The Game of Gaming

Review: Stronghold

Posted by Eisley on 28th October 2009


[Below is my initial review of Stronghold.  A three-part report covering the game in a lot more detail is available too:  Part One – Part Two – Part Three]

Stronghold not only has a great setting but it also had a great pre-launch.  The designer released over ten posts about how he came up with ideas and developed the game.  This brilliant bit of marketing explained the game perfectly but was also very evocative.  As a result, I pre-ordered it.

The game is about the seige of a castle.  With two players, one player defends and one invades.   (With more than two players, players share in the invasion or defense.)  Resources are tight, especially for the defender but then they have the advantage of being in a giant castle and shooting at anything approaching the walls. 

The invader uses troops and material to make equipment, build siege engines, perform rituals, and much more.  Everything the invader does costs time too and it is this time that the defender then spends to for their actions: repair walls, train troops, build defenses, etc.  It’s faster to use better troops but then they won’t be available to attack the castle.  So, the game has a very interesting balancing mechanism right there.

The invader has a pleasantly, if somewhat daunting, array of choices but, of course, the resources available are too few to do them all.  Rather than remain overwhelming, the invader only plays with a sub-set of choices for each game which are chosen during set-up.  A specific set is suggested for the first game too.  This adds lots of variety for future plays.  I look forwards to having a battering ram next time.

The board looks stunning and there are loads of bits.  There’re over 200 tiny cubes for the invading forces alone!

Working out what to do at the start is tough.  If you use your troops to build lots of equipment then who’s left to storm the walls?  The longer you prepare for your attack, the longer the defender has too.  Lots of interesting decisions to be made.  I think it almost needs a play before you can really play properly. 

The setting is epic but so is the playing time, at least on the first try.  We played half a game which took around 3 hours but much of this was getting used to the rules and understanding what thing did.  Next time, it will be much faster (especially as I’ve now bagged all the bits separately to speed set-up.)  I doubt it will ever be a quick game but then games of epic proportions never should be.

I think if you like War of the Ring then I think you’ll like this.   Final thought: How about a War of the Ring version of Stronghold where each seige in War of the Ring is played out using Stronghold?  It may take years to complete a game but how cool woud it be?  Anyone want to start on the board for Minas Tirith?

[A three-part report covering Stronghold in a lot more detail is available too:  Part One – Part Two – Part Three]


[Played with 2 players – probably most fun with just 2 players too]

Second Opinion: Read the thoughts of the other player (my friend Rick) at:


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