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Cry Havoc» Forums » Reviews

Subject: What does Cry Havoc offer the Dudes-On-A-Map genre? rss

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Alex Brown
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Cry Havoc is a surprisingly complex game that incorporates many new and innovate ideas for a multiplayer combat game. Rules ambiguities and hard asymmetry sometimes impede strong core game mechanisms making the strategy space and dynamics come across as procedural in beginning plays. Your reward for battling through the complexity is a very deep confrontational game for its play time.

Cry Havoc weaves together some innovative mechanisms. The game has been spruiked as a nasty, brutish and short combat game and its central features don’t disappoint. The Battle Board is most impressive, offering players a variety of objectives but also delivering an array of consequences suited to the force brought to bear. Close triumphs are not winner-take-all affairs, but rather offer spoils relative to the troop differential. This is supported well by the dual nature of your deck. While it powers your actions, it also provides tactics in battle. Every action counts in Cry Havoc, but even the default tactics you begin with are enough to turn a close battle into a disaster for an opponent. It’s challenging to manage the need to power your army through actions and the desire to hold tactics to turn orderly battles into massacres. Moreover, both maps purposefully encourage combat and make defensive positions possible, but assailable. The Battle Board, deckbuilding and spatial aspects of the design are tightly-integrated and clear while offering opportunities for clever tactical and strategic play.

The asymmetry of the factions is heavy, perhaps heavy-handed. Portal are known for developing distinctly different sides in conflict games and the aesthetic and function of each clique is marked. The Humans rush out and hold on, the Machines aim to control slowly but inevitably, and the Pilgrims combo around crystals. The Skills offer sharp divisions between the capabilities of each faction, though these pronounced variations manifest in clear power differences, with the Human Scouting skill cited by many as top tier, and the Machine Transformation skill as being significantly better than its counterparts. This doesn’t so much as break the game as create strategically narrow scenarios sometimes, which might be palatable to some when considering the brevity of each contest. Further to this, the Buildings give each faction character, particularly the Machines who have more to work with and need to optimise build actions to win. Superficially, I like the idea of Buildings, but unfortunately found building choices to be fairly straightforward - much less about having a building strategy and more about clear building plans in common situations and finding the time to activate enough of them. Overall, while I believe the factions of Cry Havoc are wonderfully distinct and immersive, I do think the implementation through Skills and Buildings complicates the distinctive core mechanisms and veers too much into chrome at times.

A cursory scan of the rules subforum reveals many challenges in parsing the system as presented in the rulebook. The full-colour guide seems to have all of the answers, but as a text does a poor job of communicating the unique logic governing the various innovative mechanisms. The major hurdle is in understanding that Battle Regions are locked once established, though basic strategy revolves around knowing how to break this rule with your troops while making it disadvantageous for opponents. Further to this, there are many finnicky adjustments you must make to play the Trogs in a two- or three- player game, even though this could easily be argued is more common than the alternative. Knowing how to game the corner cases with Trogs - like forcing their retreat to bolster their numbers in adjacent uncontrolled Regions - is also essential strategy, at least in the two-player game. Finally, the way Scoring and the number of Turns are handled is wonderfully unusual, but again, for mechanisms central to the ending of the game, they do not feel straightforward in application and strategically diverse, but the reverse. In summary, counterintuitive rules are deliciously risky - Cry Havoc innovates in spades, yet its rulebook feels like five or six small children screaming for your attention rather than a bright child asking a profound question.

These features create a procedural dynamic. For such a short game, the beginning series of games involve a lot of ‘can I do that?’ and ‘oh, wait, you can do that?’ moments. They probably will lead to a lot of forum checking for rules as well. All the while, there is a palpable sense of there being an exciting to-and-fro battle game underneath the many layers. This leads to frustration as players must invest a lot of time to wrestle with the parameters of the strategy space instead of just playing. This means you need players to invest in understanding the game before you can really play. However, once you do know, this is a very sharp combat game where every move matters and there is significant depth in a brief time frame. To that end, with dedicated Dudes-On-A-Map aficionados, Cry Havoc innovates in the genre in a serious way. If you are trying to convince a spouse or confrontation-averse group of gamers to give this a try you may only end up exasperated!

Overall, Cry Havoc is a game you have to learn. I would have preferred it built a more straightforward game from the streamlined Battle Board, deckbuilding and map mechanisms, but if you can wade through the significant hurdles to understanding there is a deep game here for its play time. I still rate it an 8 on the BGG scale, and believe it takes one of my favourite genres in an interesting direction.
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Dustin Crenshaw
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Now I've only played two games. I believe we had to look something up in the rules 1 time. I really don't feel they are as bad as people are making them out to be. No one in my group had trouble understanding battle regions are locked, and you can't do anything with them unless an ability specifically says so. I never had to repeat that rule to anyone.
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trevor

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Nice review, I have to agree with the rules, they are pretty straight forward, we haven't had a rules discussion yet.
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Jon Snow
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There is a lot of good, provoking thought here. I need to play more to respond, as I've just got my retail copy.

I think the rules need the FAQ already posted here, and further updates, but not more than many other games. Like Quartermaster General, a design filled with brand new concepts is bound to require some further player orientation. But I'm also enjoying discovering some of the best practice faction maneuvers built in for myself. I look forward to the faction strategy guides, structure guides, more FAQ, and other good stuff coming! And I'm re-watching some of the short videos too.

This is a game that repays some investment in time and thought. I plan to play it a lot in the near future.
 
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Chris Schenck
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Alex Brown wrote:
The major hurdle is in understanding that Battle Regions are locked once established, though basic strategy revolves around knowing how to break this rule with your troops while making it disadvantageous for opponents.

This is absolutely true. Once everyone understands this concept, it clears up the majority of ambiguities. It's not a hard concept to understand, but the rulebook doesn't make it as black-and-white as it really should. This leaves the players with a lot of questions about how combat regions interact with some of the faction abilities.


I'm going to break with the majority opinion and say that I like the 3-player game best, rather than the 4-player game. To me, the 4-player game seems too scripted:

1) The Trogs explode out to a huge early lead in round 1. Because honestly, they have no other choice. If they intentionally hold back, they've lost their initial big advantage. The Trog explosion inevitably cuts a round off the game either in the first or second round, making it a 4 round game.

2) The other 3 players have to hammer down on the Trogs for round 2 and most of round 3 to get them under control, probably with some occasional skirmishing between the non-Trogs during round 3, as the Trog threat diminishes.

3) After the Trog-bashing rounds, someone probably has enough of a lead to cruise into the finish, because there isn't enough time left in the game to coordinate a new bash-the-leader endeavor.


In the 3-player game, with the Trogs as a neutral force, there seems to be more of a chance for the players to define their own development. They no longer face the need to spend half of the game just bashing the Trogs from developing an insurmountable lead.
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Tyler DeLisle
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This has been the main thing holding me back from getting this game. I tend to play a lot of different in a lot of different groups. So games that take multiple plays to really dig into aren't really good for me at the moment.

Is this is the type of game that blossoms only on it's second or third play?
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Grant Rodiek
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TyDeL wrote:
This has been the main thing holding me back from getting this game. I tend to play a lot of different in a lot of different groups. So games that take multiple plays to really dig into aren't really good for me at the moment.

Is this is the type of game that blossoms only on it's second or third play?


I think you'll see the appeal immediately, but it definitely takes a few plays to master and really learn all the different tactics. I think it's a good balance, personally, as I love exploring games, but I think you'll GET IT from the start.

(I'm the super biased designer but I try to be honest)
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Dustin Crenshaw
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TyDeL wrote:
This has been the main thing holding me back from getting this game. I tend to play a lot of different in a lot of different groups. So games that take multiple plays to really dig into aren't really good for me at the moment.

Is this is the type of game that blossoms only on it's second or third play?


I've played it 4 times, all with different groups. The response was positive from everyone. However, I also see it will reward multiple plays.
 
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Alex Brown
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TyDeL wrote:

Is this is the type of game that blossoms only on it's second or third play?


No - I think it's pretty good straightaway.

It might have been more accurate if I'd stressed that there isn't much rules complexity. Rather, there's a logic to the rules and strategy that isn't immediately apparent - but that's the trade-off in every innovative design because it hasn't been seen before.

My main concerns with a newer group would be to stress the depth of asymmetry means you must play to your strengths, even if they depend on the Skills you draw. The game isn't about customisation of forces but more about how you prioritise resources and particular Battles. Time is just as much of a commodity as force and tactics.


 
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Grant Rodiek
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Alex Brown wrote:
TyDeL wrote:

Is this is the type of game that blossoms only on it's second or third play?


No - I think it's pretty good straightaway.

It might have been more accurate if I'd stressed that there isn't much rules complexity. Rather, there's a logic to the rules and strategy that isn't immediately apparent - but that's the trade-off in every innovative design because it hasn't been seen before.

My main concerns with a newer group would be to stress the depth of asymmetry means you must play to your strengths, even if they depend on the Skills you draw. The game isn't about customisation of forces but more about how you prioritise resources and particular Battles. Time is just as much of a commodity as force and tactics.




You have so few actions and people tend to play super inefficiently in their first game or two. If you go in with the first game as a learner, and don't stress about sucking, you'll see all sorts of moments for your next game where you can capitalize and really dominate.
 
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