• Hell Review by Rick Moscatello

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    So much promise, so little fulfillment

    The name Hell, for a computer wargame, evokes such strong imagery that I’m surprised it hasn’t been used already. A wargame in Hell easily conjures up visions of armies of demons clashing, from minor imps to immense abominations unleashing horrific powers on each other. Yeah, that would be cool.

    Hell doesn’t do that. Instead, an army of demons from Hell is invading some generic fantasy European country, with medieval troops led by magical heroes. Even this would have potential, as one can envision the troops meeting first weak demons, then ever more powerful ones, while the wizards and troops develop ever increasing abilities to combat the enemy, a la “fantasy X-Com”.

    Hell doesn’t do that, either. Instead, it’s just a straight up “humans versus demons” fantasy wargame, with minimal story, and rules that clearly could be used in a tabletop miniatures game. That’s the main draw here, I guess: you’re playing a tabletop miniatures game on the computer, without the expense and time of painting and building an army of miniatures.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting tabletop games on the computer. In fact, when the rules are complicated and the game is massive, that’s actually the way to go. On the other hand, when most every action is resolved via “roll 2 dice, with a few modifiers”, the computer is rather wasted, much like using a bazooka to shoot a squirrel..

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    Thus, the simplicity of the rules rather grate when playing. For example, an army can move and attack in the same turn, which makes things easy to track in a tabletop game. It also makes archers ridiculously strong. Archers shoot, and move…sometimes even shoot twice, and move. Thus early combat often has a conga line of revolving archers, moving and shooting. Hapless melee units are just arrow catchers in this system, but it could be saved if melee were particularly powerful.

    But, this is a simple system. Units typically have 2 hit points (heroes have 3), and attacks typically do 1 point of damage. Thus, there’s not a lot of room to make melee powerful; insult to injury is added with most archers having either double damage, or two attacks a turn.

    There are two campaigns: demons invading fantasy Europe, and the forces of the latter invading Hell. Hell, is, alas, disappointing, being little more than a blasted version of an open countryside; the demons have no particular advantage in their homeland.

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    There is an experience point system, but there’s little carryover from one battle to the next (like in, say, Panzer General type games). Units gain levels, but what they gain from a level is fully automated—a +1 here or there and a hit point is restored. Good enough for a tabletop game, but there are so many good ideas from other games that could be used here….nothing is used, alas.

    Now, I grant that this is a cheap game, and simple rules don’t mean the game has to be bad. Drums of War, also from Matrix Games, is also a cheap, simple game in the same fantasy genre, but still has plenty of fun in it. Unfortunately, Hell adds nothing to the genre, and lacks that which any game, no matter how cheap, needs to have to be worth playing: fun. Other than the title, there’s just nothing here to make it a better choice among many other, similar games.

    I honestly laid awake one night trying to figure out who this turn based strategy game is for. It doesn’t have the combined arms fun of Panzer General type games. It doesn’t have the goofy adventure fun of Heroes of Might and Magic games. It doesn’t have the fun of the slow but awesome destruction of Battletech games. I still don’t know. Not every game can be a hit, I guess.

    2 stars.