Cortes: Conquest of the Aztecs is the kind of wargame that only could appear in a magazine.
As important as the event was, there are no panzers, it didn't involve English speaking peoples and it involved high dissimilar armies.
One value to magazine wargames is the chance to learn some history and maybe experience an unusual game situation. Cortes, the issue game in Command No. 20, succeeds on those grounds.
While the 14-page rules describe a moderately complex wargame, they include a lot of chrome that helps capture the color in a colorful campaign that featured some colorful characters. As noted in the game description, this may be the only board game that includes a rule for human sacrifice!
The tactical problem is unique, with the Spanish assaulting a island connected to the mainland by several causeways. Every hex represents 300 meters, but the turn length is indeterminate, representing anything from a few minutes to several days. Most of the Indian units represent several thousand warriors, but the elite Aztec knight units represent about 200 individuals. The Spanish units represent about 50 foot soldiers or 20 mounted troops.
The turn sequence is a straight-forward movement and combat phase system.
The 128 large 5/8-inch counters have full-color iconic representations of the various warriors, with the Aztecs on green and the Spanish and their allies on light brown. Fourteen of the Spanish units are boats and many of the Indians have an ability to move onto the lake using their canoes. While land movement happens on a hex grid, the lake is divided into areas.
Unusually for a Command game, the combat result table uses a two-dice sum, but the results are the usual Command step loss numeric result. Units are either four or two steps in strength.
The Aztecs win by killing Cortes, or failing that by racking up "loss points" for eliminating Spanish units. The Spanish player has the option of pausing his assault for a mutual Redeployment and Recovery interphase. During an R&R both sides can recover lost steps, although the Spanish will tend to recover a larger portion of their strength. Every R&R phase cost the Spanish 5 loss points, however, meaning that having more than two will probably cost the Spanish player a victory.The game lasts until the Spanish clear the city of Indian units, however long that takes.
Set up will take less than 10 minutes, with a semi-free set up for both sides. The game will probably take one sitting to play, although the lack of a time pressure for the Spanish player could cause the game to drag a bit with some playing styles.
(Yes) for wargamers. Interesting and unique tactical situation depicted in colorful yet authentic fashion.
(No) for collectors.
(No) for Eurogamers. A hex-and-counter wargame without mitigating factors that might appeal to eurogamers.