Friday, March 11, 2011
Card Game Review - Warhammer Invasion
My wife is awesome. I'm going to tell you why.
First, she's a trooper. She's had chronic, near-debilitating back pain since an idiot doctor couldn't stop talking golf long enough to do her epidural properly and gave her permanent damage to her spine. She has fibromyalgia, which was misdiagnosed by her doctor, who then proceeded to overdose her on vicodin and predisone. The overdoses resulted in a weakened bone structure, so that her knees were so weakened that they gave out while she was walking and went sideways on her, resulting in weeks of physical therapy (and she still walks with a cane). And on top of that, she still works.
Second, she plays games with me. She wasn't a gamer at all until I married her, but she'll play just about anything. In fact, the other day, while she was on the way back from a doctor's appointment, she stopped in at a game store and bought me Warhammer Invasion. This wasn't a reward for remembering to take out the trash, or an anniversary present, or even a bribe. She just saw it and thought I might like it.
She was right. She often is. She is, like I said, awesome. Warhammer Invasion has everything I like about collectible card games, but since it's a living card game (that's Fantasy Flight's moniker, not mine), you don't actually have to spend five grand to complete your collection.
The starter set comes with four full, pre-made faction decks for orcs, chaos, empire and dwarfs. You have a capital board, and the object of the game is to send your troops over to the other guy's capital and light it on fire. I wouldn't recommend actually lighting it on fire, incidentally. Your homeowner's insurance might not cover intentional damage to your kitchen. They may claim you are too stupid to own a home, and just kick you out and make you live in a FEMA trailer.
Every deck has a very different play style, which is one thing I like in these kinds of games. The orcs are pretty straightforward - they crush things a lot. But the others require a little finesse to work properly. The empire is most skilled at moving around and getting resources where they need them, while the chaos guys are great at giving the good guys a bad case of Nurgle flu, so everyone is in bed when your wacky demonoids come riding down the hill to burn the barns and dry hump the farm animals. The dwarf units are Chuck Norris kinds of tough. You can also buy expansions that let you play good elves and bad elves, and both kinds of elves also have cool powers. The bad elves, for instance, are really, really mean.
Warhammer Invasion requires you to create a solid balance of strategies. Focus too much on boosting your income, and you'll leave yourself open to constant nut kicks. But if you spend all your energy on the offensive, slamming your opponent every chance you get, he's going to eventually build up past your ability to break through his defenses. Cards are allocated to lots of different places, and do lots of different things, but the basics of the game are easy to understand and play smooth right out of the box.
You can also do some killer deckbuilding, even with just the cards you get in the starter set. You can have the orcs ally with the chaos guys, and now your orcs will blow through your opponent's defenses like Refrigerator Perry blitzing a pee-wee football quarterback while the gold-armored tough guys are barfing into airline bags because your chaos demons gave them all bad tuna salad. You can make alliance decks with the good guys, too, but everybody knows the bad guys are more fun.
The best part (well, the best part for my wallet) is that while you can expand this game eight ways from Sunday, you don't have to quit your meth habit just to afford new cards. You can actually get every card ever made for the game, and you can get them for about $300. That seems like a lot of lettuce, until you consider how much you would pay to complete just one release of Magic cards. Then it's a hell of a steal.
So you've got cool Warhammer art (that should go without saying), great interacting card abilities, variable strategies and killer tactical plays. You can customize your deck for the kind of game you want to play, and you can finish the whole game in half an hour. You can expand the game without spending your kids' college fund, and you're not going to always lose to the guy who has more money to spend on cards. What's not to love?
Well, unfortunately, there is one thing. In every game we've played so far, there's a point where we both know who's going to win, even though there are still two or three turns left. When the high elves have been so beat down that they can't draw cards or pay for the ones they have, and their defenses are in tatters while the orcs just keep bringing out more green-skinned super soldiers, it's all over but the crying. We have not had a game be even remotely close, because all the really important stuff happens at the beginning. There's a kind of balancing escalation act, in which both players are trying to get richer while maintaining their defenses, and then at some point it kind of tips one way or the other, and then the final outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion. It's your classic runaway leader situation, except it's more like a runaway freight train full of unstable nitroglycerin and chemical waste with a NASA rocket strapped to the caboose.
That problem, though, is really more of a late-game inconvenience. The game is taut and exciting most of the time, with lots of opportunities to make smart plays or screw the pooch with a dumb card combination. Yeah, the ending goes on for a turn or two even after the game is decided, but right up until then, Warhammer Invasion is more fun than a room full of porn starlets and rubber sex toys.
I've already bought one expansion for Warhammer Invasion, and I'll be buying a lot more. We have had this game for less than a week, and already played six or seven games. My wife likes it, I like it, and we're trying to rope our kids into a big team game. This game has legs, and I know that we'll be playing it for a long time to come.
So to finish off this review, I'm going to run down a bunch of reasons my wife is awesome. One - she bought me Warhammer Invasion, just because she likes me. Two - she read the rules herself, and taught me how to play (that's usually my job). Three - she likes the game, and encourages me to go to the game store at the corner and buy expansions.
You can buy Warhammer Invasion, and then you can have as much fun as I'm having. Unfortunately for you, you can't have my wife.
2 or 4 players
Easy game play
Tons of planning and strategy and smart plays
Lots of reasons to play it again
All the fun of a CCG, none of the crazy money sink
Late game tends to be pretty one-sided
While I can't tell you where to get a wife as awesome as mine, I can definitely send you to Noble Knight Games to pick up Warhammer Invasion:
TONS OF FUN, CHEAP
Posted by Matt Drake at 5:04 PM