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Subject: Hull Breach - Making the leap from RTS to LCG! rss

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My full review of Hull Breach: Corporate Wars (including pictures) can be found here:

A full list of my board game reviews can be found on the same site here:

(Thanks to Dad's Gaming Addiction for the layout idea)


I have a confession to make. When I first received Hull Breach, I set it aside for awhile. This wasn't done out of spite or indifference, but rather that I wanted to find someone who was as passionate about space strategy games as I was. I wanted to play this with my friends who enjoyed the heck out of PC strategy titles like Homeworld, Sins of a Solar Empire and the like. The problem is this: of the friends I have that would have gladly jumped at the opportunity to play this with me, they all happen to live a considerable distance away. Imagine my surprise when my wife, the casual gamer that she is, expressed interest in playing. Not missing an opportunity to spend some quality time with each other, we opened a bottle of vino and sat down to the gaming table.

Game Overview

As we unboxed the game, we discovered a plethora of card decks, dice, tokens, a rulebook and a fictional supplement. While my wife was sorting the pieces out, my attention immediately gravitated to the fictional supplement. As I pored over the contents of the booklet, I learned all about the history of this universe leading up to the conflict that I'm about to be thrust into. While you can certainly get away with never touching this supplement, it really immersed me into the game, looking past the stats and dice rolls to visualize the battles taking place in the cold dark reaches of space.

As I stated in the article intro, players are put in command of a space Station, a fleet of starships, and a sizeable force of marines with the goal of eliminating all other factions in the galaxy. Each player either chooses to use one of the three pre-constructed decks, or (if you're feeling ambitious) assemble their own custom made deck. All decks will contain ships, marines, modules, technological breakthroughs, events, tactics and your home station.

The game is a progresses over a series of turns until one faction is left standing. Each turn is broken down into three phases: Initial Deployment, Logistics, Manufacturing, and Engagement. You might have noticed that I mentioned four phases there. The Initial Deployment phase, while called a phase, only happens at the start of the game and isn't repeated after subsequent turns. During this phase players deploy their stations, collect up their first resources, and deploy their starting units.

During the Logistics Phase, players draw cards from their pile to their maximum hand size (which can fluctuate depending on commander/faction/upgrades in play), then collect currency and resources from various stations, modules, and other cards to build up with. During this phase, players can also pay for repairs to their units if they wish. The Manufacturing Phase is the meat and potatoes of each turn where you choose what to build. You can go on the offensive and build ships and marines, or throw up some defenses to protect your station from invasion and maybe throw in some resource generating units. You need to think carefully as you decide your path as others will assuredly take into account your decisions when it's their turn.

The last phase of a turn is the Engagement Phase where the active player chooses to attack another player using the fleet of ships he has available with a unique set of rules to determine the outcome based on the type of target the player is attacking (stations, ship-to-ship, or boarding incursions). The outcome of these battles is left up to dice rolls to simulate the chaos of battle(You know what they say about "Best laid plans" and all). Once combat has ended, you can move fighter, marine, and drone units to ships and stations in any way you like.

Our Impressions

Space combat games are all about ships and Hull Breach doesn't disappoint in this regard. There is no shortage of different ships. Need to break through enemy's offensive line? Why not buld some drones to weaken enemy ship armor while your dreadnaughts take them on a one way trip to pound town. I felt like the actual ship combat in the game was designed to favor quick resolution at the expense of complexity, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Using an analogy, I want the fights in Hull Breach be more like the action sequences in 300 - flashy and intense without taking a great deal of our attention away from continuing the story.

When it comes to building that fleet, it gets a bit wonky. The ships you decide to build are based on primarily on resources, not currency. This means that even if your coffers are full, you can't build ships until you've got resources. Then, later on when you decide to build more advanced ships, you'll need a healthy amount of resources and currency. This means that players have to balance out their economy throughout the game to effectively build up their fleets. At first glance, this doesn't seem to be an issue until I realized there's potential here to implement interesting ways to give options to the players. For example, if the game had a galactic market to convert currency into resources whose conversion rates changed each turn, players would have the option to gamble on boosting their fleet power if the exchange rates were optimal during their turn.
The progression in Hull Breach is pretty linear and is very similar to what you'd expect from a real-time strategy game on the PC: Build a foundation to generate resources, then amass a fleet of ships so that you can launch an attack against your opponents, then return to base so that you can recover for the next round. The game mechanics are very straightforward in this endeavor and the rules for combat simplified to convey action without getting bogged down in the minutae of tactical combat. This can be a double-edged sword though if you're looking for something with a bit more depth to the combat system.

Overall, I came into the game expecting it to be a fast paced "Real-time Strategy"-esque card game and Hull Breach didn't disappoint. The space battles in Hull Breach are fast paced and exciting with the occasional special ability or surprise move swaying the outcome of the battle in a whole new direction. For those gamers looking for a fast paced, straight forward space-combat game, Hull Breach is the game for you. However, if a slower-paced, methodical space strategy game is your cup-of-tea, I'd recommend moving on to the next starbase.
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