject to change. The players will decide how much to prolong each fight which makes for a very challenging decision/push your luck element. The Soviets have only so many turns to push hard. The question will be, how much attrition can they withstand from the fanatical Nazi forces before an assault becomes unsustainable. Combat is not an easy process, and the use of rounds means that each turn takes considerable time.
Joint Recovery Phase – Players determine control of areas, Victory points are tabulated in later turns, Units that are disrupted may be able to recover enough to fight again, the Hungarians are checked for desertion and may lose strength or fall apart altogether.
There are many other considerations of course as this is a complex game. Special units, supply, reinforcements, etc. Not horribly complex, but this is the kind of game that will appeal if you are interested in simulating events rather than glossing over in the name of playing. This is the kind of game that you will work at to play and understand and this can be very rewarding and much more of an experience than lighter fare. It is indeed interesting and you get a clear appreciation of the challenge and problems faced by both sides.
However, it is a hard slog and a grind. I would personally have preferred the artillery to have been handled in a more abstract way for instance as you need to keep an eye on the artillery allocation for each major formation. More realistic, I’m sure but the pace of the game is rather slow as a result. The combat rounds process is likewise, fairly ponderous. Challenging, yes, interesting, yes, but it is ponderous. But having said this, it is after all, a city fight and they are historically, slow and ponderous battles of attrition so all in all, it works and gives you an appreciation for the events.
Did it work for me?
Hungarian Nightmare is a very interesting game. It looks amazing and the topic unusual in war gaming. On that level, it is definitely worth a play. However, I did find it slow going and a grind. Maybe its just me. Worth it, yes, as it is interesting but it won’t see much table time again due to the commitment I would need to make in time and mental energy. It is definitely a simulation as opposed to a game played for fun and as a learning exercise it clearly is effective. The design intention of showing the chaos and disruption in large-scale urban combat is definitely achieved. And it is a very tough thing.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6 out of 10
Nope. This is a war game/simulation
For further information – http://www.atomagazine.com/index.cfm