Putting the fortifications in their place.
First off, just like with the recent Runewars, great components! The only thing that could've been better are the fortifications. Again like in Runewars, they're made from vacuformed plastic of a fairly thin and brittle variety, however as long as you're reasonably careful you should have no problems. However, the way they fit into the board could be better and it makes the board rise a bit. I'm actually thinking about making a base for them that's the exakt shape of the hole they're supposed to go through and then simply but them on top of the gameboard. Not only will this prevent the board from rising the forts will also look larger and more imposing. Hehe!
The miniatures are alltogether excellent! I like how the bases are constructed and that you can attach damage tokens to them. Very elegant. And of course, they just beg to get painted!
Me putting the traitor pieces together.
Anyway, I took control of Horus and the traitorous forces, while Anders commanded the Loyalists. I hadn't read through the rules and he had only skimmed them, so the first hour or so we spent with our noses in the rulebook as we slowly started playing. We went with the recommended starter scenario called "Brother against brother" where I had Angron and some World Eaters at Space Port Primus as well as Mortarion and his Death Guard at Eternity Wall Space Port at the start of the game. The loyalists were fairly evenly spread out and mostly concetrated within the actual palace, except for Jaghatai Khan and his White Scars who occupied Librarium Technologicus (hence threatening Angron).
I started out by seeding the Strategic Map with two Drop Pod and two Port Landing orders. The landings were aimed at Space Port Primus while the drop pods were headed for the Lions Gate region in the north east. Then I tried for corruption (turning Imperial Guard and Tank Divisions to my side) and orbital bombardment. It's hard to tell after just one game how lucky or unlucky I was with these. But I did manage to destroy a few units and convert a few others. The important ones being a tank unit at the Lions Gate Space Port as well as the two guard units in the Black Ministry (destroying the Defence Laser there in the process!).
Setup after Corruption and orbital bombardments were completed. Notice how the nearby Titan is almost destroyed and the amount of units that turned traitor (the grey ones with a black base).
I won't go into a blow-by-blow account of the battle, but more of its general flow. I quickly decided that I needed to hold Space Port Primus and made som preemptive strikes at the neighbouring loyalists (destroying two Titans!) and reinforced it from orbit. Anders missed Khans special ability so had a hard time counter-attacking. In the end I had killed the nearby White Scars marines at the Fortress of Truth, and had a fair force inluding both Angron and Magnus the Red at the space port.
This tank division vs guard regiment battle went on for quite a while as neither side managed to get the upper hand. So Anders sent in the nearby Titan which to everyones surprise went down in flames!
At the same time I landed drop pods in the Lions Gate region just east of the Infurnace Factory Complex. Led by Fulgrim this force aimed to take control of Lions Gate spaceport. However, Sanguinius sallied forth from the palace with his Blood Angels and completely massacred the small Death Guard force outside! However, not before the Nurgle followers managed to inflict a plague on the Blood Angels (a special ability on the attack card), killing them to the last man! Only Sanguinius was left standing and seeing Fulgrim and his Emperor's Children on the horizon he decided to move back to the palace.
Fulgrim entered the palace at its easternmost area and prepared for battle. At this point I realised that I held three of the four spaceports needed to win so I started thinking about how to take the last (poorly defended) one. Anders however, seeded two order cards on the palace region and I knew Fulgrim wouldn't be able to withstand a determined assault. Luckily I had the "Interdiction" order card in my hand which allowed me to discard all seeded loyalist order cards in one region! Naturally I used it on the palace region and it basically sealed the fate of the loyalists. The turn after I used a "Lightning Attack" order to move a small force of traitor marines from Space Port Primus to Space Port Damocles by way of Thunderhawk Gunship. They easily tore the lone soldier guarding the place limb from limb and victory was mine!
The final board. You can see Fulgrim and his cronies in the eastern part (left in the picture) of the palace, Angron and some marines to the far south, Mortarion west of the palace and then Magnus the Red in the south west. I don't really know what Anders is pointing at...
My first thought after the game was that there were many mechanics that reminded me of Star Craft. Now, I've only played that game twice, and never really got into it, but in Horus Heresy it feels a bit like they've used similar mechanics (seeding orders and the way battles are fought) but made them more streamlined and, in my eyes at least, better. I really like how you can choose between seeding order cards for benefits but sacrificing speed or simply playing them from your hand but with an added initative cost. It lends itself to planning ahead while not restricting you in as much as I feel it does in Star Craft. My second thought was "Thunderhawks, wooo!" and I know I'll try to use them a lot more in the future. Hehe!
I'm not really sure how enjoyable the game was for Anders as he really didn't have much luck and mostly just reacted to my moves. Sure, the loyalists are supposed to be in a desperate situation and just try to cling on for dear life, but the only time he managed a good counter-attack I murdered him with the cards special ability. Of course, it would have been a completely different game had we remembered that Khan basically works as a flying unit and can attack from afar. Also, had I not managed to interdict Anders' order cards in the palace he probably would have driven off Fulgrim and retaken the Lions Gate Space Port.
In conclusion I think this game has great potential! It's easy without being simplistic and has an enormous strategic depth. I like how limited your actions are so that every order and every unit counts, this really adds to the stories that are told during play! Also it seems to be quick. This was the first time for us and we had basically no idea about the rules and yet we finished in about 2.5 hours. I imagine this being cut down dramatically in our next session. Which I'm very much looking forward to! Especially trying out the opposite side...
That's all for now. Until nex time!