After playing Horus Heresy (HH) one thing that really impressed me was how often I was caught comparing it with War of the Ring.
Absurd! You say, and I would agree if I was a reasonable man, but who is reasonable this days?
Jokes aside, both games kind of scratched the same itch on me: a good way to spend about 3 or so hours killing my friend’s army and trashtalking.
So, a comparison...
Both games have great components on the quality department that could be better on the gameplay department.
The board: although in both games they are huge and take a lot of space, some areas of the board are not big enough to place the minis on them. The board in HH is more functional, with clear divisions between areas. In WOTR, it is sometimes difficult to clear visualize all the features of the map (including borders, settlements, etc.). The 3D aspect of the HH board is a miss for me. I loved it in Runewars, but in Runewars I didn’t have to balance space marines on the mountains.
The cards: On WOTR, the cards have a tiny text on them. I think in HH, some cards have equally small text, but the font in HH is much more readable.
The minis: In both games you are bound to not knowing which is what on your first plays. In HH the miniatures are very small and some of them are really similar, with minor differences. In WOTR, the miniatures are more varied and bigger (big plus), but you can expect to get a little bit lost because there are tons of them. HH ups the ante here with bases that help to differentiate the units of different ranks. The bigger miniatures In WOTR are more beautiful, though, and a lot more impressive on the table if you are inclined to paint them.
The rest of the components are the Fantasy Flight standard for quality, which means they are, as I said before, great.
Warhammer 40K and Lord of The Rings, what more is there to be said? OK, I will say a little bit more: Although, due to the recent Peter Jackson films, the Lord of The Rings theme is more popular, Space Marines is also a concept easy to grasp (Aliens, Gears of War, etc.).
However, both games invest a lot on telling a story, and I found that the Lord of The Rings is the easiest one to get people involved with. I’m not a fan, but I knew the 40K universe before playing, but I had trouble even differentiating which hero was on my side, let alone remember their names and their supposed role in the conflict.
While playing WOTR, when Gandalf the Grey becomes Gandalf the White I don’t have to explain anything. Anyone geek enough to play this game is geek enough to know the barebones Lord of The Ring mythos, the same cannot be said about HH.
Not a big deal, though, as it is quite possible to become invested in the story the game is trying to tell without prior knowledge of the 40k universe, just not so easily.
Both games have a great basic structure, with lots of rules exceptions, misinterpretations and sometimes grey areas. You will need a FAQ, and it is quite possible that, unless you have prior experience with more complex wargames, you will play some rules wrong on your first attempts to play.
The rules are not difficult per se, but there are a lot of things to remember, and if you put on top of that the necessity to create your own strategies to, well, play the game, you will have a lot on your mind.
That said, stick to them and you will be probably be playing them in a very decent pace in no time at all, but this will be greatly influenced by your previous experience with other games. I imagine that if you only played light euros before there will be a lot to learn here (which, in my book, is not a bad thing).
WOTR is, however, the worst offender here. I found that the rulebook in WOTR a little bit more "labyrinthic" and just not very well organized. HH rulebook is not fantastic either, but it is way better.
In both games, two players will battle each other commanding asymmetric forces.
In HH, one side (the emperor) will be holed up trying to desperate defend their position, looking for an opportunity to fight back the invading forces. The initiative system makes you ponder your every move and the key to play the game well is knowing when to plan for the future (saving up initiative points) and when to spend more initiative to grasp an opportunity.
The game plays well, with a lot of things to consider and plenty of opportunities for smart play. However, playing the emperor is easier and it is sometimes anticlimactic because the invader can be crushed quite unceremoniously. Make sure to place the most experienced player always in the command of the invader.
In WOTR, one side (the FreePeoples) will try to resist the advances of the evil Sauron (A.K.A player 2), hoping to destroy the one ring before it is too late or, with luck and skill, crushing Sauron militarily.
Gameplay here is quite thematic, as the Sauron forces are really formidable and the Free Peoples best bet are really on the hands of Frodo while everyone else is just gaining time for him. That said, it is possible to get a military victory with the Free Peoples, which is nice.
In WOTR you are really battling on two fronts: the war and the quest for the ring, which adds a tactical layer to your decisions, which, in their turn, are limited by what you rolled in your turn - your actions in WOTR are defined by the action dice system. Each player rolls a bunch of dice and only the actions that were rolled are available to them. At first glance it may look like limiting, but unless you are absurdly unlucky, the system adds tension and avoids Analysis Paralysis (AP), as you have to make do with what you have. Ok, I concede that it sometimes provokes AP, but it mostly avoids it, in my opinion.
Both games (like several wargames, really) can be somewhat "scripted", meaning that some plays will be often executed and some strategies repeated. I can live with that, and both systems are open enough to provide variety from play to play. HH feels, to me, a little bit more restrictive in that regard and the designers seems to know that, providing a number of scenarios to account to variety.
Both games are long, taking about 2 to 4 hours to complete.
WOTR will be the longer game to complete in your first plays, mostly because with less experienced players, objectives tend to be completed earlier in HH. Funny enough, depending on your level of rivalry, both games won’t necessarily be quicker after some time, mostly because fierce adversaries will ponder their moves and will block each other on the path to victory.
Both games take a while to setup (although familiarity and organization tend to alleviate that problem) and will probably take awhile to put everything back at the box also.
Combat and fun factor
In both games you are going to have to invest some time to fully enjoy them.
Familiarity with the setup, minis, background story and rules will not come on your first play - and probably not in the second or third either. But when all this stuff is stored on your hard drive and all you have to think about is your strategies, both games will deliver great moments, no doubt.
Some people seem to think that a game, to be enjoyable, must always have easy to grasp rules and should be ready to play out of the box in 10 minutes tops. I like games like that, but I also like games that can be more rewarding after you had the time to absorb the game system.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you must play the game 2 or 3 times in order to like it, because, truth be told, if you are not in the mood to study the rules, faqs and print player aids, you simply should not do it. Some people will know after their first play if the game is for them or not. But for those that dig the theme and are willing to "climb the mountain", there is indeed a reward behind the effort.
The problem with games that have a lot of moving parts is that you might have a problem not with the game as a whole but with some part of the engine - and it can sour the experience for you. For some will be the dice, for others will be the absence of them. Or some rule that doesn’t quite fit the setting or some useless or imbalanced unit. Both of those games will have a lot of those to pick from and, ultimately, I can leave with WOTR little idiosyncrasies, but in my opinion, HH designers dropped the ball with the combat.
The combat system in HH kind of kills part of the fun of the game to me.
This is mostly subjective, but I will try to explain my reasons:
1. Dice. I like them and HH doesn't have them. That said, I like the cards in Starcraft and in Middle-Earth Quest, so it is not just the absence of dice that botters me.
2. The card system in HH is very tactical, but it is kind of slow going for my tastes.
3. And my biggest beef: the units don’t really shine through the cards.
Heroes are mostly the same, with the same special abilities in the cards (they have some abilities of their own, but heroes can hardly surprise you in HH). It is good in a Euro, but in a game with so much story behind it, heroes could feel more unique in combat.
Some units, like the Titan, do not have special abilities at all (with the exception of one combat card). On the other hand, Space Marines are almost more useful than the heroes, with tons of special powers.
On games like Starcraft and Middle Earth Quests, the units come to life, with lots of ranged attacks for the elf and the Ghost units calling nuclear strikes.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing is actually very well designed and can be pretty tense if you are into it. However, to me, the combat system in HH is warm and I don’t like warm in wargames, I like awesome, with lots of personality - I want to be able to give a medal to the unit that granted me my great victory, the anonymous 2 cards contributed by the Titan just do not cut it.
Granted, WOTR does not go to that level, but the combat is faster, more dynamic and the heroes play their part quite well. Cards also play an important role in combat in WOTR, modifying rolls and adding bonuses, keeping things interesting and, to an extent, more strategic, as you have more control of your hand, you can actually plan where to strike in advance. In HH, the cards go to your hand after you are already engaged in combat, so you can’t actually make long term plans.
Well, there you have it. If I have a willing friend, an afternoon ahead of me and the latest Fantasy Flight FAQ in my hands, which game will hit the table?
War of the Ring.
- Last edited Fri Aug 6, 2010 2:26 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Aug 5, 2010 9:13 pm
Re: Comparing Horus Heresy with War of The Ring - A Heretic pint of view
Man, 2-4 hours for either WotR or HH is just molasses-speed from my POV (first game of WotR came in around 2.5h). Former is 90 minutes max (just base game, duration is around 8-10 turns), latter seems to come in around 60 minutes (though games do tend to end around the Spaceport Victory Possible space, so halfway through the Initiative track). I've also found the Traitors to be the more winning side, even if the last two game have ended in Imperial victories. In later scenarios, Traitors get more units out there during setup and if they wish can put down Magnus + Mortarion duo right off the bat.
For me War of the Ring comes last in the want-to-play list out of the following (preference in order):
Star Wars: Queen's Gambit
War of the Ring
- Last edited Thu Aug 5, 2010 10:14 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Aug 5, 2010 10:13 pm
Re: Comparing Horus Heresy with War of The Ring - A Heretic pint of view
I'd really want to try The Queen's Gambit. Can't find a copy, though
I've never manage to fit War of the Ring in less than 2 hours (setup alone can take a bit).
I can see Horus Heresy as a shorter game specially, as I said, if the objectives are acquired early on. But although I've seen some reports of games going under 2 hours (like yours), I also never seen it happen personally.
In the case of HH, I found that some battles can drag a bit, if both players are really trying to outsmart each other.
Yeah, I totally fluked my copy of Queen's Gambit. Was browsing the WotR forums, looking for when the reprint would be coming (back in April '08), came across a mention of QG. Read about it, then just for kicks checked my FLGS' website, WTH, they still had it in stock at that time . Sometimes being on the outskirts of the world helps I suppose (not that Brazil is the center of the universe either, right ).
As for length, I never do count setup as part of playing time, just the actual playing time. But WotR sets up in about 5-10 minutes without a rush, would be even faster if I bagged each army in separate bags, instead of just an Evil and Good bag. For HH, I think the early game should run along fairly smoothly, since for one, the starting orders are the same through and through, there are no surprises in store. It's only after a couple of Orders Phases that you start to have to think about what else is in store, but even then you sorta know the standard stuff is still getting burn. And the goal for both sides is the same, take and control all four Spaceports. The KO-victory (killing Emp or Horus) doesn't really come into play until after the Spaceport Victory Possible space has been reached, unless either side gets a total brainfart or gambles everything to a insta-win shot (or doesn't fully take into account the special tokens in scenario IV ).
Well, at least you got game stores...
Ahh, you found me... Run!
I have played Horus Heresy several times these last few weeks, and while I have not yet tried out War of the Ring (I know, it's pathetic), but I do agree that the units in HH are a bit bland - compared to Starcraft and even Runewars.
General units in War of the Ring are, well... General . but the heroes are trully unique (which fits the theme well).
Boromir is actually almost always the first one to die
Three Headed Monkey
Yeah, I have to say I partly agree with people's thoughts on the combat cards. I enjoy this game immensly and I have no problem with the mechanics of the card play, which I quite enjoy, but I was disapointed at the lack veriaty in the effects. Mechanically they work fine, there are a few interesting combos you can pull off and their strategic effect is solid but I feel the effects should be cooler.
Maybe it's because of my knowledge of and investment in the background. If I knew nothing of the units in the game beforehand perhaps I wouldn't notice.
But as I said, mechanically they work fine. They push you to have a veriety of units in one area, as well as a mix of power aligned units for the traitor player. They give you tactical choices that effect how you fight and they make combat quite tense as you are almost never sure what your opponent may spring on you. More so than dice rolling ever could.
I adore this game, and I love War of the Ring for pretty much the same reasons (deep, long-but-not-too-long two player game, thematic and attractive, etc.)
The combat cards in HH I feel are something of a missed opportunity - how they work is absolutely fine, they resolve combat well, and allow for a variety of outcomes, but they only allow for shallow combat planning, and that's a shame. Nevertheless, it works, and allows for some epic and unpredictable battles, on occasion.
In the last game we played it came down to a single Imperial Army, defending the last spaceport from a "Titans Stride the Earth" event... one more point of damage would have made all the difference, but sadly Earth remains in the hands of the Imperium.