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Subject: Cry Havoc; Awesome but Frustrating rss

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Curious Fu
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In this post I will give my opinion about Cry Havoc regarding six different topics: Theme, Components, Game Play, Strategy/Tactics, Complaints & Overall.

Theme

It is a science fiction setting of humans, machines and aliens exploiting a resource rich and exotic world; lucrative and dangerous. It’s not a new theme, but I like sci-fi and if you do too, then I think you will be able to get into the feel that this game tries to create. It also seems as though the designers have made an effort to create a rich story for the game and the characters involved which is expressed nicely both throughout the rule book and additional guides with descriptions and art.

Components

The components are generally fantastic. The board is very nice and the cards have (in my opinion) a unique style with beautiful art and a nice finish to them. All iconography is simple and easy to understand. I had one miniature which was a little lop-sided but aside from that one, they were all sturdy and solid minis which were detailed nicely and stood straight. All the tokens punched out of the card well, look nice, are easily differentiated and are easily recognised among all the other bits on the board. Acrylic crystals are well made and add a touch of sparkle to the play area which gives a sense of value to the regions being fought over.

Game Play

Area control is generally how points are earned. However, it is not just how many areas, it is the value of crystals in areas which determine the majority of points received. Controlling an area or gaining points depends on how well players can perform hand management and select the appropriate ways to use their cards throughout the game. There are some elements of engine building and deck building in the game which is totally card driven. There is plenty of interaction between players as a game which is based on conflict but there are opportunities for negotiating (with 3 or more players), bluffing and anticipating all through the game. Turns can be fairly quick, although there are some tough decisions to make on how best to utilise your hand of cards.

Strategy/Tactics

Players can adopt a long term strategy based on the asymmetrical powers each faction affords. This will need to be adapted depending on what extra skill cards may be in play in a game and whether you are playing a 2, 3 or 4 player game. The game is also very tactical because you need to be reacting to what your opponent does, how they manoeuvre ahead or after you and how they are spending their cards.
There is another tactical element in the battle resolution system which I think is especially clever. Players play cards to influence who wins battle objectives. This is one of the mechanics where the game shines. I really like card driven combat systems and this one is really fun for me, yet really simple. It’s a fantastic design.

Complaints

For starters, the rule book is incomplete with ambiguities, omissions and inconsistencies. Even after just a couple of months, the forums are crowded with questions about how to play the game. There was even a FAQ put out which included an apology to everyone because people are having trouble with the game. It also appears that an additional appendix to help players get a grip with the rules will be released in the near future. They should have had all these issues under control before they released the game. Confidence in the design and publisher drops; if the rule book is incomplete, was the game balance and playtesting incomplete as well..?

Asymmetrical player powers are popular these days and Cry Havoc includes this as a core game experience. Each faction has a very unique feel and a very different strategy to employ. However, one of the factions has an immediate advantage over the others for new players which at first glance, seems over-powered. Why not have each faction powered equally and all, each as easily accessible?

Overall

I love the game system of Cry Havoc. I hate that it is not instantly accessible and that the asymmetry APPEARS unbalanced especially at lower player counts. If you like dudes on a map war games, then this is for you. If you regularly play with the same group of friends, then this is also for you. If you are not prepared to push through the first several (possibly 10 or so) games to learn how to play each faction, then this might not be for you. You might want to even wait until all the rules get clarified before jumping into this. I think this game has so much potential but I personally am not prepared to give it the time it needs. I need games that are instantly accessible and that this game seems to have a foredawn conclusion when certain factions are in play is a downside for me and the reason why I sold it.
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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Quote:
For starters, the rule book is incomplete with ambiguities, omissions and inconsistencies.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Portal Games! They have cookies.
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Ian Kissell
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I played one game (granted, Ignacy taught us how to play) and felt that I grasped the basics of how to play my faction well halfway through one play. I really don't think it will take 10+ games to grasp the factions, let along master.
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Highlander Highlander
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I think that is a big difference. Ignacy taught you how to play.
For everyone else, the regular gamer who is alone with a rulebook it looks to be a pretty frustrating experience. As you said, even then you could "grasp the basics". But for me and my group, "grasping the basics" and being good enough at the game where we are able to play a game with the different difficulty level factions but still be on equal footing...those two things seem worlds apart.

When there are a couple of negative nancies I usually write it off as people just wanting to bash the newest hyped game. When forums are flooded with confused and frustrated people with the same complaints and questions then there is clearly an issue that cannot just be swept aside.

Like the reviewer intimated, a lot of the frustration comes from the fact that it is otherwise such a great game. If it were merely an average game, you might get a little frustrated, then think "meh", sell it and move on. But because there is such a great game there, the frustration feels stronger.

Expecting people to put time and effort into the game to learn how to play factions is great. But feels (and looks like, based on forums) that for many people, they have pushed this a little far in how much frustration they expect people to push through to get to the point where 2 (or 3) players of equal experience can each confidently choose one of the 2 factions and each have the same chance of winning.
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Shoosh shoo
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Pretty good review. While i think the game is really cool i have to mention for any newbies reading this...

Dont be discouraged by the rules to this game. If youre buyimg it now, you are lucky that all the work has been done now. Read the rules, play a test runthrough with the FAQs in front of you which are not long and theyre easy to read. After that test game you shouldnt have any questions, or they will at least be minimal. Im sure newer versions will include updated rule books.

As for the possible problems with balance... I cant speak to that as ive only played it once it does seem that each faction has a strength and you need to work with that, while being creative in trying to exploit your opponents' weaknesses.
 
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Paul Ferguson
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I am glad Portal Games don't make Cars. Their idea of a completed car would be missing wheels and chairs.
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Shoosh shoo
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LOLOLOL
 
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Alex Banks
United Kingdom
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curiousfu wrote:
However, one of the factions has an immediate advantage over the others for new players which at first glance, seems over-powered.


Is this still the case after your Human house rule, which you suggested in another post?
 
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Shoosh shoo
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If youre talking about the humans ability to Scout, it was changed. In a four player game u do the ability as written on the card. In a 2-3 player game, the ability is changed to you can only place a control token on a region that is both adjacent and unoccupied.

I would have liked to have two versions of the card. One edited for 4 player and a 2-3 player game. I might have to make one myself.
 
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Alex Banks
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shooshoo wrote:
If youre talking about the humans ability to Scout, it was changed. In a four player game u do the ability as written on the card. In a 2-3 player game, the ability is changed to you can only place a control token on a region that is both adjacent and unoccupied.


I'm talking about a house rule the OP suggested in another post here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1659023/house-rule-altering...

I wondered if that made a difference to the perceived imbalance. Also whether or not this rule would work in 3-4 player games.

I'm happy to slightly house rule my games so long as it's consistent. After all, the things suggested don't contravene any card text, so when teaching the game it would be easy enough to explain it.
 
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Curious Fu
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Alexthebanks wrote:
After all, the things suggested don't contravene any card text, so when teaching the game it would be easy enough to explain it.


I am with you. If I make a house rule, I want something that does not contravene any card text, can be simply explained and makes thematic sense so newcomers can understand it easily.

For this review, I gave my opinion on the game as it comes, unadulterated and according to the rules it was born with! As to how I feel the house rule affects the game; I made a brief comment in that variant thread. I felt it helped me with the balance issues, but sold the game anyway! My board game collection is a fluid one, if I don't absolutely love the game or feel that I can't get it to the table with my group of friends very often - then I sell it. Living in a shoe box means I have to be ruthless when it comes to space in my bookshelf too. . !
 
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Geoff Cost
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I am not the sharpest tool, however I had a grasp by end of 1st game 4-player as Troggs. Game 2 the next week, I taught it with relative ease. This game is quite accessible...
 
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