Attila

Published by Hans im Gluck, Rio Grande Games, and 999 Games. Designed by Karl-Heinz Schmiel, 2000.


This is a board game for 2-5 players (supposedly, but see below). The game involves a pack of cards, coloured wooden markers, and a full-colour main board, as well as a separate smaller board for scoring. The theme is tribes (Goths, Vandals, Saxons, Huns, Franks, and Jutes) pouring out from Germany to find new homelands in Europe to settle.

Unusually, each player does not play the role of one tribe, but instead influences the progress of any or all tribes, and tries to manipulate the successes of the various tribes so that he moves his markers up each tribe's scoring track. By being furthest up a tribes's scoring track, a player scores the most points.

I bought this game because I was in a German supermarket and saw it going cheap. I have played it a few times, with 2,3, and 4 players. The first time people play it, they don't get it. A common way to start playing a game is to take a turn doing whatever, and then sit and see what happens as a consequence of this first turn, learn from it, and then pick the game up by trial and error. The rules are short and seem simple enough, so it is reasonable to imagine that a player will pick up how to play the game pretty quickly.

One thing that does not help is the confusion with colour coding. The tribes and the players have colour-coded pieces, and some of the colours are the same, but this has no relevance in the game. This could surely have been avoided. The score board is a smooth stiff piece of card, and the scoring markers are smooth cubes of wood that have to sit accurately on narrow scoring spaces. One jog to the table and the game is ruined.

Anyway, everyone takes his first turn, and remains confused. This confusion does not go away. In some games I played, even at the end of the game, players were still playing nearly at random and were no closer than at the start to working out tactics that might work.

The game suffers from a problem shared by many others: each player plays in turn, and in a four-player game, the situation on the board is so different when a player takes his turn from the situation when he took his last turn, that it is near enough impossible to plan ahead and make sensible decisions. After two or three games of it with four players, I considered the game to be very poor indeed.

I then tried it with two-players, and I found that I won by miles. I had used skill to win, and this skill showed in my score. With two players, I could make fairly good predictions about what my opponent might do, and how the board might look when it came back to my turn. It ceased being a game of random play-and-hope and became a working game of skill. I should point out, however, that my opponent did not see how her moves were good or bad, and did not grasp the game, so even with a two-player game, the tactics are so subtle that they can elude an inexperienced player.

More recently, I played with three players, and we found that our decisions did have a noticeable effect on how the game progressed, but with three, the influence of decisions was so subtle that no one could put a finger on why exactly the winner won.

For a game to be simple, having few rules, is a good thing, and that its tactics should not be obvious is good too, but in Attila the tactics in a two-player game are perhaps a bit too subtle, and by the time you have four players, the influence of decisions is so very subtle, that it can be difficult to tell if any tactic is better than playing at random. I am very surprised that some voters on BoardGameGeek have recommended this game for more than 2 players.



BACK TO GAME REVIEW MENU    BACK TO GAMES MENU

Click here to go back to the home page