The folks at the local store started up a Planetary Empires campaign/league and I joined in, literally dusting off the old Sons of Horus for renewed service.
Having played one battle and having observed parts of a few others I formed some initial impressions.
- Overall seems pretty nifty. Pretty rules-light (most of the book is taken up by repeating the same info in multiple languages), but that means easier play. If you want to add more depth, it should be easy to do so. But for an out of the box easy starter campaign system it looks like it works well.
- Most of the expense of the official set doubtless comes from the fancy plastic tiles, little buildings and flags. You can certainly do this part (keeping track of who has what territories, etc.) pretty easily with any number of computer programs, and if you're doing this with a spread out group tracking things online is probably the way to go. For a group like the one I'm playing with now where we're doing things centrally, it's cool having a physical board there to look at.
- The buildings system is interesting. Different types give you points towards different effects, and your army type (Marines, IG, Chaos, etc.) determines how many points you get. For example, Dark Eldar get more points from the buildings that give bonuses for the rolls to go first while IG get more points from the buildings allowing for more points in the actual battles.
- One of the types of bonuses is being able to give units a free USR - Universal Special Rule - for that battle. So you could give a unit of Ork Boyz Infiltrate, a Defiler Scout, a Trygon Feel No Pain, etc. In one of the battles I witnessed the Tyranid player gave that life-sucking critter Eternal Warrior, and it Just Would Not Die! All kinds of potential craziness that can be had there and add variety to games.
- The bonus for extra points can be used to buy stuff outside of your normal codex - for example an IG player borrowed an Ironclad Dreadnought to supplement his guardsmen. Besides just trying out some crazy combos, this could also be a good way for players with smaller armies to play bigger games by more easily combining parts of their smaller armies. And for those who miss things like Kroot mercs, human auxiliaries for the Tau, Lost and the Damned type armies, Genestealer Cults, etc. this can help scratch that itch.
- I like the mechanism they have for battles and capturing territory. Rather than saying Player A attacks B in territory 26, Player A and B just have a game. Any kind of game they want to - any mission, any terrain, any point size. No worries about attacker/defender in the strategic sense. Whoever WINS the battle gets a chance to take one of the loser's territory, which is not always successful and is subject to a number of modifiers. Sort of like each player antes up a territory before the battle. You also can take territories that aren't adjacent, but it's harder. So if you want a particular type of building, you can go after it no matter where it is. If you're boxed in and are tired of fighting one player, you can hop across the board and challenge someone else without a problem.