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Subject: The Heavens Themselves Blaze Forth - [Ding & Dent] rss

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Raf Cordero
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This is a summary of our podcast review. More detail and an expanded discussion can be found there! The link will take you directly to the start of the review without going through the rest of the episode.


2016 has been quite the year for area control games. It seems to be a hot mechanic right now, though few games have used it as creatively as Cry Havoc does. Most seem content to make it a part of their game in the traditional way: I want that space so I’m sending my dudes in to take it. Cry Havoc does this as well, but the most dramatic way that Grant Rodiek has incorporated Area Control is the battle mechanic.


Cry Havoc is defined by its Area Control Within Area Control Battle Board. Each combat is presented as a three-pronged assault on your opponents. While the main game itself is a high level scramble for territory, each battle zooms in on combat and portrays 3 theaters of conflict: control, capture, and kills. Players alternate committing their troops to each of these theaters then using cards to move their minis around the board changing the results. The player that takes control may not get the most kills or vice versa.


This system is not only novel, it’s compelling. The various asymmetric factions have different goals in battle that must be accounted for and victory is not simply defined by having more dudes thand your opponent does. Tactic cards that change the order these theaters are resolved in can have a dramatic effect when the Trog player kills all the Pilgrims before they have a chance to take control. It’s smart, and is reason enough to pull this game off the shelf.


That’s not all that makes Cry Havoc unique. Many area control games have a rise and fall. Like a roller coaster, they start slow as players move out into adjacent territories before the first battle hits like the first drop. Cry Havoc is more like the new fangled coasters that fire you off like a rocket to start the ride. The game is short and brutal, lasting a maximum of 5 rounds. You’ll never get more than 15 actions in a single game and aggressive players can shorten the game by scoring points early.


This both good and bad. The game ends abruptly; all that territory grabbing and excellent combat ends and players stop to count VPs. It keeps the tension high throughout the game, but ending a game of territory conquest with a tepid crystal count that allocates points feels underwhelming. It’s likely that players won’t have reached the middle of the board, or even threatened the territories neighboring their opponents home before the game ends. We personally prefer a little more back and forth to our games of conquest.


Other than that, there is little to find fault with. The asymmetry is sharp, with no two factions feeling remotely similar. Playing as the Trogs feels especially new and require dramatically different tactics to deal with these aliens trying to take your territory. There is some concern about initial balance that we’re divided on. I believe it’s still too early to declare the game unbalanced as shipped, though Charlie believes there is a concern though it isn’t overwhelming. We both appreciate Ignacy’s commitment to a fun experience as shown by the quick FAQ and clarifications that have been released.


We enjoyed it at GenCon and have enjoyed it over and over since then. The combat system is fresh and unique and each play has revealed additional layers of tactics and strategy. In a year of great releases, Cry Havoc is one of our favorites.
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Aaron Silverman
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captainraffi wrote:
It’s likely that players won’t have reached the middle of the board, or even threatened the territories neighboring their opponents home before the game ends. We personally prefer a little more back and forth to our games of conquest.

Other than that, there is little to find fault with.


IMO, that is kind of a huge fault, and it exacerbates the balance problems.

Note that I have only played the game as released, so I don't know how later tinkering may have mitigated these issues.
 
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Paul Ferguson
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
captainraffi wrote:
It’s likely that players won’t have reached the middle of the board, or even threatened the territories neighboring their opponents home before the game ends. We personally prefer a little more back and forth to our games of conquest.

Other than that, there is little to find fault with.


IMO, that is kind of a huge fault, and it exacerbates the balance problems.

Note that I have only played the game as released, so I don't know how later tinkering may have mitigated these issues.


If the game was perfectly balanced, then people would complain that it was to vanilla and boring. I don't mind games that have imbalance, it reflects the realities of life and leads to a lot of hidden depth to be discovered by numerous plays. I have the opposite issue with Scythe. Scythe is a classic example of an over balanced game, that leads to boredom and zero room for mystery and undiscovered strategy. So it can be an issue either way. I prefer games to be a struggle, that have the feeling of a wall that you need to push over to discover the nuances hidden deep within a game, rather than have it handed to me a on plate.
 
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Aaron Silverman
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itmo wrote:
DJ Kuul A wrote:
captainraffi wrote:
It’s likely that players won’t have reached the middle of the board, or even threatened the territories neighboring their opponents home before the game ends. We personally prefer a little more back and forth to our games of conquest.

Other than that, there is little to find fault with.


IMO, that is kind of a huge fault, and it exacerbates the balance problems.

Note that I have only played the game as released, so I don't know how later tinkering may have mitigated these issues.


If the game was perfectly balanced, then people would complain that it was to vanilla and boring. I don't mind games that have imbalance, it reflects the realities of life and leads to a lot of hidden depth to be discovered by numerous plays. I have the opposite issue with Scythe. Scythe is a classic example of an over balanced game, that leads to boredom and zero room for mystery and undiscovered strategy. So it can be an issue either way. I prefer games to be a struggle, that have the feeling of a wall that you need to push over to discover the nuances hidden deep within a game, rather than have it handed to me a on plate.


A game can be interestingly asymmetric without being unbalanced. But the key problem here is still the "game ends before the players have much chance to interact" issue.
 
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Raf Cordero
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Bolingbrook
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
A game can be interestingly asymmetric without being unbalanced. But the key problem here is still the "game ends before the players have much chance to interact" issue.


I would think it a bigger issue if the game lacked tension overall, but it doesn't. There is still plenty of fighting between the players it just happens mostly in the middle of the board in what I would call "No mans land" in a more traditional area control game.

If HQ and the adjacent spaces are Zone 1, the next ring in is Zone 2, and the center space/TrogHQ and adjacent is Zone 3, then most of the fighting happens in Zone 2. Scoring focuses on the crystals which can make a single individual space more valuable than 2 or 3 other ones. This results in plenty of fighting over 1 space but the ultimate picture of the board is not one where I always feel that the winner conquered the land.

Because there is still plenty of tension and fighting, I think it more of a minor problem related to taste than a mechanical issue. Kemet can have this problem as well, where the winner at the end isn't holding much land (though they did at some point during the game). Contrast this with something like Clockwork Wars where the victor typically has a physical and imposing presence on the board.
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