First off: I’m writing this in a Starbucks on my swanky new laptop so now I’m a real blogger. Shit, wait, I don’t have a blog. Um…social media
micro nano femtopersonality.
Couldn’t pull MYZ together last night (summer is rough, everyone’s got family shit going on, how dare they) so I spun up Imperial Assault in campaign mode. There are, basically, two complete games in the box: a PvP skirmish game where each side builds an army and a deck of cards, and a campaign game where one player is the Empire and everyone else is a Rebel hero, with their own advancements and gear and other trad-as-it-is-understood-today RPGish stuff.
We started on the tutorial and I completely effed up most of it. In fact I think we ran it twice and I effed it up both times. I’d like to blame FFG’s notoriously terrible rulebook but I kind of have to own this one: I got key concepts like hero and player tangled up in my own head.
Honestly the game is not hard, especially if you’ve played Descent (this is basically version 3.0). A rebel player goes and does a couple actions (move, fight, rest, interact or “special”), then the Imperial player activates a card — either a badass individual or a group of mooks — then another Rebel player goes and so on until everyone’s gone. In campaign mode, there are some additional twists: the Imperial player builds his “threat,” based on the campaign stage you’re on, and spends it to spawn new mooks. And maybe other effects, we haven’t gotten that far.
Since we’re playing with fewer than the default four heroes, they all have a “heroic” benefit, which means they can trade around a fourth activation token each turn. It’s neat, very clever way to scale the game up. It’s also the source of my confusion: each activation gives you two actions. I has a dumb.
So! The play is good. Tiny map, as you can see in the picture, and that’s both weird and good: building the map for a scenario is terrible. Truly, it is awful. The game comes with, I think, 50 little map bits and you have to review every one of them every time to build the map. Some folks at BGG have attempted solutions, like making little uh…menus, I guess, of common shapes and their associated numbers, so you can sort by size/shape at the very least. I saw someone else subdivide their bits by first number (there are 0x, 1x, 2x and 3x pieces); might try that myself. Because I think the intended play is that you get through two or three missions at a sitting (assuming about 1-1.5 hours per mission), but the form factor doesn’t really facilitate that.
Once we got the rules hashed out, the game is pretty tightly balanced. The heroes all have their own little tricks and tweaks, and those just continue to evolve through play. No sign of really terrible field commandering, either: like that terribad Alien Uprising I kickstartered last year, each toon has so very much shit to track that I think field commandering is kind of hard. There’s still strategizing! And that’s good; I would not want everyone to be nose-down in their stuff and completely oblivious to everyone else. It’s probably not avoidable forever, especially when the field commander-prone player(s) finally twig to all the rules. But for now it’s okie-dokie.
The scenarios work very much like short little trad-RPG fight scenes: here are some secret notes, here are some secret triggers, now play balls-out against each other while interpreting the secret stuff in good faith. There’s not a lot of interpretation required but it’s still there. Like, in the introduction to the campaign there’s a mention of “terminals” at an Imperial base but no instructions on what exactly to do. So the first thing they tried was an ‘interact” action. Well…the scenario book doesn’t really say if anything happens, and they haaaated that they’d just wasted a precious action doing nothing. There’s probably a formalistic answer in the rules, something like “well duh, interact only works on doors and crates” or someshit. I just shrugged and recommended they look at their other action choices.
What I really like is the semi-open-ish campaign structure that spools out. After the introduction, everyone gets XPs (including the Imperial player: you choose one of three Imperial “characters” and develop them throughout the campaign) which which to improve their character out of a deck of options. They also get some money and a random assortment of gear. Then the heroes start their “face-up mission” stack by pulling a couple side mission cards from a deck they built based on the characters in play, plus some player choices, plus some random draws.
As the campaign goes on, it tells you whether you’re about to do a side mission or a story mission. You typically have two side mission choices at all times, although the Imperial player can buy “agendas,” some of which are crappy side-missions the heroes don’t want to have to do (and if they pass them up, the Imperial player gets a bennie). The Imperial player actually develops a whole suite of interesting gotchas and ongoing effects. I build my Agenda deck pretty much by picking pictures and narrative that I liked, not necessarily by shopping for nasty synergies and optimal pathways.
Anyway, it’s pretty cool. Everyone’s got a little investment in their toons even after their first mission. They have to decide which of two side missions they’ll do next. They’re thinking about their level-ups. It’s neat and very easy (other than the map-building thing).
Games like this make me wish I had a second night to game. One night for srsbsns, one night for pewpew and guiltless murder.