Review of Horus Heresy Board Game

This week I was able to get in a game of Fantasy Flight Games Horus Heresy board game. I have had this game since it came out, but I have never been able to get a game in.

Man, this game was a blast. I was a bit leery as I was setting it up and going over the rules - there just seemed like there was a TON to this game. My fears were quickly abated when Jester started explaining it. He and Monkey had gotten a game in when it first came out and he had recently reviewed the rules.

The setup was very straight forward. You lay out the map and then put your pieces where the scenario book tells you (kind of like Space Hulk.) From there you construct the event deck, and sort out your starting hand of cards.

Everything in this game is card driven - I really liked this as it feels like you have a lot more control than if you were rolling dice. The game actually plays really fast and smooth once you get the hang of it. On your turn you can do an action - these actions will cost you initiative points. Every time you spend an initiative point you move your marker up the initiative track. You can keep performing actions until you pass your opponent. It then switches to their turn. Most actions cost a point, but a few cost up to three.

Keeping track of what action costs what is easy - everything costs one point unless you are playing an action card from your hand - you then play the cost that is printed on the card. Easy as that. You declare attacks, move your troops, add more troops, and everything else in the game by playing a card and spending the initiative points. You then work out what happened and move on to your next action, or play passes to the other player if you jumped them on the track.

Lets get to the meat of things - combat. This is what every other action you take ends up leading too. You will spend a few actions positioning troops and getting things in order, and then you will pounce. Combat is crazy in this game. It too is sorted out by cards, but these are drawn from a different deck - the combat deck. Each player has a unique deck of cards that they draw from.

In order to figure out how many cards you draw you add up all the 'rank' you have in the combat. Rank is the little points on the bottom of the miniatures - this is also how many hit points each unit has. Once you add it up, you divide by two (round down), and draw that many cards.

You are now ready to fight.

Combat is worked out in a series of iterations. The card you used to get into combat determines how many iterations you will fight through. This is usually 4, 6, or 8. The defending player gets to decide who is the 'active' player, and who is the 'defensive' player. The active player tries to deal damage to the passive player by playing cards, the passive player then tries to defend against the damage by playing cards. Once you have done this, you have completed an iteration, and you move to the next step on the iteration chart and you swap rolls.

Here is where it gets really neat - as you move up the iteration tracker you are allowed to play more cards. On the first round of a battle you each may only play one card. On the second iteration you may each play two cards, on the third iteration - see a pattern yet? This means that you run out of cards fast, and that as a battle goes on it gets crazy! The cards also all have a special rule on them - this can wipe a unit out, let you draw more cards, breach a wall, or a whole host of other wacky things. The thing is you can only activate one special power on a card per iteration, and you have to have the correct unit it the fight to be able to activate it.

That is about all I am going to go into - this game has so much depth that I just don't think I can do it justice. There are defense lasers, boarding actions, flying units, Heroes (who absolutely destroy things!), random events, Drop-Pods, and a whole host of other things. You might think this would slow the game down and make it a beast to figure out, but again, I was really impressed at how smoothly everything ran.

If you haven't played this game yet find someone who has played it once and have them show you the ropes - it really is a neat experience.