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Subject: Cry Havoc: Fast And Fantastic rss

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Jon Snow
United States
New York City
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(Portal Games, 2-4 Players
Grant Rodiek, Michal Oracz, and Michal Walczak)

By Chas

Does it live up to the hype? For me and the five people I've played it with so far, yes! Its unique and innovative, attractive, simple to play yet hard to win, asymmetric, thematic, fun at any player count of 2-4, has some alternate skills that can change for each faction for each game, and plays in about two hours.

Cry Havoc is being well supported by the company and the designer with FAQ, Faction Strategy Guides, videos, etc., and already has a small expansion due out in 2017 (“Aftermath”). It will be easy to introduce many types of variations in the future. These already include eight promo cards for additional scoring opportunities.

There are some small teething points. To re-balance the two player game with Humans, leave out one small faction skill card. New players will be trounced by veterans in their first game with each faction. The official FAQ needs to be updated with the unofficial one. That's it; no big deal.

This design is a new and very successful take on the hybrid dudes on a map game currently popular with such titles as Khemet and Blood Rage. Land on it and stand on it as the Human Space Marines (Yay!) farm resources as the mysterious hooded telepathic four armed/snake lower bodied Pilgrims, exterminate all inefficient organic life as the Machines, or resist the invasion of these crystal robbing goon races by the bulky native rock skinned Trogs, popping up from their underground tunnels like the Viet Cong to ruin everyone else's day, whether as NPCs or an active faction in the four player scenario.

A small custom player deck of multi-use cards supplemented by four available general decks allow you to use a row of icons to recruit, move, or build and activate your unique set of faction structures (buildings and equipment). Players alternate taking three actions, one at a time, referring to the handy lists of the turn sequence and possible turn actions printed on their faction tiles, and then all combats are resolved! Perhaps a timely word to a temporary ally helped to bash the current victory point leader, or set you up for a positional coup. Did you trick your enemies to gain advantages, were you outmaneuvered, or will you have to win closely fought combats to achieve your goals? Did you activate too many sleeping Trogs? Will you play some precious cards to help the Trogs fight the opponent on your right instead of winning your own initiated battles?

But these are also the same cards you'll need for their battle tactic functions, or special actions to change the player turn order or enable scoring! Hmmm...devilish decisions in deck building and hand management present themselves as the small number of available cards flash between your draw deck, hand, and discard pile, supplemented by your faction specific free skills and structure builds and activations. And you only have 4-5 three action rounds to do it in before its Game Over! The elegance of play is in this efficient use of your strengths and your opponents' weaknesses to score victory points in several ways while outmaneuvering your active enemies and shaking off those pesky Trogs, who don't seem to like you at all.

Although there are many cool pieces, the game sets up and breaks down quickly. Set up your off board player components, and shuffle a few tiny card decks. Hidden Random Event, Exploration Bonus, and variable strength Trog tokens are placed, multi-colored plastic crystal gems are set out one side of the interesting two sided area movement board (one side for the Two Player version), we each land four of our twelve minis on our planetary Player HQ, and we're ready to go.

The much discussed unique battle board allows you to prioritize three possible objectives in each quick battle—taking control of the battle region, take a prisoner, or attrition the enemy minis back to your enemy's reserve. Where and how attacker and defender place their pieces on the three areas will determine the results. But then both sides get to play cards to modify the battle actions! You did save a card or two; didn't you--even after those other unexpected battles you had to fight this round?

Combining overall faction strategy with variable battle tactics in a limited time makes for a challenging gaming experience. And since a game is over pretty quickly, you'll' be ready to set up the next one to use what you learned the last time around! Think you've got it figured out after a few games? Switch factions for a whole new playing experience.

Riding the hot rocket of a suddenly huge success, the publisher seems to be having fun too, backing up one of the most popular hits of the recent convention season. Congratulations to the makers and owners of this Crystal Gem!
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