February 3, 2008

Warning: May Be Habit Forming

Wow...so it's the first Saturday since the beginning of term that I haven't had a meeting, and what did I do with this boon of "free" time, you might ask? Aside from cleaning up my apartment a bit and finding out that everything is in fact bigger in Texas (including traffic fines apparently), it comes down to two words: Armageddon Empires. If you like board/card games and happen to have a PC stop reading right now, google the title, and click the little 'Buy Now' button, trust me. It has a bit of a steep learning curve based mostly on the fact that the game features a set of advanced rules and no tutorials to speak of. A fan put together a set of tutorials, and Rick (who has been playing it the past couple days apparently) got me most of the rest of the way there.

Anyway, the concept is basically a war on post-apocalyptic earth between four different factions: man, machine, alien, and mutant. I think there's some backstory in there, but I haven't really looked at the manual so I couldn't tell you. The game is an interesting mix of collectible card games and hex-based war games. Yep, that's what I said. Basically, each side starts with a small headquarters and territory that generates a few resources, then the sides expand out in search of other resources and of course each other. Whenever a player loses their HQ, if they can't get it back before the end of the turn they're out of the game. Each of the game's systems is moderately complex for a seasoned board gamer (I'm not sure where this puts the game for your average video gamer) and they all interact very interestingly. It's kind of hard to explain, but the biggest piece is the way the game handles intelligence.

When you start the game you can't see anything except your little starting hex. Once you create a few units (by playing their cards and adding them to an army) you can move them around the map and they will explore the hexes they travel through. If you happen to create a recon unit they can even see into adjacent hexes, though they still have to travel through a hex in order to actually explore it. At the same time, there is a sort of fog of war based on what you units can see, which means you have to be very conscious about maintaining recon around your HQ or you can quickly find yourself the subject of a sneak attack. In addition, there are a fair number of units that can enter stealth which makes them much harder to detect and usually require the use of a recon unit to uncover.

There are a number of other systems at work in the game, building infrastructure, building armies, conducting research, engaging in combat, and more. The map is random every time and it will even spawn new independent locations that can give your faction access to powerful special units and equipment throughout the match. It would be impossible to explain exactly how all the pieces fit together, you just have to go and try it for yourself. If you're a boardgamer I can't recommend the game highly enough. It's fun, it's fresh, and it's incredibly addicting, definitely one of the best indie games I've played in a while. Check it out. Well, now I should get to sleep, but maybe I'll just tweak my deck a little bit before I head off...


  1. yeah. I downloaded the demo and tried it out. Not sold. I think only 40% of my dislike is due to the complete lack of explanation. Also Sins of a Solar Empire comes out tomorrow. (http://www.sinsofasolarempire.com/) I'm very excited about it.

  2. What is the other 60% of your dislike due to? Admittedly, I think it's hard to enjoy until you see how all the pieces fit together and even then, I'm sure it's not for everybody. Still, I have the utmost respect for the guy who made it, and I am far too addicted to it.

    As for Sins, I too am very very excited, though I'm still waiting for the review to make my final judgments. At least one of the previews I read said the AI was kind of a pushover (odd coming from Stardock since AI was one of the biggest components in GalCiv). If that proves to be true it may be a deal breaker for me since I can't really afford a multiplayer title of that scope right now. Especially because I tend to play at odd hours like right before I got bed (~12:00 to 1:00 if I'm lucky).

    Still, I am watching it with much hope, I can't think of many game types beyond a 4XRTS that fit so snugly in my wheelhouse. I will be watching its reviews very closely over the next couple days. You'll also have to let me know what you think.