Publisher Spotlight #2: Hollandspiele

Here we go to wrap up Hollandspiele week by looking at their extensive catalog. For a small company, they are pretty darn prolific in publication catalog! My interest in them started with being drawn toward titles like An Infamous Traffic, which I still really want to try if the opportunity arises. But their bread and butter is more than just weird titles, which they have plenty of, but also a plethora of historical conflict games. There’s a lot to talk about here, as they have plenty of titles in my preferred areas, and I find I can actually say a fair amount about many of these and the descriptions from their website fill in the holes nicely! Do be sure to check them out, as they have a broad and well-rounded catalog of games at a pretty great price. You can find that catalog here.

ANCIENTS ERA

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Agricola, Master of Britain

“Not that Agricola” is something I’ve gotten used to saying when talking about this game which, for the record, I enjoy more than the misery farm of Agricola. This was the first Hollandspiele title to enter my collection, and boy was I unprepared for this experience. The game was simple, yet complex, offering a lot of things to consider and the clever reaction to each action taken system. It opened my eyes to both Wargaming and Solitaire Wargames in terms of where the ceiling could be in terms of enjoyment. I love that it is smaller and faster than Charlemagne, making it easier to get played on a consistent basis. Conquest throughout England, stamping down on tribal forces while trying to build a solid base of operations throughout the map with three sets of Legions.

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Antony and Cleopatra

The time of the downfall for both Marc Antony and Cleopatra is the setting here, and this game promises to be good. If you played and enjoyed Hood’s Last Gamble or Campaign of Nations, you’ll already be familiar with this designer’s approach to operational warfare. The promise of raising troops and building ships in order to conduct campaigns has me excited, as I like some level of management of those aspects. Don’t get me wrong, I love crashing two armies against each other as much as the next guy, but needing to pull those other triggers does something for the euro gamer in me as well, and this one should be excellent.

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Optimates et Populares

Yes, this probably isn’t a wargame persay. But it is intriguing, being a 2-player game with the struggle over political power in a declining Roman time. If this doesn’t convince you to take a look, nothing will: “It’s a careful balancing act – a vicious teeter-totter – a knife-fight on a tightrope.” And hey, it comes with 88 counters so it can’t be that much of a Euro, right? It could be just the game to trick my wife into playing something fun without realizing it is from a Wargame publisher like Hollandspiele.

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The Wars of Marcus Aurelius

I knew it wouldn’t be fair to compare this to Agricola or Charlemagne, but I did go in expecting to find a “lesser” game – and maybe I was just being hopeful for my wallet’s sake. But while this is very different from the other two solitaire titles, this has just as much thinkiness for players with a very different flavor. I love the integration of CDG into the gameplay of a nice, smooth solitaire system. And it tells a great narrative, as you see the untested Marcus Aurelius go from philosopher to a warrior and leader of men.

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With It or On It

This isn’t just slapping lipstick on a horse, friends. While it uses a familiar Swords and Shields II system, things have been designed from the ground up to fit the time period and tactics of the era. With the new Hoplite units, as well as the line breaking feature, this definitely holds some strong promise to not only teach me a few more things about the Greco-Persian and Peloponnesian Wars (across six battles), but have some fun while doing it in new and unique ways with a system that still feels familiar and comfortable.

MEDIEVAL ERA

Battles on the Ice

I can thank Nevsky from GMT Games for making me more interested in this title, because this deals with the 1242 battle with Alexander Nevsky leading the way. Teutonic Knights meeting enemies atop frozen bodies of water and, ultimately, finding defeat makes for really fascinating battle studies! Furthermore, it uses the Swords and Shields II system, which as I’ve learned from The Great Heathen Armies is a really smooth system to play. This includes that 1242 Battle at Lake Peipus and the 1270 Battle of Karuse.

Charlemagne, Master of Europe

This game gave me fits. It is big and unnecessarily complex upon first impression, at least coming from Agricola, but once it started to click I could see the beauty behind the integrated pieces of the game. And boy, what a beautiful game design this one is, and it keeps me feeling like I’m against the ropes for most of the lengthy gameplay. Yet I cannot get enough of this. Governing an entire continent has never been this much fun, and the game definitely delivers on its promise of a grand, sweeping epic, saturated with period detail, spanning decades and a continent.

House of Normandy

The Swords and Shields II system returns here with four more battles, following the family of William the Conquerer. These are tabbed as being shorter, less complex affairs for the battles themselves but, like any good game, there’s plenty of interesting stuff to make it worth getting to the table. The battles of Tinchebray, the Standard, Lincoln, and Wilton are featured in here. Seriously, the Battle of the Standard sounds like it would be worth the price of this game alone, with the English being forced to fight wave after wave of Scots.

Kingdom of Dyflin

While the below Great Heathen Army game focuses on Anglo-Saxon England, this book adds four more scenarios to the game and sets them all in Ireland. Including the Battle of Clontarf, which is marketed as the biggest battle to be featured in the Swords and Shields II system, spanning two maps with over 50 units per side. Let’s just say this is an add-on coming soon…

The Great Heathen Army

My first venture into the Swords and Shields II system, and smooth is a word that I could use to describe said system. I love the concept of having different wings and using your activations across a specific number of wings. It makes you have to plan both tactically and strategically, as you try and position yourself ahead of the opposition while also being reactive to what is unfolding in front of you. This system offers nice, easy, fluid gameplay and, well, I absolutely love this period of time as a setting: Anglo-Saxon England.

The Grunwald Swords

Kicking off the Swords and Shields II series, this one covers just one battle from what I can see but what a battle it looks to be. The Battle of Grunwald in 1410 featured a lot of cavalry and a smattering of infantry in there in a terrific conflict. With some key nuances of timing, and reading the state of the battle to know the timing, this game sounds like it has plenty to offer even with only that single battle inside the box.

Table Battles and Expansions

Okay, so probably not the Gettysburg expansion in here but all the others (English Civil War, War of the Roses, Age of Alexander) are definitely of interest assuming I enjoy the main game. And for a 15-20 minute filler, I don’t see how this could go wrong. It’d be the perfect opener, or closer, to a weekly Wargame night but with a ton of variety, scenarios, and replay value packed into the game. I’ve had my eye on this one for far too long, and while I don’t expect it would become my favorite Hollandspiele title I do think it could be a staple. With the updated Second Edition out there, containing 10 battles to kick things off, this one should be some good dice-chucking entertainment across four centuries of conflict.

PIKE & SHOT ERA?

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Horse & Musket: Dawn of an Era

Hoo boy, I’m not sure if this falls into my territory or not. It ranges from 1683, which is later than I normally look, and spans to 1865 (as a system. This game goes to 1719). But if this one turns out to be good, there is SO MUCH STUFF to pick up for the Horse & Musket series from Hollandspiele. I’m not opposed to branching out to test this one out, and it comes with thirteen different armies in this one game and the rulebook has options to make them all play unique. Terrain tiles, 20 scenarios, and lots of room to tweak the rules to fit a playstyle means this system has a lot of positive potential. And, assuming it goes over well, you can then expand into:

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Horse & Musket II: Sport of Kings – The second volume, adding twenty more battles from 1721-1748.

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Horse & Musket III: Crucible of War – The third volume, adding twenty more battles from 1755-1762.

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Horse & Matchlock – This “prequel” adds twenty-two more battles from 1620-1677 and is definitely the one I’m most anxious to dive into. If it didn’t require the core game, this would definitely be where I start!

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Horse & Musket Annual #1 – Adds yet another twenty battles via a scenario booklet, opening the maximum benefit to those owning all three volumes. Battles here range from 1690-1760.

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Horse & Musket Annual #2 – Adds twenty more battles via a scenario booklet (so if you buy them all, you’ve got 122 battles so far to play! That much content makes my head itch just thinking about all the replay value that could be enjoyed during a lifetime) ranging from 1622-1758.

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Siege of Izmail

Pushing the limits of the forward timeframe in history comes a game that I had to check out from the word “Siege”. I know, it isn’t a strictly Medieval term, but I always hope. Regardless, it is a fortress assault game that I know I need in my collection. Not for the art, but because its promise of letting me learn more about a battle between the Russians and the Ottomans while exploring the unique wrinkles that make this game memorable enough to sweep some of the 2018 Wargame Print-and-Play contest awards.

FANTASY-ISH…

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Ribbit

I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking it, too, but ultimately I have to believe that the combination of Mark Herman and Hollandspiele is going to produce a winner. I’ve played stranger themes and stranger game concepts. Fantasy? Maybe not, but what else would you call this one? Tricky decision spaces make for excellent thinky fillers, and I can never have too many of those in my house.

SCIENCE FICTION

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Escape from Hades

Oh, this one definitely checks some boxes on paper. Solitaire wargame experience against overwhelming odds. Unique, challenging, and replayable. Two wrap-around maps to represent an interior and an exterior. Your objective is simple: get in, rescue the princess, and get out. What unfolds is as likely to be that simple as we’ll see the sun rise purple in the morning. I can’t wait to try this one out!

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Meltwater: A Game of Tactical Starvation

I’m classifying this one as Science Fiction because it is set in an alternate reality, so that counts. Right? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this one came out of nowhere for me and no game yet in 2020 has surprised me more than Meltwater (in a good way, too!). The agony of utilizing perfect information on how the board itself will change each turn, and having a set number of actions and a set cost for things, means there is no hidden randomness to consider (except for what might happen on your opponent’s turn and what the next cards will be after the two you can see during each turn). I hesitate to say this is a perfect 2-player filler game, but I’m also not saying that it isn’t exactly that.

ALSO ON MY PERSONAL RADAR

Supply Lines of the American Revolution (Both Northern Theater and Southern Strategy)

You had me at logistics. This is possibly a title I could persuade my wife to play with me, and even if she doesn’t it is all about building and maintaining supply lines for your troops during the American Revolution. That excites the Euro gamer that is still hiding inside of me, while also offering an experience I can’t find in many of the games out there on the market. And because you are battling for positions on the map – keep in mind the relation to said supply sources – it’ll also please the Wargamer in me along the way.

Brave Little Belgium

I hear so much about this game, I can’t help but be intrigued. Lightning-fast is perfect, and the idea of one player needing to be aggressive (in moderation) while the other defends against all odds…well, never tell me the odds. I love chit-pull activations, and everything about this game (apart from its period of history) checks the right boxes to set it up for success if it hits the table.

***

Whew, that’s a lot of titles that fit the bill. I own three of them so far and have played five, and I expect both of those numbers to increase for me personally. Charlemagne, Master of Europe is ridiculously good, by the way, and I can highly recommend that one. I wouldn’t part with any of my Hollandspiele titles I own for any reason, they are very much going to remain staples in my collection. The problem with Hollandspiele is that every one of these looks and sounds promising. Yes, even Ribbit. I am personally excited to explore more of their catalog going forward, which I plan to pick up at least one new game in June, even if I have to purchase it myself. But maybe my wife will pick up on some hints and get me even one of the games I’ve been anticipating.

3 thoughts on “Publisher Spotlight #2: Hollandspiele

    1. I am sure you will not be disappointed! Agricola showed me that solitaire Wargaming can be rich and rewarding, as I had tried several times on several games to do the whole “play both sides” approach and always walked away unsatisfied.

      Liked by 1 person

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