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“Operation Red Nose”: the HFC Game Meeting March 2011

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on April 5, 2011

"Operation Red Nose" - 4 days of eating, drinking, and non-stop gaming!

This years’ HFC & Friends Game Meeting was again held around the days that are known in Germany as ‘Karneval’ or ‘Fasnacht’ and which is a time when folks start wearing silly costumes, drinking a lot and dancing to a very weird form of music 😉

Since we don’t belong to those who take part in such strange rites, we usually use the time to prepare ourselves with beer, food, and games and then just close the door for a few days of gaming. A good friend of ours, Wolfgang,  who is living in Mainz (also a city which is ruled by the ‘fools’ during this time) then comes over to join us and so he arrived on Friday, quite early. Denny and I got some new cool games over the year which he didn’t know yet, and we were also eager to get some multiplayer games going with games we could only play with two players so far, so we were looking forward to some great game sessions.

When Wolfgang arrived, we started with a little chitchat and had a beer for starters and then we prepared the gaming table. He was very interested in trying out some LCGs about which we talked before and he had some first impressions about the core gameplay of these sort of card games when he played Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers on the Xbox 360 (it’s not a LCG, but not actually a CCG either, so it’s a game in-between with pre-built decks and limited possibilities to customize your deck). But he at least knew the basic gameplay and he liked it, so he was interested to see how a real LCG would be played face to face.

Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game: Call of Cthulhu (LCG)

The first game on the table was Call of Cthulhu (FFG), which is the easiest of the three LCGs published by FFG so far. Since we all love Arkham Horror and the Lovecraft theme, this game seemed to be a good introduction to the LCG genre. We set it up, I explained the basic Sequence of Play and then we started playing right away, using the player aid sheet that we had printed out and laminated before, to make things as easy as possible.

Wolfgang chose the Miskatonic University deck and I played a Shub-Niggurath deck, all of which were mono decks. By now, we own enough Asylum Packs to play all factions of the game as mono decks, and although for some players out there this doesn’t seem to be the best way to play the game competitively, we decided to use mono for Wolfgang’s introductory games for several reasons. First, it’s easier for a new player to see how a faction in a pure format is played, how it feels, and he will soon realize the strengths and the weak points of that faction. To know the specific strengths and weaknesses of a given faction is an important prerequisite for deck customization.To give Wolfgang a very harsh and brutal impression of each fashion, we even removed the neutral cards from all decks, so that he could feel the raw characteristics of each faction without any fine tuning and balancing. The intention was to show him the options for deckbuilding and deck enhancements by chosing a certain focus, adding neutral cards, or even by building a combi deck with a second faction, which will eventually lead to a deck that works great. If you don’t know the characteristics of a certain faction, you don’t really know how to counter their weaknesses or how to maximize their strong aspects.

CoC gaming table

Apart from this, we generally don’t mix all factions wildly together because we love to play the game based more on theme than on raw competition power, so Denny and I also chose our decks based on the humans vs cultists dichotomy that is part of the Lovecraft stories. Denny is playing all cultist/Old Ones factions while I am playing the Syndicate, Miskatonic University and the Agency. In our games, we pimp these factions with neutral cards but seldom mix them with the other factions, it just feels right for us to actually play from a certain story perspective.

The first game indeed showed that the Miskatonic University (with all their professors and students, who are well-educated and learned in old scriptures dealing with arcane content) is a difficult faction to play without any neutral cards. The MU is quite strong in the arcane and investigation struggles, but really weak in terror and combat. That means if you are sending out some of these academics to investigate what’s happening, they might have the knowledge to solve the arcane and investigation struggles but they are easily frightened by anything supernatural. So before they can use their strengths to get some success tokens on a story, they often will flee the scene because of a lost terror struggle or be dead and out of the game after an attack by the monsters lurking around.

Shubb-Niggurath vs. Miskatonic University

Shub-Niggurath, on the other hand, is quite strong in terror and combat, but lacks on the investigation side, so usually this deck doesn’t score a point in the investigation struggle, even if no one is around to stand against them. Therefore, bringing success tokens on the story is taking some time and the fastest way to achieve this is by eliminating the opponent’s characters with terror and combat, so at least you get the additional success token for being unchallenged in a story. The match MU vs. SN seemed to be a bad choice at first and very unbalanced as the first game was a complete domination of my Shub-Nigurrath faction over the MU, who never really got thru because of losing the first two struggles (terror and combat). Afterwards, we decided to play a second game with the same factions nonetheless, because Wolfgang didn’t want to base his judgement about this particular faction on his first game alone, so now feeling a bit more competent and knowing what the MU faction can do – and what not, we shuffled the cards and started again.

This time – and that’s the beauty of the game, really – things went completely different and not really well for me. I wasn’t able to bring out characters in the first turns at all and in later turns only some weak ones while Wolfgang had some great guys on the table, who were able to limit my actions and could control the game by their various character abilities. He hit me fast and hard with some spells, which limited me even further and he actually rushed me and won quite easily this time. Since I couldn’t send out some of my better characters to challenge him, he had not to deal with the terror and combat struggles as much as in our first game. Some of his abilities changed all terror or combat struggles into ones that could only be won with investigation icons and since that’s not the strength of Shub-Niggurath, I usually lost these as well as the genuine investigation struggles. So the second game ended with an easy victory for the MU and it was a good example how even such an unbalanced combination of factions in a game can be won by the faction that is considered the weaker one if things go right for them.

Still, the MU usually has a hard time alone and makes for a much better support faction in a combi deck, so a strong partner who can deal with terror and combat is able to cover their backs, while they can use their arcane and investigation icons to keep standing after being involved in a story and collect success tokens on a regular base.

Generally, Wolfgang liked the game and stated “that it demonstrates very well the strong aspect of LCGs –  very simple game mechanics, but still lots of tactical/strategic options and the possibility to play it according to your very own ideas with the customization of the decks”. This ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ nature of the game appealed to him and so he said: “Let’s try out another LCG!”.

Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

The next game: Warhammer Invasion (LCG)

So we prepared the gaming table for the next LCG, one step up in complexity and options (complexity is a relative term here, of course, because compared with a consim, all LCGs are quite simple) and that was Warhammer: Invasion.

Warhammer: Invasion is based on the Warhammer Fantasy universe, a different universe than the known Warhammer 40k universe, and we only own the core set so far. Thus, when using only the core set, you simply choose your faction from the pre-built decks in the box, spice up this basic deck with 10 random neutral cards and you are ready to go. Wolfgang stuck to a human faction as he did in the previous game, so he chose the Empire. As in CoC, Denny and I had divided the factions among us – she’s playing the Orcs, the Chaos etc. and I’m going into battle with the Dwarfs and the Empire. I didn’t have any problems with Wolfgang’s choice because this would allow me to play a faction which was completely new to me as well. I wanted to try out the Chaos, so after choosing sides and dealing out the neutral cards, we laid out the citadels and the war-horns were blowing…

The Chaos was crushed by the Empire

Using our player aid sheets and the rulebook, we got into the game easily and it didn’t take long before we were engaged with each other, thinking about our possibilities. I had some form of deja vu however, because I couldn’t really bring out many characters. What I had on my hand was expensive and so I had some troubles to defend my citadel while lacking the force to really attack his one. The game went on with some discussions about the rules and the card wordings, which is still a general problem of this whole genre. You are easily disappointed when you come to the game with a consim mind, expecting some clear and extensive rules about all details of the game. One has to adapt to a very literal understanding of the cards’ wording to not get into trouble about how some cards are used and especially when to use them.

In the mid game, I was able to bring out better characters and at least could stand against the fast Empire deck for some time, but in the end I lost. Apparently, you have to get used to the abilities and characters of the Chaos faction if you want to be successful, so we decided to shuffle the decks and used the same cards for a rematch.

This time I had some great cards in my starting hand and was able to bring out some good characters and cards that created corruption to the enemy, while my characters could gain strength thru their corruption! I had some nice little synergies in effect and prepared for some major attack… when the Empire cleared the battlefield with a card that killed all characters in play who were not in a zone with a developement! I didn’t have any developments in play because I planned to use my cards offensively and Wolfgang had only a few characters out and one developement which saved a good character.

As scary as the dark forces of Chaos: The cake, forged by orcs in the depths of Mordor, made of blood and steel

So I saw myself totally open to the enemy with all my good cards and my smart little synergy plan destroyed in one single sweep. Things went bad again for my Chaos faction from then on, I didn’t get any good cards anymore or at least not cards I could afford with my now limited resources and from my citadel I could watch Wolfgang preparing for battle with more and more troops. In the end he had out a dozen cards both for the attack and the defense while I could barely bring out a little demon then and now before everything was killed again and so that game ended also with a glorious victory of the Empire over the Chaos.

This game was even more appealing to him because of the nice touch of options you get with the three zones in play, but the cards and rules questions that came up were a bit disappointing for him. The problem is not so much the fact that a game which uses many different cards and effects and time frames to play cards and defend against cards, has some ambiguous aspects in the wordings of rules and card texts, but the unsatisfying situation that there’s not really any answer to get by the designer(s). When you look for some answers that might help you to clarify specific points, you usually only have the official FAQ and the forum over at FFG or BGG.

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Posted in Events and Conventions, Gaming this weekend, HFC, Wargaming in general | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Warhammer Invasion LCG: New FAQ version available!

Posted by Denny Koch on February 20, 2011

The official FAQ version 1.3 is online! You can download a printer friendly version here from the FFG support page (PDF, 788 KB).

It now includes clarifications for cards from the new battle packs as well as general clarifications and examples for various rules and games concepts. New additions are printed in a red font, so you will spot any differences between the new and the old FAQ immediately.

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Fantasy Flight Games announces new LCG: Lord of the Rings!

Posted by Denny Koch on August 10, 2010

Fantasy Flight Games recently added a new game to the very successful “Living Card Games” family: The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game.

Together with A Game of Thrones, Warhammer Invasion, and Call of Cthulhu, Lord of the Rings will be the fourth card game which will be published in the new LCG distribution format.

What is a Living Card Game?

Living Card Games are customizable dueling card games where players build their own individual decks (of their favorite faction, strategy, sub-theme, focus etc.) and pitch these decks into battle against their opponents’ decks. Deckbuilding, improving and refining the deck is as important as playing the game itself. Players get into the game by buying a Core Pack and then improve their decks by buying monthly expansions which add new cards, new themes, new tactics, and sometimes even new factions or rules to the game.

The card artworks are really nice!

In contrast to a Collectible Card Game (for example Magic: The Gathering), where players buy regular published randomized booster packs without knowing the exact contents of a game, the contents of the expansions for Living Card Games are public knowledge. There are no more “rare” cards which must be hunted by spending hundreds of Dollars for “blind buying” booster packs.

Instead, new contents are added regularly and you can decide in advance whether you need an expansion and whether it adds valuable content to your specific deck and deckbuilding strategy or whether you can skip an add-on. In the end, LCG players will buy all expansions anyway, “just to have them”, but the distribution model is much cheaper than buying lots of booster packs without ever getting the rare cards you are hunting for.

Besides from the distribution model, there is no difference between a Living Card Game and a Collectible Card Game. The card games published so far are all very good and very unique in their game mechanics. I think Lord of the Rings will be a very great addition to the line-up and won’t interfere with the other LCGs.

Plans for the Lord of the Rings LCG

The game layout

In contrast to the other the LCGs, Lord of the Rings will be a 2-player cooperative LCG. A 4-player variant will be possible by using 2 Core Packs. The Core Pack will be released for $39,95 (publishing date yet unknown). The cards will include the famous heroes from the books, artefacts, allies, attachments, weapons and an encounter deck which contains the foes and dangers the players will oppose.

There are only few information available about how the game will work in detail, but I think FFG will publish an introduction video (as they did for their other 3 LCGs). The Core Set will include 216 Cards and will allow for assembling various decks right out of the box (in contrast to the pre-built decks in the A Game of Thrones and Warhammer Invasion Core Packs).

The game appears to be scenario-driven; the Core Packs includes 4 scenarios and offers “near-endless replayability”, according to FFG. Add-Ons will add more stuff regularly in monthly 60-card “Adventure Packs“. The game focuses on four spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. How you build your decks and on which sphere your focus lies is entirely up to you.

Check out the FFG Micro Site for more information. So far, the artworks and design looks really cool, but I expect nothing less from FFG. Their other three LCGs are all great and I like them all.

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games, Lord of the Rings, News and Releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Warhammer Invasion LCG: Battle Packs

Posted by Denny Koch on July 27, 2010

Jump to “List of Battle Packs”

Warhammer Invasion is a “Living Card Game” (LCG) by Fantasy Flight Games. This means, it’s a collectible, customizable dueling card game where players build their individual card decks and battle other opponents’ decks.

The Best of Two Worlds

The only difference to a “Collectible Card Game” (CCG) – for example Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh-, is the distribution model for additional cards. In contrast to the classic Collectible Card Games, you don’t blind-buy randomized booster packs with unknown contents. Instead of that, you buy  monthly expansions called “Battle Packs” with fixed contents which are public knowledge. You don’t have to “hunt” for very rare cards anymore, probably spending hundreds of $ on blind-buying random booster packs.

Each Battle Pack adds some cards to each faction and some neutral cards and most of them deal with a specific aspect of the game (for example new sub-themes like Skaven, combat effects, keywords, locations, spells..). If you want more cards for your deck, you  can check out which Battle Pack offers the best contents for you and your specific playing style and strategy. If you want to counter a specific weakness of your deck, or if you need tools against a certain opponent, or if you want to create a theme deck with a certain focal point or strategy, you can check out which Battle Pack includes cards that will provide the desired effects to optimize your personal deck.

Ultimately, you will buy all expansion packs nevertheless, just to be more flexible and to “own them all” because also in a LCG the collectible aspect is quite addictive, but at least you don’t have to spend $100 in search for one rare card while getting 85 copies of the same cheap card in return. There’s simply more bang for your buck in the LCG format.

In a LCG, you always know what you get for your money, but you can still profit from the basic concept of deck building by choosing “your” favorite cards. The only difference to a CCG is that no cards are “rare” cards anymore, all players have access to the same cards and expansion packs and all cards have fixed prices. So it all comes down to your deckbuilding strategies, your gameplay and your choices of which characters, items, or events you take into the battle.

Core Set and Battle Packs

A Dark Elf from the Assault on Ulthuan de Luxe expansion

In 2009, Fantasy Flight Games released a “Core Set” which contained 4 pre-built decks (220 cards) and all components you need for the game (4 Capitals / strongholds, resource markers, burn tokens, damage tokens, a full-colored rulebook). The Core Pack includes 4 of the 6 factions; the last two factions (High Elves and Dark Elves) can be added to the game with a large De Luxe expansion, containing Capital boards and starter decks for the last two factions.

Players can get a first impression of the game by playing the Core Pack, by choosing one of the 4 balanced pre-built faction decks and by learning about their strengths and weaknesses. If they like the game and decide that they want to delve deeper into the hobby, they decide which factions or strategies they want to utilize in the future and start deck building by supplementing the core game with Battle Packs.

New Battle Packs are released regularly (roughly one per month). They belong to “Story cycles” which add more flavor to the game, add races, creatures, buildings, and weapons from the Warhammer Fantasy universe and allow for deep customization. Since their contents are fixed, players know what they get in advance and can decide whether a specific Battle Pack would be a good addition for their decks.

The first 6 Battle Packs (Corruption Cycle) consist of 20 different cards, 2 copies each (for a total of 40 cards). Since players tend to build decks containing multiple copies of a single card (the game allows for a maximum of three copies per card), they often bought each Battle Pack two times. This is somewhat contra productive to the “lower costs compared to a CCG” concept of a Living Card Game, so with the second story cycle, Fantasy Flight Games changed the contents of Battle Packs to 20 unique cards in triplicate copy (for a total of 60 cards), starting with the Enemy Cycle.

Battle Packs are not too expensive ($6-10 Dollars, depending on the shop) and can be bought in various game shops and from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or amazon.de.

List of Battle Packs (BP) and Deluxe Expansions

  • Core Set

De Luxe Expansions:

  • Assault on Ulthua (Dark Elves & High Elves)
  • March of the Damned (neutral forces, Lizardmen, Vampire Counts, new keywords “Savage” and “Necromancy”)

The Corruption Cycle:

  • BP1: The Skavenblight Thread, introduces the Skaven
  • BP2: Path of the Zealot, adds zealots of Order
  • BP3: Tooth and Claw, adds Rat Ogres of Moulder clan
  • BP4: The Deathmaster’s Dance, adds Deathmaster Sniktch
  • BP5: The Warpstone Chronicles, focus on ancient relics of the Old World
  • BP6: Arcane Fire, focus on spells and arcane magic

The Enemy Cycle:

  • BP7: The Burning of Derricksburg, Battle for the town of Derricksburg
  • BP8: The Fall of Karak Grimaz, Orcs attacking the Dwarven hold
  • BP9: The Silent Forge, High Elves discover the Dark Elves’ secret forge
  • BP10: Redemption of A Mage, adds powerful Dwarves runes, “Mage” and “Knight” keywords for the Empire
  • BP11: The Fourth Waystone
  • BP12: Bleeding Sun

The Morrslieb Cycle:

  • BP13: Omens of Ruin
  • BP14: The Chaos Moon
  • BP15: The Twin Tailed Comet
  • BP16: Signs in the Stars

Excel Sheets, called “Spoiler Lists” are available for all Battle Packs. Check out the Warhammer Invasion File Section on Boardgamegeek!

Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games, Warhammer, Warhammer Inv., Warhammer Invasion | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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?

 

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Posted in Fantasy Games A-Z, Living Card Games, Warhammer, Warhammer Inv., Warhammer Invasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »