Hold the Line: Frederick’s War and Highland Charge – Boardgame Review
Hold the Line: Frederick’s War and Hold the Line: Highland Charge. Boardgame review. Publisher: Worthington Games. Designer: Sean Chick. Artists: Brandon Pennington and Sean Cooke. Frederick’s War is $65.00 and Highland Charge is $20.00.
Passed Inspection: Beautiful map design; large, sturdy and easy-to-read counters; innovative and quick playing.
Failed Basic: Small number of units in each scenario, high price.
Hold the Line: Frederick’s War (HtL-FW) and the expansion pack Hold the Line: Highland Charge (HtL-HC) are great-looking, fun and quick-playing, light tactical war games. Frederick’s War is the follow-up game to Worthington Games: Hold the Line, which focused on the American War of Independence.
HtL-FW is focused on the wars of Frederick II of Prussia, usually referred to as Frederick the Great. Coming to the throne of Prussia in 1740, Frederick determined to connect all his scattered holdings into one unified Prussian state and also to make Prussia one of the great powers of Europe, joining France, Austria, Britain and Russia in the great power “club.” In 1741, he attacked Silesia, kicking off the wars variously called the Silesian Wars or the War of Austrian Succession and considered to be the precursor war to the Seven Years’ War. The Prussian army that Frederick led was highly disciplined and well-trained, with a highly efficient officer corps. In fact, the army was the dominating institution of Prussia, so much so that one government minister stated, “Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country.”
Meanwhile, Highland Charge centers on the battles of the Jacobite Rebellions from 1714 to 1745 in the British Isles. In 1689, Catholic King James II lost the British throne to the Protestant William of Orange. From 1714 to 1745 no fewer than four major rebellions broke out in the Scottish highlands, sometimes with support from France or Spain, all trying to put James’ successors back on the throne. These battles feature the fearsome Scots Highlanders using the Highland charge tactic against the British regulars or Scots militia using linear battle tactics. Highland Charge is not a stand-alone; it requires owning HtL-FW to play.
Right out of the box the game components look and feel nice and sturdy. The board and the pieces are heavy board stock. Unlike most board games there are not multiple maps; instead HtL-FW has a board with plain hexagons that represent open terrain, and several separate tiles that represent other land features such as towns, rivers, forest, hills and so on. The maps for each scenario are built using these terrain tiles. Further, these tiles are colorful and clearly delineate the terrain type they represent.
The unit markers are also sturdy, colorful (Prussians are blue, Austrians are red and Saxons are gray) and easily identifiable. They represent units of infantry, artillery, cavalry and leaders of the various armies. These unit counters are large, very readable. They are also easily movable and stackable.
The rulebook is short (16 pages including scenarios’ set-ups), concise, well-written and replete with good examples of play. It is a true pleasure to read a set of rules once and be able to go straight to playing the game without having to puzzle things out. (The only error I spotted was in the “Battle of Leuthen” scenario which places two units in swamp terrain; swamps are impassible, so there is no way to move the units out of the swamp. To avoid this situation, I placed the unit next to the swamp, but no closer to the enemy.)
The game comes with eight battles: Mollwitz, Choutusitz, Hohenfriedburg, Kesselsdorf, Kolin, Leuthen, Hockkirk, and Liegnitz. The Battle of Soor is offered for free on-line from the Worthington games site. Also, with the moveable terrain tiles, a player could quickly and easily build his own scenarios with just a bit of research. The ability to design your own scenarios is rare in a boardgame and greatly enhances the game system.
All of the above can be said for Highland Charge as well. The British unit counters are primarily red (naturally), while Jacobite units are primarily blue. The rulebook for HtL-HC is also brief and concise, consisting of scenarios’ set-up and special rules. Highland Charge comes with five battles: Sheriffmuir, Glen Shiel, Prestonpans, Falkirk, and Culloden. Worthington is offering a Battle of Killiecrankie scenario for free download as well.
Game play is based on action points (APs). These points are determined by the scenario rules and by a die-roll at the start of each player’s turn. The number of APs determines the number of actions a player may perform during a turn. Units are activated in sequence to move, fire or engage in close combat. Leaders may rally damaged units at the cost of an AP. Units may be active only once per turn. Generally, units may not move and fire in the same turn. However, Grenzers may move and fire for 2 APs, infantry units may conduct a close-combat action for 2 APs. Cavalry may charge for 2 APs.
Sequence of play:
- The first player rolls and determines the number of random action point available and adds the command action points to the total.
- The player, in any order, has his units perform actions.
- Conduct a victory check
This is repeated for the second player, and then the turn recorder is moved ahead one turn. The game is played until one player wins or for a number of turns set forth in the scenarios’ special rules.
Rolling for the random number of APs adds significantly to both the replay value of the game and to the solo playability.
On the downside of the game is the small numbers of units that take part in each battle—battles which were fought by tens of thousands of soldiers. For example, the Battle of Chotusitz was fought on May 27, 1742, between a Prussian force of 27,000 men and 85 guns and an Austrian force of 30,000 men and 50 guns. In the game these large armies are represented by 11 Prussian and 14 Austrian pieces. These small numbers gives the game less of a feeling of a huge battle and more of that of a minor skirmish. Of course, the limited number of units is in the nature of a trade-off to speed-up gameplay. In fact, all the games I played, including solo games, were wrapped up in 60–90 minutes.
The Bottom Line
Frederick’s War and Highland Charge are both fun, easy to learn and quick-playing light war games. The action point system gives them high replay value. Also, the moveable terrain tiles that allow players to build their own scenarios are very nice features as well. The small number of units in each battle is a bit of downside, but not a fatal one. However, the cost of the games ($65 for Fredrick’s War and an additional $20 for Highland Charge) is rather high for a good, old-fashioned, beer and pretzels wargame.
Armchair General Score: 88%
Solitaire Rating (1 is low, 5 is high): 5
About the Author
Patrick Baker is a former US Army Field Artillery officer, currently a Department of Defense employee. He has degrees in Education, History and Political Science. He cut his war-gaming teeth on Squad Leader and Victory Games’ Fleet Series. He bought his first PC in 1990, a Wang PC-240, specifically to play SSI’s The Battles of Napoleon (much to the annoyance of his wife). He has articles forthcoming in Medieval Warfare Magazine and Ancient Warfare Magazine.