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Review: Horus Heresy (FFG)

Posted by Denny Koch on July 9, 2012

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Published in: 2010
Designers: Jeff Tidball, John Goodenough
Game Type: Board Game / Miniatures / Card-driven
Topic: The Horus Heresy / Battle for Terra
Era:  31st century (back story of the Warhammer 40k universe)
Contents: Game Board, 3D plastic terrain (3 factories, 6 fortresses, 1 Imperial Palace), Playing Pieces (12 Space Marines, 24 Imperial Army, 12 Imperial Tank Divisions, 3 Adeptus Custodes, 3 Adeptus Arbites, 3 Adeptus Mechanicus, 3 Imperial Titans, 16 Chaos Space Marines, 4 Chaos Titans, 8 Chaos Thunderhawks, 8 Chaos Cultists, 8 Chaos Warbands, 8 Demon Hordes), 60 Imperial Bases, Combat Iteration Tokens, 6 Defense Lasers, 2 Reference Sheets, 32 Bombardment Cards, 30 Event Cards, 40 Imperial Order Cards, 64 Traitor Bases, 40 Traitor Order Cards, 32 Imperial Combat Cards, 32 Traitor Combat Cards, 8 Imperial Hero Combat Cards, 10 Special Tokens, 8 Traitor Hero Combat Cards, 10 Hero Markers and Bases, 10 Hero Damage Markers, 28 Legion Designators, 2 Initiative Markers, 36 Damage Tokens, 57 Activation Markers, 5 Fortification Markers, 12 Breach Markers, Rulebook (44 pages), Scenario Book (20 pages)
Number of Players: 2

HFC Game-O-Meter: E 


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 6
Rules: 9
Playability:
7
Replay Value:
 7

Overall Rating: 8

PRO Very thematic, interesting and astonishingly deep combat system, innovative initiative system
CONTRA Map too small, ugly miniatures, crowded 3D plastic terrain, there could be more variety in combat cards, very expensive

Introduction: What is the “Horus Heresy”?

Warmaster Horus, Primarch of the Lunar Wolves (Sons of Horus, Black Legion)

Warhammer 40k takes place in a dystopic science-fantasy universe in the early 41st century. In this universe, “There Is Only War” (the 40k catchphrase). The Imperium of Man, ruled by an autocratic God-Emperor, is at constant war with various alien (“xenos”) races and the forces of Chaos which consist of corrupted former Imperial troops and Chaos demons, ruled by the four Gods of Chaos Khorne, Nurgle, Slaneesh, and Tzeench.

The “Horus Heresy” was the key event and is the back story of the Warhammer 40k universe. It took place 10,000 years before the events portrayed in the Warhammer 40k system. In this time, mankind was still united and on the Great Crusade with the ultimate goal of conquering and “illuminating” the entire galaxy. With a vast Imperial Army and 20 Legions of genetically enhanced trans-human warrior-monks called Adeptus Astartes (better known as Space Marines), the Empire of Mankind sought to subjugate and unite all inhabited words, purging them of their own “heathen” beliefs, and converting them to the Imperial Truth. Worlds which failed or refused to comply were eradicated, including their often human inhabitants.

The Emperor of Mankind created 20 immortal superhuman beings as his “sons”, called the “Primarchs“. Each Primarch commanded a Space Marines Legion which was enhanced with their genetic material, so each legion had the characteristics, qualities, philosophy, and nature of their respective Primarch.In the 31st century, in the midst of the Great Crusade, the Emperor suddenly declared that he intended to return to Terra. He left the Crusade in the hands of the Primarchs and promoted Primarch Horus of the Lunar Wolves Legion to the new position of “Warmaster”, thus raising him above the other Primarchs. This led to envy from some of his brothers, who thought that they deserved the position of Warmaster. Others supported Horus and took his side.

The Emperor of Mankind, accompanied by his bodyguard, the Adeptus Custodes

Sensing this momentary weakness, the Gods of Chaos, who dwelled in an alternate dimension called “the Warp” (which is also used by the Imperium as a means of fast inter-stellar travel) intervened and managed to corrupt Horus by convincing him that the Emperor had abandoned them… and that he had to be removed. They also managed to corrupt some of his brothers and their Legions. In the end, Horus lured all Primarchs and Legions that didn’t follow his new path, into a trap . He even purged all soldiers and officers, who showed reluctance to renounce the Emperor, from his own traitorous Legions . In an unprecedented attack with mass-destruct weapons – banned virus-bombs -, he killed all loyalists within his own Legions and lured the other Imperial Legions into an ambush. Simultaneously, some of his traitor Legions went after loyal Legions’ homeworlds, to eradicate them and their bases. Space Marines never before fought other Space Marines, so the loyalist Legions were completely taken by surprise and suffered fatal losses.Over the time, the Chaos Gods completely corrupted Horus and the other Primarchs and their Legions who fell under their spell. Primarchs and Astartes began to change physically and mentally, slowly transforming into the infamous Chaos Space Marine Legions.

Eventually, Horus and his allies moved their vast fleets towards Terra and the Imperial Palace, where Horus wanted to confront and challenge the Emperor himself. This Battle for Holy Terra, which was the hallmark of the Horus Heresy, and the siege of the Imperial Palace are portrayed in the strategic board game “Horus Heresy” by Fantasy Flight Games.

The Game

Unboxing: The contents of “Horus Heresy”

I love the rich lore of the detailed Warhammer 40k universe and the Horus Heresy book series belongs to my favorite Science Fiction novels. The  dystopic universe is very complex and deep, and the story is dark, cruel, and full of surprising twists and turns.

My favorite faction is the Chaos Space Marines, I’m currently building and painting a WH40k army of Emperor’s Children, led by Primarch Fulgrim and corrupted by Chaos God(dess) Slaanesh. This Chaos Space Marine Legion played a key role during the Horus Heresy. Naturally, I was very happy when I got Horus Heresy board game on Christmas – especially since the Emperor’s Children are a playable faction in this game.In addition, the game was published by Fantasy Flight Games, a company which is famous for their high overall production quality and great artworks. We own lots of FFG games, and all of them are graphically very appealing and always very thematic and true to their topics, be it the Lovecraft universe, or Middle Earth, or Game of Thrones.

Horus Heresy was one of the last “big box” games published by FFG, so the gamebox is really massive and heavy with a high heft factor (and an accordingly high price)… and looks very promising with dramatic box artwork.

But does the game deliver what it promises? And can it be played by players who have no clue about the Warhammer 40k universe? Read this review and find out!

Don’t miss this cool official introductory video by Fantasy Flight Games:

Graphic Presentation and Component Quality

Initial preparations

The gamebox contains a strong cardboard map with holes where you have to slot in the 3D plastic terrain pieces. Also, the plastic miniatures have to be put on their respective bases (black for Chaos, grey for Imperial troops). Space Marine legions from both sides are also marked with a Legion icon.Fortunately, you have to put the miniatures and Legion markers on their bases only once; during the game, only few Imperial playing pieces (army and tanks) can switch sides; Space Marines and other units will never switch sides and thus will always remain on their bases. So after playing, you simply put them back into the box without separating the bases again.

The Game Board

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Review: Conquest of the Empire (Classic variant)

Posted by Denny Koch on September 22, 2010

Game: Conquest of the Empire

Publisher: Eagle Games
Published in: 2005
Designers: Larry Harris

Era: Ancients; Roman Civil War
Game Type: board game / area movement / plastic miniatures (2-6 players)
Contents: 3 mounted game boards, 2 marker sheets, 1 rulebook (CoTE classic variant, 11 pages), 1 rulebook CoTE II (17 pages), 1 set of playing cards (only used in the CotE II variant), 8 dice, 396 plastic miniatures, 75 plastic coins


HFC Game-O-Meter: E


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 9
Rules: 6
Playability:
8
Replay Value:
7.5

Overall Rating: 8

PRO Fantastic presentation, high heft factor, great multiplayer experience, very thematic…
CONTRA …somewhat static and too long with 2 players, rules wording not always clear

Introduction

After our extensive playing sessions of Julius Caesar by Columbia Games and watching the first season of HBO’s “Rome”, we were in the mood for another Ancients game dealing with the Roman Empire.

Conquest of the Empire is a true eye-catcher

Since we are currently re-writing our old reviews in our operation  “review reset“, this was the perfect chance to bring one of our other Ancients games back to the gaming table and to play it with a fresh perspective.

We had to choose between Imperium Romanum II, SPQR, and Conquest of the Empire (CotE). CotE is a “light wargame” from the Axis & Allies family, so it was perfectly suited for being played again for a few weekends without the major time investment Imperium Romanum II would have demanded from us. In addition, we already had some extensive (German) reviews for both Conquest variants, which were written some years ago – so we decided to bring Conquest of the Empire back to our gaming table and to review it again.

The Conquest of the Empire box contains two game variants: The “Classic” game variant which is based on the old Conquest of the Empire game  from the MB Gamemaster Series (published 1984), and a new variant called “Conquest of the Empire II” which has not much to do with the original game and which introduces politics, intrigue, and diplomacy. It is next to impossible to play the CotE II variant with 2 players (which isn’t mentioned anywhere on the game box, btw!), so we decided to play and review the classic variant first (before forcing a third player to re-play the CotE II variant with us ;)).

Conquest of the Empire Classic is somewhat similar to Axis & Allies but not so static, allowing more different strategies and more maneuvering. The map depicts the Mediterranean (as it does in Julius Caesar by GC) and the game takes place in the Roman Civil War, but on a somewhat more abstract level than the CG game because each player is just “one Caesar” and his forces, fighting other (unnamed) Caesars.

The game can be played with 2-6 players and utilizes area movement, supported by naval movement,  building streets and capitals for more protection and faster movement. Battles are fought with special combat dice showing specific symbols.

Graphic Presentation

The map. Click to enlarge!

The graphic presentation is fantastic. The mounted map consists of three parts and requires a large table. The artwork is great, the area from the Mediterranean, central Europa, up to Britannia and the East is drawn in a geomorphic fashion showing mountains, hills, and other geographical features that don’t play any role in the game mechanics, though. The game design is very “Roman” and antique with lots of Roman chrome, for example creatures from the Roman mythology in the Mediterranean sea, or illustrations of Roman gods, busts, or statues. The font in which the map text is printed is somewhat playful but fits perfectly to the overall topic.

The game box contains an incredible amount of stuff and is one of the heaviest game boxes in our collection. First, there are six sets of plastic miniatures (color-coded, one set for each player, in one of six plain colors which ask for re-painting), which are divided into leaders, infantry, cavalry, galleys, and catapults. The miniatures are very detailed, you can even discover small details on the soldiers’ uniforms, and you can actually move the arms of the catapults. The legion markers (which are used to mark your captured territories) are printed with Roman legion insignia and even the golden and silver plastic coins (the currency to recruit your troops, build your streets and cities) are designed in a Roman fashion with a portrait of an Emperor.

The dice are plain ugly

There is absolutely nothing to complain about the game presentation; it is certainly one of the best looking games of its kind. If you are into painting plastic miniatures, you will have even more fun with the game because the figures are so detailed (check out the image galleries on boardgamegeek where players posted images of their painted miniatures).

We have only one minor complaint: the dice are amazingly ugly, showing black symbols on orange ground. The symbols are horrible and cannot be told apart from a distance, especially the galley and catapult symbols are very similar (and similarly ugly). Often you can’t recognize the symbols your opponent just rolled, and you even have to take a closer look to tell your own symbols apart. A clearer design would have been really helpful, or at least a different coloring for each symbol.

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