by Lee Valentine
The Battle for
Game Published by Your Move Games
Game Design by Darwin Kastle
This game is featured in our OgreCave Christmas Gift Guide 2008.
The Battle for Hill 218 (referred to as "Hill
218" throughout) is a hot new game by Your Move Games
(YMG), the company that brought you Battleground,
Succession, and Space Station Assault. Hill 218 is
a non-collectible two player, war-themed, abstract, strategy card game.
It's the second game designed by Darwin Kastle that YMG has published.
Its closest cousin in the gaming industry is probably BTRC's
Infinite Armies. Unlike Infinite Armies, Hill 218
is not available as a PDF game, but is instead a professionally printed
card game. Like Infinite Armies, Hill 218 is not an
attempt to recreate a specific historical battle, but is instead an
abstract battle over a fictional territory.
In Hill 218, players each have their own deck of 24 cards (plus 2
"Air Strike" cards that are left outside of the deck). The two
decks are functionally identical in every way, including the backs,
except that they have different border colors on the card faces (green
vs. purple). Every card features a picture of a specific unit type
("Infantry", "Special Forces", "Tanks",
"Artillery", etc.). In addition, each card has custom
information about where it can be played on the table (its "Supply
Line" information), its field of fire on the turn it is initially
played, its field of fire on subsequent turns, and the strength of its
Playing Your Cards
Hill 218 is played on an imaginary grid of cards, where cards are
played face up on the table parallel to and generally adjacent to other
cards already on the table. At the center of the grid is a card
representing Hill 218 itself. Contrary to what you would expect, the
goal is not to enter and control that board space. In fact, the Hill
218 card is a no-man's land which cannot be directly interacted with
by either player. It is simply the hub around which the rest of the
cards in the game are played.
Each player starts with a hand of 3 cards and then draws and plays two
cards per turn. On his first turn, the starting player draws and plays
only one card.
The object of the game is actually to play one of your cards into a
specific grid space orthogonally adjacent to Hill 218 on your
opponent's side of the board. That's your opponent's "Base"
space. As soon as you occupy your opponent's Base, you win the game.
When you play a new card onto the table it has to either go into your
own Base space or be adjacent to one of your other cards. If it's not
played to your Base space then what counts as a legal adjacent space on
the board is shown on the "Supply Line" information of the
card you are playing. Normally a card must be played orthogonally
adjacent to a card you've already played. The "Special Forces"
card must be played diagonally adjacent to one of your other cards in
play. "Paratroopers" can either be deployed along normal
supply lines, or they can ignore supply lines and drop in almost
anywhere on the grid, but if they drop in, they can't be played onto
your opponent's Base.
If you don't play the card directly to your own Base, then you must be
able to trace a "Supply Line" from the card you just played,
through a chain of your intervening cards, all the way back to your
Base. Cutting an enemy's Supply Line can thus make it difficult for him
to keep expanding into your territory – he has to branch out from
somewhere else or repair a severed supply line.
When a card is played it attempts to fire at one of your opponent's
cards (your choice) within the card's initial field of fire, and one of
your previously played cards may provide supporting fire against the
same target. There are two firing strengths in the game, which I'll call
"strong" and "weak" (the game doesn't have names for
these two categories of fire, but instead differentiates them with
symbols). Strong fire immediately destroys the target without support
from another card. Only two kinds of units ("Artillery" and
"Tanks") have strong fire and they only have it when they are
first played. Weak fire destroys a unit only if it is bolstered by a
supporting shot from a previously played unit that is adjacent to the
target. As noted earlier, units have both an initial field of fire and a
supporting field of fire on their cards; all supporting fire is weak.
For example, you might have a previously played Infantry to the right of
an enemy tank and you play a new Infantry card to the left of the tank.
All Infantry fire is weak and both their initial and supporting shots
can only be made against another orthogonally adjacent target. Playing a
new Infantry unit triggers a firing sequence against one target, and the
combination of the weak initial fire and the weak supporting fire is
enough to score a kill. When a kill is scored, the target is discarded
Artillery has an initial field of fire against non-adjacent targets.
Supporting artillery fire and all other fire in the game is only against
an adjacent target.
Targeted cards have no differentiated defense. Every card is destroyed
by a single strong shot or simultaneous fire from two weak units. There
are no defensively playable cards or actions. And unlike many wargames,
Hill 218 is sufficiently abstract that a card is either destroyed
and removed from play, or it is functioning at full efficiency (there is
no "Damaged" or "Wounded" status of any kind in
You can forego the normal play of a card to play one of the two
"Air Strike" cards you are alloted each game and bring the rain. Air Strike cards
start on the side of the board and allow you to select any enemy target
anywhere on the board and immediately destroy them (as if they had just
been hit by strong fire).
Winning the Game
Play normally lasts until one party occupies his opponent's Base and is
declared the winner. If that never occurs for either player, then the
game ends when both players have totally run out of cards and actions
(including "Air Strikes"); you don't reshuffle your cards. In
this instance, the player with the most units still on the table wins
the game. Given the fast play of cards (2 per player per turn) and the
small 24 card decks, games generally last about 15 minutes.
Normally YMG produces games that have absolutely eye-popping color art.
The cards in Hill 218 feature what appears to be black-and-white
public domain military photos primarily of U.S. soldiers and ordnance.
While the card art isn't full color, the card backs and borders are. The
iconography and layout of the cards are interesting, but not as
physically beautiful as most of YMG's other products. Each card is,
however, very easy to read, has a clean layout, and quite functionally
carries out the requirements of the game. The black-and-white art is
reproduced very crisply. So overall, I think that YMG made some good
choices in terms of usability.
The only let down for me on the art selection is the art for the central
Hill 218 card itself: it's just a countour map of sepia colored
lines. I would have really liked to see a picture of a hillside getting
bombarded by artillery or getting stormed by infantry. That said, given
that it looks so distinct from the rest of the cards in the set, it does
make an obvious centerpiece around which to build the game grid, and so
never gets misidentified as a unit card.
The cards themselves are printed on a nice coated stock that appears to
be around 300 GSM in weight (about the thickness and durability of a
Battleground card) . They are sturdy and will survive the heavy
repeated use that this game is likely to see. At a price point of just
$9.95 I have no complaints about the stock of the cards or the
appearance of the cards. In fact, I found them of surprisingly good
quality compared to most other games in the $10 price range, and even
surpassing some games in the $15.00 to $20.00 price range.
The packaging is well-designed and professional, but not particularly
eye catching. The deck box has the product logo in front of a World War
II ammo box. The contrast of the logo is good and highly readable.
The game comes with a 2.5" x 3.5" black-and-white rulebook.
The rulebook has a clean layout and is easy to understand. For those
gamers who don't like looking at tiny rulebooks, YMG also has the rulebook online as a PDF. In any case, the rulebook is
only 24 small pages in a reasonable font, which should make for a quick
read for most gamers. It's also got a table of contents, which many game
Try Before You Buy
Andrew Gross, a friend of YMG, has created a Java-based computerized
version of the game, allowing you to try the game before you buy it.
That's usually a very good sign as to the game's quality, and it is
particularly true for Hill 218. This software has been tested on
PCs, but not on Linux, Unix, or Mac. The game has a simple, bare bones
interface with a good artificial intelligence ("AI") system if
you want to play the game against the computer. It also features the
ability to play online via a peer-to-peer direct connection between a
client and a host, provided both players have the software. I tested
only the AI and not the networking capabilities of the software.
The software is fun and functional, but I found that in some games the
cards being played could end up partially off the visible area of the
screen with no ready means to scroll to view the cards in question.
Additionally, the computer plays so fast that sometimes I found myself
confused when my cards vanished from the screen, particularly when the
AI "Air Striked" one of my cards. The computer simply plays
out its turn as fast as possible without communicating to you how or why
cards are destroyed. This "trust me, you're dead" sort of
interface makes the software less effective as a teaching tool, but is
probably great for a player who is already familiar with the game.
That said, since the Java version is fun and absolutely free, you can't
complain about it much for the price. Once you've learned the game,
it'll serve you well, and it allows for pickup games online for those
times when you can't get together with your favorite Hill 218
opponent. Andrew Gross really did a great job programming the AI for the
If you are a retailer who has customers who are fans of YMG's
Battleground line of products, let them know about this game and
they'll probably pick this one up too. While the packaging alone is not
audacious enough for the game to sell itself to other gamers, the game
play is. Make sure your Alpha Gamer gets his hands on Hill 218
and he'll likely chat this up around your game store. The game is very
fast and you can probably demo the game in under 5 minutes. Keep a stash
of these near the cash register, demo often, and this game may add a
surprising additional revenue stream for you this holiday season. If you
have open gaming space, definitely keep a copy on your gaming tables,
because that's the surest way to sell a game like this – let the
consumer play it. Hill 218 doesn't come in a POP display; you
order the decks individually, meaning that there's no good excuse not to
order a deck or two of the game to try it out at your store.
YMG goes to more trade shows and conventions than even some of the big
boys in the industry. So, like Battleground, expect great
promotion and support from YMG for Hill 218.
The Battle for Hill 218 is a fast-paced game that has the vibe of
speed chess with the trappings of a wargame. Few pieces, few rules, high
play speed, and novel mechanics create a different game each time.
Because the game is short, The Battle for Hill 218 can
easily be played as a great filler game or in a longer series of
matches; it's fast enough for the former and deep enough for the latter.
The game has enough strategic depth that it has substantial replay value
even though there are relatively few component types. I'm fond of the
game in spite of the fact that I am not very good at it, which goes to
prove just how intriguing the mechanics really are. At $9.95 this is
definitely a great stocking stuffer for your favorite gamer this holiday
season. Just don't forget to buy an extra copy to stuff into your own
stocking; it'll get a lot of use.
Overall Score: B+ (A- compared to other similarly priced games)
Component Appearance: B
Component Quality: A-
Ease of Learning: B+
Retailer Salability: B+ if demo'd, lower otherwise
Time to Learn: 5 minutes
Time to Play: 10 to 30 minutes (15 minutes on average)
Disclaimer: The designer of The Battle for Hill 218 and the
owners of YMG are all local to me, and I am familiar with all of them. I
have nonetheless tried to provide an unbiased review as to game play and