Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Spirits vs Super-heavy machine gun. Who will win??

Type: Board, Strategy
Players: 1 to about 8
Time to explain to others: Not that much. 10-15 min
Time to play: About an hour, maybe more, depending on number of players 
Difficulty: To play 3/10, Game difficulty 7/10
Portability: Pieces, models, dozens of tokens and dozens of explanation cards. Low.
Overall: 7/10

Tannhauser is a gem of a game. If I had to pigeon-hole it (and I do), I'd call it Strategic Combat. More than any other board game I ever played, it tries to capture the tabletop feel of games like Warhammer and bring it down to its core. The characters have well defined abilities, they can change weapons and equipments prior to the mission, to be as effective as possible, and line of sight (is an enemy in range or not) has been wonderfully solved by a non-intrusive system of coloured circles.

The story is also pretty great (right up my alley, in fact). In an alternate Earth, after WWII goes on for 30 years, the Nazis turn to mysticism, and The US, under president Edison (I know, right....?) turn to technology. Cue missions in Swiss castles, etc. , featuring mind controlling artefacts vs weapons with barrels the size of your torso.

Tannhauser becomes a hard game, due to its planning and management. If you're activating the Nazi hot blonde officer, you can see from her inventory that she has a whip. Then you need to find the whip on the reference sheet and see what it does. And the person she is whipping might have, say, body armour. Then you need to find the reference sheet for that person and see what it does. And so on, and so on, ad eternum.

I ended up making dozens of tiny cards, with the individual weapon stats, and stick it to the character sheets, and although for me it works nicely, I can see that if I wasn't so fascinated by it, it would really put me off. Two or more players are really needed to make the game flow. I am stubborn and play it solo, with some pretty decent fan-made rules I found online, and am now, finally starting to love the game.

I like the tabletop feel to it. You need to roll to hit, and then roll to save, so the most powerful character, armed to the teeth, can be brought down by a knife (as in the real world, I might add). 

As a side note, Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, was so impressed by how Tannhauser fit his stories of mystical nazis that he created, as a joke, character sheets for the Hellboy characters, as players in the game. Fans (me included) quickly found a set of Hellboy miniatures for sale on Amazon, and now we have another really cool army to play with.

Rui's conlcusion: Tannhauser is an engaging game, that will keep you occupied for ages. It replays really well, and the story is really atmospheric. The models are perhaps the best I have played with. Not for the faint hearted, as setting it up (with my small cheat sheets) can itself take 20+ minutes. If you like a) tabletop miniatures b) strategy, c) setting up for ages, d) frustration at dice and e) all of the above, this is a game you might want to have a look at. Otherwise....

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