Pocket Landship is about controlling an English tank in World War I in a skirmish against six enemy forces that are controlled by dice rolls (seeing as how this is a solitaire game). The whole thing takes up nine cards, plus some tokens and dice.
Each card, no matter whose side they are on, has a health meter and a table of die results. You create two lines of three for the enemy cards, a front line and a back line.
The core mechanic is assigning dice. On the enemy turn, you roll three dice and assign them lowest to highest from left to right and then consult the charts. You roll three dice on your own turn and assign them where you want to on your own cards.
Part of what makes the game actually were playing is that the die rolls determine more than just hitting and missing. The enemy can shift around, making it harder to hit specific targets. Some of your options include modifying other die rules. And damage can also be repaired.
And I’ve just been playing with the base cards. The current files let you make double-sided cards with different options for both sides on the back. And there is an expansion (which is just one more sheet of cards) that I know I’ll be making soon. It’s an awful lot of game for just two pages of cards.
That said, I can’t help but wonder how much control I really have. I have some control over my actions but the dice are powerful. Strong rolls on the enemy side can be devastating. The options of potentially modifying dice give me hope that it’s not too random.
At the same time the game is short enough and interesting enough that the random factor has yet to bother me. It will be interesting to see if it either does come to bother me or if I figure out how to get more and more control the more I play. And this is a game that I plan to keep playing.
One game that really went through my mind as I played it was Ogre. Part of that was because it’s a tank game and part of it is because, with the base cards, you are controlling different parts of the tank separately.
And I do really wonder what else you can do with this system. How much modification would it take to make it a two-plays game and would it be fun? Could you use this system to make an economic game?
Admittedly, dice assignment is now a well established mechanic with games like Kingsburg or High Frontiers. But Pocket Landship does well in such a small package. I really wonder what more could be done.