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Subject: Matrix Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc rss

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Cedric Chong
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1. (The Unhappy) Last King Maker


I hate it.

I hate it when we just spent 2 hours engaged in bloody battles, overcame audacious adversaries... only to have the winner decided by the player who went last in the last round of the game.


***


Risk (1959) was the multiplayer conflict game that I grew up with. There are many issues with original Risk. It is a wonderful thing that modern board gaming happened. It led to creation of many marvellous games that play well within 1 to 2 hours, have low randomness, and retain the fabulous feeling conquests and domination.

After several decades of terrorizing young kids, Risk can finally find rest in garbage cans around the world.

But multiplayer conflict games, especially games that play with more than 2 players, are not easy to design. Mechanics of modern board gaming can be applied to help alleviate issues such as randomness, analysis-paralysis, run-away leader, adjacency issues, turtling, beat-up-the-loser and long drawn out games. Three specific issues are harder to fix.

Last Player Advantage and King Making are two big issues that come up often in multiplayer (more than 2 players) conflict games.

The third issue is negative Fiero, or in simple term, net unhappiness.

A good design should not allow a player to perform one action which leads to him or her feeling good (positive Fiero) at the expense of another player feeling more bad (negative Fiero).

Every multiplayer conflict games that plays more than 2 have to deal with these three issues.

Perhaps that is why there are so many conflict / battle / war games on the market which plays with only 2 players.

In my opinion, it would be an achievement (in a bad way) to design a two-player conflict game that has Last Player Advantage, King Making, and Negative Fiero issues.

How about games that play more than 2?


***


There are many good games in the multiplayer (more than 2) area control conflict genre.

Wallenstein (2002)
Antike (2005)
Conquest of the Empire (2005)
Nexus Ops (2005)
Shogun (2006)
Cyclades (2009)
Small World (2009)
Chaos in the Old World (2009)
A Game of Thrones (2011)
Eclipse (2011)


Each of these games brings something good, or something innovative, to this genre. But none of these games are able to provide a satisfying lets-beat-each-other-up-over-and-over-again experience packaged with the wonderful traits of modern board game design.

Then 2012 came.

Kemet came.

Kemet came along quietly in 2012, and over time, secured its position as one of the best multiplayer conflict games. Using modern mechanics, it resolves turtling and adjacency issues with teleportation and map design. It resolves Negative Fiero issues by making combat painless for the loser, and introduction of the recall rule. The recall rule also helps to address problem where after player A and B fights, player C comes in to beat on them. Most impressive of all, the combat system of Kemet was an interesting innovation in board game design.

Traditionally, most Area Control Conflict games have two things in common.

Comparing "size" - I have a gun. You have a bigger gun. You win.

Reward - You gain control of the territory. I leave.

Kemet came along and turned this upside down. In a fight, it is not just about who has the bigger gun, there are 3 parameters to consider. In every battle, I have to think about what objective I want to accomplish. Winning a fight can be more important than saving all my units. Destroying all my opponent's army may be more important than winning the fight. Losing a territory may allow me to have a stronger counter-move on another board position in a later round. Most important of all, win or lose, I don't have to stay around to be beaten up by someone else!

Kemet is a very well designed game. It has interesting Pyramid and Power system. It has streamlined rules. It has an ingenious battle resolution system. It alleviates most issues typical of multiplayer conflict games. It is no wonder Kemet is well regarded as one of the best multiplayer conflict game on the market.

However, Kemet has problems. Last Player Advantage, and King Making.


I hate it.

I hate it when we just spent 2 hours engaged in bloody battles, overcame audacious adversaries... only to have the winner decided by the player who went last in the last round of the game.


Especially if that last player attacks me, pulls me down into 2nd place, makes someone else win. The winner does not gain much positive Fiero from winning. The last player does not gain much positive Fiero from making that move. But I definitely gain an enormous amount of negative Fiero. Thus exposing the third problem, net unhappiness.

That's my biggest issue with Kemet. This I dubbed the unhappy last king maker problem. A flaw in an otherwise brilliant game.

Regardless, Kemet is still a brilliant game. Kemet is still a fun game. For the first 100 minutes.

Multiplayer conflict games published after 2012 have to match what Kemet does, address all issues typical of multiplayer conflict games, and offer some innovative design.

Until such a game arrives, Kemet remains as the benchmark to beat.





I think such a game arrived.










2. Matrix Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc



























This Quick Start Guide is meant as an introduction to the game of Cry Havoc. You can think of it as a guide to pass to your friends to read before going to game night. It will be great if the game is played with at least one experienced player who knows how to handle exceptions and special rules.

Matrix Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc
By Cedric Chong (maxixe)

Cry Havoc Game Design: Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, Michał Walczak
© 2016 Portal Games

[PDF] Matrix Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc








3. Some Discussions

3.1 Factions

Disclaimer: The content of this section is meant to help players who are new to the game. I have only played a few games of Cry Havoc (9 at this point of writing). I will not be surprised if a few weeks down the road, the general public comes up with better tips and strategies. I will not be surprised if I am wrong. Hopefully, somebody finds this section useful.




Human
Maneuverability
Recruitment
Build
Reinforcements
Deck Management
VP Gain
Offensive Power
Ease of play
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦





[♦ ♦ w/ Veteran Forces/Recon Forces]
[♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ w/ Scouting]







Some Rules Reminder
• Remember you can never lose Control of your HQ. Hence Airfield cannot be used on an enemy's HQ.
• You cannot activate Artillery or Watchtower to place corresponding tokens into an adjacent Battle Region.
• You can have more than one Artillery token or more than one Watchtower token in one region. For example, you can have two Artillery tokens and two Watchtower tokens in one Region, if you wish.
• Even if you have Control Token and Artillery / Watchtower tokens in a region, if you don't have any units, you cannot be engaged in a battle.
Artillery tokens and Watchtower tokens must be used on the next battle in that region where Human is either an Attacker or a Defender.
Artillery tokens and Watchtower tokens are removed and returned back to player's reserve after use.

Faction Discussion
Out of the four factions, Human is the easiest faction to play. Its faction advantages are straight-forward. Firstly, Human can use Default Skill to discard one card from hand to score VPs equal to number of Human Control Tokens on the board. Secondly, Human is the only faction who can gain control of a territory without having to win it through a battle.

Human and Trog tend to have stronger early game. In comparison, they can expand out faster than Machine or Pilgrim.

In my plays, we find that Human tends to become weaker as the game progresses. Especially when the fronts meet, Machine and Trog are able to challenge Human from mid-game onwards.

One of the biggest disadvantage of Human is its ability to reinforce units onto the map. Machine has Factory and Pilgrim has Power Orb to bring units directly onto the board using the BUILD action. Trog can move easily all over the map with Tunnels, can reinforce units with Brooding Pool, can increase future spawning of units using Default Skill, and can spawn additional units when anyone moves into a Region with Trog tokens.

Human, on the other hand, needs to spend 2 actions and at least 2 cards (most often 3 or 4) to recruit units into HQ, and move them out at a later turn.

Because of this, it may sometimes be more beneficial to go for the Prisoner or Attrition (kill) objectives when fighting Human, even if you can win Control. Especially when there is no Enabled Scoring this round. By killing most Human Units, you are forcing Human to waste 2 turns (actions) in the coming Round, to recruit and move. Even if Human gains Control in this battle, if you don't lose any units, you can move back the following round to win back the Region easily.

For example, Human has 3 units. You manage to capture 1 Prisoner and kill 1 unit. Human may gain 2VPs for winning Control. However, you gain 2VP immediately this round. On top of that, Human may be forced to spend -2VP to rescue the Prisoner. And in the coming round, you can move in to defeat the 1 remaining Human Unit easily, gaining back +2VP yourself. In process, you may even get to capture that 1 remaining Human Unit as prisoner.

Hence, while Human can expand fast, fighting battles far away from HQ is costly to Human.

Because of this weakness, Human benefits a lot by drawing the Terrain Tactics Card, Air Support. Air Support is a strong card, and in my opinion, the strongest of all Tactics Card. Air Support is present in all 4 Terrain Tactics Decks. They can only be drawn at random (draw 2, keep 1). If Human can get 1 or 2 Air Support into his deck, it'd definitely help Human cover up some of its weaknesses.

Another Terrain Tactics Card that may situationally be useful for Human is Shifted Priorities. This allows Battle Resolution from bottom up, resolving Attrition first. Use this in Battles with Artillery token(s). This can catch an enemy off guard, leading to total obliteration of enemy. In certain instances, it may allow Human to win Control as well as score VPs from Attrition.


Human benefits greatly from going first on the Initiative Track.

Firstly, Human (and Trog) is the faction that expands fast, and hence will benefit the most from an early Enabled Scoring. Going earlier increases chance of Human securing that Enabled Scoring spot before anyone else.

Secondly, Human Structures Artillery and Watchtower can only be activated pre-emptively. They can only add tokens into regions which are not Battle Regions. To ensure they can do this, they need to go first on the Initiative Track.

Game play wise, Human is fairly flexible. This faction is quite forgiving to play. Human is great for new players to the game.






Machine
Maneuverability
Recruitment
Build
Reinforcements
Deck Management
VP Gain
Offensive Power
Ease of play
♦ ♦
♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦




[♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ w/ Transform]
[♦ ♦ w/ Software Update]
[♦ ♦ w/ Firepower]





Some Rules Reminder
• You do not gain any VPs from killing enemy units using Orbital Sniper or Shred Drones.
• You cannot use Orbital Sniper to kill enemy units in their HQ.
• Tactics Cards on Matrix is not considered your Hand. Hence it is shuffled back to the corresponding Tactics Deck after use, and not into your discard pile.
• Maximum number of cards allowed on the Matrix is three (3), regardless of how many Matrix Structures you have in the game. Having more simply allow you to add more cards than one onto the Matrix with one action.
• Remember, Bunker can only be activated when it is in a Battle Region. Hence, it is better for Machine to go later (or last) on the Initiative Track.

Faction Discussion
Machine is probably the hardest faction to play and the most unforgiving. Many of its synergies are not immediately apparent.

Machine (and Pilgrim) tend to have a slower early game. In comparison, Human and Trog are capable of expanding out much faster.

A lot of Machine's advantages are realized from its five Structures. Hence, the BUILD action has got to be the most played action by a Machine player. A Round 1 draw of the Mountain Terrain Tactics Card which gives 3 BUILD is probably a very good idea. Performing Build actions with 7, 8, 9 or even more BUILD points seem to be indicative of a solid Machine play.

As a Machine player, you probably do not need to perform the Recruit action, ever.

Machine is able to kill enemy units in Battle Region through Shred Drones. A good tactic for Machine may be a turn 1 move into an enemy Region, locking it as a Battle Region. Structures in Battle Regions cannot be activated. Units cannot be moved into Battle Regions. This is strong against Human. Against Pilgrim, Pilgrim may still be able to add units using Power Orb. Against Trog, as long as the Battle Region does not have Trap it should be fine.

After locking the Region into a Battle Region, Machine can spend later turns (actions) snipping units using Shred Drones.

Machine can snipe other Regions pre-emptively using Orbital Sniper as well. This is obviously strong against Human, as explain under the Human section earlier, the further away a Human unit is from its HQ, the costlier it is for Human to replace that unit.

When playing Machine, I often find I'm short of cards. This is where Matrix helps greatly. I can use my hand to Build and Move during the Action Phase, and use cards on the Matrix during the Battle Phase.

When you think about the typical hand size, the Matrix becomes a very powerful Structure.

Every Round, players draw 4 cards. Regardless of how much you "deck-build" by adding cards to your personal deck, you draw 4. That's it. Pilgrim may be able to draw more cards, cycling through the deck. Other factions have to rely on the Desert Terrain Tactics Card, which in effect adds 1 Move/Recruit/Build to your current hand. Often, you will use up most of your hand in the Action Phase, leaving 1 or maybe 0 cards for Battle. Matrix gives you 3 more! A Machine with 3 cards on Matrix is an intimidating threat to other players.


Bunker seems good on first read. However, it is tricky to use. In order to build Bunker, it must be on a non-battle Region that you control. In order to activate Bunker, it must be a Battle Region. Thankfully Machine's Default Skill allows you to move Structures. Therefore, it is possible to build pre-emptively and push your front later.

Machine seems to benefit by going last on the Initiative Track.

Most obvious reason is the Bunker. If an enemy goes later than you, as the last action of the round, initiates a Battle, you will not have any action left (you went earlier) to activate Bunker.

One more idea to share. Since Machine needs to draw Mountain (Terrain Tactics Card that gives 3 BUILD) the most, starting position can affect Machine. If you look closely, the 3 possible starting position have different counts of Mountain terrains in the immediate proximity (range 1 or range 2 Regions away from HQ). While Machine will probably be using Mountain for its 3 BUILD, by mid-game or end-game, being closer to Mountain regions give Machine the flexibility to use these cards for battles.

Overall, I find Machine the hardest to play. It is not very forgiving. But it can definitely stand on its own. Recommended for experienced players, or players who are used to heavy Euro style of play.







Pilgrims
Maneuverability
Recruitment
Build
Reinforcements
Deck Management
VP Gain
Offensive Power
Ease of play
♦ ♦
♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦

[♦ ♦ ♦ w/ Teleportation]




[♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ w/ Sow The Seeds/Data Extraction]
[♦ ♦ ♦ w/ Power Extraction]





Some Rules Reminder
• Remember you cannot activate a Structure if it is in a Battle Region. Hence to use a Power Orb, the adjacent region must be a Battle Region, while the region the Power Orb is in, cannot be a Battle Region.

Faction Discussion
Pilgrim seems to be the turtling faction, when just playing with Default Skill. Highly recommended for players who like to avoid conflict and instead focus on building their own engine.

Pilgrim is the only faction to start with Card Drawing capability. Pilgrim is also the only faction who can farm Crystals.

A good Pilgrim strategy would be to capture 3 adjacent regions by Round 2, build all 9 Structures, and start spamming Crystals. 3 Power Orb in adjacent regions helps to support one another. In case one region is attacked, the other 2 Power Orbs can be activated to add units to the Battle Region.

In this way, the biggest weakness of Pilgrim is its low Region count. It is possible to totally disable a Pilgrim. If an enemy go earlier on the Initiative Track, and if it can move 1 unit into all 3 Regions, locking them up into Battle Regions, a Pilgrim becomes helpless for the rest of the Round. It can't activate Structures (adding Crystals). It can't move through or into Battle Regions. Only thing left to do is to farm cards, or recruit to HQ.

It is harder to decide which position on the Initiative Track benefits Pilgrim. Based on above example, it would seem beneficial for Pilgrim to go earlier. However, if anyone can lock all 3 regions, it is still extremely detrimental to Pilgrim.

In certain case, going last may be more beneficial. Pilgrim's Power Orb can only be activated into a Battle Region. If Pilgrim doesn't go last, someone may attack Pilgrim on the last action of the Round. This means Pilgrim cannot activate Power Orb.

For Pilgrim, positioning of the 3 key Crystal Farming Regions seems to be the most critical factor to winning. In very aggressive game, Pilgrim can be forced to expand out to control more than 3 Regions in order to create a buffer Region that blocks enemies from entering its Regions with Structures.

Aside from Human, I find Pilgrim has the most straight-forward game play strategy. Get 3 Regions, build all buildings, farm Crystals. The difficulty lies in holding those 3 Regions and activating Structures to farm Crystals throughout the game.





Trog
Maneuverability
Recruitment
Build
Reinforcements
Deck Management
VP Gain
Offensive Power
Ease of play
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦





[♦ ♦ w/ Adaptation]






Some Rules Reminder
• You can use a unit in your HQ to pay for your Default Skill.
• If a Trog Region only has one Trog unit, you can remove that unit to pay for the Default Skill, making that region unoccupied, then put a Trog token into that same region.
• You cannot use a Trog unit in a Battle Region to pay for the Default Skill.

Trog Fast Expand Combo - Round 1 VP Lead into forcing short game.
Action 1 – Enable Scoring (1 card)
Action 2 – Recruit 2 (or more) (1 card)
If you manage to Recruit 3 (bringing HQ units to 5), use Default Skill to add one Token in any one of the 4 eventual regions you will be moving into.
Action 3 – Move 4 units out, into 3 tunnel regions and the 5 Crystals region outside HQ. (2 cards)
During Scoring Phase – Gain 5 VPs from Control Tokens, and 5/6 VPs depending on luck of Trog tokens reveal. Need to gain 2/3 more VPs in other Battles. Gain via Attrition or Prisoner(s) or gaining control. Get 13 VPs to trigger shorter game.

This combo can be done fairly reliably as long as Trog starts the game with the Enable Scoring Card.

Faction Discussion
Trog is the only faction out of the four who can reliably fast expand into 4 Regions, and gain control of all 4 Regions, in Round 1 of the game.

The characteristics of Trog is that it can move easily all over the board, and it can bring units back to the board very easily. Trog can reinforce units with Brooding Pool, can increase future spawning of units using Default Skill, and can spawn additional units when anyone moves into a Region with Trog tokens.


I find that game play of Trog aligns with the theme. Thematically, Trog is the guardian of the planet. In game play, Trog is the guardian faction who must keep all other factions in check.

Of course, in order to win, every player needs to attack the leader to reduce his or her lead. This applies to every faction. However, other factions may not have the ability to challenge the leader.

Because Trog can move around the map easily, it is easier for Trog to challenge the leader. If Human is expanding too much, Trog must reduce the number of Regions Human controls. If Pilgrim solidifies its 3 Crystal Farming Regions, Trog must move at least 1 unit to lock Structures in a region. If Machine manages to push forward a front and builds 3 Orbital, 3 Shred Drones, 3 Factories, Trog better be there to push Machine back before Machine can setup Bunkers.

Trog can be played offensively or defensively. A defensive Trog can make for a very dull game for the Trog player. But it is strong. A Trog holding center of map with 3 Traps, and 16 Units will most likely go unchallenged. However, I don't think such a strategy will allow Trog to win the game. One of Trog's greatest strength is its capability to recruit dead units easily, and reinforce map positions. By playing a defensive (turtling) game, you are not gaining the VPs from Battles (Control, Prisoners, or Attrition) that you otherwise could.

I feel Trog needs to be played aggressively. Spam Default Skill every Round. Challenge other factions, and keep playing Enabled Scoring whenever possible. Capture Prisoners and Attrition as priority over gaining Control. In one of my game, Trog managed to capture about 8 Prisoners, of which 4 were rescued.

I find Trog challenging to play because the player must have map awareness. Board position changes throughout the Action Phase. Hence, the player must be able to play the game tactically, reacting to changes in board position.








3.2 Sessions

Game 1 (4 Rounds)
Human 55 - Machine 29


I was pretty convinced that Human is OP. Round one managed to get away with big combo and score lead.

Game 2 (5 Rounds)
Machine 47 - Human 21


Learnt to play Machine better. Used lots of Structures. Never Recruit. All Factories. Snipe Human everywhere using Orbital and Drones. Totally locked down Human. It was quite sad. Machine did not use Enable Scoring at all the entire game. Just focused on locking down Human.

Game 3 (5 Rounds)
Pilgrim 77 - Human 65


I guess two-player game allows Pilgrim lots of space to farm a "golden triangle" of 3 adjacent regions. Hard to break in due to Power Orb. By round 5, Pilgrim could challenge adjacent space of Human.

Game 4 (5 Rounds)
Machine 80 - Pilgrim 33


Played Machine much better. Totally locked down Pilgrim. While Pilgrim could draw cards fast, it seems it is harder to get units on the board. Can't wait for Battle Region to use Power Orb. Maybe have to start to use Recruit and Move more?

Machine was strong. First Round first action to draw Terrain card that gives 3 Build. Every chance to add more of this Terrain card into personal deck. Can lead to very big turns.

Game 5 (4 Rounds)
Trog 60 - Machine 59 - Human 55 - Pilgrim 49


Trog had a good Round 1. No one enabled scoring, Trog went 4th in Initiative and did Enable Scoring. Then recruited and moved into all uncontested spaces, since it was still early game. Managed to gain a good lead even though crystals value were halved for Trog. Trog was very aggressive. Didn't always play to Control Region, instead did more of capturing Prisoners and Attrition. Trog managed to capture lots of prisoners. Trog was able to bring almost all 16 of its units on to the board most of the time. Didn't care about Attrition, cause units were easy to bring back every round with easy recruits capability and Tunnels.

Machine had bad start and was stuck in opening 2 Regions most of the game. Only in Round 3 and 4 did Machine managed to break out. If the Structures Region were blocked due to someone entering, making it a Battle Region, Machine's main advantage is crippled. I.e. can't activate Structures in Battle Region. But once Machine was able to break out, the 3 Shred Drones, 2 Factories, and 1 Matrix were able to help Machine secure its Regions. A Round 4 Bunker was almost redundant, but helps to discourage any enemy from taking the high value Region.

Pilgrim was not able to setup the crystal farm in this game. With enemies on all front, it was difficult to get things going. There was constant back and forth between Pilgrim, Trog and Human.

Human did not Enable Scoring in first action, instead chose to draw Terrain Card to build deck. Human was not able to spread out as much. Not many Regions were unoccupied by Round 2, due to Trog moving out aggressively and using the default skill. This made Airfield almost useless. Artillery and Watchtower were preemptive (can't activate token into Battle Region), hence has lower value in this game as well. Because most rounds have 6 to 7 battles going on.


Game 6 (4 Rounds)
Human 74 - Pilgrim 71 - Machine 59


Relatively less battles in this game. All factions were able to stay in their corner and do their thing.

Machine starts sniping and shredding others more beginning Round 3. But was not able to gain the VP lead by capturing more Regions than the other two factions. With their basic skills, Human and Pilgrim scores pulled ahead.


Game 7 (5 Rounds)
Human 61 - Pilgrim 55 - Trog 30 - Machine 22


Very few battles as well. Compared to Game 5 where there were 5, 6, or 7 battles every round, all players were comfortable turtling. Every rounds have 2 to 3 battles only. No one seemed to want to enable scoring. Trog did it once, and that's it. The next scoring was in final round.

Machine was stuck in ackward corner again. The Human expanded fast and managed to snatch up one Exploration tile right in front of Machine. Blocked by Trog (plus Trap) and Human (plus Watchtower and Artillery), Machine was never able to break free to setup the needed two Shread Drones Region adjacent to one Battle Region configuration.

Trog played defensively, setting a front in the center of the map, with its Structures. Forcing sideway combats amongst the other three factions. Human and Machine tried to contest the center but to no avail. A defensive Trog is hard to break in due to sheer unit size. However, Trog did play most of the game at max 16 units on the board. One Region alone had 6 Units throughout most of the game.

Pilgrim was able to setup the Crystal Pool combo quietly at the corner, holding on to its three Regions. It was hard to spot its score lead because its board position appeared so seemingly weak. It wasn't until the big combos start to come in that Human and Trog started to focus more on Pilgrim.

Human expanded quickly, and fearlessly outward. Managed to hold the front using Artillery and Watchtower. Some back and forth but managed to hold on to its Region and used Default Skill several times.

I should add that it was a really fun and rowdy game with many eruptions of laughter. At certain point where there was a leader, players start to trash talk, and make deals, funny suggestions and backstabs. It's almost like diplomacy. Very fun session.


Game 8 (4 Rounds)
Human 68 - Machine 53


After the last disappointing show by Machine (score 22), was hoping to replicate success of Game 2 and Game 4 in a 2-player matchup.

This time, however, Human played really well and pushed aggressively with Artillery and Watchtower. Machine could not get a good angle to proper use more than 1 Shred Drones at a time. Either no valid adjacent targets, or Region Shred Drones was in was locked in Battle itself.



Game 9 (4 Rounds)
Machine 73 - Human 67 - Pilgrim 53


One of the best game yet!

This time we got our most Euro-thinky player (his name is Trent) to play Machine. This was his second time playing Machine.

Human managed to spread out fast, did Enabled Scoring in Round 1 and 3. Starting using Default Skill in Round 2 and Round 3. Human also managed to claim 2 central regions with Crystals using Airfield. These two regions often became the only valid spot for the neutral Trog to retreat. As a result, Trog Nest tokens started to pile. This helped Human to secure these two regions further.

In Round 3, Human managed to secure huge leap in VPs, triggering shorter game.

Pilgrim was not able to secure 3 "uninterrupted" Regions throughout the game. This greatly hampered Pilgrim's ability to farm Crystals.

Machine did its slow methodical march, but was not able to challenge Human even in Round 3. By end of Round 3, Human has a clear 10+ VP lead over Machine. Pilgrim was further behind.

In Round 4, everything changed. On the first action, the Machine player paused for quite a while. Probably only 60 seconds, but in our normal gaming standard, 60 seconds is a long time. Then he said...

"There are 2 ways I can still catch up to Human...."

He then went on to reveal (partially) his choices. We all thought both are valid. He thought about it for a while longer, then decided to... draw card (!). He said best move for him was to wait and see what we do.

We went about our usual business, and in the 2nd turn, Machine did the big reveal. A big Move action. He basically did the riskier move and challenged Human directly at his highest Crystal regions. But one thing we didn't see coming was how he nullified Human's control over the two Regions with a pile of Trog tokens.

He simply moved 1 unit into each Region.

Wow. This was so simple, yet, we truly didn't see it coming. By moving 1 Machine Unit into both regions, it triggered all Trog tokens. I recall there was probably 4 Trog in one region, and 7 (!) in another. Since it was the last round of the game, Machine really did not mind what happened to those two units. But by making that move, Human's Control Tokens were removed (when Trog wins as non-player faction, any existing Control Token in Region is removed).

What happened over the next 10-15 minutes (of Battles) was a spectacular show down of card plays. When the dust cleared, Human lost most of the regions he had control over, and Machine shot past in score. 73 to 67. Victory to Machine!













4. The actual review


Cry Havoc
1 Battle Board - A Breakthrough In Board Game Design
2 Rewards good plays
3 Highly strategic
4 Asymmetric factions
5 No absolute advantages or disadvantages in player turn order
6 High heuristic tree. High replayability.





Layer 1 - Meta characteristics


Good timings.

From my plays:

2-player games range between 55 to 80 minutes.
3-player games range between 90 to 110 minutes.
4-player games range between 90 to 120 minutes.

Setup time is about 8 minutes.
Take down time is about 8 minutes.

These are good timings, standard of most medium-weight or medium-heavy-weight games.


Rulebook is well organized, but lacking

To be fair, the rule book for Cry Havoc is well organized.

But once I start to play the game, a handful of questions arise which I am not able to find answers to just relying solely on the rule book.

Thankfully, many people have already asked the same questions here on BGG. The designers and staff of Portal have been active in answering these questions. I was able to find answers to most of my queries here on BGG. If you want to play this game, you must download their FAQ. No question about it.
If you want to play this game,
you must download their FAQ.
No question about it.

At time of this writing, Portal published version 1.0. of the FAQ. This FAQ is still not updated with most of the questions answered on BGG. Please look out for at least version 1.1 of the FAQ, which should address most game play situations that will come up during your game.


Of course, you can totally circumvent this issue by having someone else teach you the game.






Great production value

Opening the box of Cry Havoc, I cannot help but be in awe of the great production value. Tokens are punched out easily. Cards smell like Magic cards. Minis, while not CMoN quality, looks great. The color caps snap on well. Tokens are cut in nice custom shapes. Structure tiles fit together nicely. The crystals are shiny and sharp.

Overall, this is a very well put together product of love.


Plays well from 2 to 4

I played Cry Havoc with 2, 3 and 4 players. I find Cry Havoc enjoyable at all player counts.

Board gaming is a social event. Sometimes I don't get to choose the players at the table. Different players have different threshold to handle conflict.

At 2-player count, I find I am able to totally let go of all reservations in attacking. Like most 2-player games, Memoir'44, BattleLore, Twilight Struggle, X-Wing, A Few Acres of Snow, Summoner Wars, 1775... it is me versus you.

I can unapologetically advance my armies right to the front of your door step. As a first action, I can move my units into the Regions adjacent to your HQ. This effectively lock the Regions. It means, you cannot move any backup units out of your HQ, to anywhere!

At 3-player count, if a player feels shy attacking another player, there is always the innocent Trog to act as target board.

At 4-player count, everything goes. The board is crammed. Everyone gets in the face of everyone. I find even the most conflict-adverse player is able to get into this game. Firstly, we can let him play Pilgrim. Pilgrim (with only Default Skill) is a turtling faction. That player can just get 3 regions and defend those 3 regions the entire game. Secondly, this game promotes battles. There are many battles throughout the game, so conflicts between factions even out. A shy Human player can attack Trog first, then attack Machine, then Pilgrim. Thirdly, Trog is the faction that spreads everywhere fast. Trog gets units back onto the board easily. When in doubt, attack the Trog!

Why am I making such a big deal with player count?

Because I value games that play well in all advertised player counts.

Kemet is playable at 2 and 3, but it is really a great game at 4 and 5. Same as El Grande, the granddaddy of Area Control games. I love El Grande. But it is only great at 5 (or 4) player-count. Another example, Settlers of Catan, only good at 4.

To have a game that can be played at all player-counts is great. The game is easier to get to the table.






Layer 2 - What make this game awesome

Battle Board - A Breakthrough In Board Game Design

Battle Resolution System in conflict games

The core of any conflict games is its battle resolution system. There are generally two types. Random, or Deterministic.

A random battle resolution system is simple to understand. When two armies meet, you don't know the outcome until a random modifier is added. Usually, this random modifier comes in the form of dice.

Examples include Risk, Descent, X-Wings, Memoir '44.

A deterministic battle resolution system is when two armies meet, the outcome is always the same.

A completely deterministic system is like Antike. Problem with this system is it makes players AP-prone (Analysis Paralysis). The other problem of this system is it does not have moments of Fiero.

Fiero is when you throw your hands up in the air and shouts "Yes!". It is when you triumph over adversity.

This is the reason why a dice-based combat system seems more "fun" than a purely deterministic one. When you beat all odds and roll that much needed critical hit to beat down the bad guys, everyone jumps for joy and celebrates in that special moment of glory.

At the same time, a random system can leave a bad taste in the mouth if a series of bad luck leaves you trailing behind, regardless of how well you play.

To make a deterministic system better, designers came up with the "deterministic plus hidden hand" system. Examples of games with deterministic plus hidden hand include Kemet, Blood Rage, Scythe, Tigris and Euphrates.

While the game is still some-what deterministic (given the same input, the outcome is always the same), both sides won't know for sure until the hidden hand is revealed.


Cry Havoc's innovative Battle Resolution System

Cry Havoc came in and turned this upside down.

Cry Havoc's battle resolution system is non-random, yet non-deterministic.

It is non-random because there is no random modifier added to battles.

It is non-deterministic because given the same armies and the same cards played, you can have vastly different outcome.
Cry Havoc's battle resolution
system is non-random,
yet non-deterministic.

How is this achieved?

That is the genius of the battle resolution system. The Battle Board.

The Battle Board has three areas which represents three different objectives. Players moving units into a region to initiate a Battle may have a general sense of what he or she hopes to accomplish initially. But by the time the Action Phase is finished, the board position may change drastically. What was important, relevant, or possible, may no longer be the case.

When game play reaches Battle Resolution Phase, each player must place units onto the three different objectives on the Battle Board. Where players place their units can differ from what he or she originally planned.

Even after the units are placed, players can play cards from hand to move these units around to further modify outcome of the battle. Mind-games can be played. Until both players decide to stop playing cards, final result of the battle is ever-changing.

In a way, each battle is like an Area Control Game within the Area Control Game.

This, in itself, would have make it an interesting design.
Each battle is like
an Area Control Game within
the Area control Game.

You win some, you lose some

What makes this even better are the objectives. The three objectives are Region Control, capture Prisoners, and Attrition (kill).

It isn't always clear which objective is the best. There isn't always an absolute winner or an absolute loser. You may win some, you may lose some.

For example, I may capture Region Control, but my opponent captures 1 unit of my army as Prisoner, and kill off my remaining units, scoring immediate VPs. Later, my opponent continues to score 1 VP each round from that Prisoner, until I decide to forfeit 2 VPs to rescue my unit. I have big incentive to do that. Because the game only gives each faction 12 (Trog has 16) units. When I run out, I can no longer recruit more. So having 4 units captured effectively reduces my available army size to 8.

These, in itself, would have make it an excellent design.

Decisions are hard

What makes the Battle Resolution great are the hard decisions.

There isn't always an absolute way to place units.

This is an important point.

Playing multiplayer conflict games, I got used to fighting for territorial control. When playing the first few games of Cry Havoc, I naturally focus on the Region Control objective all the time. I'd only place my units elsewhere if and only if I can't win Control.

I found this thinking may not necessarily be correct.

As mentioned earlier in my review, sometimes, it may be strategically wiser to go for capture Prisoner or Attrition objectives, even if you can win control.

Also, the Terrain Tactics Cards adds multiple options to possible strategies. Having a Regroup, Outflank, Air Support or Shifted Priorities gives you a lot of room for creative plays. AND.....

Bluffing!

Yes, you read this right. This is crazy!

In 90% of the battles, it is tactical and straight-forward. But once in a rare occasion, the Battle Resolution System allows us to play creative moves that totally surprises everyone on the table.

The Battle Board is
a breakthrough in
board game design.

If anyone were to ask me three months ago, is it possible to have a Battle Resolution System that is non-random, non-deterministic, and has bluffing , I'd probably think he is nuts.


I feel the Battle Board is a breakthrough in board game design.

I won't be surprised if more games start to copy make use of this mechanic in the coming year or two. In fact, I am really looking forward to the future to see how other designers (or Grant) can expand on this mechanics.





Rewards good plays

When it comes to board game design, best-practices and rules of thumb develop overtime.

Some things are frown upon. Like player-elimination, run-away leader, randomness.

Some things are considered good. Like catch-up mechanisms, limited action-selection, simultaneous player actions.


Challenging conventional wisdom

Many breakthroughs in board game designs happened when designers challenged themselves.

Richard Garfield designed the hugely successful Magic: The Gathering (1993). A quick search on Internet shows that there are more than 20 million Magic players as of 2015. Magic spawned an entire era of copy-cat CCGs.

Even with such phenomenal success, Richard Garfield challenged himself by asking, can I design a game like Magic, and yet different in every possible way? Three years later, Netrunner (1996) was released.

Reiner Knizia asked, how can I make this game to be as close to the theme as possible? The result was Lord of the Rings (2000), probably the first cooperative board game.

Donald X. Vaccarino asked, can I make a game like Magic, but instead of building a deck before a game, you build the deck while playing? The result was Dominion (2008).

Richard Garfield could have stopped with Magic and Netrunner, but almost 15 years later, he asked, can I make a game that is better than Yahtzee, more interactive, and just for kicks, challenge conventional wisdom by adding player-elimination into the game? The result was King of Tokyo (2011).

What's my point?






Must run-away leader be avoided?

In the past 10 to 15 years, everyone was bashing the run-away leader problem. Many good Euro games have catch-up mechanisms which result in the final score coming very close. Players can spend 2 hours hunched over the board and end up with scores that are 10 Victory Points (VPs) apart. 150, 148, 142, 140. Good game!

But is it, really?

It is fun for a while. But when every other game plays out exactly to the same ending, I say enough is enough.

Cry Havoc is unapologetically different.

In Cry Havoc, if I play well, I lead in score. There are no rules to add costs to my production when I am leading. There are no bonuses to other players to catch up to me. There are no hidden scores to hide the fact that I am leading.

(The only thing that remotely resembles a catch-up mechanism is the Event which reduces 1 Unit from a Region if you have more than 4 Units in a Region, and the Event which reduces 2 Crystals from the Region with the most Crystals.)

In Cry Havoc, if I play well, I score well. If I play badly, I score badly. Final score can sometimes be close. But more likely than not, there is a large score difference between first place and last place.

And why not?

Terra Mystica is one of my regular gaming group's all-time favorite game. If I play a new faction for the first time, chances are my score will be low. It is possible for the leading player to lap me. Yes, the VP token went around the score board, and overtook me!

Of course, any bad games can have the run-away leader problem.

How does Cry Havoc alleviate problem with run-away leader? By making the game shorter. If any player manages to score a large amount of VPs, it can trigger a shorter game.
Cry Havoc rewards
good play by allowing
run-away leader.

From my experience, in about half of all my games played, a shorter game was triggered, leading to a 4 Rounds game. Just to be clear, even in these games, there could be two leaders, and it wasn't clear who would win until the end. About half of the games were played to full 5 Rounds.

Cry Havoc rewards good play by allowing run-away leader. It is hard to catch up with the leader. But in my experience, it is possible, if you play even better! And if you fall behind in scores, you do not have to sit around to have a long drawn-out game.






Strategic, tactical, high player interaction and direct conflict

At its core, I think Cry Havoc is a Euro game. There isn't much random. Game focuses on VPs. Because everyone takes turn performing one action during the Action Phase, it allows for some very tactical plays. Players can see the "big-picture" or the "end-game". This makes coming up with a long term strategy, and sticking with it, possible.

Many Euros are successful in being both strategic and tactical. That's no big deal. What makes Cry Havoc impressive is the high amount of player interaction and direct conflict.

Almost every game of Cry Havoc I had instances where the group exploded in laughter or loud exclamations. In a few games, there were even trash talks and players joined forces to try to bring down the leader.
What makes Cry Havoc impressive
is the high amount of player
interaction and direct conflict.

I feel it is a rare gem when a game can be strategic, tactical, deep, and yet highly interactive and rowdy.


No absolute advantages or disadvantages in player turn order

This probably comes up often in board game design.

During playtest:

"Opps, I think this game gives the last player too much advantage/disadvantage." OR
"Opps, I think this game gives the first player too much advantage/disadvantage."

Quick solutions:

"Oh I know, have a turn order maker, and pass this clockwise around the table. Problem solved!" OR
"Oh I know, let the players bid for turn order. Problem solved!"

Both solutions are valid to reduce impact of any advantages or disadvantages players may have by going first or last.

However, isn't this a lazy design?

Isn't it much better if the designer can reduce or eliminate any advantages or disadvantages of players going first or last?


In Cry Havoc, sometimes the last player has an advantage. Sometimes, the first player has an advantage. It depends on whether it is early game, or late game. It depends on factions. It depends on whether you are attacking or if you are defending.

I have covered much of this in section 3.1. I'll add a few examples here.

Human Structures Artillery and Watchtower need to be activated into adjacent regions, before they become Battle Regions. In this way, it is probably a good idea for Human to be nearer to the front of the Initiative Track.

A good way to counter Human is to go before Human, and move your Units into their Regions with Structures, before Artillery and Watchtower are activated. For Machine and Pilgrim, it is not a big issue since they can move in first, and reinforce the Battle later. Machine can kill units in Battle Region using Shred Drones, Pilgrim can add units to Battle Region using Power Orb. Trog has so many units it doesn't matter if it loses the Battle. If Trog can't win Control, it should focus on capturing Prisoner or Attrition.

Human and Trog tends to spread out faster in the early game. Thus it is usually Human or Trog who would play Enable Scoring. Going earlier in the Initiative Track helps ensure you can secure that.

Generally, going earlier allows you to play Enable Scoring before anyone else. It also allows you to move your units into enemy Regions to "lock" those regions before those regions get reinforced. (Structures in Battle Regions cannot be activated; Units cannot move into Battle Regions; 1 Attacking unit blocks 2 Defender units from leaving a Battle Region).

Machine probably benefits more going later on the Initiative Track, especially late game. Bunker is a very good Structure for holding on the front Regions which Machine successfully won. However, in order for Bunker to be of any use, it must be activated. Problem is, it can only be activated in a Battle Region. Hence, if an enemy goes later, he can start a battle on the last Action of the Round. Machine will not be able to activate Bunker at all.

Of course, this is not absolute. Against Human, Machine, or anyone else, probably need to go first, move into to lock the region, before Human gets the chance to activate Artillery and Watchtower.

Generally, going later allows you to observe board position. You can always keep a defensive stance in your Regions until the last Action, wait for enemies to move first, then go for any weak positions that are exposed. Several faction Structures need to be activated after a region becomes a Battle Region. By going last, you can overcome your opponent's Structure advantage (i.e. those Structures cannot be activated to help in the coming Battle).


On top of all these, switching turn order is free! You get to activate it as part of playing that one card in your starting deck, along with Move/Recruit/Build action.

In many other games, to become starting player, it is usual to have to spend an action to perform a "lesser" move, just to get that starting player position.

I really like how Cry Havoc handles turn order and how it reduces or eliminates any apparent issues of going first or going last. This is a very good aspect of this game, which is sorely missing in many other games.








High heuristic tree. High replayability.

Heuristic is rule-of-thumb that we discover by ourselves while playing the game. These rules are not written in the rule book.

Many Reiner Knizia games are simple to learn, yet has lots of heuristics to be discovered while playing the game. On the other end of the spectrum is a game like Terra Mystica. Strategies and tactics of each faction takes multiple plays to be discovered.

I love games with high heuristic tree.



I used to think that having variation is the key factor to replayability. Variable board setup. Variable player powers. Variable paths to victory.

Until I played a few games which have all these, and yet, I felt I had already "seen it all" and had no desire to play those games again.

Eventually I learnt that what makes me want to go back to a game to play it again and again is not variation, but a high heuristic tree.

I want to try this again. I want to try that again. I haven't quite figure this out. Oh my god! I didn't know this combo can be done!

A high heuristic tree ensures replayability.


One game in, I could see that Cry Havoc has very high heuristic tree. Each of the four factions have different heuristic trees. The significance of the Terrain Tactics Card has a high heuristic tree. The Battle Board has an even higher heuristic tree.

This makes Cry Havoc a very deep game to figure out. Even after I lose, I want to play again. Most of my gaming buddies felt the same way as well.









Quibbles?

Quibble: Why have Enabled Scoring? Why make it so fiddly? Why not just have all factions score every round?

What I've found:
It turns out that whether there is Enabled Scoring in a round has a very big impact on how you may want to play your battles.
Sometimes, it may
be better to
lose Control.

In almost all conflict games, players naturally want to win fights to gain control over territories. In Cry Havoc, it may not necessarily be beneficial to win Control. In fact, as described earlier, sometimes, it may be better to lose Control, especially when Enabled Scoring is not in effect. Focusing on capturing Prisoner and Attrition may be a smarter move.


Quibble: There are only 12 to 15 Actions in a Game!

What I've found:
After reading the rule book, I thought this would be one of those long games where I just perform a few actions (12 to 15). I couldn't be more wrong!

I think it is more accurate to call it turns. 12 to 15 turns. There are definitely more decisions that need to be made throughout the game than 12 to 15.

Every turn (Action), you can discard one or more cards. While Recruit is straight-forward, Move and Build actions definitely give you more things to ponder over.

Move is not moving one army from one space to another space. In Cry Havoc, a Move action can allow you to move multiple armies to multiple destinations. When you perform the move can have huge tactical impact.

Build is not just build one structure or activate one structure. A Build action allows you to do multiple stuff. For example, a Machine Build can allow the player to add cards (Matrix), add units (Factory), reinforce a front (Bunker), snipe a nearby enemy (Shred Drones) or snipe a faraway enemy (Orbital Sniper). There is a lot of thinking and decision making in just that one action.

That is just the Action Phase.

When it comes to Battle Phase, it is like an entirely separate session of Area Control games!

Each round, you can have 1, 2, 3, or possibly even more battles. Every single battle requires you to ponder over what to do. Which cards to use. Which battle can you win? Which battle can you give up? Which units to place on which objectives? Even when giving up, what gains can I walk away with? Then, add Terrain Tactics Cards. With my current hand of Tactics card, how can I play out the best possible outcome?



Quibble: The action to draw 2 cards and keep 1 is too expensive and a precious waste of a turn (action)!

What I've found:
The Terrain Tactics Deck has some of the best cards in the game. As shared earlier in my review, Air Support and Shifted Priorities are quite powerful. On top of that, almost every faction can benefit from an extra Mountain (3 BUILD) or an extra Desert (1 MOVE/RECRUIT/BUILD and draw 1 card).

Spending actions to add these cards into your deck is definitely worth it.

The great thing about this action is that it is not an easy decision. There is no absolute best card to draw. Tactics Cards have to match Battle Region's terrain type. Overdrawing can dilute your deck. A lot of thoughts have to be put into choosing the right Terrain Tactics Card to draw.



Quibble: The factions are not balanced!

What I've found:
Most early feedback on this game is that Human is overpowered and Machine is underpowered.

After 9 games, I am pretty sure no factions are overpowered. One of my gaming buddy feels this way as well.


The problem is not whether the factions are balanced in the sense of how "powerful" they are. Rather, there are two problems.



Different learning curves and certain faction designs can lead to a frustrating experience.

I feel...

It is easier to play Human. It is harder to play Machine.

This is alright. Asymmetric games with different factions can have different learning curves. In Terra Mystica, it is probably easier to play Nomads and Halflings. And probably harder to play Giants and Cultists.


But I feel if a faction is harder to play, it should be more powerful.

My reasoning is simple. If you have to squeeze every ounce of your brain juice to min/max every move just to be on-par with another faction that is more forgiving, something is not right.


Problem is Cry Havoc only has 4 factions out of the box. I can't help but feel there is a missed opportunity here. It'd be fantastic if the designers create an A-side and a B-side to the different factions. In this way, we can have 8 different factions, but using minis and components of 4. Like in Terra Mystica.

They don't even have to be all different. In Eclipse, A-side of the player boards are all the same, Human. If only Cry Havoc has A-sides to Human, Machine, Pilgrim, and Trog that are just slightly different.

I think this will resolve many of the complaints for this game. Game 1, everybody uses A-side. Future games, the more experienced gamers can flip to B-side.



The other problem is the "feeling" of the special powers.

Human can gain Control of a region just by spending one build point to activate Airfield (or use Scouting Skill!). Every other factions have to gain Control the hard way.

Human can just discard one card to gain 5+ VPs. It is not even an action! Pilgrim can tap to gain 10+ VPs. Trog gains units freely by entering Regions with Trog markers.

Machine? Every single VP has to be earned the hard way. Every single Control Token has to be fought the hard way. Every single unit has to be brought to the map the hard way. Yes, Machine has amazing Matrix which gives Machine an advantage that no other faction has. Yes, Machine has Factory, which allows Machine to recruit directly onto the map, something which Trog can do as well, but better. Yes, Machine is able to snipe units all over the board, something which only Trog has to a more limited capacity. Yes, Machine has Bunker, is probably superior to Pilgrim's Power Orb. However, there isn't any ability that feels like a super-power.

It can be a frustrating feeling sitting at one corner observing how Human and Pilgrim can easily tap to gain 5, 10 or more VPs, while the Machine has to work hard to gain every single point of VP.


So here are what I think can be changed to make Cry Havoc better.

1. Add double-side factions. One side that makes all factions just a slightly different, good for first games.
2. Give Machine an ability that feels like a super-power.


Again, if it is harder to play Machine, I really don't mind it being a little more powerful as compared to the other factions. Maybe make kills from Orbital and Shred Drones give VPs? I don't know.


I have to wrap up this section with a big disclaimer. I have only played this game 9 times at this point. I can very well be completely wrong. But as my gamer buddy said. Every week, we have a bunch of new games to play. We really don't have the time to play a single game many times in order for us to appreciate all the intricacies. At the end of the day, we play games to have fun.



Is it fun?

Yes! Cry Havoc is fun!

There are many things I love about Cry Havoc. There are a few things I dislike about Cry Havoc. In spite of the dislikes, I still think Cry Havoc is an amazing game. A fun game!

The game is engaging from the first minute to the last. There are beautiful moments of positive Fiero. Game is highly strategic, highly tactical. There are lots of player interaction! The high heuristic tree keeps us thinking and makes us come back again and again. Even after we lose, we want to go back and try something new.








Comparing Cry Havoc to Kemet and Blood Rage




Kemet (2012)
Great combat system.
Promotes lots of conflict.
You can't turtle!
Great Powers (tech tree). Get it before your opponents!
Solves multiplayer adjacency problem via teleportation and map design.
Recall allows you to recover from weak position.
Plays very well with 5 players.
Cool monsters minis.
Does not play well with 2 or 3 players.
King-making issues especially in last round.
Last player advantage is too strong, especially in last round.



Kemet is a very good game for the first 100 minutes of the game. My biggest issue with Kemet is its last round where last player advantage and king making can become problematic.

Cry Havoc does not have any absolute advantage or disadvantage in player turn order. Or rather, there are advantages and disadvantages going first, or going last.

Cry Havoc reduces problem of king making by firstly, allowing player scores to run forward (run-away leader), and secondly, having relatively higher VP scores than Kemet.

Kemet end game condition is 8 (or 10) VP. Most players would be very close in score, and a 1 or 2 point swing can be very significant.

Cry Havoc's end game scores are usually in the 50+. depending on how often players Enable Scoring during the game. Players can try to king-make, but the impact will not be as significant as compared to Kemet.


If I am looking for an Area Control Game for 5 players, El Grande would be a solid choice.

If I am looking for an Area Control Conflict Game for 5 players, Kemet is definitely top choice.

Kemet is playable with 5. Cry Havoc only plays up to 4. If you play regularly with 5, Kemet wins hands down.


In any other player count, Cry Havoc would be the better game.









Blood Rage (2015)
Gorgeous minis.
Good solution to conflict (die for glory).
Nice monsters with variable powers (like Kemet).
Interesting upgrades available.
Nice card drafting.
Powerful combos.
Multiple paths to Victory.
Rest of the game is ugly.
Dislike theme (die for glory).
Powerful combos lead to huge swings.
Does not play well with 2 players.


I feel that Blood Rage is the first game to come closest to matching Kemet in this genre.

Almost everything about Blood Rage is great. My biggest (and probably only) issue with Blood Rage is the combo.

Card Drafting is a huge part of the game. If you draft poorly, you will have a bad game. It seems that your strategy is decided on the first draft in Age 1. And you need to try to get the right cards in Age 2 and Age 3 to build on that combo.

It can be very frustrating when you see other players pulling out 60+ Glory combos in Age 3, when you already saw your mistakes in Age 2.


Most typical Euros have players scoring incremental amounts of VPs throughout the game. The winner is the one who performs most consistently throughout the entire duration of game play.

In Blood Rage, the score swing in Age 3 is too large. Whether you are able to play one more card in Age 3 or not, can lead to winning or getting 2nd/3rd place.

Cry Havoc's surge in VP comes when player plays the Enabled Scoring Action. The swing is not as large, and catch up is possible.











5. Final thoughts
One of the best multiplayer area control conflict game, and a breakthrough in board game design.


Since it was published in 2012, I feel the only games that manage to come close to matching Kemet are Blood Rage (2015) and now Cry Havoc (2016).

There are things I love in all three games. And there are things I dislike in all three games. Despite the dislikes, I feel they are the top 3 games in the multiplayer area control conflict genre.

If I have to rank them, I would put Cry Havoc slightly above Kemet and Blood Rage.


Cry Havoc has impressive designs, ingenious battle resolution system, remarkable handling of turn order advantage/disadvantage, very high heuristic tree and great production value.

Cry Havoc is without doubt, one of the best multiplayer area control conflict game, and a breakthrough in board game design.



I love it.

I love it when 2 hours flew by in a flash as we engaged in bloody battles and overcame audacious adversaries... One or two players could play well to lead the score track. The rest could wheel, deal and plot to try to overthrow the "evil" faction. Laughter, trash-talks, deep-thoughts. Strategic, tactical, fun. A magnificent mayhem of conquests and domination.




Cry Havoc!

and let slip the dogs of war.






[PDF] Matrix Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc


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James Mathias
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Re: Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc
Lots of good info here! Thanks for taking the time to give back to the community.

1 nit pick. The title "Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" makes it sound like it's going to be a Machine Faction specific strategy guide of sorts, and it's not. Maybe drop the Machine's and just call it "Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" to avoid confusion. Maybe also mention that it's unofficial?
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Grant Rodiek
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Re: Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc
Wow. Just, wow.

I need to find an hour or two to read this properly.
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Adelin Dumitru
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Re: Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc
Thank you for this. I've begun thinking that maybe Cry Havoc was not the game it was advertised, but your exquisite insights have alleviated all my concerns (Specifically, about the 12-15 actions per game).
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Re: Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc
One thing to note: you mention extensively the turn order issue. In fact, it is your lead comment. Turn order was something I felt was solved relatively early in development, but originally, players were bothered by it because it lacked complexity in its mechanisms.

Human perception is so fascinating and it makes games tough. Sometimes, people dismiss something simple because it is simple.

Not necessarily my intention, more one of those thing that emerges through experimentation, I observed that sometimes going first was most important, sometimes going last was more important, and sometimes you only cared about your relationship to a specific opponent. Typically in games, it is clear that going last or first is preferable. That makes it easy to design against. When everything is viable, at times, that makes it tougher.

I always wanted battles to be the focus. Therefore, I didn't want a crazy complicated turn order mechanism. So, I just made it random every round. Mechanically it worked, most of the time, but it PISSED people off. It felt cheap to many.

Early after Portal signed it, we began experimenting with a simple mechanism that was basically random, but guaranteed a player would never have the same position twice. Not sure why this one died honestly (just something tweaked by Portal), and at BGG 2015 we had some goofy method. I honestly can't remember the specifics, I just know it didn't work, and at the con me and a Ignacy came up with the final mechanism. Random, and changed by players due to, what else, the cards. And, instead of us deciding what is important, in the end, we made it a light strategic choice for the players to solve themselves.

Just a little bit of rambling. Was excited to see someone appreciate this subtle but important facet of figuring out a design.
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Anthony Faber
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Re: Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc

Brilliant effing review. Thank you for addressing all the issues that can plague multiplayer conflict games and analyzing this game (and its competitors) in this context.

I tried to do the same thing with Blood Rage, but your opus here blows my commentary away.
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Cedric Chong
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jmathias wrote:
Lots of good info here! Thanks for taking the time to give back to the community.

1 nit pick. The title "Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" makes it sound like it's going to be a Machine Faction specific strategy guide of sorts, and it's not. Maybe drop the Machine's and just call it "Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" to avoid confusion. Maybe also mention that it's unofficial?


Thanks for the feedback!

I'm sorry it confuses you. Originally I had wanted to create a separate guide for each faction. But after creating the 26 page how to play guide, I got tired, and just wrote the rest. I've changed the title now. Hopefully it is better.



I've taken down the PDF file, and resubmitted it. Currently pending approval.
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Cedric Chong
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HerrohGrant wrote:
-snip-


Thanks for sharing the background and how the design evolved, Grant. It is insightful!


AdelinDumitru wrote:
Thank you for this. I've begun thinking that maybe Cry Havoc was not the game it was advertised, but your exquisite insights have alleviated all my concerns (Specifically, about the 12-15 actions per game).


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me Adelin. I'm happy this article helped you.

maxlongstreet wrote:

Brilliant effing review. Thank you for addressing all the issues that can plague multiplayer conflict games and analyzing this game (and its competitors) in this context.

I tried to do the same thing with Blood Rage, but your opus here blows my commentary away.


Thanks Anthony for your kind words. I probably did not do a very good job and my writing got too long-winded. I read your post on Blood Rage. It is very well written, concise and straight to the point!
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Eric Matthews
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jmathias wrote:
Lots of good info here! Thanks for taking the time to give back to the community.

1 nit pick. The title "Machine's Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" makes it sound like it's going to be a Machine Faction specific strategy guide of sorts, and it's not. Maybe drop the Machine's and just call it "Quick Start Guide to Cry Havoc" to avoid confusion. Maybe also mention that it's unofficial?


The title also gives the impression that this review will be quick when it is probably the single longest post on BGG that I have actually read.

I love this review. I even love the parts I disagree with; however it is not a Quick Start Guide.

Eric
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Dustin Boatman
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Awesome job! This was a great read, and the faction strategy guides are very useful. I am a machine player, and reading strategy on hoe to play them better is appreciated. The only thing I disagree on at all is that the Trogs are harder to play than the Pilgrims. From my plays, I would rank them Trogs as easiest, then Human, followed by Pilgrims and Machines. In my games, the Trogs have been given to the newest player every time and have won every time. I also agree on the Machine faction "feeling" underpowered because of the other races ability to spam skills with free points. To make the attrition scoring work with the machines it takes way more brain power than the scouting/occupation combo of the humans. Thanks again!
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Cedric Chong
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Ganybyte wrote:

The title also gives the impression that this review will be quick when it is probably the single longest post on BGG that I have actually read.

I love this review. I even love the parts I disagree with; however it is not a Quick Start Guide.
Eric


Hehehehe... sorry.
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So far I've only skimmed it, but I'm going back for a proper reading. Quick question though, where would you personally place Dominant Species in relation to the pitfalls of multi-player area-control games? I was kind of surprised not to see it mentioned.

Update: Thanks for this review. This seems very complicated compared to games like Kemet and Cyclades. I am intrigued by the battle board mechanic as well as how this game addresses run-away leaders.

I gotta say, I find this game to be visually repulsive, especially the board. I'd try it if a friend picks it up but I am not inclined to buy it because of how it looks. Guess I'm shallow.
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Mark von Minden
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Great stuff as always Cedric. Thanks!

I'm glad to see you feel some of the balance issues may be less of a concern than previously thought. For my part, I also enjoy games with what you call a "high heuristic tree". I was hoping this might be the case with Cry Havoc as well, though I do see you still believe the Machines at least have issues in not having something that feels like a "super power".

Also, I like your insights on run-away leaders and catch-up mechanisms. As I've gotten into heavier games, I've grown to appreciate games that are difficult to play well and don't hold players' hands as much. If I'm playing Age of Steam, and I make some mistakes, well, too bad for me. Maybe next time. I can still enjoy the game and try to learn from my mistakes.

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Jack Swan
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Fan-tas-tic review! Thanks for all your effort and the true love of gaming that shines through. Top not h. Highly recommended.
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Calvin Wong
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I am incredibly impressed by all this effort - but more importantly, the pull quotes! How do you do pull quotes? That's amazing.
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Sam Leung
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Thanks for the really well thought of review. I agree and like your comparison w blood rage and kemmet. However, i was really hoping u have tried forbidden stars and if u wld compare both of them?
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Mark Jackson
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Am I a man or am I a muppet? If I'm a muppet then I'm a very manly muppet!
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I was already sold on this. Now I'm even more sold.

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Randall Monk
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Really fantastic work. Thank you.

Some minor grammatical quibbles:
"5 or less rounds" should be "5 or fewer rounds"
"Exploration tokens does not end" - remove the 's'
"noone" - put a space there
"each enemy units killed" - remove the 's'

This is minor, petty stuff that distracts from your post's sheer excellence.
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George Goering
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Thank you for the detailed write-up of the game. I had my eye on it and now am very glad to see more detailed information.

I have to ask though... why do you compare it to vanilla Kemet, instead of Kemet with Ta-Seti? I feel like Ta-Seti fixed all the issues with the silly turn order problem and end of game conditions. I guess I feel like it would have been a little more helpful to see it compared to the current and best version of Kemet than the old original one.

Best!
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Spencer Cutrell
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Fantastic review, and you may have convinced me to pick this up in the near future.

I do have one argument though with the following:

Quote:
if it is harder to play, I really don't mind it being a little more powerful


I would argue that this is a poor design decision. I think intuitively, we like it because it *feels* fair. I would argue that despite that, it ends up being unfair and/or creating imbalances in the game.

It effectively creates a right and a wrong way to play the game. Did you master the difficult but stronger race? Or did you pick up the easier but ultimately weaker one? If the latter, you have made a mistake, one that will eventually catch up to you once the other person learns how to maximize the stronger race.

This of course is less of an issue if the game is played infrequently (no one ever really masters the stronger army), but that is ultimately myopic.
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Tony Mastrangeli
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Great writeup. Really a great read.

One counter thought. You mentioned having A-side and B-Side to the factions. I feel like it already kind of does. There are 4 skill cards for each faction. 1 is the default. Unless you always play on beginner mode (or whatever it's called), you are randomly getting 1-2 other skills to use per game. To me, this basically could be considered having an A-Side and B-Side. Each faction will play slightly different each game. In one game, humans might have the great scouting skill, in the next two, they might not and have one of the others.
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Grant Rodiek
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BoardGameQuest wrote:
Great writeup. Really a great read.

One counter thought. You mentioned having A-side and B-Side to the factions. I feel like it already kind of does. There are 4 skill cards for each faction. 1 is the default. Unless you always play on beginner mode (or whatever it's called), you are randomly getting 1-2 other skills to use per game. To me, this basically could be considered having an A-Side and B-Side. Each faction will play slightly different each game. In one game, humans might have the great scouting skill, in the next two, they might not and have one of the others.


I weep at the thought of balance testing 8 factions. Weep.
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N R
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Amazing review. Very detailed and well constructed.
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Nick Walby
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Have you played Inis yet? If so, how does that compare to Cry Havoc?
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instinctive
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I've been watching this game. Thank you for including your micro-session reports, as balance between factions has been one of the question marks in my mind. I'm a huge fan of StarCraft+BroodWar (OOP), and on the lookout for another game that can match its emphasis on strongly integrated theme, asymmetrical factions, attacking over defending, "game on a clock," and non-dice-based combat resolution.

Your review makes me think this may be a worthy successor. I doubt it can replace SC:BW, but it can probably get more playtime!

Note: yes, I do have CitOW and FS... they are great games, but SC:BW does it better imo. Kemet looks too abstract for my taste, and I haven't picked it up.
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