Space Hulk!

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com! To celebrate the return of the classic boardgame Space Hulk to stores this weekend, I thought I’d get all topical-like, and look at the game that I picked up back in September 2014 – let’s go purge some xenos!

Space Hulk

The original game dates from 1989, and was instrumental in launching terminators and genestealers into the Warhammer 40,000 universe as the icons that they remain today. Over the years, there have been a number of re-iterations of the game, as detailed in a recent article on the Warhammer Community pages, with third edition coming in 2009, and the current, fourth edition, coming five years later. Common to all iterations, of course, is the cast of twelve Blood Angels terminators, and the horde of genestealers:

Space Hulk

Space Hulk is played in Missions, and there are sixteen missions included in the Mission Book. Each mission will tell you how many models you start with – how many marines, and what they’re equipped with, and how many ‘blips’ the Genestealer player starts with. There are a number of entry pointed marked on the set-up map, from where the blips can enter the board on the Genestealer player’s turn. I’ll talk more about this in the Reinforcement Phase, below.

Command Phase
At the start of the turn, the Space Marines player randomly selects a command points counter, each numbered from 1-6, to indicate how many command points he has for that turn. Space Marines can take a number of set actions, however these points indicate the number of additional actions the marines can take. If the marines use more command actions than is printed on the token, they automatically lose!

Once the command points counter has been placed, the Genestealer player starts the timer, which gives the marines a defined window of 2’43 to take actions for the entire team.

Action Phase
Each Space Marine has 4 action points he can use to take a number of actions, from a menu of 11 total actions. Each of these actions takes up a number of action points, such as opening a door for one point, or firing a heavy flamer for two points. You need to completely finish the activation of each marine before moving on to the next – the only exception being if you then come back to that marine to spend a command point. While firing their storm bolters at the genestealers itself costs a point, marines can also fire at the end of some movements for no additional cost.

When moving, models move in the direction they are facing, and to turn 90° costs the marines an action point. These marines are clad in tactical dreadnought armour (terminators, to you and me!) and so are fairly bulky; the narrow confines of the space hulk therefore impede their movement, whereas the Genestealers are much more lithe and nimble.

Genestealers have a total of 6 action points in their turn, and can spin about to change their facing at no extra cost once they have spent each of those points.

Space Hulk

Shooting stuff
Space Marine Terminators are equipped with a panoply of wargear that will help them to purge the xenos aboard the space hulk, most commonly the storm bolter, but also larger stuff like the heavy flamer or assault cannon, and combat stuff like power fists and lightning claws. Each of these weapons has various rules associated with it, as detailed in the rulebook. Storm bolters and assault cannons have no maximum range, you just need to see the model you’re trying to hit. The flamer is an area-effect weapon that can only hit up to twelve squares away. When rolling to hit, you roll two dice for storm bolters, three for assault cannons, and as many as there are models in the area for flamers, and if you roll a 6+, a 5+ or a 2+ for each respective weapon, you hit the model and it is destroyed.

Normally, you can only do stuff on your own turn, but the marines can take an Overwatch action which effectively readies them to fire at genestealers on their turn, instead. Only assault cannons and storm bolters can do this. Overwatch shooting takes place at the end of each genestealer’s action within 12 squares and line of sight of the marine on Overwatch. It can be a useful tactic to put a marine on Overwatch, to force the Genestealer player to re-think their strategy if they don’t want to lose that model.

Unfortunately, Overwatch does come with a price for the marines and, if he rolls doubles on the shooting roll, the weapon jams and he will need to spend an action point on his own turn to clear that jam. So he might be valiantly placed to cause the genestealers to pause in their advance but, on the first roll his weapon jams, and they’ll be all over him like a rash!

Space Hulk

Close Assault
As well as shooting storm bolters and stuff, marines come equipped with power swords and chainfists to use in melee fights with the genestealers. However, close assault is really where the xenos menace excels, so you probably don’t want to end up there!

Space Hulk

In close assault, genestealers get to roll three dice, while marines only roll one; whoever rolls the highest result on a single die wins the assault, and the other models is removed as a casualty. Space Marine Sergeants get to add +1 to their roll, which gives them a bit of an edge, while a marine with lightning claws rolls two dice in close assault. Additionally, marines can spend two action points to go on Guard, meaning they’re ready for the assault and can re-roll their die in combat. So they’re not entirely squishy!

Reinforcement Phase
After the Action Phase comes the Genestealer’s turn, starting with placing a number of ‘starting blips’ at the entry points on the space hulk as mentioned earlier. These blips are numbered from 1-3, and show how many models they will turn into – however, in keeping with the suspense of the game, the marines won’t know how many genestealers are out there until they’re converted into actual models.

Space Hulk

Before conversion, blips can move around the map like regular models, spending up to six action points per blip as described. If the blip hasn’t activated, the player can choose to convert it into a number of models shown on the token, placing one on the square the blip had been occupying and the remainder adjacent to it. If the space marines can ever draw a line of sight to the blip, then it is “involuntarily converted”, and the Space Marines player gets to place the genestealer models.

It’s worth noting that the number of genestealer models is limited to the number of them included in the game, though there are 22 models plus the Broodlord, so you probably won’t be needing a lot more than that!

Mission Status Phase
At the end of all of this, each player checks for his victory condition, before then removing all Overwatch/Guard counters from the game (and revealing that Command Points token to show the marines didn’t overspend!) and a new round begins.

The mission I’ve been using to demonstrate throughout this game day blog is Beachhead, which runs to 12 turns and allows the marines to win if they still have at least seven men standing, and have eradicated the genestealer threat. The Genestealer player wins if there are less than five space marines alive, however, so the game could potentially last fewer turns if the genestealers have been super aggressive!

Space Hulk

There are, of course, multiple other rules for things like objects that are specific to the mission, and there are two ‘special’ characters in the game, the Librarian and the Broodlord, who have abilities that can impact on the game in different ways. The Librarian is a psyker, and has three Psychic Powers he can use. Each costs a Psi point, and he starts out with 20 such points. There is a whole section of the Mission Status Display board devoted to tracking his use of these points. His psychic powers can be used to move the command point tracker back one, gaining additional command actions on a turn, as well as blocking access to squares with a powerful Force Barrier. Finally, his Psychic Storm power can empty a board section of genestealers or blips on a 4+ (or destroy individual targets on a 2+). However, the Broodlord is a powerful genestealer, and has the ability to increase his close assault rolls and requires two hits to kill in shooting attacks – and is immune to Psychic Storm!

Space Hulk

Back in the first edition of Space Hulk, there were a couple of expansions that increased the options of play: Genestealer, which brought in new rules for psychic combat as well as five Grey Knights terminators and genestealer hybrids, and Deathwing, which introduced both the elite Dark Angels terminators and options for solo play. Subsequent editions haven’t seen as much love, with the last two being limited, one-time releases only. However, there are some electronic rules for adding in Space Wolves, Ultramarines and Deathwing terminators to the current ruleset, and given the current mood at GW for producing board games like these once again, maybe we’ll see full-fledged expansions for the game once more – outside of the odd White Dwarf mission, and the like…

Space Hulk

Space Hulk is, of course, a classic of board games, and beloved by many since its initial release back in 1989. It’s currently in its 4th edition, which Games Workshop is trotting out for the second time now (though I picked it up the first time around in 2014). While I am struggling a little to make it out, I do believe this is an actual “return”, and not another limited-release thing where they have it on the shelves for a couple of weeks, then you’re having to sell organs to get a copy on ebay as the only viable alternative. So this – if it is indeed true – is yet another positive move on GW’s part in really becoming a workshop of games, and bringing back an absolute classic from the genre!

Forbidden Fortress!

Hey everybody!
Well I’m kinda gutted that my game day blog for yesterday didn’t upload – a (late) Halloween look at the Omens of Ice expansion for Elder Sign. Well, it’ll just have to be later now! It should be up on the blog next week instead.

In case you aren’t aware, though, Flying Frog Productions have now gone live with their second Kickstarter project, Forbidden Fortress! It’s a third core set for the Shadows of Brimstone line and, as the name suggests, it’s set in feudal Japan.

Shadows of Brimstone Forbidden Fortress

I went all-in on the Shadows of Brimstone kickstarter, and when the game finally arrived, I wasn’t what you’d call impressed with it all. I have played it a few times, and intend to give it the full game-day treatment here soon, but overall, it seemed a bit of a disappointment overall. I’m also one of these backers who hasn’t received all of the stuff, so that’s annoying. But anyway.

When FFP announced the Japanese arm of their dungeon-crawler at GenCon this year, I was hopeful that they would have learnt from the last campaign and this one would be a bit smoother. So far it’s been interesting, seeing the early bird levels work out much better than last time, for instance. The project was funded in just 4 minutes, which I find hilarious, but the stretch goals are still paced every 25k, and they’re blowing through them as they did in the last campaign. It does make me slightly worry!

Shadows of Brimstone Forbidden Fortress

I’m currently pledged in at Sumo level, which speaks as much to my appearance as to my trepidation over another game right now. I suppose if I had more experience with the earlier game, I might be better placed to know if I’d want to go all-in for it, but so far I’m just too much on the fence because I don’t really know how I feel about the original Shadows of Brimstone yet. I may end up changing for a Shogun-level pledge before the end, as it’s likely to be worth more in the long run. However, I don’t relish the fact of putting up so much money right now and then potentially waiting a few more years before getting everything. Might be worth my while to wait for retail.

I don’t know a lot about Japanese mythology, but I do have an interest in it, so I’m finding that most of my interest in the game overall is coming from this aspect than the actual game. I also don’t have a great deal of Japanese-themed games, Journey Wrath of Demons being a notable exception of course, so it’ll no doubt be good to have in the collection. Especially given how thematic FFP games tend to be.

So I guess we’ll see where the next month takes us. At first glance, it doesn’t look like FFP are changing their engine to any great degree, and the box is fully-compatible with the earlier boxes, so I guess no huge changes will be made at this stage. For me, though, it’s more a matter of quality of the materials than anything else. I guess we’ll see…

Are you backing Shadows of Brimstone: Forbidden Fortress? Let me know in the comments below!

Upcoming Games!

We’re rapidly heading towards Christmas, which can only mean one thing: big games are coming! Okay, so it probably means more than that, but still! There are a lot of interesting things on the horizon, some nearer than others, so I thought for today’s game day blog, I’d ramble a little about these upcoming delights!

Burning of Prospero

The Burning of Prospero is coming out this weekend, and it looks spectacular. Along with a mass of Mk-3 Space Marines, we’re getting some of the most exciting models to be released by Games Workshop in quite a while! I had the chance to look at the sprues at my local store on Saturday, and those Custodes and Sisters of Silence are both amazing. I was even surprised to find myself excited by the Space Wolves character – normally I don’t go in for those guys, but the level of detail on him was fantastic! Definitely looking forward to getting a hold of this one!

The preview video put out by GW last week spends a lot of time talking about the theme of the game, before really quickly glossing over the rules, which at first made me wonder if the substance is in the theme rather than the mechanics. I really like the idea of using more than just d6s in the game, but I think I’ll need to look through the box myself before forming a real opinion. It looks fantastic, but as a game, I’ll reserve judgement. Of course, most people will likely be buying this for the miniatures rather than to play the game, but I have heard some good stuff about Betrayal at Calth, so I think it would be good to look at it in both aspects. Being mark three marines, I’m not overly keen, so more so than with Calth, I’m thinking I’d probably keep this as an actual game. Though I may break out the Custodians and the Sisters for other purposes…!

I don’t think it’s technically right to call it an expansion or anything for last year’s Betrayal at Calth, but more another game – another starting point – in the Horus Heresy universe. And speaking of alternative starting points for games…

Shadows of Brimstone Forbidden Fortress

We’re also on the brink of the next game in the Shadows of Brimstone line from Flying Frog Productions: Forbidden Fortress! Turns out the wandering samurai hero class was a portent of things to come, as we delve into Feudal Japan and all sorts of weird goings-on there! We’ll be fighting Japanese spirits in the third core set for the game, which is kinda exciting that it can both be added to or used independently of the existing material. I also like the idea that they’re reviving one of the missed stretch goals, the Belly of the Beast other world, for this one.

However, Shadows of Brimstone has been a bit of a let-down for me, if I’m being completely honest. The latest update, which not only served to formally announce the upcoming kickstarter (after the GenCon reveal) but also detailed the ongoing work on several other aspects of the Brimstone stuff, such as the Blasted Wastes, and I’m feeling really excited for it once more. However, it’s been almost three years since the game was kickstarted, and almost two years since I took delivery of the two core sets. The game is okay, the components felt a bit rushed, but more than anything I’m kinda pissed that so much of this material is available to retail, while the actual backers have to either wait or pay more money to get. That attitude saddens me, though, because the kickstarter was so badly handled that the company made it too good of a deal, and so I completely understand that they’d want to make as much as they could off the stuff. But that knowledge doesn’t take the bad taste away for me.

Kickstarter in general has become something of a hazardous area for me in the last year or so, however, and I’m no longer willing to invest in anything from there, partially because of the poorly handled campaigns such as this or Journey, which is kinda sad really.

I’ll certainly be checking the campaign out, of course, and look out for my long-overdue game day blog on Shadows of Brimstone, which I intend to bring out early December!

Blood Bowl

I think most gamers are aware the quintessential Fantasy football game Blood Bowl is making its long-awaited return to miniature war gaming before Christmas, although if I’m honest, the first time I’ve shown genuine interest in the game was actually when I came to write this blog!

I’m a big fan of the card game from Fantasy Flight, Blood Bowl: Team Manager, so I’m not entirely ignoring this. However, certainly within my local area, enthusiasm for the game seems mostly driven by nostalgia for the original, which I can’t pretend to share.

I think the miniatures look really great, for sure, though unlike with pretty much any of the other games they’ve put out for me to see so far, these things don’t look like they’d translate into any other game system. I suppose the Orcs might, but they all look like they’re American football players, after all…

Overall, I’m not that convinced with this one, and might need to see more or even play a game or two before making my mind up on Blood Bowl. I’m sure it’ll be great, though it might just not be for me…

We’ve seen a lot of boxed games coming out of Nottingham this year, and it’s been a really great time to see Games Workshop returning to their roots of an actual workshop of games. While I’m not necessarily chomping at the bit for stuff like Epic or Necromunda, I hope that we’ll be seeing a lot of great stuff like Deathwatch: Overkill and Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower in the years to come!

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower: first game

Hey everybody!
While not exactly planned, it’s the second of a two-part game day! Following last week’s first impressions of the new Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower boxed game from Games Workshop, over the weekend I got to play my first game with it, having spent last week building all of the miniatures. So I thought I’d come back here to talk more about the gameplay and kinda build upon last week’s blog.

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

First of all, as you no doubt know if you’ve read this blog for any great length of time, I’m a very big Warhammer fan. Warhammer fantasy is what got me interested in this universe, and I’m very much enjoying Age of Sigmar right now. So that kinda colours the perspectives here. I also enjoy a good dungeon crawl, so the stars have really aligned on this one!

The game plays pretty straightforward. I described the various phases last time, where you roll five ‘destiny dice’, discard any duplicates, then roll your hero dice and determine how you play your actions on your turn. In addition to the basic actions, each hero has a few abilities that make them feel somewhat unique, though a lot of this does feel like something of a dice-fest.

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

Combat was interesting to me. I say this because, whether it was purely down to my good fortune in the game or not, but I seemed to have a pretty easy time of things. The Knight-Questor has the capacity to deal a lot of damage in melee, and can pull as many as three enemies towards him to facilitate this (and make up for his otherwise ponderous gait). The Tenebrael Shard (that’s Dark Elf to you and me) has the ability to move anywhere on the board and then double combat damage dealt in the round, and one of his weapons does d3 damage. That was all pretty powerful, and often resulted in no adversary phase because none were left!

The renown track that goes up when certain conditions are met, such as your hero slaughtering enemies, was a nice way to pace the discovery of skills that can do things like increase speed and whatnot, though at times it felt like it was going up extremely slowly, as I kept drawing chamber tiles with no enemies placed on them! I was initially sceptical about the number of miniatures in the game at first – 45 enemies for a game as big as this seemed a little low, but then there is more to this than just killing stuff.

And this is what I liked about the game. There are all manner of different types of tests the adventure book puts you through, one of my favourites being trying to accomplish a number of dice-based tasks within a time limit. That was actually a lot more fun than I’m making it sound!

I must admit to being a little confused by how exactly you’re supposed to go through the whole trials thing – I made the mistake of just setting it up and beginning immediately, without thinking about any kind of campaign play. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a blast, and I really managed to get to grips with the rules and stuff in the game I had, but without going to the adventure book first, I think I ran the risk of actually just having an endless game of exploring the same tiles and killing the same enemies forever.

Though I guess you could argue that’s the entire point of the maddening Silver Tower of Tzeentch!

Warhammer Quest Silver Tower

The miniatures are tremendous quality, and the game really is a lot of fun. There is a but coming, however, something that kept nagging at me while I was playing through the game:

This will only appeal to a very specific type of gamer: a Warhammer fan.

I can’t really think of any other reason why you would buy this. Dungeon crawl games in a fantasy universe of this calibre aren’t exactly ten-a-penny, but there is a whole lot of choice out there for board gamers these days. Descent and D&D Adventure System games are two that instantly leap to mind when I think of this genre and, while Descent uses a DM in the main game, there are official co-op variants available. The games are all very similar in feel and, to an extent, in style, but buying the base game for Descent will set you back £65 MSRP, while the D&D games come at £45 each. Paying £95 MSRP for Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower is only going to happen if you’re already invested in the world, if you’re interested in getting the miniatures to paint (and probably use in other games, notably Age of Sigmar), and likely not because you’re interested in a fantasy dungeon-crawl tabletop game.

I bought this game because I love the Warhammer setting, and have been thinking about using some of the miniatures in Age of Sigmar. The fact that it’s a co-op dungeon crawl is just icing on the cake, really. If you’re looking for a fantasy game with great miniatures that you just want to sit down with friends and play, then unless you’ve got money to throw around (and time to build the miniatures), I would honestly suggest you check some of the other games out.

But if you love Warhammer and are looking for something lighter than the full-on tabletop war game, then Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower might be exactly what you’re looking for!

 

Star Wars Miniatures

It’s not-quite May the Fourth! So in celebration, I wanted to showcase an old favourite of mine, Star Wars Miniatures!

Star Wars Miniatures

This tabletop miniature wargame was produced by Wizards of the Coast back between 2004 and 2010, partly in support of their RPG. The game featured 34mm miniatures, and was a collectible game that was distributed through blind-buy booster packs of little plastic minis. Sixteen sets were produced over the six years, featuring miniatures from right across the Star Wars universe, from Knights of the Old Republic to Legacy-era.

The game itself was fairly straightforward. Miniatures come with a stats card, which shows the abilities of each mini, along with the Hit Points, Attack and Defense ratings, and how much damage they deal in combat. Each mini also has a points cost, with which you can build squads for the skirmish game in something approaching a balanced manner.

Star Wars Miniatures

So, you assemble your guys, and pitch battle to your foes – the goal of the game is to wipe out your opponent’s entire squad, though three Ultimate Missions books were published for the game, along with a couple of scenario sets for Endor and Hoth that give some element of thematic gaming.

To wipe out your enemies, you need to attack them, obviously. I seem to remember that ranged fighters can shoot across the entire map at you, while melee characters need to be much closer, base-to-base. When attacking, you roll a d20 and add your character’s attack value. If it is higher than your opponent’s defense value, you deal damage to the figure based on your damage rating. If you roll a natural 20 you deal double damage no matter what the defense rating, but if you roll a natural 1 then you miss no matter what. If a model’s HP is ever 0, it is removed from the game.

Now, that’s combat at it’s most basic. The game ran for 6 years, producing almost three sets a year on average, so there are a ton of mechanics for the game that alter the ebb and flow of battle, and some of the combos I’ve come across in my time are just insanity made manifest:

Arica (Mara Jade’s alter-ego) has Blaster Barrage, which allows her to attack each legal target once in her activation. She also has Twin Attack, which allows her to attack each opponent twice. She also has Cunning Attack, which gives her +4 attack and +10 damage against targets who have yet to activate. She also has Sniper, which means other characters do not provide cover for any of her attacks. I was once on the receiving end of this, and had seven miniatures wiped out in one attack frenzy.

That’s a pretty standard operating procedure, however! Consider, Maris Brood vs Darth Vader, Scourge of the Jedi:

Maris, who has 80HP remaining, moves adjacent to Vader (40HP left) and spends a Force Point to make a Lightsaber Assault, giving her two attacks. She has Twin Attack anyway, so she’ll be making four attacks. She hits him twice on the first attack, but his ability Dark Armor reduces damage received by 10 if he makes a saving roll of 11, which he does, so is left with 10HP. Vader has the Lightsaber Riposte ability that allows him to spend 1 Force Point to immediately counter-attack, so he successfully attacks and reduces Maris to 60HP. He also has the Djem So Style ability, which allows him to make an immediate counter-attack when hit with a melee attack. He successfully makes this, and reduces her further to 40HP. But Maris still has two attacks left, which she makes successfully – ordinarily, Vader would be dead at this point, but due to the order of attacks in the rules, Djem So Style will trigger before damage is applied, twice, which means Vader kills Maris as Maris kills him. That was an awesome little aristeia on the battlefield when it happened – I don’t even remember who I was controlling now, I just remember it’s awesome!

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful interactions like this, and it’s part of what kept me playing the game for so long, I think! Another part, of course, are the awesome miniatures!

Star Wars Miniatures

Over the course of the game, things changed of course. The first ten sets came in sets of 60 miniatures, and featured a number of scenario packs and intro packs as a way of allowing entry into the game. Universe, the third set, introduced huge miniatures into the game, such as the Rancor above, and this trend continued in two further sets – Bounty Hunters and The Force Unleashed. Scenario Packs continued after the Clone Wars set shifted distribution to 40 miniatures per set and redesigned the stat card, however the quality seemed to drop off a little, with some truly horrific sculpts and paint jobs featuring in the last six sets. However, both Imperial Entanglements (the new set when I eventually went all-in on the game) and Dark Times do have some really wonderful miniatures, and the final set, Masters of the Force, is noteworthy for including the Dejarik holomonsters which, I’m firmly convinced, would have formed a side-game if Wizards hadn’t announced dropping the Star Wars license a couple of months prior to the set’s release.

Star Wars Miniatures

Of course, it’s not all figures – over the course of the game, there were vehicles and bigger droids produced, the massive Rancor figure from up there, and also the biggest “miniature” I’ve ever seen – the AT-AT walker!

Star Wars Miniatures

I remember having to import this from Australia, as I couldn’t find one anywhere for sale in the UK. This thing is huge, and I think it’s pretty much in-scale with the rest of these things – the AT-AT Driver mini above certainly looks about right, anyway! This was a really special event upon release, and I remember it advertised with annoying frequency in comics and the like. I’ve never actually used it in the game, as it just seems too cumbersome, but by god, what an amazing addition to the collection!

Star Wars Miniatures

I’ve talked before about Wizards and the way they went from fully supporting their game lines to almost-dropping the Star Wars licence overnight, so I won’t labour that point again here. Suffice it to say, it was a similar story to the Saga Edition RPG, where we had scenarios and map tiles produced that you could download from the site, then suddenly all of that just stopped. My favourite tiles include the Sarlacc pit, which is tremendous fun to use as a terrain feature!

Star Wars Miniatures

I absolutely love this game. For the longest time, it was the only tabletop game I played. I invested so much effort and time into tracking down chase pieces, importing the blighters from the US at exorbitant costs in order to have Darth Revan, or Quinlan Vos, and it’s been a cause of no end of frustration to me that I actually owned every single thing for this game officially produced – except for the fabled Taris Undercity map:

Christopher West is the cartographer for most of the maps and tiles available in the game, and once Wizards stopped producing the game, he continued to produce maps – albeit more generic maps with the sci-fi theme – via Kickstarter, and buying the first five of these map bundles was actually my first foray into the crowdfunding website! Many of the pictures in this blog – that with the Rancor, for instance – are games being played on these fantastic maps. The reason I’m harping on about them is they’re still available via his website, and are of awesome quality, and really useful not just for this game, but if you like running RPGs with maps and minis.

It’s not just Christopher West who provides maps, of course. There are plenty of fan-made map tiles and full-size maps available to download and get printed up. One of my prized possessions is the Jabba’s Palace map, which is just spectacular, so much fun to play on. It has all of the locations from the movie, leading to so much thematic play!

After all these years, Star Wars miniatures are still fairly available on the open market, which continues to surprise me. The minis are pretty well compatible with FFG’s Imperial Assault, which I recall drove demand up for the older, pre-painted figures for a time. Having so many of these things, I’ve often considered down-sizing my collection, though in doing the prep for this blog, and checking out all of those photos once again, it’s brought back so many awesome memories that I feel this game is something I never want not to have.

So much of this game is bound up with my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe at large, I will freely admit that I’m probably looking back on most of this far too fondly. As I mentioned, the adverts for the new sets were in every new Star Wars comic that month, and whenever a new thing happened in the universe, such as the Legacy era being opened up, a line of miniatures wouldn’t be too far behind to support it. They may be kept in boxes on top of the wardrobe under an inch-thick layer of dust, but one day I might get them down again and put a squad together, and re-live those early days of my gaming life… That would be awesome!

Star Wars Miniatures

All of the photos in this blog have been shared on boardgamegeek over the years – you can check out the full range of my contributions here.

Deathwatch Overkill: First Impressions

Deathwatch: Overkill

Hey everybody!
In a move that will surprise absolutely nobody, I picked up a copy of the new boardgame from Games Workshop at the weekend, Deathwatch: Overkill. I was actually concerned about dropping so much money on another box of plastic, but my local games shop was selling it for £20 less than GW, so I decided to take advantage and go from there!

Oh yeah, and I made a video of the unboxing, just because why not!

I bought it on Sunday afternoon, and was at work all day yesterday, but all of that notwithstanding, it should also surprise nobody that I haven’t actually built any of the models yet, so haven’t played the game yet! This blog is therefore going to be a little piece that will look at my very first thoughts upon opening the contents and flicking through the rules a bit.

First off, let’s talk minis. You know you’re here primarily for the little plastic men, after all!

My first impressions are, they’re beautiful. On the sprue, it’s obviously difficult to work out what they’ll look like, but the individual pieces are so intricate and beautiful to see, you just know they’re going to create stunning (and, in the case of the Space Marines, centrepiece) models. The way each model goes together does look a bit weird. The Marines in particular seem to share the assembly with the Stormcast Eternals from the Age of Sigmar starter set, in that they go together in a surprising way, and unfortunately, they do seem to be very much one-pose models. Glancing through the assembly instructions, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly weird, such as that Liberator-prime or anything, but they do look moulded to specifically prevent any kind of articulation.

The Genestealers are very similar, with arms that connect to pegs that force a certain look to the models, which obviously suggests a bit of a mass-market appeal, making it as straightforward as possible to put together. Experienced modelers who are used to putting together Space Marines in 10+ pieces will no doubt throw this lot together in a breeze (even the White Scar on his bike, with the bird floating above, is only in ten pieces). Indeed, in looking through the book to write this up, I’ve been tempted to start clipping a couple out – don’t be surprised if next week’s Hobby Progress blog features one of these guys, then!

But overall, the miniatures are truly excellent. I am a big Deathwatch fan, and I hope that this game does indeed become a precursor for at least a couple of plastic kits from Games Workshop in the future, more along the lines of the Space Marine Tactical Squad, or whatever. Time will tell!

What else is in the box, then?

It’s a boardgame, so it won’t be a shock to learn there are board pieces included – eight of them, in fact, and double-sided, too. They have that 3D effect going on, much like Space Hulk has, in fact. There aren’t any tokens like in previous games, it’s just eight boards, and that’s that. Two decks of cards provide all of the details for the Deathwatch and the three main Genestealers (Patriarch, Magos and Primus), and a separate deck of Broodmind cards that are used by the Genestealer player to do Genestealer things. You also get the book with all of the rules, a nice bit of fluff, an ‘Eavy Metal spread effectively telling you how you could paint them all, and nine missions to play through. You also get some dice and a range ruler thing.

The rules seem straightforward enough – there’s the echo of 40k somewhere in there, but this feels much more like an actual, real boardgame to me. The turn sequence takes place over six steps:
1. Genestealer player draws a Broodmind card to lay ambushes;
2. Deathwatch move;
3. Genestealers move and ambushes trigger;
4. Deathwatch attack;
5. Genestealers attack, and
6. Deathwatch attack again.

Each model has a move characteristic, which lets them move that number of zones on the board. The boards are divided up with black lines on the terrain, and models can be placed in each if there is room. There are rules for running, jumping and moving through enemy territory, and the rulebook is really pretty clear how this all works, which is commendable!

Deathwatch Overkill

Attacking is also fairly straightforward. Each model has a weapon profile(s) that show the number of dice to roll, and the number required to equal or exceed in order to score a hit, at each of three ranges: assault, combat and maximum. Models with armour get to roll a d6 and see if they make the save before determining wounds – for each member of the Deathwatch, and the three Genestealers with cards, those cards are flipped over when they have received a wound, which lowers some of their skill level for the remainder of the game. The regular Genestealer Cult members are just removed from the board after a single wound, to return again in later ambushes! The Deathwatch Marines are allowed to forego an attack in order to heal, flipping their card back to the unwounded side, adding an extra level of strategy I suppose. There are also rules for blast, rend and cleave attacks, which look nice and straightforward to use.

And finally, the missions!

The missions are a nice mix of prescribed route of play, specifying the number of Deathwatch Marines in play and the objectives, with board maps and details of where the Genestealer player can ambush. There are also rules that detail bonuses if you play through them all in a campaign. The types of mission vary, with one being a sort of all-out assault, one a recover-the-artifact, etc. They look a nice bunch, anyway, but as always with such things, I’m concerned that they may lead to a short shelf-life. I was surprised, in fact, that White Dwarf didn’t have any kind of bonus/exclusive mission over the last couple of weeks, though they’ve been more concerned with putting out the rules to field these models in Warhammer 40k games, so I suppose that’s understandable. Plus, I might be worrying over nothing, as while there are only 9 missions included here, most only allow for 4 Deathwatch Marines, but there are 11 of them in the box, so the permutations for play are significantly more than it first seems.

Overall, the game looks great. I realise this blog was meant to be a first impressions, and I had anticipated not having a great deal to say about it, but I’ve gotten so enthused for the game, I have waffled quite a bit! I’m biased because I’m already such a huge fan of the Deathwatch, of course, but I’d say this is the first board game from GW that I have actually wanted to put together and play right away, without worrying about painting first, or any of that stuff. The rules seem to be simple enough to allow for very easy entry, but the game overall is immersive enough that it makes you think a little more about what you need to do to win.

I hope Games Workshop will put out some multi-part Deathwatch models that will allow for more customisation of your deployment, and perhaps provide some pdf cards with generic troopers to use (though I don’t think it would be too difficult to whittle up some anyway). All the way through the rumours of this game coming out, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Genestealer Cult idea, perhaps from hearing the stories of the original 90s incarnation, but I have to say, I am intrigued now that I’ve had a chance to see the sprues and digest the look etc. So I wouldn’t be averse to seeing them bring out a kit or two with more of those guys, also! Of course, there are rumours of codices coming out to support both factions, though part of me thinks that may well be wishful thinking. I guess time will tell!

As I’ve said, though, it looks like a fantastic game, one that I don’t have the least bit of remorse over buying. Maybe some of these models will be assembled and painted sooner rather than later…?

Journey: Wrath of Demons

Hey everybody!
Time for another game day here at spalanz.com! I’ve been wondering if I should try to have some kind of structure to these things, so that each month sees at least one first look, one in-depth look, or whatever, but that might be too complicated for my easily-distracted mind to cope with, I’ll be honest. However, today we are indeed seeing a first look, as I delve under the lid of the newly-arrived kickstarter game, Journey: Wrath of Demons!

This was originally a kickstarter game from late 2013, which my friend Tony put me onto (as is normal for kickstarter games, if I’m honest!) but, as I was already heavily-invested in Shadows of Brimstone at the time, I was a little sceptical. I actually went in when an early bird pledge came available – still $170, but it was the sort of all-in deal that I usually go for with these types of games. As the campaign drew to a close, I was somewhat more invested with SoB, but still decided to go for a few of the add-ons, including scenery bits and some expansion stuff.

The campaign was actually pretty exciting, with a lot of additional stuff that really fired my imagination. Tony is really big into Oriental myth and legend, and while I have more than just a passing interest also, I wouldn’t say I know a lot of what I could expect in this game.

Journey Wrath of Demons

My goodness, there is a lot of amazing stuff in this game, though! It’s a co-operative adventure for 1-4 players, which is perhaps the principal reason I was attracted to it. A quest-based game is always to be enjoyed of course, and with all these minis, well it was kind of a no-brainer!

The campaign ended in November 2013, and it seemed to just languish in the ether until it finally started shipping a month or so ago. To some extent, I’d actually forgotten about it – definitely, my enthusiasm for the game had cooled. Of course, I had Shadows of Brimstone last Christmas, and while that was something of a let-down in quality, it still overtook pretty much anything else!

Until last Wednesday…

Journey Wrath of Demons

I took delivery of the game and, if I’m honest, right from opening the box I was really impressed with the production value. This is a miniatures-heavy game – in physical terms as well as game mechanics! – and the storage solution is perhaps the most elegant I’ve yet seen for a game. Three boxes, in which the miniatures are stored in plastic trays. It sounds so damn straightforward, but it just looks great in the box. There are cards and tokens, but the miniatures are really where the game shines, and are what add so much to the game.

So how does the game play?

Journey Wrath of Demons

As I said earlier, this is a quest-based game, with each quest having a different set-up. There are four pilgrims, characters controlled by the players, who are used in every game – if there are less than four players, someone is controlling more than one. I don’t really know enough about Chinese legend to comment on these, but the “main” pilgrim is a chap called Tripitaka, and if he dies the game ends. The pilgrims are doing something – in the above photo, I’m playing the introductory quest where the goal is to save the villagers being terrorized by the bull demons – and are opposed by the monsters, predominantly bulls of some sort in the base game, though expansions for undead and for spiders were part of the campaign, along with other random bits and pieces. Anyway!

Each pilgrim has skill cards and a weapon which upgrades as you gain experience throughout your games. On your turn, you can do the usual sorts of things like move and attack, rest to recover health, and “meditate” which causes you to spin the Fortune dial and potentially gain some useful Fortune cards – the dial is a ying-yang design, and should you flick to black, you must draw a Misfortune card, which can be damaging to you.

Journey Wrath of Demons

When attacking, you roll the custom dice – red dice are attack, and blue are defense. Each pilgrim rolls the same dice, but the skill cards give each something of a unique feel. In addition, you roll one, white pilgrim die, which determines how effective your weapon is. (There’s also a black die that some of the greater demons use). As you may know, I love custom dice, but these in particular feel really great. Combat is fairly exciting as you only have one chance to defeat each demon – if you don’t defeat it in one roll, then it’s staying around for later.

Something that’s really interesting about this game is how the combat works. If you roll enough attack power to defeat the monster, you now have an interesting decision to make – do you merely kill the demon, or attempt to cleanse its soul? Merely killing it will give you bad kharma points, while cleansing the soul will reward you with good kharma, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion it will work. You roll the white die in an attempt to equal or exceed the demon’s soul value – if you succeed, then all is well and the demon is removed from the board; if you fail, the demon is fully healed and you’ll have to go up against him once again.

I feel I need to mention the production quality of the game. The miniatures are superb, and the map tiles are really good, thick cardboard that feel really sturdy. The custom dice are also excellent. The cards, however, are much thinner than, say, CCG-style cards. The most worrying thing, to me, is the quality of the hero character sheets. They have three wheels – much like a FFG game – but the card for the sheet itself feels too thin to support them. Furthermore, there’s a movable plastic thing that tracks your health, but it isn’t really all that secure, and overall, the hero sheet is a real disappointment. Hm.

I only played the intro game last week, and it’s actually a whole lot of fun. I mean, it’s really easy, once you get the rules down, so I’m definitely looking forward to playing this a lot more and seeing more of the nuances of the game. I’ll hopefully get round to another blog, once I’ve managed to really get my teeth into this bad boy!

Journey Wrath of Demons