Pages Menu

Categories Menu

Posted on Sep 17, 2019 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Too Far From Home. Homeland Workshop’s ‘Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941’. Board Game Review.

Too Far From Home. Homeland Workshop’s ‘Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941’. Board Game Review.

Ray Garbee

Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941. Publisher: Homeland Workshop (US Distributor, Quarterdeck International). Game Designer: David Cheng. Price $70.00. 

Passed inspection: A fast playing game of a rarely covered chapter from the Pacific War.

Failed basic:  Color choices on cards may be an issue for those with red/green color blindness. A player aid chart detailing the turn sequence would be a welcome addition.   

Good day and welcome to my review. First up, I’ll admit that I have a weak spot for games covering the Pacific theater in World War Two. This goes back to playing the snot out of classic Avalon Hill games like ‘Victory in the Pacific’ and ‘Midway’. This carried over across the years into tabletop miniatures that led me to doing a lot of reading on the battles fought across the Pacific from the Aleutians to New Guinea and from the jungles of Burma to the forests of Oregon and Washington state. So, I may be pre-disposed to enjoy this game more than the typical casual gamer. Couple that to my interest in Canadian military history and you’ll appreciate that it’s a rare game where these two interests intersect.

{default}

The recent years have seen a number of new board games on the Pacific. Some are massive like Mark Herman’s renown ‘Empire of the Sun’. More recently, Quarterdeck International has been importing a number of games from Chinese publishers that are covering battles that I’ve rarely – if ever – seen done as a game. Some of this is due to the impact of Kickstarter, which allows publishers to determine support for a game prior to committing the resources to publication, thereby reducing the publishers financial risk. A recent example of the impact of kickstarter is Homeland Workshop’s game Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941’.

The outcome of a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, ‘Glory Recalled’ covers a relatively obscure topic – the Japanese assault on Hong Kong at the end of 1941. The Hong Kong campaign was overshadowed by headline grabbing events like the fall of Wake Island, MacArthur’s defeat on the Bataan Peninsula or the British loss of Singapore (the vaunted ‘Gibraltar of the Far East’). Like those better-known battles, Hong Kong featured a badly out-numbered garrison with little hope of relief, facing a prepared and well-equipped attacker.

But Hong Kong was still worth defending, even if only to slow down the Japanese onslaught for a few weeks. Through that lens, Glory Recalled is a game about the British holding on as long as you can. This is no ‘hold until relieved’ scenario. The Royal Navy will not be steaming into Victoria Harbor and you are unlikely to stop the Japanese from capturing the island. Victory for the British Empire is defined in terms of making the Japanese army pay dearly for the capture of Hong Kong. Conversely, for the Japanese, winning is defined in terms of wrapping the operation up quickly, so that the troops, planes and ships can advance to the next phase of the offensive in Malaysia or the Philippines.

The British garrison was a microcosm of the current state of the British Empire and featured troops from Britain, India, local Hong Kong defenders as well as a brigade from Canada.  I firmly believe that a good game should educate and right out of the gate, I learned something!  While I knew that Canadian troops fought through western Europe and served in the northern Pacific theater by defending British Columbia and participating in the Aleutians campaign, I had no idea that Canadian troops had fought and died during the early battles in the Far East.

Beyond the illumination on the historical order of battle, I hoped the game might be a good reference for understanding some of the history of Hong Kong that helped to shape the state of current events on the island.

Purchased as part of a block of games during a sale from Quarterdeck International, I was excited to play ‘Glory Recalled’ and explore this little covered campaign. So, let’s crack on with it and see what’s in the box! Lifting off the lid, we find that the sturdy carboard box contains the mounted map board, two counter sheets, rulebook, two decks of event cards, a player aid chart and two (2) six-sided dice.

The game’s map is a point to point network depicting the terrain and communication routes of Hong Kong Island and the neighboring coastal area of Kowloon.  It’s a bit of an abstract representation of space, but it’s a functional depiction that allows you to visualize the spatial relationships between locations, their travel costs and the defensive value of the terrain in that location. The map also conveys key locations use for victory point awards for each side. The board is a mounted map, and is compact and well executed.

The counters are well done. Perhaps it speaks to both my own age and preconceptions as well as the technological advances in printing, but I was very happy with the counters. The units depict company-sized formations and carry the unit id, parent unit id, the unit’s firepower and a graphic depicting a soldier of the unit along with a flag in the unit’s national colors. The large, thick cut counters are easy to handle and easy to read.

The rulebook reflects the diverse, interconnected nature of the modern age we live in. Much like modern appliance instructions, one half of the book contains the English language rules while the other half has the same rules presented in Chinese. The rules are laid out tolerably well, but I needed to pay close attention to all the sections as I missed some things during the first play through (which seems to be par for the course when playing any new game, right?)

The game includes two decks of cards, one for the British and one for the Japanese. Each card will contain an action, an event, or provide some supporting benefit that may be used during play. Like most other card-driven games (CDG) these cards add a lot of character and flavor to the game and help to make the theme a vibrant, resonant part of the gaming experience. I should maybe say four decks of cards as each side has a deck in both English and Chinese – you’ll need to sort them and keep them separated.

The last component of note is the player’s aid chart. This is better described as a terrain effects chart as all you really get is a legend for the spaces on the map along with a breakdown of how they influence combat. It’s technically double-sided, but, like the card decks and rulebook this is a case of English on one side and Chinese on the other.  

Those are the components. So far, so good, eh? Now let’s strap on our skates and get this game on the ice!

The game delivers the narrative experience of the assault on Hong Kong. Like any good game, we’re not focused on an exact recreation of historical events, but rather getting a taste of the events and the types of challenges that faced the participants.  A game turn represents a single day and the game lasts roughly two weeks from 10 December to 25 December for a total of 16 game turns.

Glory Recalled is a card-driven game, so the players will alternate playing cards to trigger special events, move and attack with units, or rally troops. The amount of actions in a given turn will be dynamic as it relates to the types of cards each side draws, and how each player chooses to allocate those cards.  A player may have a single attack, expending a number of cards to provide artillery, armor, engineers and air support, or may choose to husband their cards and just move small units of troops to better locations, or even to just pass their impulse back to their opponent.  One interesting choice is that initiating an attack requires expending movement points – you’ll have to adjust your mindset if you are used to moving up adjacent to your enemy and then attacking.

There are three leaders on each side. These represent the ‘weight’ of available command/control and logistics for each side. You’ll rapidly discover that there are never enough leaders to do everything that you want. It’s a nice mechanism that meshes well with the CDG process to focus and limit what a player can do each turn. This helps to limit some of the numerical superiority of the Japanese and gives more value to the formation activation cards available to each side. 

At the end of each turn is an administrative phase where you assess victory points, check the supply status of units and replenish your card hand from the draw deck. Early in the game you’ll be checking for the Fall of Kowloon special event as this drives the game’s narrative forward towards the amphibious assault on Hong Kong Island.

This special event speaks to what’s going on with Glory Recalled – it’s really two mini games with some carry over between them. The first game is the attack and fall of Kowloon. Assuming Kowloon falls (which given the disparity of forces is a likely outcome), you then regroup and reset the game for the attack on Hong Kong. That’s not to say these are stand alone games as events during the Kowloon battle will shape the events during the assault on Hong Kong – namely how many coastal batteries the Japanese can knock out prior to launching their landings.

Hong Kong is a much dicier proposition.  I mean this literally, as assaults on Stanley and Aberdeen are subject to a die roll representing the effectiveness of the coast artillery. Fail that roll and those landings are a no go. It’s a nice way of reflecting the role of the coast artillery as well as forcing the Japanese to allocate resources during the attack on Kowloon to silencing at least some of the guns.

Overall, I found the game quite enjoyable. Partly this was the experience of gaming a campaign that was new to me, partly as it educated me on an aspect of Canadian military history but mostly as I found it an enjoyable game. The card-driven game is a mechanism that greatly enhances the experiential and educational components of ‘Glory Recalled’ and provides a degree of randomness that should help retain the replay value of the game.

The rule book was mostly easy to digest. I found the last section of the book featuring the personal Hong Kong stories provided context and facilitated a connection with the people that participated in the campaign.

This can be a very fast paced game. There are not enough British units to cover everything in depth and once the brittle crust of the defense is broken, the Japanese can generally exploit faster than the British can react. There are barely enough units to hold the front line. The British player is faced with an almost immediate choice – use the limited sea lift available to extract the defenders of Kowloon, or take a chance and send reinforcements over from Hong Kong. The risk is real – there is no guarantee that you will be dealt another sea transport card in time to extract the survivors before the fall of Kowloon.

I like the representation of the British, Canadian and Indian troops. You get a real feel for how the defense of Hong Kong was, like many of the battles the British fought in World War Two an ‘Imperial’ effort.

Players will have to adapt their mind set to the reality of the game. It’s quickly apparent that this is a forlorn hope for the British Empire forces. The rag-tag forces defending Hong Kong are facing the full-strength of a Japanese infantry division, lavishly supported with artillery, tanks and air power. If you think of Hong Kong as a Far East equivalent to the Alamo, you’ll be prepared for what transpires in the game.

I found this an engaging game. But if you ask if it’s without flaws, I can only answer with – sorry, it’s not all coffee and beaver tails. There are indeed a few things that detract from the game.

For starters, the rules could be a little clearer. Specifically, rules on fort’s defensive modifiers superseding the terrain modifier for a space and the defensive bonuses for the machine gun units were subtle. The whole notion that if you pass on taking an action, you are done for the rest of the turn really needs more emphasis in the rules as this was not clear during the initial play-throughs of the game and it’s different from the expectation fostered by past experiences with other games. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it just needs to be clearly conveyed to the players before the puck drops.

Now this next point is purely subjective – the map bugs me. It’s not that I object to point to point game maps. I’m actually a fan. And while I don’t actively dislike the gameboard, I’m also not in love with it. Yes, it’s an effective, functional representation of the space within which the battle takes place. But the way terrain is depicted does not, to paraphrase Marie Kondo, ‘fill me with joy’. I think this is a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ reflecting what I like and expect in a map.

While playing ‘Glory Recalled’, I often thought the game needs a player’s aid chart detailing the turn sequence, combat resolution process and amphibious landing procedure. I know I’m not alone in thinking this as an enterprising soul has already made such a document available. You can find it on the websites for both Quarterdeck International and Board Game Geek’s page for ‘Glory Recalled’. If you have the game, be sure to grab a copy of the charts.

Beyond those minor items, I do find Glory Recalled to be an engaging game. Success with the game is heavily dependent on understanding and pursuing your victory conditions. This is not a stand-up fight – there are greater objectives to consider. Both players need to read and understand their respective victory conditions.

While victory is measured in ‘points’ how those points are earned is done very differently for each side. It has an almost asymmetrical feel to it. In addition to protecting/capturing your VP objectives you need to understand what your opponent is seeking to achieve. The victory conditions do show a good Interrelationship between space, place, time and casualties for each side.

A lot of you may be sitting at home alone asking – ‘sure, it’s sound great, but how does it play solitaire?’ I can trot out the old truism that ‘every game can be played solo’ and that’s an accurate statement. But you’ll have to work at it here. Glory Recalled has no solitaire rules – no ‘bots, no vassal module that I could find, no flow charts to automate the play of one side.

Complicating things is the nature of the card driven game. Normally, the fog of war you get from not seeing your opponents’ cards adds to the tension and uncertainty of how events play out. While you can play both sides yourself, that perfect knowledge of your opponents’ hand will remove that element of tactical surprise you might get from facing a live opponent. While on the surface Glory Recalled may seem to offer similar challenges to those in other CDG such as GMT’s ‘Paths of Glory’, I feel that the small scope of the Hong Kong campaign magnifies the card play so that the lack of fog of war diminishes the solo experience.

Okay, let’s wrap this up. You got this far and there’s just one thing left to share – my verdict on whether or not you should but the game.  Coming in at $70 USD it feels a little steep for what you get. The folks that backed the game on Kickstarter paid a much more attractive price point under $40 USD and I scored a decent price with the sale event at Quarterdeck International. If you can find it for less than full retail, then I fully endorse adding a copy to your library. Failing that, you’ll need to balance that price point against the opportunity for gaming an obscure campaign with quality components. 

If you are looking to expand your game library to include a title that covers an obscure, early campaign in the Pacific war you should give this a hard look. If you want a game focused on the Japanese army facing British imperial forces from India, Hong Kong or Canada this would be a worthy investment.

Armchair General Score: % 91

Solitaire suitability (1–5 scale, with 1 being virtually unplayable as a solitaire game and 5 being completely suitable for solitaire play):  3

Ray Garbee has been a gamer for decades, Ray’s interests include the Anglo-Sikh Wars through the conflicts of the 20th Century and beyond but his passion remains ACW naval gaming. Currently, Ray works in the IT field while continuing to design tabletop games. His past works include Iron Thunder, Anaconda, Anaconda: Capital Navies and articles in a number of defunct hobby magazines. When not busy gaming, Ray enjoys working on his model railroad, hiking and sport shooting at the local range.

box cover
map board
Hong Kong in peril
assault along the gin drinkers line
I swear I shuffled these cards!
British card in Chinese
IJA card in Chinese

1 Comment

  1. >no ‘bots, no vassal module that I could find

    A Vassal module has been constructed by a German and is being play-tested by me and my German opponent (not the same module builder). There are some minor tweaks to make the game smooth and true to its rules (like the hidden units). I expect it will be uploaded to Vassal homoepage some time soon.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *