Review – Hell’s Gate by Victory Point Games
Design – Philip Sabin
Art – Tim Allen
If you are a war gamer I think that its pretty safe to assume that you probably have heard of Philip Sabin’s book, Simulating War. Philip Sabin is a Professor of Strategic Studies in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and has designed a number of games for his classes. Hell’s Gate is one of these games and has been published by Victory Point Games.
Hell’s Gate is a simulation game of the Battle of the Korsun Pocket in Ukraine, during January and February of 1944. Its a small game with low component density and doesn’t take too long to play.
1 11×17” map with Turn Track
● 70 double-sided, laser-cut* game pieces
● 1 six-sided die (boxed edition only)
● 1 Rules booklet with a Reference Sheet on the back cover
The artwork meets the same attractive/functional standard that can be found in VPG’s more recent war games. The map (on die-cut cardboard) has a bleak wintery landscape feel with over-sized hexes. The large playing pieces are very welcome as they are thick and easy to read. A really nice addition to the types of playing pieces that VPG provides are best described as “shaped” pieces such as the arrow-shaped “Retreated” pieces, which I must say, look terrific during a game. Please VPG, more of the same in future games please!
Hell’s Gate has a traditional game turn process found in many war games and I have no problem with that whatsoever. It works like a charm, and is very easy to get into. Just right for introducing new gamers to war games!
Soviet Player Turn
1. Soviet Supply and Reinforcement Phase. The Soviet player checks his units’ supply status and brings on reinforcements as appropriate
2. Soviet Combat Phase – the onus is on the Soviet player to assault the Germans, hoping to encircle and cut them off, thereby making it possible to destroy the German forces. Weather and terrain can effect combat.
3. Soviet Movement Phase – this is a bit of a change from most war games. Usually the movement phase comes before combat but in this case, you can see the sense as the Soviet must plan to create holes in the German lines that can be exploited. Having said that, units generally move 1 space and fast units 2. Weather and terrain also effects movement.
4. Soviet Recovery Phase. The Soviet player removes any Retreated markers on his units
German Player Turn – follows the same process
5. German Supply and Reinforcement Phase
6. German Combat Phase.
7. German Movement Phase
8. German Recovery Phase. The German player removes any Retreated markers on his units
9. Housekeeping Phase. Advance the Game Turn marker one turn and roll for mud or, if the eighth Game
Turn was just completed, determine the winner
There are special rules for each turn with specific effects which reflect the historical situation, presenting the players with specific limitations.
Victory is determined by assessing victory points attained by the players by destroying and damaging enemy units and control of supply sources.
This is a very easy, entry level game with a game process is easy and fast playing. Again, ideal for new war gamers.
Did I enjoy Hell’s Gate?
I am particularly attracted to easy to play war games due the constraints on my time. Hell’s Gate concerned me at first as I thought that perhaps it was a little too small and restricted but playing it was a delight. Small unit density, small map, small amount of rules, yet it all comes together really well and does justice to this battle. Its a game which gives you a look and feel for the situation without burdening you with huge amounts of detail. Quite the opposite.
In a condensed treatment, Philip Sabin and Victory Point Games have given us an interesting and very playable game which is challenging for both players. With limited units and map size, each move and combat counts for something. You won’t be just moving and fighting for no reason. Everything is interlinked and can make the difference between success and failure. This is a tight game and the pressure and time is against both players.
Overall, I would say that all war gamers interested in the Eastern front in WW2 should make this a must buy for their collection for those times when you need a game fix but don’t have a lot of time or for those times when you want to introduce new gamers to war games. This game is also a nice teaching tool for teaching youngsters about military history.
A winner on all fronts!
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