A couple of weeks ago I announced that I had a copy of the new card game from Fantasy Flight Games, Warhammer: Invasion. I had assumed I would simply be able to wade into this one and deliver a review after a play or two. Well, I’ve had five, but there is no way you can pass judgement on this game after just five goes, so this is just my first impressions of the game.
Lets start with the box itself. It’s huge for a card game, but it is beautiful. The art on the front cover is awesome and the box itself is so incredibly sturdy. This is my first FFG game, but if they can all boast such wonderful quality then I’m sold. Once you get the box open you are presented with 220 cards, a sheet of very thick, very nicely done tokens, 4 capital boards and a rulebook. Not much when you consider the size of the box and the price tag. But the box will hold years and years worth of expansions so we’ll let that slide. As for the price, if you compare it to the price of your standard CCG booster, £2.50 for 11 cards (£55 for the 220 cards included in the core set) and it begins to look like a bargain, especially when you consider the quality of the components.
Some parts of the game seem a little superfluous. The capital boards are all identical if you don't take into account the artwork, which is superb. You could easily play the game without the capital boards, but they do add a nice flavour and they are done well. I just hope that if new races are added to the game the price of the expansions doesn’t go up just because it includes new boards.
The cards themselves are beautiful, although in some places the artwork leaves a little to be desired. Most of it has come from the talented artists who worked on the Games Workshop army books, however some has not. The cards are borderless which works really well and looks great. Over all this game is very very pretty, but what did you expect from something with Warhammer in the title?
As the title of the post says these are really just my first impressions. I have only played one race, Dwarves, against one race, Orcs. That means there are eleven other combinations I haven’t tries yet. The game comes with four races, plus a deck of neutral cards and some previews from the upcoming Elves expansion. The four core races are Orcs, Dwarves, Empire and Chaos.
The game mechanics are simple (although the clarifications will be many, as with any new game of this kind) and we found we were able to get a game going in minutes, with only two looks at the rulebook all night. However in the game the choices are many and varied.
You have three zones to play into, the Kingdom, where your units give you resources. Your Quest zone, where they give you cards and your Battlefield, from where they can be sent into battle. Generally on your first turn you may be able to defend two of these zones, but not all three. As you develop your kingdom you must place your units where you need them most.
In my first game (which I lost) I over spent in my Quest zone. I was drawing 5 cards a turn, but I had no resources to play any of the cards. Learning from my mistake (and winning the next four games) I chose to develop my Kingdom primarily and then my Quest zone, so that I would have the resources to play the additional cards. I could usually tell when I needed to increase the number of cards I was drawing because in nearly every game I ran out of cards in my hand…
Another nice feature of the game is the ability to play a card, face down, for free as a bonus hit point to one of your zones, this is called a Development. This allows you to get rid of a card you can’t use or wont be able to play for a long time, for an immediate benefit. If you know your deck you can pre-empt cards. For example I know that the Troll Slayer need two Developments in the Battlefield to be really effective. So I can play down a free Development or two into the Battlefield for when I do get the Slayers.
My brother, my opponent, was very fond of playing Grimgor Ironhide as a Development and then flipping him face up with his Rip Dere ‘eads Off tactic card.
One major reason I thought I wouldn’t like this game, is that damage is assigned by simply adding up the power on each card. It’s automatic, which is one the things I dislike about other CCG’s and it is one of the main reasons I love the Star Wars TCG (because it uses dice!) but I don’t mind it too much. I think I would prefer it if damage was not automatic, that way there is always a chance you will survive an attack, but it is ok. What really fixes the problem for me is the number of play or pass opportunities.
For example there was a game where my brother declared his intent to attack, declared his attackers and played a tactic card that boosted his attackers strength to the point where my capital would still burn, even if I defended. He did all this before I had to choose to declare if I was defending. However, there is a play or pass opportunity after I declare defenders. Had he waited until after I declared (which I would have done) he would have wiped out my defending unit as well. There is also a play or pass opportunity after damage is assigned, but before it is applied, which gives your opponent the chance to move damage around or cancel it completely, making the game really quite interesting.
As a Warhammer player, did I think that this game is Warhammer-ish? Yes. The game certainly looks Warhammer-like, the cards and artwork in general is very evocative of that setting. The unit types and support cards too are drawn straight from the WH universe. The idea of kingdom management is something I’ve always tried to implement into my Warhammer games to make them feel more like a real campaign and this game does a very good job of implementing that element right into the mechanics.
What I really hoped to do with this game was to get an experience of playing different races in the Warhammer world without the expense of buying and painting a hundred different armies and I think it delivers in that respect. Some things disagree with me though, minor things.
Some units feel under powered when compared to their WH counterparts, the Black Orcs, for example, have 1 power, just like a goblin. Also there is rarely a time when a massive number of units are arrayed against each other. This may just be a limitation of the core set, but it would be nicer to see more cards on the table at any given moment.
Hopes for the Future
What really has me intrigued with this game is the LCG model, or Living Card Game. This means no booster packs. No buying 300 packs to find one rare card. Every month 20 new cards are released in one box for everyone to buy for £5. That’s the price of 2 boosters for any other game but in a W:I battlepack you get 40 cards (not 22) and of those, 20 are unique.
It has been announced that two new playable races will be join the four from the core set, the Dark Elves and the High Elves. Some people think that FFG will stop there and all other races will be represented in a non-playable fashion (through the alliance variant). It has been suggested that making 14 or so playable races is just not marketable. However, I, along with many others believe that if the market exists for the miniatures, it exists for the card game as well and we can only hope that new factions will be released. I hope one day to be able to experience this game as my Warhammer army, the Vampire Counts, but for now I’m content with the core set. That said, I’m already eager to purchase the new Battle Pack, The Skavenblight Threat, due for release in November.
Any way, I’ve rambled on long enough. Look out for a proper review, maybe late January when I’ve had the chance to play through the many variations this game has to offer.