Saturday, July 17, 2010

Horus Heresy Board Game - Second Impressions

(For First Impressions, see HERE )

Got in another game tonight, still enjoyable.  I can see a lot of replayability with just the one scenario and even more when you factor in the other ones (IIRC there are six included in the scenario book).

A couple criticisms:

One, the early game seems pretty critical.  In the two games we've had so far, they've both ended very early on (one with Chaos spaceport victory, one with the death of Horus).  We've only used the first few event cards and haven't touched the majority of the initiative track.  I'd have to play some more games to really pass judgement, but if that trend of early endings continues, IMO that would be a weakness of the game.  Maybe as we get better at anticipating and countering each other we'll be able to make it go on longer, maybe not.

 Two, the pre-game corruption and bombardment effects can drastically shape how the game goes.  If the luck of the draw goes heavily one way, one player can really be behind the 8-ball from the start.  Putting a little more player control into this might be better.  A possible variant for the initial corruption might be instead of twelve 50-50 chances, let the Chaos player select nine units to corrupt and the Imperial player can cancel three of them out.  Still get the six units you would on an average draw, but eliminates big swings and gives a little more control to both players as to the exact outcomes.

Three, movement is really limited, since it has to be activated by order cards, which advance the initiative track, so they're really precious commodities.  There are lots of one-unit areas, some of which are in relatively minor or out of the way places and those units tend to sit around the whole game.  It can be really hard to concentrate force, especially for the Imperials who start out spread all over.

Two and Three reinforce point One, and combined with the luck of the draw on some cards can really skew the game one way or the other from the outset.  Some ways to mitigate the effects of extreme early luck would be good.

Some tips and observations:

Corruption - with the way co-existence battles work, the Chaos player is always counted as defender, so gets to "swing" first if desired (as the "active" player in the combat iteration).  With battles involving one unit on each side, and therefore each only having one combat card to play, this can often mean that you can either destroy the enemy outright or force him to use his only card to defend himself, ending the combat.  So, when you are doing your corruptions, you don't have to corrupt everyone in an area in order to neutralize/potentially take it - if it's one of the several areas with two units, you just need one guy.  So if you successfully corrupt the first one, move on to another area instead of wasting an attempt to get 100% in one spot.  There will be exceptions sometimes like if you want the extra forces in a particular region, but for just doing things like neutralizing defense laser forts, one guy is usually enough.

A second note on corruption - think ahead to your bombardment when doing corruption - don't corrupt somewhere you plan to bombard!  Personally I think that the forts and spaceports are good areas to corrupt, and use your bombardments on the spaces with titans (which you can't corrupt, but a Warmaster can dream!).  

Leaders - Leaders are beasts.  Get them involved in combats whenever you can.  Especially as only the Emperor or Horus are important for victory purposes, treat other heroes as expendable; get them into battle whenever you can.  Not only are they effectively a ten-hit unit that can only be targeted if all other friendlies are wiped out or by special card effects (requiring an enemy hero), they also get extra cards for the battles (hero combat cards), and even more importantly, have nasty special abilities.  Read those special abilities, get to know them.  Use those of your own heroes when you can, and try to deny the enemy the use of his.  For example, many of the Primarchs' special abilities are contingent on having marines from their legion with them, so where possible try to kill those marines off in order to weaken or nullify that power.

Imperial players, take special note of Khan's ability, as it gives you a very precious thing - movement!  In the (previously mentioned critical) early game it can give you a much better shot at ejecting the traitors from one of the spaceports.

Combat - From what I've seen, barring unusually good or bad luck in card draws (which can be mitigated by some heroes, remember those abilities!), there are three basic types of battles.

  1. Small, one-on-one battles.  These will often go to the defender, given that they can choose to "swing" first.  Given that you otherwise need order cards to start battles, these will usually be coexistence battles...and since the Chaos player is considered the defender in those, they will get to swing will be more likely to win these sorts of fights.
  2. Mid-range relatively even fights.  Both players have a few cards, can do some damage and mitigate some damage.  Some luck could see a clear victory for one side or another, but will likely result in both sides being damaged and an inconclusive combat.
  3. One side with overwhelming force.  Slaughter ensues.  Since the combat cards are used for both attack AND defense, a side with a big advantage can largely shut down an inferior force.  They have enough cards to burn for shield effects to stop regular damage, can put down enough to stop special effects that can be stopped, and still have enough to cream the enemy.  Plus, as a large force they're more likely to have a good mix of unit types, making the special effects on the cards more likely to come into play.
As mentioned in #3, a mix of unit types can help in combats, letting more special card effects come into play.  They can make the enemy retreat, prevent damage, completely wipe out an enemy unit, potentially wipe out ALL enemy units in the battle, or even do things like remove activation markers (which prevent you from using the units in that area until you can get them removed) or advance the enemy's initiative marker.  Some of these special effects can be stopped by the enemy paying a noted shield cost, while some can't be stopped at all.  Getting the most out of these is key to bigger fights, and the secondary effects like advancing the initiative track can have major effects on the game as a whole.

Defense Lasers - These have a chance to shoot down units landing at space ports/drop pods.  The ones in the palace itself are pretty safe at least in the early game, but the others are more vulnerable.  A turn of lucky draws by the Imperial player can gut Chaos reinforcements, so minimizing the threat is important - the forts should be prime corruption targets.  Plus once Chaos takes a space with a laser, it is removed, so the Imperials can't recapture them. The port Mortrarion starts in has two lasers adjacent; removing the one in the regular fort is a good idea.  As Chaos, take the others out as you can, but take out the two-laser threat first.

Order Cards - The recycleable ones are nice, but there are also some very good ones in the deck; don't be afraid to see what you can find there.  Putting orders on the strategic map can be good for four things: using the strategic effect (like Port Landing), saving initiative costs for cards that cost more than 2, burying enemy order cards, and for contingency planning (ie: that port is secure now, but having a drop pod assault on the rack is good insurance).  Otherwise, especially for those things that only cost one or two, just play them from your hand.

Early strategies for the basic scenario (YMMV):

  •  For your pre-placed orders, put Port Landings down for both spaceports you already control, and for the Vengeful Spirit, and Drop Pods for one of the other spaceports.  I'd suggest the one next to the palace by the Blood Angels; the other one is remote enough that if sufficiently corrupted won't see strong counterattacks too early.
  • Corrupt the laser forts that are not manned by space marines. Corrupt the ports.  If you have capability left over, corrupt other areas next to ports, to limit the forces the Imperials can bring to bear to recapture them.
  • Bombard areas of remaining strong Imperial forces.  Areas with titans, or if you whiffed on corrupting ports, they're good targets too.
  • Reinforce Angron and Mortarion's ports, but remember stacking limits!  Pod in on the other port you selected, bring a Primarch along.  Reinforce the Vengeful Spirit; put the remaining Primarch here along with some Chaos gribblies, but save the CSM for a possible pod attack later on.
  • Work on holding the ports and try to disrupt whatever the Imperials try to do.

  • Suffer through the pregame corruptions, bombardment, and the initial Chaos action.  There's really not much you can do here except pray for favorable cards.
  • Hit one of the ports hard.  If the Chaos player didn't reinforce Angron or Mortrarion, slam the weak one.  Use Khan's power to bring him and the two marines he starts with into the fight too.  All other things being equal, hit Mortarion as you can then have two Primarchs (Khan and Dorn) in the fight, but watch out for Mortarion's special ability.
  • Keep trying to retake/disrupt Chaos' ability to control all the ports.  You only need to keep him out of one to prevent a spaceport victory.  You holding all four is doubtful, but you have a good shot at keeping at least one.  Two is of course better, as it gives you a bit of a cushion, but early on before a spaceport victory is even possible, focus on just crushing one; deal with others later.
  • If you have a good shot at the Vengeful Spirit, take it.   

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