Review – The Hero of Weehawken from Victory Point Games
Designer – Robert Leonhard
Art – Tim Allen
Victory Point Games provided a review copy of this game
A horse of a different colour you might say. Yes, Victory Point Games are prepared and able to take risks as this is built into their business model and ethos. Thank goodness for them and other companies like them. If not, we wouldn’t have the chance to play games like Hero of Weehawken.
“Unusual” would be an understatement when describing this game. I mean, a solitaire game (age 12+) in which you take on the role of President Thomas Jefferson as you are seeking to uncover a grand conspiracy to invade Mexico, detach the Western United States or even stage a coup d’etat against your administration led Aaron Burr. Who in their right mind would take a risk on such a game? Well, er…, VPG has.
This is a game of investigation and deduction. Neither are my favourite, but I was willing to have a go. To win, you will need to 1) determine Burr’s real plans, as opposed to the rumours, 2) find and arrest Burr before he executes his plan, and 3) gather sufficient evidence to convict Burr at trial.
The components are VPG pretty standard, paper, card and die-cut counters, with nice, effective and thematic artwork.
You get –
1 8.5″ x 11″ map
2 8.5″ x 5.5″ mats – Plan and Trial
1 8.5″ x 11″ Player aid sheet
32 5/8″ square game pieces
60 event cards
An 8 page rules booklet
As you can see, there is a fair amount of information needed to play this game and its all presented pretty effectively. The space on the mats, player aid, cards and counters is easy enough to read.
As with other solitaire games, the process is king and it really matters. Even with 8 pages, there is a lot here but if you follow the process, you will be fine.
There are a fair amount of administration tasks to look after set-up is pretty straight forward as you place Federal Agents in Washington, Conspirator units, set up counters to track prestige points and agendas, place James Wilkinson in his start space and organize the Conspiracy cards. You will also set aside three conspirator cards, as the true conspirators. The idea is that you should deduce by the cards played, who the true conspirators are.
Operations stage – using the USA map
Reveal a conspiracy card – you may have the option to reshuffle into the deck
Adjust Prestige and Plan Progress points – you need Prestige points to take actions so you will have turns where you will stock up on them
Event phase – these are performed as indicated
Redraw phase (as appropriate) – the redraw symbol on a card ends the turn
Burr/Agenda phase – if Burr is revealed, he advances towards New Orleans if not, you can your lowest value Agenda. The Agendas can help you win if they are achieved
Jefferson phase – You may perform actions
New Orleans phase – Aaron Burr’s and then James Wilkinson’s effects are resolved
The Operations phase ends – 1) Burr is captured or killed, 2) when Borr’s expedition is launched, or 3) you decide that Burr is no threat and you simply let him go
The rules clearly lay out how the mechanics of this phase works and although it seems like a lot to go through, I was surprised and relieved to see that it came together reasonably well. There are also details describing each phase, the event cards, the Conspirator counters, etc. After a few turns, you will find yourself moving through the turns pretty quickly. This is a good thing as I was concerned at first that it would all be rather tedious but actually it wasn’t bad at all.
Once Burr is arrested, the Trial stage begins, abstractly simulating the Grand Jury indictment and subsequent trial. Effectively, you will charge Burr with a crime, and then argue the case, using the Evidence and Defence cards, trying to win consecutive arguments and secure a conviction. all of this is done, using the Trial Mat.
Trial and Evidence cards are at the core of the action in this stage and I would have to say that you do need to become familiar with them so as to help you to deduce the charge you should go for and ultimately, who the true conspirators are.
Basically, results are determined by die rolls and added modifiers from Evidence and Defence cards, so it is all quite abstract and fast playing.
Charge phase – Here you deduce which of the three Conspiracy cards you think were set out at the beginning of the game and the charge you will try Burr on (based on what you learned from events, conspirators investigated and arrested)
This is followed by –
Argument phase including a Prosecution segment, Defence segment, Prosecution rebuttal segment
Reveal Conspiracy and Adjust Verdict – the 3 set aside conspiracy cards are revealed
Score Victory Points to determine your success or failure
I will say that although the system is very prescribed (it needs to be) you have enough thematic events and feel in the game that it doesn’t feel that you are playing a system on its own. The system is a means to the end of taking you through the historical experience. Having said that, the process comes together as long as you stick with it. The game system is structured well and really is pretty clever.
Did it work for me?
As a design, I think that Robert Leonhard has done quite a job really, filtering all of the historical information into a system which to be fair, is a concise and structured journey. This is a very clever game and very interesting on the historical side, on the one hand, yet, on the other hand, I just found it rather dry for me. I guess, interesting history doesn’t always translate into an interesting historical experience. I think that this is due to the abstraction of so many elements of the history into mechanical processes. Interesting as individual parts, maybe less so as a whole.
This is more about me not being a fan of abstract games which this ultimately is, or feels like for me. Added to this, is the deduction element and the randomness which I found not to my personal taste. For example, I was frustrated twice to find that one of the true conspirators was Aaron Burr’s daughter, who if chosen as a true conspirator, means Burr is automatically not guilty. What??? Historically correct I assume, but irritating.
I generally don’t like, nor am I any good at deduction games so it was a problem for me. It doesn’t make it a bad game, just not my style. I do admire the way the whole game works actually. So ultimately, this is a game that I can see others enjoying, just not me so much.
If you like abstract games and deduction games, I would highly recommend Hero of Weehawken, as its a well designed, interesting game, but its simply not suited to my taste as much as other games.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 6 out of 10
No, its a solitaire game
For more information go to – http://victorypointgames.com/