At its height, the Carthaginian Empire was enormous. Encompassing much of northern Africa, swaths of modern-day Spain, Corsica and Sardinia, even a toehold on the jewel of the Mediterranean that was Sicily, they were one of the world’s great maritime powers — a true thalassocracy, their navy indomitable at sea — until the scrappy Roman Republic’s unification of the Italian Peninsula put them in a position to challenge Carthage’s authority. The ensuing wars spanned more than a century, and only concluded when the grand city of Carthage was burnt to the ground.
Not only is Hands in the Sea set during the first of these wars — that’s the war of Hamilcar Barca, father of the Hannibal Barca who would brashly march elephants across the Alps in the Second Punic War — it also contains some history of its own. Riffing on Martin Wallace’s innovative A Few Acres of Snow, this is Daniel Berger’s attempt at taking the system to the next level without resorting to the same fantastical measures that Wallace undertook in Mythotopia. Which is to say, this is a serious game, full of serious people undertaking serious endeavors — and it’s every bit as good as it is serious.