Thursday, August 23, 2007

Armageddon Empires Play Guide: Part One

All right, let's get started. Please note that I'm writing this guide with an extreme amount of detail because I want people who don't normally play this kind of game to have a chance to enjoy it as well. Also, please remember that you can click on any of these screenshots to see a larger version.

When you start a new game, you'll see a game options screen, and here's what I recommend in terms of game setup, at least for new players:
--max card points: 175 (that relates to deck quality)
--select deck: ImperialDemoDeck (other decks are available for download)
--max tile points: 5
--map size: normal
--resources: uncommon
--specials: uncommon
--opponents: random (both)

After the game setup screen, you'll roll for initiative. Before every turn in the game, you roll for initiative, and if you win the roll and go first, you'll be rewarded with more Action Points (AP), which we'll be talking about shortly.

After the roll, you'll be given a chance to lay the "staging area" tile. Your units will be in supply for a certain distance from this base (supply range can be extended later), so place the tile as far into the board as possible. Then, take the base card and drag it onto the staging area, which will deploy your base. When you're done, this is what you'll see:

Note the colored circles with numbers at the top of your base hex. Those are resources: . Human, Materials, Energy, and Technology. The numbers indicate how many resources are potentially available in that hex. Those resources are not automatically collected, though--you need some kind of structure (a collection facility or a base) to collect them, and most facilities can collect only one of each resource, which means for a hex with two energy, for example, you'd need a collection facility AND a base.

We're done here. Choose the "Start Game" button and wait briefly for the game map to be created.

Once the game begins, before each turn you'll have the opportunity to buy initiative die. You can spend any kind of resource type you have available to increase the number of die you get when rolling for initiative each turn.

Being first in a turn gets you extra action points, and everything you do in the game costs action points, so having more is always better. However, it also takes resources to do things as well, so you have to decide when it's worth giving up resources to improve your chances of getting the turn initiative. For now, we have almost no resources, so we're just going to roll.

I lost the roll and I'm going third this turn. After the other two empires (The Machine Empire and the Free Mutants in this game) take their turn (which I won't see unless I have units in the area of the activity), it's finally my turn.

Let's get familiar with screen, because it's the basic game screen, and you'll be seeing it every turn. At the top left, you have a mini-map that can show you terrain, the hexes you control, the hexes you've explored, and the hexes you're observing (via reconnaisance and other units,I believe).

At the very top, those colored circles represent available action points (AP) and your supply of the four resource types.

The hex map takes up most of the screen.

The bottom panel shows you the cards currently in your hand (notice the very cool artwork). You'll have more than five cards in your current hand, usually, and you can scroll left or right with the red arrows. On the right, you can see how many cards remain to draw (see the red hand with "48" underneath).

At the very bottom of the screen are a few useful switches. There are times when you'll be displaying "Tactics" cards in that card window instead of unit cards, and the "Display Hand" and "Tactics" buttons let you switch betwen them (or make the panel go away entirely, which is necessary when deploying units at the bottom of the map). The red hand holding the cards icon and associated number show you how many cards are in your current hand.

If you click on the "Supply" button, the map will turn green to show you which hexes are in supply. This is an important concept, because units out of supply suffer both battle penalties as well as movement penalties. This is particularly important with reconnaisance units--when they're out of supply, they can only move one hex per turn instead of their regularthree or four hexes.

The "Events" button helps you see what's gone on in the game world in the last turn. This won't show you any new information, though, just what your units have observed.

The "Players" button will give you information about your opponents--again, though, nothing you can't observe, although it will tell you the unique abilities that are inherently possessed by each faction (some actions cost fewer action points for certain factions than others, for example).

The "Menu" button does just what you expect it to--gives you options to save, load, and exit.

I took a second screenshot of this screen, before beginning my turn, because I looked through my hand and found an Imperial Recon unit. Take a look:

You will notice that the card is a lighter color than the others--that means I have sufficient resources and action points to deploy this card (which you can verify at the top of the screen). The other units require more resources or action points than I have available.

That's okay, though, because in the early part of the game, recon is particularly important. Exploring a hex can pay huge benefits, either through finding a cache of resources or finding a permanent supply, which I can then harvest with the appropriate facilities. These hexes tend to be fiercely contested, though, so I'll also need to station enough units in thehex to provide a proper defense.

Given the post-apocalyptic setting, almost everything tends to be in short supply: resources, units, everything. It gives the entire game a tinge of desperation that is tremendously appealing.

Look at the right side of the screen, where you'll see a description of the Imperial Recon units capabilties (this pops up when you hover the mouse pointer over a card). These generally match what the card itself says, but in more detail.

Hit points mean exactly what you'd expect, and notice that recon units have very few hit points, although they can be augmented to a limited degree by researched enhancements. The trade-off for low hit points, though, is the movement range--four hexes per turn, which in this game, is absolutely huge.

"Attack" and "Defense" are both listed as 2. This means the unit, in both attacking and defending situations, rolls 2 dice. Units can have up to 10 dice for attacks or defense, and some units have a wide variance in their attack capabilites versus their defensive capabilities. The "Range" ratings is 1, which means that in battle, the unit must be in the front row to beable to launch an attack, and it can only attack units in the opponent's front row.

"Stealth" means that the unit has a special mode it can engage to remain hidden, and the "5" rating for Stealth means that it will be relatively hard to discover. When a unit this underpowered is doing recon, you always want it to be in stealth mode, or it won't last very long.

It may sound trivial, understanding what each rating on the card means, but I took it somewhat for granted for the first few hours, and I didn't learn nearly as quickly as a result. Unlike many other games, the ratings of a unit in Armageddon Empires are critically important--you're not going to churn out units like loaves of bread at a Mrs. Baird's factory. Except in very rare instances (for The Empire of Man, at least), your units are limited by the deck itself.

Again, this game distinguishes itself in that almost everything is finite. That makes every individual unit far more important.

Okay, so now that I want to actually deploy the Imperial Recon unit, what do I do? I scroll down to the bottom of the map and locate my base (if it's not already showing). Then, click and drag the Imperial Recon over the hex that contains my base.You can deploy a unit card at any base, but this is the only one I have right now.

The number of cards in your hand (bottom panel) will decrement one, and the number of action points (AP) you have remaining will decrement as well.

Okay, we've played the card. Where is it now?

To the side of the base icon, you'll see an attached rectangle with a "1". That refers to the garrison that is located at the base, but as of yet, there are no other units. Click on that icon and you'll see this screen:

You can see your Imperial Recon card behind that pop-up screen, which comes up when you press the "Create Army" button. Before you can move your unit anywhere, it has to be transferred into an existing army, so I need to create one. I plan on sending this unit out to the west, so let's name it "Recon West." Note that it costs 3 AP to create that army (you can see the 3AP designation in the screenshot).

Once you've created the army (which you'll see added to that screen), select it with the mouse, then drag your recon card into the new army. Now "Recon West" has one unit in it, and you can close this screen.

What was a "1" by the base is now a "2", which reflects that I added the recon unit (which is located in the hext but not assigned to defending the base). If I wanted to see what units were assigned to defending the base, I'd just left-click on the base (which pulls up a screen that shows you all base-assigned units), but this time, I want to select the recon army so that I can start scouting.

To select an army from the main screen, you're going to right-click on the icon in the hex where it's located. In this case, it's the icon with the "2".

I do that and here's what I see:

The unit name (Recon West) is now displayed, along with the AP it requires to move, and how many hexes it can move per turn. Below that, you'll see a little mask, and if you left click on that, stealth mode is activated for that unit (only a few units can go into stealth mode).

I left-click on the mask to put the unit into stealth mode, then right-click the "2" again to re-select the army. This time, I click on "Recon West," which selects the army, and I can then move into adjoining hexes. Each hex has a movement point number on it to show how many movement points it will cost me to move into the hex. Also, each hex I explore will then be identified, like this:

I didn't find any resources or supply caches, but quickly scouting the board and finding where those resources exist is crucial to success. Ideally, you'd have several recon units scouting in all directions.

You may be asking "What the hell is that blue facility?" That's the same thing I was asking, because I've never seen a facility that close so early in the game. The blue color indicates that the facility is controlled by Independents, not an organized faction, and sometimes Independents will be willing to join your army for certain, um, "considerations." In thiscase, though, I need to watch them carefully--I've never seen an Independent unit attack my base, but I haven't deployed any units there yet.

Did I say a guide to the first 10-20 turns today? I guess I meant one turn, because that's more than enough for now. I'll have Part Two of the guide available on Monday, and hopefully then we'll cover up to turn 10-15.

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