Thursday, March 09, 2017

Boardgame round up - Imperial Assault, Conan and more...

Despite being very busy, I am getting a fair number of miniatures games in this year, but at the same time I'm doing so alongside a number of board games, something I like to talk about from time to time.  Not too often, y'know, this is a wargaming blog really.  But then three of the following games at least bear some links to that subject at least, so let's carry on.

Imperial Assault of course is just some 3D terrain away from being a full fledged wargame, after all it does contain a head-to-head skirmish mode.  However, here it is another episode of our ongoing campaign, with the players trying to break an imperial agent out of a cell before the Empire can pump him for the information needed.

The players found they were up against considerably tougher people than in some of their previous encounter, not least I seemed to have drawn on the Stormtrooper regiment who could shoot.  I don't think they missed many shots all game.

Additionally, in an effort to avoid the transmission of crucial data, the heroes moved around the longest possible way to the target, ultimately finding themselves surrounded.

The players released the prisoner, but found more royal guard and mercenaries blocking their way home.  In fact it looked like they would fail at the last moment, when he was raked with fire making a break for the exit.

Fortunately for them, he staggered to freedom, and it was another victory for the Rebellion.  In fairness, despite several of the games to date being closely balanced, so far the players have managed to win all of them.  The strength of the Imperial Assault campaign system is that it balances very well to the gradual improvement of the characters, indeed a large portion of the cards and upgrades in the game appear specifically there to allow this.  The way elements are drip-fed to both player and games master alike are its greatest strengths.

AS a palette cleanser afterwards we had a quick game of Kharnage:

This is a relatively simple multiplayer card game, where each player forms armies to battle their opponents in a King-of-the-Hill battle for glory.  Players choose a strategy card to play and then deploy units based on it before unleashing a range of attacks.

This is not a complex game, it does not take much to explain or understand, but there is just enough subtlety and tactical nuance to be hold an interest for its short duration.  The artwork is pretty good to and there are a few nice surprises amongst the card.  Overall not a bad little game.

By comparison, Letters from Whitechapel features no combat, and is a far more intellectual exercise.

'Whitechapel' is a one against many game in which a team of detectives attempts to stop Jack The Ripper in his London rampage before his historically recorded 5 victims are taken, and 'he' goes to ground, anonymity and ill-deserved freedom.  To this end it operates with the Ripper player using hidden movement to track his route between his victims and his hideout, whilst the detectives control 5 officer pawns attempting to triangulate to his position.  

I our game we managed to close in on the Ripper on his fourth kill, and make the arrest, despite him having managed to throw us off the scent of his hideout.  We were close enough it turned out, and so in the end his own attempts at cunning placed him where we could not fail to catch him.  Whitechapel is a game with a simple premise and straightforward rules, but within that it provides a challenging game.

Finally, and well it was definitely going to happen, and after the investment I can't say I wasn't nervous, I got to test Conan.

Conan is an adventure game, again using a one-against-many mechanic, with most of the players controlling a single hero against the overlords' hordes.  However Conan does things a little differently to some games, and in certain ways is quite innovative.

For one thing the Overlord controls his minions via the dandy little dashboard you can see there, paying an energy cost associated to the position of a unit on the track to activate it.  Any activated unit then moves to the end of the track, making activating it again expensive, but all the other units now slightly cheaper.

And that of course mentions the energy mechanic.  On the heroes turn - and they all activate as much or as little as they want at the same time - they spend energy to carry out a variety of actions in any order, even teaming their actions to set up attacks.  However energy spent is recouped very slowly, so there is a gradual exhaustion unless a hero rests, doing virtually nothing for the round.  But if needed a player can throw it all into one glorious attack, and - for example - kill a mighty serpent with a single mighty blow.

Additionally wounds permanently reduce your energy supply, and in our initial game at least, there was little in the way of immediate healing to save the players.  At first Conan was able to hack through swathes of Picts in a single round; but by the end of the game he was scarcely able to limp out the village.

And pleasingly, this all worked really well.  Thankfully Conan operates effectively as a game, it is not too hard to learn, despite the initial rulebooks being a little confused in English translation (revised editions are free online), but it offers an engaging and suitably heroic style of play, one that leads naturally to the players generating narrative battles with evil.  Within our game alone, Conan operated as a one-man battering ram, whilst his thief ally did much of the searching and his wizard ally supplied the firepower.  As the overlord I was able to relish unleashing wave upon wave of troglodyte warriors against them, in a game that takes considerably less time to set up and play than Imperial Assault.

What it however lacks, is any way to string those games together as a campaign, rather each scenario stands alone.  This may well suit casual play, and it is understood solutions will follow, but for fans of games like Descent and Heroquest, this may be seen as an omission.

But I for one can't wait to get it to the table again.

Which is a huge relief!

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