While I like playing video games as much as the next guy, there’s nothing like the feeling of playing a great pen and paper RPG or board game. I recently had the opportunity to bust out an old favorite from West End Games called Assault on Hoth. And by opportunity, I forced my lady to play it with me. Since I’m naturally evil, I played the forces of the Empire and she controlled the Rebellion. Who would win?! The fate of the galaxy rested in our very nerdy hands. And yes, it was probably one of the few times this game was ever played by a female.
Assault on Hoth does a great job of replicating the battle of Hoth seen in the film, albeit it took longer to play the game than it did to watch The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a two person affair with one person playing the Empire and the other side playing the plucky Rebels. The goal of the Empire is to destroy the shield generator before the Rebels have a chance to launch all five of their transports. The goal of the Rebels is to launch all five transports or destroy all the Imperial ground units, which is nearly impossible yet the lady almost accomplished that goal.
Play takes place on a fold out paper mat which I’ve been extremely careful with. I’m thinking I might have to laminate this sucker some day. Each of the forces are represented by cardboard tokens. And man, you get quite a few to move around. The Imperials get AT-ATs, a few AT-STs, and two types of Snowtroopers. The Rebels get Snowspeeders, laser turrets, and two types of troopers.
Cards are used to determine who gets to move and fire, so there’s a bit of randomness in the turn order. Likewise, the launching of the Rebel Transports is in an event deck, so depending on the shuffle you can either have the transports launch early, late, or spread about. In the case of this game session the last three transports were on the bottom of the deck, so the Rebel player had an even harder uphill battle than normal.
Much like in Empire, AT-ATs are very hard to kill. The armor might be too strong for blasters, but it is possible though extremely difficult, especially since there’s different types of damage that can be dealt. A Rebel might just slow down an AT-AT, but not destroy it. The Rebel players best hope is to attack constantly and annoy the Imperials. One cool thing is that it is possible to do the tow cable trick, but that too is no walk in the park. Another advantage the AT-ATs have is that they can carry a compliment of three troopers and those troopers can move whenever a card calls for it, making the AT-ATs both a walking tank of destruction and a troop transport.
The AT-STs are as useful as they are in the film, they run around on the field, not accomplishing a whole lot. The Snowtroopers are decent at killing Rebel troops, but play a fairly minor support role.
Despite the overwhelming odds, it’s not hopeless for the Rebels. While sort of weak, the Rebel team Snow Speeders are fast, agile, and you get eight of them as opposed to the five AT-ATs the Imperial side gets. And like the AT-ATs, they can take several hits before they are destroyed.
The laser turrets are also another valuable unit for the Alliance, however the Rebel player has to place them well or else they’re useless because you can’t move them around the field. The Rebels also can move their troops around the field fairly easily via a “tunnel” sytem, which does help somewhat.
The final card up the Rebel sleeve is Luke. Luke’s speeder is secret until he uses the Force, which can come in pretty handy. He can amp up his defenses or attack, though he only has so many “force points” so the Rebel player has to choose carefully when busting out their hero.
In our game, I had two AT-ATs left. One had a broken leg, meaning it was extremely slow. Instead of moving toward the generator, General Veers commanded that it make a last stand to take out as many Snowspeeders as possible (and yes, General Veers did give audible commands via me). The other was dangerously close to blowing up, but was right next to the power generator. It really came down to one shot and the Force was strong with me. The dark side of the Force! If I’d had missed the last shot it would have been over, since the lady’s Snowspeeders were almost on top of that last AT-AT. As it was the final three Rebel Transports never made it off the ground. Suckers.
If you ever have a chance to play Assault on Hoth do it, it’s a great game if you’re into strategy and Star Wars. If you ever see it for a decent price buy it, it’s worth it. Since it’s an out of print game from Star Wars that’s really good the prices on Amazon are well over a hundred bucks, so be on the lookout at rummage sales or second hand shops for this game.