Review: Hands in the Sea – Rome and Carthage on the razor’s edge

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I sit by the window and watch the sea every day. I look out sails. But the sea is quiet and no boat anywhere to be seen. On the ground, there is bloodshed taking place. Romans surprised us at night and now occupy our land. Day and night, there are five formidable guards on duty. Nobody doubts, they would grab their sword at first excuse. Our fleet is much larger and is the only thing, that can save us.

Board game Hands in the Sea looks at conflict of Carthage and Rome. Punic Wars took place shortly (two centuries) befor Crist. This game was prepared for us by Daniel Berger, who created it in 2016 under logo of Knight Works publishing house. Game was decorate by themed illustration by Jamie Noble. Game has undergone a quality check on , where it received support from 556 players, who gathered over 35,000 dollars.

Box with game is definitely not small or light. It’s a good tom-cat with picture of a ship on its lid. These in fact played major role in this war. For starters, players will appreciate great board, that should be spread into the center of the table and houses many cities. During their starting troops deployment, players must take into account colored circle, which suggests starting arrangement of forces. They come in different shapes from ordinary villages, through towns to a major metropolis in every realm. Two wooden boats, one in every color, will also be sailing on the sea.

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By that time, each participant has to be clear, whether he wants to be in role of red Roman or blue Carthage. Opponents accordingly also get a set of cards with their towns, which are distinguished by a colored line. All these starting cities are shuffled into a single deck for each rival, while rest then creates common supply. Decks are placed on their own board lying ahead. Player in the role of Carthage adds campaign card (= end of round) as the last of his drawing deck.

Sets of cards are created: events, locations and neutral empire decks and also from three strategy piles. With exception of events, all of these cards will be available for purchase. Both opponents then draw five cards into hand from their own deck.

On his turn, a player usually has two action points, which can be used to play some cards from his hand. He can expand his empire by land or by water, but also buy cards from different decks or upgrade existing settlements. Movement always needs card of city, that is directly connected to player’s destination by road or water. This player needs also to discard adequate means of transport printed at the bottom (coach or ship).

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Player must fight for every new location by playing cards of army. During several rounds, they needed to produce a set of military force stronger, that fortifications of target city. This development is marked on a special scale on the side of the board and pointer placed near town, that is counting rounds of siege.

Equally important for progress of the game is also currency. It can be obtained in various ways, which always include discarding some of the cards. Gamers can use earned resources to do more actions, purchase or acquire new fleet. At sea, game gets a new charge and memorable naval battle will set place there.

Both rivals take turns until Carthage player reveals campaign card in his deck. It brings not only chance for new round, but first and foremost, revealing new events will happen. Dice determines, which of power is reached by this event – an imaginate finger of Gods – and will have to endure something unpleasant. Players then their income and record victory points according to controlled cities and will also adjust offer of strategy cards.

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Players, of course, always put their purchased cards, as well as played cards, on their discard pile. Only when the pile is empty, he may shuffle discarded cards to create a new supply. So it all revolves with a lot more minor rules until the moment, when Rome or Carthage is occupied by enemy troops. Everything can end in many different conditions: by gaining amount of prestige points, completing twelve rounds, gaining victory points or having enough prisoners in form of cities.

Hands in the Sea is a luxury asymmetric duel game. It puts two military powers against each other, giving them their own decks, various cards and also their starting position on the map is different. Carthage has a better starting fleet, while Rome controls larger area. Game for both sides is really very interesting.

Military efforts and focus on the battle can be felt from rules. For example, setting soldier card aside to reserve to make it available, when needed. Due to this fact, we could devote some writing time also to battle between the rivals. Because, when spreading nation encounters resistance in already occupied cities, everything is a little different.

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There is a attack scale, that is influenced by playing cards not only forward, but also by defender. The battle can last only prescribed number of rounds. If the enemy forces are not strong enough to bring down walls in time, their effort was futile and ends in failure.

Rules also contain other elements such as bribery, trading and looting towns from ships. And while all these results need some nutritional guidance from rules, they also make great experience. Very important element of the exercise is to build the deck. If you do not like buying cards and optimize your fighting machine, then you tend to dodge this game. But you would made a big mistake, because this box is packed with high-quality strategy bursting experience.

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Game offers a huge variety of different strategies and even victory conditions. All this, of course, stretches for a slightly longer game, but you will definitely not regret those two hours needed. Moreover, it is tuned for entire two opponents here and works quite wonderfully on the principle of map majority. Areas bring both money and victory points and players can not simply leave each other alone and win.

Although the game does not have many real clashes, which should it be about. But the battles and confrontations are still there. And all this is a bit like preparing before final decisive battle, like in a movie. Game offers planning, strategy and everything you would expect from such historic box. And doing this, it still does not look bad at all in terms of processing.

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Hands in the Sea is an excellent game, that is driven by cards and deckbuilding, but its together creating larger and more efficient experience. If you are looking for something rich and strategical for two, then its easy to grow in love with Punic Wars. Hands in the Sea is for many of us strike home.

DesignerDaniel Berger (I)
ArtistJamie Noble-Frier, Naomi Robinson
PublisherDo it games, Knight Works, LLC
Year Published2016
# of Players2 - 2
User Suggested # of Players Best with 2+ players
Recommended with 2 players
(12 voters)
Playing Time120
Mfg Suggested Ages14 and up
User Suggested Ages14 and up
(4 voters)
Language DependenceExtensive use of text - massive conversion needed to be playable
(2 voters)
CategoryAncient, Card Game, Wargame
MechanicDeck, Bag, and Pool Building, Hand Management, Point to Point Movement, Simulation
ExpansionHands in the Sea: Kickstarter Expansion
FamilyAncient: Rome, Crowdfunding: Kickstarter, History: Punic Wars, Players: Two Player Only Games
Primary NameHands in the Sea

Infos courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Infos.

Review: Hands in the Sea – Rome and Carthage on the razor’s edge
Final word
Hands in the Sea is fantastic war fun for two players. Although you will not find so many battles In the game as much as you would expect from a war game. This is truthfully not entirely a war game, but more of a tactical battle. Instead of many fights, you'll get a custom deck to improve and expand the map. And that's the second best thing in this board game. Possibilities of turns are plentiful, whole thing is asymmetrical and dense and works also in terms of its story. Hands in the Sea is indeed a game based on historical events, but it does not detract from the fun and effectiveness.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pros
plenty ending options
excellent asymmetrical game for two
multi-round battle
fighting for territory
very strategic
matching game time
Cons
opponents of deck
building will not like it
5
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