Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Horizon Wars

I received my copy of Horizon Wars last week.

The book itself is of a high production quality, like Frostgrave, and contains a lot of original artwork which are evocative.

The rules themselves are not easy to learn - this is certainly not one of those sets of rules where you can just read through once and play straight away.

The core rules about movement, terrain and combat are rather straightforward, and you can read about them on the author's blog. What makes the rules a little complex are the "army list" and the scenarios.

At first glance the mustering of a battlegroup looks simple: units cost either 1, 2, or 3 Presence points. But here's the tricky part: a company HQ element is free, unless it is a mecha, in which case it costs as it normally does. And if your HQ unit is not a mecha, then for every full 5 points in your force, you need to include one element of the same type as your HQ unit (which counts as one of these elements). Unless you choose not to have a HQ element. Also, when determining the cost of a battlegroup, some elements may cost less or more than the usual cost depending on the type of element the HQ unit is. For example, a Light Cavalry HQ pays 3 points instead of 1 to buy a Light Infantry element, but 2 points instead of 3 to buy a Heavy Cavalry element. The rationale behind this is that battlegroups tend to favour certain types of units depending on the parent unit the commander belongs to.

Fortunately, the calculations do not involve fractions or square roots, and can actually be quite fun in a geeky way, and once the force composition is out of the way, it doesn't come up during the actual playing (I think).

The other complex part of the rules are those involving Momentum in the Adventure scenarios. The rules require a commander to actively "manage" a battle. In an Adventure scenario, each force starts with a Momentum rating based on the size of the forces and their respective "attitudes". The Momentum will change during the course of the battle, rising if the force is causing damage to the enemy, and falling if it's enemy is preventing it from achieving its mission. When one side has lost all its Momentum, the battle ends. This reminds me in some way of the running victory point system seen in some boardgames, and is a more dynamic way of tracking success compared to the usual way of counting victory points only at the conclusion of a game. As in a boardgame, this system requires the players to do some tracking at the end of each turn, but it looks like it will add to the tension of the game.

I bought the rules chiefly because I wanted a set of rules to use for the Heavy Gear kickstarter we are backing, so I guess I should say something about how mechas are modeled in these rules. Now instead of giving the players a number of "frames" which they can customise by buying engines, heat sinks, armour and weapons and so forth. Horizon Wars lets the players customise their mechas by giving them a number of points to spend buying stats, similar to say a role-playing game. As one point of Firepower is one point of Firepower, weapons are abstracted and so a F3 mecha will shoot as well as a F3 vehicle or infantry unit. This may seem too generic for some people, but I think for a game where you want to field a dozen or so mechas alongside or against convention forces, you do have to sacrifice the granularity for playability. I am not sure how the rest of the gang (who are getting all- or almost all-mecha forces) will take to the rules, but already I have drawn up a list for my Mad Max style battlegroup with its improvised fighting vehicles and cheap infantry.

Now all I need is for Brigade Models to release their Desert Domes in 10mm...

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