Archive for April, 2007

Treasures of the Wasteland

Friday, April 20th, 2007

In the early and into the middle stages of any given game of Armageddon Empires your minions will be scouring unexplored territory for resources, technology cards, and even potential allies.  If they discover a special in a hex then a dialogue box will pop up and describe any discoveries.  Here is an example of something your units might find on the dessicated bones of some forgotten hero.


By itself it might not seem too remarkable.  The special ability on this munition card can change the game in an instant.  It’s not a game winner like a nuke, but used correctly it can be devestating.  Take for example the killer stack described last time.  If a killer stack shows up on your frontier and you haven’t placed any armies nearby to respond, then you might be starring down a juggernaut that could drive straight into the heart of your pocket empire and occupy your stronghold.  That means game over.  One way to neutralize the killer stack is to decapitate it.  Without a hero, each card in the the killer stack suffers penalties to its attack, defense and movement attributes if there are more cards in the army than the faction’s base command rating allows.  The more cards over the limit, the bigger the penalties.  There are two ways to eliminate a hero leading an army.  You can attempt an assassination challenge by moving another hero or team card, that possesses the “Assassin” special ability, into the same hex and expending some action points.  During a battle you can initiate a sniper challenge against a hero if you have a unit card with the “Sniper” special ability.  The bore worms munition card will work with an assassination challenge and functions as a one wound kill device….that is if you inflict a single point of damage during the challenge the target is killed.  So you are going to need an assassin like this guy. 


Vindictus is a machine who likes to encase himself in flesh to get close to his targets.  The bore worms will make his job much easier. Since they are a munition card (as indicated by the red card base) you will only get one shot with it during a challenge and then it will be discarded.  Vindictus with the Bore Worms can go stealth, move to a hex containing a killer stack and eliminate the stack’s hero, effectively neutralizing it until your opponent can withdraw the army or find a new hero to lead it.  All that for the cost of 6 Action Points.  1 point to attach the munition, 1 point to move Vindictus to a target and 4 points to initiate the challenge.  Finding the killer stack before it is too late is often the biggest challenge.  This recce specialized unit can help you get the lead time that you need.


By creating an army just for the Spider Bots and patroling it along your border you can set up a line of observation checks through which a potential intruding enemy must pass.  A large killer stack is going to have a much better chance of being detected.  I’ll discuss the rules of observation in the next blog entry

The Killer Stack

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

The Killer Stack is like a black hole.  It often represents the ultimate concentration of force within the mechanics framework of a game.  Usually anything that enters its event horizon is toast. The Killer Stack can be both a boon and a bane to a game’s design.  Let’s face it, it’s fun to build a doomsday machine and then unleash it.  On the other hand, if that’s all you have to do to win, or that’s the only choice you have to make to win, then the game is going be rather dull in the end.  Armageddon Empires makes allowance for the Killer Stack but also builds in some “engineering trade offs” to keep the strategic game space from collapsing onto the same strategy every time. 

There are some great benefits to be had by building a Killer Stack.  Concentration of force is the most obvious.  As Stalin is said to have quiped “Quantity has a quality all its own.” The end goal of every Armageddon Empires game session is to capture or destroy the enemy’s stronghold (HQ) location.  A large army is going to naturally have a better chance in terms of raw power of capturing and holding any given hex.  Since each army in Armageddon Empires is composed of up to 8 unit cards there is also a great benefit to be had from synergy amongst the cards.  Some cards might have special abilities that lower the defense or attack of enemy cards.  Some cards might force enemy cards to skip a combat turn given the right conditions.  The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.  In Armageddon Empires there is a great deal of fun to be had in experimenting with different “combos” of cards in an army.  You have to draw the cards randomly from your play deck so as Mick says, you can’t always get what you want.  Of course, there is an exhilarating thrill to being on the verge of anihilation and needing to draw a particular card to save they day….but that is another story.

In order to ensure that the Killer Stack isn’t the only path to victory, Armageddon Empires has some trade offs built in.  First off, you can’t build an army that exceeds your base command rating without having a hero leading the army.  All factions have a base command rating of 2 except the Empire of Man (humans) which has a base rating is 3.  Secondly, the cost to move an army is directly proportional to its size.  Unless a card has the “Rapid Reaction” special ability, it costs the army 1 Action Point to move.  The total cost is added up for each card in the army including heroes.  So a killer stack of 1 hero and 8 unit cards is going to cost 9 Action Points to move.  That is usually a significant chunk of your total Action Points per turn and might even be more than your total allotment if you came in last for the initiative roll that doles out Action Points before each round of turns.  Thirdly, each hero leading an army (stack of units) has only a finite pool of fate points.  Fate points let you re-roll failed die during challenges and can make a world of difference in the outcome of a battle.  Two medium sized armies (stacks) going up against a single Goliath will have an advantage in fate points that could be decisive.  If one of the medium armies fights until near exhausted and then retreats, the remaining medium army enters the fray with a fresh pool of fate points.  At this point the Killer Stack has probably exhausted its pool.  Keep in mind though that retreating the first army can be costly as each unit card in the army is subject to a retreat challenge that can really hurt.

There is one final disadvantage to the Killer Stack which also happens to be its major advantage.  Concentration of force can be a double edged sword.  There are weapons in Armageddon Empires that are extremely rare or hard to construct that can bring game changing power to the game board.  One such card is a “City Killer” or good old fashioned hydrogen bomb with a yield in the 100’s of Megatons.  Here is a screenshot from a game I was testing where I had been fighting a two front war against the Xenopods and Mutants.  I had being pushing into Mutant territory steadily when a recon patrol on the west side of the map discovered a camouflaged Xenopod Hive.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that the Xenopods had assembled a Killer Stack at the location and it put my HQ within supply range of the Xenopods. 


Most of my armies were in the East fighting mutants so my Western flank was woefully exposed.  Luckily I had just finished upgrading my new laboratory and had drawn a good group of scientist heroes to forge my only hope….a city killer.  Like the killer stack, the city killer is a powerful strategy with built in limitations.  In the Empire of Man’s case, it has to have several difficult elements in place to have a crack at it.  It needs the right heroes, sufficient Action Points and a large stockpile of resources and the means to deliver the weapon, a suitable aircraft attack card in its playing hand.  And at the end of the day you have to beat a “Create Card Challenge.”  Fortune smiled on me and the Alpha-Omega device was promptly created and loaded onto a stealth bomber.  The Xenopod killer stack had already advanced away from its hive so I missed killing two birds with one stone but the Killer Stack was vaporized and I had bought some time.  The chances of suriving a hydrogen bomb are miniscule.  Only the most colossal of unit cards have even a remote chance.  I’ll describe the whole “WMD Challenge” process in another entry.