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Introduction to Warhammer: Invasion (LCG)

Posted by Denny Koch on July 26, 2010

Warhammer: Invasion – The Card Game is a Living Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG). In contrast to the other LCGs by FFG (Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game and A Game of Thrones), Warhammer Invasion isn’t the re-launch of a former Collectible Card Game but an entirely new series.

The game is based on the Warhammer Universe by Games Workshop and was designed by Eric M. Lang.

What’s a Living Card Game?

A Living Card Game is a fully customizable dueling card game, where players create their own custom decks which support their favorite tactics, and deck theme. They choose one or more factions and create a deck of a given number of cards. Depending on the game, you have to follow a basic rule set for constructing your deck (a minimum or maximum number of cards, a point or cost system, allowed number of copies of each cord in one deck etc.), but apart from this, you are free to build and explore the “ultimate deck“ which utilizes or exploits the different strengths and weaknesses of game factions. This deck is then pitted in battles against the opponent’s custom deck.

 

Battle Packs add additional cards to the Core game and allow for deck customization

In contrast to a Collectible Card Game (CCG) or Trading Card Game (TCG) (for example Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Marvel Vs, The Lord of the Rings TCG, Pokemon) where new cards are added by buying so-called randomized “Booster Packs”, Living Card Games start with a fixed set of cards in a Starter Pack and fixed expansions. While you don’t know the contents of a CCG booster pack (thus probably spending hundreds of Dollars in search for a very rare card), you always know the contents of the LCG starter pack and all expansion packs. New booster packs are constantly added to a CCG card system, so you have to spend a huge amount of money if you are a competitive player who wants to be “up-to-date” with all-powerful and rare cards. This “blind buy” model of CCGs is somewhat problematic because it burns a lot of money while you find copies and copies of the same cheap cards over and over again while you are searching for the “one” powerful new rare card. Nevertheless, CCGs are quite popular, mostly because the thrill of “not knowing what’s inside” is somewhat addictive to many players.

The Living Card Game has a different distribution model – the expansions (=new cards) are not sold in booster packs with random contents but in fixed add-ons (called Battle Pack, Asylum Pack, Chapter Pack or Adventure Pack, depending on the game). These are published regularly (usually once a month) and the contents are public knowledge. You don’t buy the pig in the poke, but you know exactly which cards you will get when you buy a certain expansion pack. If you don’t want to buy all packs but are only looking for some specific effects in order to make your deck stronger or to counter an unbeatable opponent, you can do some research of which cards are available for your favorite faction(s) and then buy specific expansions which will support your deck and individual playing style. Since the costs for such an expansion are moderate (about 10 $ for 60 cards), most LCG players will buy all expansions anyway, but it’s still much cheaper than buying tons of booster packs without knowing if you will ever get the card you are looking for.

Besides from the distribution model, there is no difference in gameplay and deck-building and customization between a CCG and a LCG. You still buy more cards, you customize your individual deck and you want to find the “ultimate weapon” against your opponent’s decks. So LCGs give you the best of both worlds.

For more information on the Difference between CCGs and LCGs, you should also have a look at our  introductory article to Call of Cthulhu – The Card Game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games.

I own Call of Cthulhu / A Game of Thrones. Do I really need another LCG, aren’t they alike?

If you are afraid that Warhammer: Invasion is just a Call of Cthulhu or A Game of Thrones clone simply in a different setting, you can rest assured that this ain’t the case. All three LCGs are actually very different from each other and they are entirely new games. Of course they share certain similarities (which all CCGs / LCGs / TCGs do), but their game mechanics, factions, objectives, and rules are absolutely different and not interchangeable.

Many players who like dueling card games play two or all three  of the LCGs – because they are all great and very special. All three LCGs are good  representations of their portrayed universe and you won’t ever confuse the games or the rules.

What’s Warhammer: Invasion – The Card Game?

 

The artworks are great and very thematic

Warhammer: Invasion (WI) is a Living Card Game in the Warhammer Fantasy Setting. Warhammer is a vast universe, created in 1983 by Games Workshop. It’s a dark Fantasy setting which can best be described as (according to Wikipedia) “a background featuring a culture similar to Renaissance Germany crossed with Tolkien’s Middle Earth“.

In Warhammer Invasion, forces of Order (the human Empire, the Dwarves, the Elves) battle the forces of Destruction (Orcs, Chaos, Dark Elves).  The artworks are brilliant (as always in FFG games) and provide for a very authentic atmosphere. WI is a 2-player game where both players try to destroy their opponent’s Capitals.

Both players have a Capital card, depicting the stronghold of their lead faction. Each stronghold consists of three sections, the Quest zone, the Kingdom zone, and the Battlefield zone. Cards played into the Kingdom section provide resources, vital for building troops, playing cards, and fueling certain card effects. Cards in the Quest section allow more card draws and units can go on “Quests” which grant their side a huge advantage if the quest is successful. Cards in the Battlefield area can attack all three sections of the opponent’s stronghold.

Resource Management, the question of when to play which card into which section, when to attack where, and how to outmaneuver the opponent, are important aspects of the game. Players are constantly forced to take hard decisions.

There are three kinds of cards: units (which can attack and defend as well as activate special abilities), support cards (e.g. buildings which provide additional resources or protection for the stronghold, attachments like weapons, siege towers etc.), and tactics cards which allow for surprising maneuvers and actions. It costs a certain amount of resources to play a card. A unit in the battlefield can only attack the enemy stronghold and defend against attacks vs. the battlefield while units in the Quest zone can defend against an attack vs. the Quest zone but cannot attack the enemy, but they generate cards and can go on a quest. Units in the Kingdom can defend against attacks vs. the Kingdom, cannot attack the enemy, but they generate resources needed to play other cards. This mechanic is very interesting and rather tricky. Good resource management is as vital as a synergistic deck.

This tutorial video, published by Fantasy Flight Games, explains the basic game concept:

You can find the full tutorial video with all chapters along with the original rulebook (PDF) on the FFG Warhammer Invasion support page.

How do I start?

 

The Game Layout: Orc vs. Empire capitals

If you want to get into the Warhammer: Invasion card game system, you first have to buy the starter pack, called Invasion Core Pack. It includes 4 of the 6 available factions (Empire, Dwarves, Chaos, Orcs), their strongholds (=”Capitals”), game tokens (resource, damage, burn markers), 24 neutral cards which can be added to any faction, the rulebook as well as some advanced cards for later deck-building purposes, and some High and Dark Elves cards as appetizers.

Both Elven factions are fully added to the game system by the large “Assault on Ulthuan de Luxe Expansion“. In contrast to the small so-called “Battle Packs” which only include more cards for all factions, the de Luxe expansion includes the two strongholds for the Elven factions and everything else you need to include the Elves into your game. In the beginning, the Elves are not required, the Core Pack is sufficient for getting a good first impression of the game – and to decide whether you like it or not.

The Core Pack contains 4 pre-built decks which can be sent into battle against each other. You will soon learn how different each faction plays by using these well-balanced decks. You can spend some time playing the Core Pack alone without the need of adding new cards by buying Battle Packs or the Elves Expansion. We divided the factions among us (as we did in Call of Cthulhu and A Game of Thrones), so that each player can delve deep into his / her factions, their strengths and weaknesses and do research on their strategies. I play the Destruction side (Orcs, Chaos, Dark Elves) while Andreas plays the Order side (Empire, Dwarves, High Elves).

The Core Pack doesn’t allow for customization, though. The 4 included decks are mono-decks, consisting of only one faction (in deck-building it’s allowed to combine order factions with other order factions and destruction factions with other destruction factions), and besides the random distribution of neutral cards, the decks are fixed and known after a while.

There is an Official FAQ (PDF) available at the FFG support website. It is strongly recommended to download this FAQ before you start playing because it contains important card errata and rules clarifications.

If you decide that you like the game (you will know that quite fast after a few Core Pack games), you probably want to add more cards to your factions and to begin building your own custom deck. Then it’s time for…

…Battle Packs

Orc Capital

In contrast to the Elves de Luxe edition, the Battle Packs are small card expansions, published monthly, which add more units, tactics, and support cards to the game – as well as new effects and new possibilities.

The Battle Packs belong to story cycles and add thematic flavor to the game – and your deck. The first cycle is the “Corruption Cycle“, consisting of 6 Battle Packs with 40 cards per pack. This cycle introduces important aspects of the Warhammer Universe, for example the famous Skaven, the humanoid rats, as well as more Elven cards. One Battle Pack costs about $7.

The second cycle is the “Enemy Cycle“. FFG listened to the players and changed the formats of the Battle Packs (as they did with the CoC and AGoT expansions). Beginning with this cycle, each Battle Pack contains 60 cards (instead of 40) with 3 copies of each cards. Before that, players tended to buy several copies of each Battle Pack if they wanted to add a specific card several times to their decks. The new packs are slightly more expensive (around $10).

Check out the list of all available Battle Packs

Adding more cards to your decks (one custom deck consists of a minimum of 50 cards and a maximum of 100 cards), developing your own strategies, creating decks with a certain focus (rush deck, destruction deck, control deck…) is the ultimate objective of the game. Building a deck, and refining it after a battle, is as important as playing the game and a big part of the fun. In the end, both players want to build the most powerful, unbeatable deck, because that’s what dueling card games are about.

There is no recommendation about which Battle Packs you should or must buy first – it’s completely up to you. You don’t have to own them all, you can pick the ones you like or the ones which support your deck-building strategies most. In the end, you will want to own them all (and you have to own them all if you are a competitive tournament player to be as flexible as possible), but it’s completely up to you which packs you buy when.

Gameplay

 

Gaming Table

In our experience, one game takes slightly longer than a game of Call of Cthulhu (but there can be 2 turn rush games as well which are over within minutes). In the end, playing time depends on the players, their decks, and their strategies.

Generally, WI is a fast game and doesn’t require much setup, besides from placing your stronghold in front of you and putting the counters (damage tokens, burn tokens, resource tokens) on a pile next to the playing area. You then have to shuffle your (or your opponent’s) deck and you are ready to go!

The objective of the game is to destroy your enemy’s Capital. Each of the above described sections can sustain 8 points of damage, then the section burns. The first player who burns 2 sections of the opponent’s stronghold wins the game. Some factions, for example the Dwarves, can repair damage to their stronghold. In addition, players can always fortify their sections by playing “developments” into them (cards played face down) which add 1 hit point per card to this part of the Capital.

The Kingdom generates 3 starting resources and the Quest zone allows 1 initial card draw. These numbers can (and should) be raised by adding cards to these sections.

All faction cards are color-coded and show a distinctive faction loyalty symbol, so that they can be easily recognized. In addition, their artwork makes their faction affiliation pretty clear. Each card costs a certain amount of resources to be played. First, a player must pay the number of required resources printed in the upper left corner of the card. In addition, cards have a certain “loyalty” to their faction. If players don’t have enough icons of their factions on the table, each missing faction symbol must be paid in addition to the regular cost. This prohibits the play of very loyal (and strong) cards early in the game or when you don’t have enough cards on the table.

After a special Turn One, in which the first player is restricted in his actions, the game begins. Gameplay follows a strict Sequence of Play and timing is a crucial aspect of the game because opportunity windows for playing certain actions and using special effects are tight.

 

Dwarves are great builders - defensive, strong, and experts in long-range attacks

The game begins with the “At the beginning of the Turn” phase. Here, players can play all actions worded “at the beginning of the turn, do this and that…”.

Then, the active player has their Kingdom Phase. They discard all resources still in their Kingdom zone on the Stronghold board (markers showing a barrel full of gold and gems) and collect their new resources for this turn. It’s not allowed to accumulate resources over several turns. The player gets as much resources as they have “axe” icons in their zone: 3 are printed on the stronghold and can never be lost. Any additional axe symbol beyond this is generated by playing cards with axe symbols into the Kingdom zone. Some cards, for example certain buildings, provide additional axe symbols together with their special effects printed in the card text.

The next phase is the Quest Phase. The active players draws as much cards as they have axes in their Quest zone. One axe is printed on the stronghold and can never be lost. Additional axes are generated by playing cards into the quest zone. As in the Kingdom zone, some cards generate additional axes with special effects.

The most important Phase is the Capital Phase. Here, the active player spends their resources for playing cards into his three zones. Each card must be paid in gold barrels. Where to play a card, and how many cards to play, is entirely up to the player. In addition, he can always play one ‘development ‘(=a card face down) per turn into one of the three zones. This development adds a hit point to the zone and is sometimes also a requirement for special card effects. Both players can take actions, and play events. The active player doesn’t have to spend all their resources, they can leave some barrels in their stronghold if  planning to play a certain card or action in the opponent’s turn which requires payment.

After the Capital Phase, it’sd the Battlefield Phase of the active player. Here, units in the Battlefield zone can declare an attack on the enemy strongholds. First, the attacker declares which units conduct the attack and which stronghold zone they attack. Then, the defender can declare which units in the respective zone defend. Only units can attack and defend (not support cards), and only units in the attacked zone can defend. If there are no units (only buildings, for example), the stronghold will suffer damage. If there are units, the defender can decide whether they will send these units into battle. All units have an attack and defense capability and a number of hit points. Damage has to be applied to defending units first before it can be applied to the stronghold, so sending units into battle actually protects the Capital. On the other hand, units killed in battle while in a certain zone will not provide cards or resources in the next turn, so it’s an important decision whether to defend a zone or not.

 

Tactic cards provide additional effects and surprises

During battle, actions, and special abilities can be played by both players, if they can afford them. Then, both players count the axe symbols on their units (=attack strength) and assign this damage to the opponent’s units (or stronghold, if there are no defenders or if there is more damage than defensive strength). Players have a last chance to make actions (for example cancel hits), then damage is applied. Units which suffer as much damage as their defense strength printed on the card are destroyed. Damage is applied by placing skull tokens on damaged cards and Capital sections.

This ends the player turn and the other player becomes the active player.

The most important difference to Call of Cthulhu or Magic: The Gathering is the fact that cards don’t exhaust (=turn 90 degrees) when they attack or defend and they don’t suffer from ‘summoning sickness’ as it is called in Magic-The Gathering (which means a card appearing on the battlefield/play area can not act in that very same turn). Cards can “exhaust” or be tapped (which is called “corrupted” in this game), but these are rare instances and only triggered by certain card effects. So units which attacked in one player’s turn can immediately defend in the other player’s turn. You have to get used to this at first because it’s more usual in this genre to have some delay time before units can act again.

The game mechanic isn’t too complicated and you’ll get a hang of the game real fast. While the game itself isn’t complicated, it’s nevertheless complex (category “easy to learn, hard to master”). Getting the optimum out of your hand, building a specific deck, handling resource management is demanding. Gameplay has a certain depth which will only manifest itself after a while.

The rules are pretty clear and can be understood within minutes (watch the tutorial video first, this will help a lot), but mastering the game is another challenge altogether.

Factions and decks

There are six playable factions in the game. In contrast to Call of Cthulhu, not all factions can be combined with each other. You can only combine Destruction factions with Destruction factions and Order factions with Order factions. The more factions you use in a deck, the more difficult your resource management gets because you have to provide enough loyalty icons if you want to play a card belonging to a faction. If you want to play a Chaos unit, but only have Orcs on the table so far, playing the Chaos unit can become very expensive. Mono decks which consist of only one faction are easier to play, but face balancing issues if you don’t use another faction to counter their weaknesses.

In the end, it’s up to you whether you want to play a mono deck, or a combi deck consisting of two or three factions. Besides the minimum and maximum deck size and the “no more than 3 copies of a single card per deck” rule, there are no limits to your deck-building fantasies. You could even build a deck without any units at all, consisting only of catapults and other units dealing indirect damage to the opponent’s Capital, or lay the focus on certain mechanics or special rules, for examples cards which destroy other cards or cards which “burn” your opponent’s deck.

If a player runs out of cards, he loses the game immediately, so targeting the opponent’s deck is a legitimate strategy besides attacking the Capital.

No faction is an “uber-faction”, they all have strengths and weaknesses and play very differently. In the end, you have to decide which faction best suits your individual playing style.

The six factions

Empire

The human Empire (Order) are strong tacticians with a high mobility. They can switch positions within zones or force the opponent to switch positions. Maneuver is one of their most important strengths.

Dwarf

The Dwarves (Order) are builders and repairers. They are the most defensive faction and their strongholds can become impregnable fortresses if you give them enough time to build. Their armor is tough and their units have lots of hit points.

Chaos

Chaos (Destruction) is a well-rounded faction who likes to kill or corrupt enemy units.

Orcs

“Smash’n bash” is one of the favorite hobbies of the Orcs (Destruction). They like to destroy everything in their path (even their own units) and simply smash things. They are not very interested in defense or in developing their own strongholds and are best for a very aggressive playstyle.

These are the four factions contained in the Core Pack. Both Elven factions are added to the game with the Elven expansion (requires ownership of the Core game) and with each Battle Pack.

Rules Problems? Help!

A common problem in Collectible / Living Card Games is the wording of the cards and how cards interact with each other. With each new card released, new synergies with other cards become possible. In addition, the wording of some cards is sometimes ambitious which can lead to problems and confusion.

A general good advice is: stick as close as possible to the Sequence of Play, as outlined in the rules flowchart. If you want to play a card or use a special card effect, use the good old COWTCA: Concentrate On What The Card Allows. Take the card texts literally and don’t ask, “does this include this or that effect, as well?“, or “does that mean that…?” The card text contains every relevant information. If a card states that “a player has to sacrifice one of their characters each time they draw a card”, then, yes, this is true for your opponent as well as for yourself  (the card doesn’t state “your opponent has to sacrifice a card each time”). And yes, if this card is the last card on the table, the owner has to sacrifice THEIR card (the card doesn’t state “except from THIS card”). Following a card text to the letter is the easiest way to avoid problems and conflicts and timing problems shouldn’t come up if you follow the Sequence of Play and the card texts.

Generally, the rules are doing a good job, but there is always the moment when you encounter a question or situation not addressed in the rulebook. If you can’t find an answer in the Official FAQ, there is always the opportunity to post your question in the Official Warhammer: Invasion forum on the Fantasy Flight Games website. The forum is very lively and full with seasoned players who will patiently help you, even if your question is one of those which could be solved by a simple look into the rulebook. So don’t be afraid to ask questions there!

You can also browse the WI forum on Boardgamegeek. There have been many rules questions discussed in the forum already, so perhaps you can find the necessary answer there right now.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid of “choosing the wrong faction” or building “the wrong deck”. It’s all about experimentation and improving your deck and countering weaknesses is part of the fun! If you built a horrible deck which was beaten to pulps within minutes, learn from it and adjust your cards… and then burn your opponent’s Capital!

5 Responses to “Introduction to Warhammer: Invasion (LCG)”

  1. Michal said

    is number of card draws in quest phase limited?

    • May I just quote from the review above…

      “The next phase is the Quest Phase. The active players draws as much cards as they have axes in their Quest zone. One axe is printed on the stronghold and can never be lost. Additional axes are generated by playing cards into the quest zone. As in the Kingdom zone, some cards generate additional axes with special effects.”

      • Michal said

        ok i mean, if i have 7 axes i draw 7 car, if i have 14 axes in quest zone i draw 14? no limit?

        • Denny Koch said

          Hi Michal, according to the rule book, during the Quest Phase, you draw as many cards as you have power icons in your quest zone (see page 10 of the rule book). The active player counts power in his quest zone, and draws that many cards from the top of his deck.

          There may be restrictions when you or your opponents play a special effect on you (which will influence your card hand or drawing capabilities), but generally, there is no limit to the number of cards you can draw in the basic rules (you should keep in mind, of course, that you are eliminated from the game immediately if your deck runs out of cards, so drawing 14 cards each turn might not always be a great idea).

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