LEGO Battle Of Hoth: Retrospective

LEGO produced several great boardgames during their short-lived line of “LEGO Games” circa 2011-2013, the greatest IMO being “Heroica“. Most others were fairly simple games, but the other complicated one was the awesome “Star Wars: Battle of Hoth.” This was actually a combination of chess and an entry-level “wargame” of sorts, a two-player affair with one side playing the Empire and the other the Rebellion, recreating the epic snow battle scenes from the movie “The Empire Strikes Back”.

The game is played on a brick-built board, with each player controlling their own set of pieces. Each turn, a player has two “actions” they can use on any of their pieces, and can choose to Move or Attack (so, a player may move twice, move once and attack once, or attack twice, and with the same or different pieces).

The forces for each side are different (AT-ATs for the Empire and Snowspeeders for the Rebels, for example) and work a bit like chess pieces with each Unit having different movement abilities as well as attack ranges and power. The number of microfigures on each Unit measures its “health”; these figures are removed as the Unit suffers hits, and the Unit is removed when all figures are gone.

Attacks are carried out by rolling the special LEGO dice which determines of the shot hits 2 in 6 chance), misses (2 in 6 chance) or “Force hits” (2 in 6 chance). Hits remove 1 figure from the target unit. A Force Hit is a normal hit except when the attacker is a “Hero” unit (Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, etc.)), in which case they can destroy the entire target at once!

The rules are simple, fast and fun. The objective is to either reach the other side of the board (the player’s “Base”) or destroy all your opposition’s forces.

There are a number of “advanced rules” also included, that add more Heroes, greater complexity and suggestions on reconfiguring the modular game board. Being that the whole game is made of LEGO, you can easily design new units or come up with your own rules, too.

If you’re reading all this and thinking “sounds awesome, why have I never heard of this game?”, that’s because Battle of Hoth received practically zero publicity when it was released, and was never sold at all in the USA (due to ridiculous licensing issues). It was also one of the last LEGO Games released, meaning the line was already winding down by that point and thus (at least here in Australia) was quite hard to even find on store shelves.

It’s a real shame, because the game is fun and the Star Wars theme surely should have made it one of the best-selling LEGO Games. The real tragedy IMO, though, is that this was the only Star Wars themed game Lego ever made, meaning these were also the only Star Wars microfigures produced. Due to the Hoth theme, that means no “regular” Stromtroopers, or more iconic-costumed Luke/Han/Leia. No Prequel Trilogy characters (not that I care about those, but I know some would!). No Lando, 3PO or R2.

We could have – should have – got at least one game based on each of the original movies: a Death Star escape themed one for “A New Hope” and a Battle of Endor one for “Return of the Jedi” would have been awesome. Instead, the game sold poorly (with no US release, being hard to find and having no publicity, is that a surprise?) and the LEGO Games line ended shortly after.

Fortunately, being a LEGO game, you can pretty much build the whole set yourself with a big box of spare parts, besides the unique printed microfigures (which can be found second-hand or proxied with brick-built replacements). You could even use printed tokens or other hamebrew components to play it if you were willing to put in the effort.

Regardless, Battle for Hoth was a great game from LEGO that could introduce children to both wargaming and chess, yet one that was ultimately doomed to failure and obscurity at launch.

That doesn’t mean I don’t continue to play it, or haven’t come up with my own homebrew rules, units and other fun stuff!

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