Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Armageddon Empires Play Guide: Part Six

Previous installments:
part one
part two
part three
part four
part five

This is the last installment of the play guide, and hopefully it's given you a worthwhile introduction to what is an excellent, engrossing game. I also highly recommend the game manual, which can be downloaded here.

Please note that I do get into a fairly detailed discussion of Tactics research, which is very important to playing the game. I just slog through a few turns before I get there.

We left off at the end of turn thirty-six. I lose the initiative roll to begin turn thirty-seven and go second. First, I deploy a hero from my deck (Winston Liu) into the Indy army that's currently occupying the northern supply point. The hero commanding that army has recently been killed (see part five), and I wanted to get a new hero in place. Plus it only costs me 1 AP.

I draw another card (hoping for the war college, but no), then deploy an MoBV-V Panther tank unit into the southwest resource point. That ends my turn.

The Machine Empire assassin, though, immediately finds the hero I've just deployed. This can be a very difficult part of the game, protecting your heroes, and I'm not doing well this time. He gets a terrible roll and is terminated.

Turn thirty-eight, and I'm informed that a saboteur has damaged a facility and five tech resources have been destroyed.

This is frustrating, obviously, but it's another thing I really, really like about this game: it plays out on both large and small scales, and possible to succeed (or fail) either way. Saboteurs and assassins are highly vulnerable, but they can do a huge amount of damage if they're not found. It provides an additional layer of tension in the game that can get very high.

When my turn arrives, I draw a card (tank unit), move Kusanagi in a futile attempt to find the assassin, and move IndySouth (a hero and the Mech unit). I need to start doing some damage, even on a small scale. [UPDATE: as it turns out, this is wrong, as reader Don Tordilla pointed out. I should have used a unit with a high recon rating, not a high stealth rating. No wonder I didn't find the assassin.]

Turn thirty-eight and let's just say "Oh, crap."

The turn starts off fairly promising, as a Machine Empire air attack is both intercepted and destroyed by my defenses. Kusanagi detects an enemy unit in her hex, though, and when I inspect it, I see that it consists of five units, including a Behemoth (tank unit, 7-7 attack-defend with 2x damage). They're headed for the northern resource hex I currently control.

When my turn begins, I've unfortunately used so much AP intercepting the air attack that all I can do is move IndySouth back to my northern base for defensive purposes. Kusanagi would have a chance to kill the enemy hero leading the invading army, but I don't have enough AP.

If I win initiative for the next turn, though, I have both extra AP and a chance for a successful assassination. I blow out a huge number of resources to max out my die pool and do win initiative on turn thirty-nine.

First off, Kusanagi makes an assassination atttempt against the hero. Actually, I make two assassination attempts, and the second is successful. I've also drained my AP for the turn, but that army no longer has a leader, which means they've lost all their combat bonuses, which could be critical.

When the Machine Empire's turn rolls around, they continue air attacks on my northern base, and my intercept attempts on each attack consume AP. So it's a war of attrition in two ways--they're trying to destroy units in advance of a ground attack, but they're also limiting my ability to do anything offensive during my own turn.

They also find Kusanagi, who I stupidly left in the same hex as her assassination attempt, and she's been terminated, which was entirely my fault.

I launch my own air attack during my turn (and with my reduced AP, it's my only action for the turn). Unfortunately, it does almost no damage.

Turn forty, and the Machine Empire doesn't attack this turn. I immediately deploy another hero into the IndySouth army, draw a card, and I have enough AP left for another air attack. This time, I destroy an artillery unit.

Forty-one, and I draw another card, still looking for the war college. That fails, and I deploy one more artillery unit.

Forty-two, and I use as many resources as I can to get enough dice to win the turn initiative, which I do. I then deply another MeBU-II Vengeance mech unit. I now have two in the same army, and that will be a combat machine.

Turn forty-three, and I immediately start moving the MeBU-II army (IndySouth) to the hex immediately northeast, surprising a sniper unit which I quickly dispatch. With only 2 AP left, I decide to upgrade my Home base to level 2 (which adds hit points and improves defenses).

On turn forty-four, the Xenopods attack me by air as well. In spite of my mech army, I'm not looking too "survivable" right now. But just because I'm ornery, I move IndySouth one more hex to the northeast and attack the Machine Empire base.

Here's a look:

The base I took over is an ICBM missile complex, which explains where the air attacks were coming from. Not any more, thanks very much.

I've got trouble on both fronts, though. The Xenopods lay siege to my southwestern resource hex, and an assassin attempts to take out the hero leading IndySouth. He fails, but the hero won't survive another attempt, and I need to use the remaining 3 AP in this turn to do something to help my defenses in the soutwestern resource hex.

I wound up losing the southwestern base over the next two turns--the Xenopods launched an air attack, which took out one of my defending units, and my remaining unit was just mop-up work for the ground forces.

However, I did FINALLY draw the War College card. I also immediately deployed it at my Home base.

I won initiative on turn forty-whatever, and I've got 12 AP, so let's take a good look at tactics and how they work. When you have a War College at a base as well as a hero with the ability to research tactics (which will be noted on its unit card), you have the ability to research tactics. This is similar to Genetics research, except what you're researching are cards that can be used to change battle outcomes, so they are incredibly important.

I right-click on the unit card of hero Fulton Strangelove, and "Tactician 4" pops up, which I then select. Here's the tactics research screen that I see next:

As you can see, there are some powerful cards to research. +3 Fate points in a battle, rerolling 3 successful dice of an opponent, +2 success dice, turn 2 success dice into failures--those could all be huge in the course of a battle.

All these cards are single-use--they go into a special tactics deck, and when you use them, they're gone. That doesn't mean you can't research them again and get another card, but one research attempt, if successful, nets you one, single-use card.

If that sounds like a bad deal, it's not, because research attempts only cost AP, not resources, so it's a way to improve your chances in battle without having to consume resources in the process of research.

We'll research something easy, so that we can have a better chance of success, so let's go with "For the Empire," which is a two-dice challenge that gets you a card worth +3 Fate points in battle.

The research is successful, and I accept the +3 Fate card. If I want to see the cards in my tactics deck, and my other card set is showing, all I need to do is click on the "Tactics" button and my tactics cards will be displayed.

You're limited to 5 tactics cards in your deck at any one time. I go ahead and do a few more +3 Fate research attempts, since it only costs me 1 AP, until I fill out my tactics deck.

Remember, Genetics research can create unit modification cards which raise your hero's research level by 1, which would take my tactician to level 5, giving him more dice and more Fate points. So research can combine in interesting ways.

Now I just need to find a battle to be able to show you the tactics cards in action. Over the course, of two turns, I move the IndySouth mech army to the west and find a Machine Empire base.

I attack.

This time, though, when I see the screen about arranging my units for battle, my tactics cards are shown at the bottom. Take a look:

When battle begins, you'll have the option to use your tactics cards at any time you're defending, and if you're attacking and the defender uses fate points or tactics cards, you can use them then (in response) as well.

Let's look at a typical situation, which is shown in this screenshot:

Actually, since I'm only losing the roll 6-5 and will take only minor damage, I probably wouldn't normally use a tactics card here, but for the sake of demonstration, let's say it was an 8-4 roll against me instead. Since I'm out of Fate points, the only thing I could do to lower the damage would be to play one of my tactics cards--in this case, a +3 Fate card, since it's all I have. I just drag the card up into the "Play Tactics Card Here" box and I immediately have 3 more Fate points, which I use to reroll dice until I eliminate as much damage to my unit as I can.

You can use a combination of Fate points and Tactics cards during battle, and so can your opponent, so battles can be tumultous affairs--you've got dice rolling, Fate points rerolling, and Tactics cards doing all kinds of things.

Which is extremely fun. It's another example of how Armageddon Empires is remarkably dynamic in combat.

Here's one last note about battles. It's possible for an enemy to have several armies stacked in the same hex (it's possible for you as well), and you get to specify battle order before combat starts. If you're fighting several battles on the same turn with the same army, though, your Fate points are a pool for that turn that you have to spread out over all the battles, not something that gets refreshed each time you face a new army. Don't blow out your Fate points in the first battle, thinking that they'll be renewed.

Well, that should give you a good start in playing Armageddon Empires. It was a fantastic effort by Vic Davis and his team, and I hope the game gets all the attention that it deserves. And if you've read all the installments of this play guide, thanks very much for taking the time.

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