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Subject: A Two-Stage Review of Warhammer: Invasion rss

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Tim Collins
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JMacCaull wrote:
A Bit About The Reviewer

Fifteen days ago I picked up one Warhammer: Invasion starter box and one of each expansion currently available. This was almost entirely on a whim – I had read a couple positive reviews here on The Geek but for the most part had heard nothing about the game. So I’m in Millennium Games (Rochester, NY) and pick up one of everything they’ve got without knowing anyone else that plays or, for that matter, much about the game. You see, I’m one of those people store owners simultaneously love and hate. I’ll buy heavily into a game for a couple weeks while complaining that I can’t find enough of it stocked anywhere. Then by the time the owner’s second, larger shipment comes in, I’m done with the game and have moved on to something else. This cruel and heartless owner-abuse applies mainly to collectible games where buying lots of product is beneficial, although I’ve been known to behave similarly with a non-collectible game that has many expansions.

The same goes for playing the game. I’ll play a new game voraciously for a month, putting in twenty hours easy a weekend and as many hours as I can get in during the week. I will think about it almost nonstop when I’m not playing, trying to wrap my head around its intricacies. I will literally obsess over the new game. On my way to work I will occasionally turn the car around and head back to my place just to make sure the game is OK. Then one day I wake up and am suddenly, without warning, completely burned-out with it. This game mechanic or that timing rule begins to irritate me. I get in fights with my game over trivial things like whose turn it is to take the trash out. Before long I never want to see the game again and sell everything online with no reserve. It’s exactly like the death of a relationship minus the online fire sale when it’s over.

I’ve tried hundreds of games. Some games have, over the years, kept me interested for more than a month. One group of them was the various Warhammer miniature games. One of the biggest reasons for that is its extensive history and interesting setting. Theme is big for me in any game and I knew any Warhammer-licensed product would have tasty theme flavor in spades. That was a W: I plus for me. Getting a game going and playing one to completion was not, however, something Warhammer minis did particularly well in my experience. But damn; nothing in gaming looks more impressive than a huge, quality terrain-filled table covered with finely painted armies. Warhammer was that intelligent, sexy and funny person you connect perfectly with but could rarely – for whatever reason – seal the deal with.

And like so many of us, I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with M: TG since it first released back in 90-whatever. Magic is great because of the customization involved and the ease of transporting what you need around. W: I gained points with me because it shared those factors. I love gaming, and since losing happens, will accept defeat with some dignity and sportsmanship. However, I’m going to want to regroup and come back for more the next day, because we’re all ultimately playing to win. In M: TG, regrouping would generally involve me buying a couple play sets of rare card x and y at forty bucks a pop. I inevitably end up getting turned-off by the fact that I need to sink so much cash to be competitive. Bonus points went to W: I because it was allegedly not the money sink its collectable predecessors were. At this point, the relationship analogy is just too easy – I need to stop them now.

Session One

So thirteen days ago I convince a long time Magic playing buddy to check this game out with me. I’d say this guy has played maybe three games in his life; but each of these games he’s played for several years. W: I definitely has that “ooh” factor when you first see/feel/open the box – the presentation is great. Really it’s exactly as expected from FFG with top notch art, and top notch components. Or at least, that’s the initial reaction.

We were playing the game within ten minutes of opening the box. The rule book, online FAQ, and online tutorial combine to provide you with unparalleled support. I will admit that I’m getting into this game at a later stage than those that jumped on at first, so I imagine the support is slightly more extensive than before. Regardless, at this stage in the game, you won’t encounter an issue without an official ruling. So rules and support are also superior for W: I. My friend and I (both with extensive CCG experience) were playing confidently after one game with the rule book open.

This first session primarily consisted of exploring the mechanics, cards, and general feel of the game. We played for a couple hours with the different starter decks. The capitol cards start you off with a fantastic mechanic and centerpiece for your games. The power mechanic of the game was easy to understand yet inspired much more thought than any other printed value in a card game than I’ve ever seen; given the fact that the value affected game play differently depending on which zone the card was deployed in. Play itself is fast and, like other CCGs, without much downtime for either player.

You know how there are times in M: TG where you get to a point that there are so many permanents on the board with different effects that you really have to think about your next move? That little portion of gaming nirvana developed consistently for us during our first session using the starter decks. Without question, a gamer similar to me (see above) will end their first session obsessed and dying to get a solid twenty hours in. My friend had a similar reaction. At this point, I was ready to give the game a nine out of ten.

I spent the next eleven days working, eating, sleeping or thinking about Warhammer: Invasion.

Session Two

Two days ago I convince a different long time M: TG playing pal to spend Saturday really tearing the game apart with me. This guy and I are pretty similar in that we throw ourselves into a game completely but burn out on it pretty quickly unless it’s really a great game.
After session one I was fully comfortable with the rules. We were going strong after I went through a quick couple demo turns with him. After a couple games playing around with the starter decks (epic games, much like during session one, with tons of cards on the table before the end) we opened up another core box and two of each expansion, then moved into deck design.

Making decks was pretty similar to our previous experiences with CCGs. We both enjoy the metagame of CCGs thoroughly and W: I was no exception. Our differing play styles naturally attracted us to different factions. He went for the Empire and Dwarves initially and I went for the Orcs. Basic versions of these decks pretty well make themselves, much like in Type 2 M: TG.

Our first speed bump was soon to come; although maybe green-speed-mountain is a better description. The next three hours or so go by quickly and we’re really loving W: I at this stage. A bystander would have heard a lot of comments ending with, “… reminds me of Magic but is somehow better with this game.” Many comments surrounded the capitol cards and how simple yet interesting they were. We both loved that units could attack and defend, making things more exciting and potentially bloodier. I can’t gush enough over how deep you could get with the power symbols and the three zones. This brings me to one point I really wanted to make during this ramble, this game does a lot that others have done before – but better. The different zones is nothing new, and managing resources (power) is also widespread in games; but man, the designers did a great job putting tried and true mechanics together in this game.

As I mentioned, unfortunately the rainbow, candy and unicorn honeymoon would not last.

Although it’s not a true CCG, they’re still running a business. If you’re competitive, you’re going to want to buy three core boxes and three of each expansion. At a brick and mortar, that’s going to run you somewhere in the two hundred dollar range for what they’ve currently released. Ultimately, you’re throwing in the same cash as you would for a playable Type 2 deck that you purchased singles for; forget buying booster packs, obviously. That really didn’t bother us too badly though.
Since after my second session I’ve read many posts both here on The Geek and over at FFG’s W: I forum. There is a common issue people encounter with this game, and I’d wager that it always comes at the same time: Some point during those first thirty or so games someone goes on a tear with the Greenskins.

They’re bastards! That’s how I feel and I was the guy playing with them! As we got more familiar with the cards and started tweaking what in hindsight were initially pretty elementary decks, the Orcs seemed to get better and better. After tossing some Skaven in, things started getting downright ugly. I find it amusing that the Orcs play like they do. Really it’s a tribute to the designers how straightforward they are, just like they’re portrayed throughout the history of the Warhammer universe.

At some point around the eight hour mark of nonstop play, we made it our mission to figure out what would consistently beat the Orcs. We were sure there was a paper to the green-skinned rock somewhere. I hate to admit it because I really do enjoy Warhammer: Invasion, but we never were able to put together the guaranteed Orc-stopper deck. Now, that is definitely not to say that one doesn’t exist. I’m certain one does, because on many occasions we came close. Additionally, it could have been our play styles. We were both too afraid to put together a deck with anything less than twenty units. Anyhow, as far as we were concerned, the verdict was still out on whether or not the Orcs were unstoppable.

Summary

The game’s components, support, and mechanics are superb. But…
The Orcs provide the long-time Magic player with a familiar feel. Creature beats have been around forever and that’s just what the Orcs provide. You really don’t need to concern yourself with the quest and kingdom zones too much, and essentially Magic only has a battlefield zone. Any other faction requires the player to reach a little bit further out of their comfort zone to be successful. Also, an Orc win usually comes pretty quickly while the others against Orcs need to aim for the long game. So it got pretty disheartening if three Orc wins went by in twenty minutes while the Empire needed a forty five minute game to pull it off, with at least one zone burning to boot.

We stopped around four in the morning Sunday after starting around noon Saturday. So yes, we played a lot of games but hardly enough to form a definitive opinion. I plan on continuing to play and find it pretty ridiculous that people complain or quit over any perceived power balance issues. On the other hand, I understand how people can get a bad taste in their mouth after one session playing against the Orcs without designing a deck specifically to counter them, and I haven’t played enough to exhaust all possible options against the Greenskins. Maybe someone else has, but I have a feeling that if they’ve put in the requisite time, they’ve figured out their foil. Those that haven’t simply quit trying after a taking a couple bad beatdowns.

After the “not-so-non-collectible” and Orc revelations, I’m downgrading my initial reaction to an eight out of ten. That could go up or down after another long session, but I figure the sixteen to eighteen hour mark is a reasonable range to form an opinion.

W: I is at least good enough so far that I'm still obsessed two weeks later. I smell another restraining order!


You know FFG changed the format so each battle pack will now contain 60 cards (3 of each) so no one has to buy multiple packs right?

As far as the speed beat down orcs get, I know about this issue going into the game, so I will definetly try to find ways to stop it from happening.

Tim

Tim
 
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I agree about the cards being limited in the core set. The one that gets to me is the alliance cards, they only give you one copy of each alliance. That is pretty blatant, if you are going to play a two faction deck with a lot of cards from both factions you would need 3 copies of these alliance cards in your deck it seems to me. So you are almost forced to buy 3 core sets for this reason alone if you are interested in playing anything other than a one faction deck. I suppose you could sleeve your cards to make proxies instead but I like to play without sleeving.

If Fantasy Flight put individual cards up for sale on their web site then that would be great but I doubt that will happen.

And its true they are going to put 3 copies of each card in future battle packs after the corruption cycle but they aren't doing that for the core sets. So for example, in the upcoming High and Dark elves expansion, I bet there will be some key cards for both sides that they only give you one copy of in the deck, so in order to get 3 copies you would have to buy 3 of these expansions. It does leave a bad taste in the mouth for sure, I still think this is a great game, but this particular marketing strategy rubs me the wrong way.
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Matt Price
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The different sized cards are a big screw up, but FFG will replace them. Contact their customer service.
 
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Damon Stone
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The Orc rush is beatable, but I think part of your experience that makes doing so difficult is that both you and your friend seem to be more aggro rush type players. While every race can field aggro/rush/control/disruption decks, the favors are different and they all will be more or less successful at certain strategies than other races.

Empire works best as a disruption build right now, moving units arround, using counterstrike, and otherwise foiling your opponents plans, than it does at rushing for the quick win or aggro-beatstick. So yes, when you win with Empire it is likely to be after 5-7 rounds, while an Orc deck will win in 3-5 turns. Chaos being extremely control oriented wins in 7-9 turns.

Personally I'm of the opinion that it doesn't matter when you win, how you win, or how long it takes to win, as long as you win when it comes to judging the effectiveness of a games factions, though it can definitely be impactful to your play experience. The Orcs are an easy nut to crack, I still maintain an Orc Blitz deck but I've moved on to more interesting and subtle decks. Dwarf Discard is the current build I'm trying to grok, though the concept of an Orc Control build sounds suitably unconventional.
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JMacCaull wrote:
You have to admit, dormouse, that it would be insanely frustrating to half the gamers if their first 16 hours were spent losing 8 in 10 games.


Perhaps, but that would be the case mainly if they weren't focused on just enjoying and learning the game and were somehow (bizarrely) intensely focused on having to win every game they played while first starting out. I could see the potential of the Orc rush/beatdown early on but it in no way reduced my enjoyment and realization, right away, of how excellent this game is.

JMacCaull wrote:
The Orcs provide the long-time Magic player with a familiar feel. Creature beats have been around forever and that’s just what the Orcs provide. You really don’t need to concern yourself with the quest and kingdom zones too much, and essentially Magic only has a battlefield zone.


This quote didn't make much sense to me but then I realized that, as you explained, you guys are just getting started out, so you're still learning the game and its intricacies. That being said, it's incredibly rare to win with the Orc deck (or any deck, for that matter) without building up your economy in this game. While you may not need to pour a ton of stuff into your Kingdom or Quest Zones, you'll still need a reasonable amount of resource and card-generation or an Orc deck will simply be out-lasted and pounded on later by the 800-lb gorilla of a deck with a powerful Resource and Card-drawing engine.

Just a few counterpoints to share here. I liked your review (in general) and think you raised some good points, overall.
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Damon Stone
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Oh no, your responses don't sound defensive at all and you definitely sound like you are still very open to the experience of learning this particular game, which is incredibly refreshing. A lot of players come from other games and assume after half a dozen games they have the whole thing figured out, it is always a pleasure to meet someone who is more self-aware and humble.

If your opponent is playing Dwarfs he may want to attempt to forgo building up his Battlefield at all for the first two rounds focusing on his Quest Zone and laying down developments with a moderate increase in the power in his Kingdom Zone. IF you are playing Orcs he obviously is not going to match you unit for unit in the Battlefield, so his best bet is to forgo it unless absolutely necessary. Once he is pulling in 6 resources and drawing 5 cards the situation will be extremely different. To get there he must toss down developments and get his Keystone Forges and Contested Fortresses into play. If he does not have one of those in his starting hand he should mulligan, those cancels and heals are going to be what keeps him in the game long enough to get his hefty defenders into the game, and when he starts tossing down Dwarf Rangers, the Ironbreakers, and King Kazador, Orcs will find themselves suddenly in a fight rather than a massacre... one which is quite possibly going to turn into a route.

And yes, I do agree losing a high percentage of games in your first game session or two is discouraging... but most players I've met swap back and forth between decks and even alternate between Order and Destruction so everyone gets the opportunity to play the Orc deck as well as games where no one is playing Orc. This helps mitigate the sense of imbalance and hopelessness that can come from a repeated one side butt-kicking.

Orcs are easy, and easiest for people with some basic familiarity with direct action decks. Point and click as it were. The other factions have a somewhat steeper learning curve unless you have a fair amount of experience with Eric Lang's other card games.
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Nathan Coffey
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Just one quick point to make. You should check out the FFG forums for strategy and decks and such if you haven't already. They are just much more active from my experience.

Also, with 3 of every card, I think Chaos Sniping gets rather strong against everything, including Orc Rush and its units with low HP.
 
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Karl Hartelius
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Unicorniclops wrote:

You know FFG changed the format so each battle pack will now contain 60 cards (3 of each) so no one has to buy multiple packs right?

As far as the speed beat down orcs get, I know about this issue going into the game, so I will definetly try to find ways to stop it from happening.

Tim

Tim


I can't see any information about the battle packs contain 60 cards? Source?

/Karl
 
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Brad Miller
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FFG's website. This will start with the next battle pack cycle. We are on pack 3 of the corruption cycle, so you have a while to wait before the 20x3 starts coming out.
 
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Jason Quintal
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Devonelle wrote:

cashcow


10char
 
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Nick Hayes
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JMacCaull wrote:
I was definitely playing aggressively. The other guy is the cliche Timmy - loves locking down the game and setting up interesting combos. ...


Nitpicking - in the M:tG classification, Spike is the tournament player, Timmy is the 'make lots of big fun things!' players, and Johnny is the combo player
 
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Mike Cooper
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The biggest mistake I see new players make (and that I made when I started) is under-investing in the quest zone. Even the rush decks invest in the quest zone.

Also, when building your deck, cheap is good. It doesn't matter how good the card is if you would have played it the turn after the orcs burn your second zone.

When you don't have 3x all the cards, I think the orc rush deck is probably the best deck. Some key control cards (e.g. Judgement of Verena, Flames of Tzeentch) are 1x in the core set, which is unfortunate.
 
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