A Reign of Missiles – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Solitaire system that effectively models the military decisions in the 2012 Gaza Missile Crisis.
Failed Basic: Excessive amount of dice rolling and few player options.
A Reign of Missiles is a low-complexity, solitaire simulation of the Gaza Missile Crisis of November 2012, when Hamas launched thousands of rockets in their largest missile offensive to date against Israel. The game system controls the Hamas forces in Gaza. At the player’s disposal are the Iron Dome anti-missile defenses, drones, F-15, F-16, naval support, and a Commando unit. Random events can impact the diplomatic situation or the military resources available or can provide beneficial or detrimental dice modifiers to result rolls. Deployed against the player is a random assortment of three types of missile launchers ranging from the long-range Fajr-5 missiles, to the intermediate-range Grad, and the short-range Qassam missiles.
Diplomatic or Military Solution
Victory in this game is determined from both a military and a political perspective with separate tracks for military victory points and political, measured by a circular political track with the player’s and the system’s starting values at opposite ends. Victory requires winning both militarily and politically; losing one and winning the other results in a stalemate. During the game the political markers move toward each other, with the game ending when they enter the same space
Stacked with Missiles
The 11” x 17” full-color map is well laid-out and color coded elegantly to show which areas are vulnerable to each type of missile. Strategic cities are marked on the map. Information tracks are well laid-out, particularly the circular diplomatic victory track. The Gaza Strip sites are four spaces, which become heavily stacked with missile launchers. A holding box for placing player military assets would have been nice to add to this map. The 140 full-color counters well laid out and easily distinguishable and are split between the missile launchers, missiles, Israeli military assets, and information markers.
At the start of the game, an assortment of missile launchers are drawn randomly, the player sets up Iron Dome units in several Israeli cities and then starts the game by assigning resources to military strikes. On subsequent turns, additional launchers or military resources are determined randomly. The player then launches military strikes against the missile launchers or infrastructure targets. Each strike has the potential to eliminate or disrupt the effectiveness of a missile launcher. The missile flight paths and targets are randomly determined, requiring two dice rolls for each launch. Since some launchers are capable of launching up to four missiles, this requires a lot of dice rolling. The missiles themselves have varying impact that can range from inflicting severe damage to damage but with political repercussions, to no damage at all. There is the opportunity for the launchers to self-destruct due to intelligence successes outside of the player’s control. The player faces the choice of pro-actively stopping the missiles before launch by attacking the launch sites, but that incurs the chance of causing civilian casualties and benefiting the opposition’s diplomatic and military situation.
A Long Day and Night
Each turn represents a day and is comprised of three impulses (two daylight and one nighttime). Each impulse allows the player the chance to attack existing missile launchers. Missile launchers can be destroyed and removed from the game, damaged and available for redeployment on a subsequent turn, or suppressed, which reduces its launch rate. If hit again, suppressed missile launchers are damaged rather than suppressed. As the day progresses and the missile launchers continue to fire, the player has to weigh continuing military attacks into the night impulse; night attacks are less accurate but are important to finish off suppressed launchers.
Less Can Be More
The game balances the cost and effectiveness of military options and attendant political fallout. The player can opt for making more attacks or for making fewer but more accurate attacks by combining military resources, e.g., using drones in conjunction with airstrikes. The choice of target is only slightly important: the Israelis can target the longer-ranged launchers, which have a slightly better chance of causing more significant damage if they hit the more strategically valuable cities, but all missiles have the opportunity to cause significant damage and the more numerous shorter-ranged missiles can be as equally devastating as the longer-ranged ones. The player also needs to make a daily strike against the two available infrastructure targets, the supply depot at Khan Yunis and the location of the political leadership, represented by Gaza City, to influence the diplomatic track. Both can only be attacked once a turn. The player must weigh husbanding resources for subsequent strikes versus mass attacks against all launchers.
The game ends when the player’s diplomatic marker is in the same space as the system’s diplomatic marker, both of which usually move inexorably toward each other as the missiles fall. Certain random events can reset the marker (no more than twice per game for each side) to the starting positions, lengthening the game and allowing the player to seek a military solution.
Offense or Defense
The player’s main choice devolves into balancing the offensive needs (using airstrikes and drones) vs. the defensive needs (deploying more Iron Dome anti-missile systems). An offensive strategy will reduce the launchers but will also drive the diplomatic index down with its attendant collateral damage, whereas the defensive strategy can limit only damage from missiles after their launch. This balancing act and a player’s ultimate winning strategy require a combination of the two.
Simulating Decision Theory
The game rules are well written with little ambiguity and include four paragraphs of designer’s notes that explain the genesis of the game and its design decisions, helping the player understand the rationale for the game. As a simulation, Reign of Missiles does a good job at simulating the military response to a missile offensive. It doesn’t provide the player a full range of other options and certain things like diplomacy, intelligence, and covert operations are outside the player’s control. As a decision theory example in practice, Reign of Missiles provides the player the opportunity to make choices against the game system and determine an optimal strategy for success.
Reign of Missiles will appeal to players who are looking to understand more about the military dynamics of defending against an onslaught of randomly targeted missiles. There is a large amount of dice rolling involved, and the player has relatively few choices to make in what becomes a race to eliminate the missile launching capability before the diplomatic tracks converge and end the game.
Some Assembly Required
Reign of Missiles is available with or without mounted counters. Although the counters are mounted, they are not pre-cut and will require the use of a rotary cutter or an X-Acto Knife. If the mounted counter option was not purchased, the player can assemble his own counters with a glue stick and a suitable backing. The player is required to supply a 6-sided die and a 10-sided die.
Armchair General Rating: 84%
Solitaire Rating (1 is low, 5 is high) 5 of 5
About the Author
Tim Tow has been playing wargames for more than two decades and has forgotten more wargames rules than he remembers.