For The Emperor

By Nik Gaukroger 01 Dec 2014 0

A short while ago we previewed the beta version of Slitherine?s Warhammer 40,000 Armageddon (read it here) and were quite impressed by what we saw. Since then we?ve had more chance to play the game and get a fuller impression of its strengths and weaknesses, so here is the full review based on playing the release version.

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What You Get 

There are 3 campaigns and additionally, to introduce the game, there is a Tutorial Campaign to take you through some of the game?s basics and show you how things work. The campaigns are made up of a connected series of individual scenarios of which there are 30, and are themed around 3 phases of the war ? Invasion, Turning the Tide and Liberation. As you can guess from the names these are fought from the Imperial side, and there is no option to play these as the Orks. Additionally, you can play any of the scenarios as standalone one off games. All of these are single player games only, however, there are also 10 multiplayer scenarios included where you can play against a real person rather than the AI which allows one of the players to play as the invading Orks. The game is 2D and hexed based ? it?s a proper wargame 

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The game, and all the scenarios single and multiplayer, are set within the Second War for Armageddon ? a major ?historical? event in the 40K universe. In addition to playing against a human you also get to select your forces to a greater or lesser degree depending on the individual multiplayer scenario ? in some you have total choice but in others some of your force is set for you. For those not familiar with 40K history, the Second War for Armageddon is the second (never!) of three major wars between the Imperium of Man and the Ork Warboss Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. The war was fought on the Hive World of Armageddon in the Segmentum Solar between the years 941 and 943 of the 41st millennium. So there we go.

 

Panzer Corps in Space? 

Looking at the screenshots and promo material I have no doubt that Wargamer.com regulars will be seeing much that reminds them of Slitherine?s very successful Panzer corps series. And yes, there are certainly similarities and the game has been built on the Panzer Corps engine ? but as that has a proven track record I suggest that it is no bad thing. What is important is that Armageddon is not just a reskin, it is much more than that even though the basics of the game are very similar. Firstly there is a much greater choice of units available. In fact to somebody with only a passing knowledge of Warhammer 40K it looks bewilderingly vast ? just how many versions of the Leman Russ tank are there? This is, of course, incredibly important to those who are fans of the setting. To not include this array of possible units would have been a huge turn off to them. Those less familiar will, no doubt, get the hang of things pretty quickly as they go along, and it is worth noting that it is perfectly possible to play and enjoy the game without needing to know each unit inside out. 

Another significant difference is the number of units that have ranged attacks as opposed to only fighting an enemy in an adjacent hex. In Panzer Corps most units can only do the latter, in Armageddon most units can shoot 2 or more hexes at an enemy they can see/are aware of. In fact, some units have multiple weapons which can each have a different range and so can be more or less effective depending just how far away the enemy are. This in itself brings in interesting tactical decisions and opportunities, and it pays to check out the abilities of your units and the enemy units in the vicinity to maximise the effect of your attack. This also impacts on what units you may wish to choose in a scenario where you have that choice ? more tactical decisions which is a good thing, and more variety which aids long term replayability. Anyone who was worried that a 40K game was going to be a dumbed down version of a WW2 game can rest assured it is not ? if anything it has greater complexity due to the material it draws upon. 

 

So 40k Tabletop on PC Then? 

Again, no. Whilst Armageddon certainly has a similar look and feel to the tabletop wargame in many respects, the underlying mechanisms are not a port of the tabletop rules into a PC game. However, that said, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the units have been modelled on the wargame in order to ensure continuity and verisimilitude ? alas I do not have the experience of the tabletop wargame to properly comment on how successful this has been. 

Another obvious difference is that this game is hex based, although the way this is implemented means that it is not an ?in your face? sort of hex game. The use of hexes was pretty much inevitable given the sort of game this is, and should be no issue to an experienced wargamer even if they do not usually play these types of games. 

 

Sound and Vision 

Always a subjective area and criticisms of the sounds and the look of the game have surfaced in various forums. However, for me the look of the game is pretty damned good and gives me a real feel of a Warhammer 40K wargame, and the sounds are all appropriate. Of course as I said you will find that the latter especially is very much down to how you imagine these things to sound ? and Games Workshop have never laid down anything definitive to my knowledge. Leaving aside the sounds, however, I would say that the shooting, explosion, etc. effects are pretty immersive. I?m the sort of player who will often turn off the sounds in a game, but in this case I leave them on as it just doesn?t feel right without them ? so that must be a plus point.

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One possible criticism would be that the Titans, like every other unit in the game, only occupy a single hex. This means that whilst the Titans are extremely well drawn and do give an impression of size, they do not tower over the battlefield in quite the way they should.

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In Play 

The game comes with 5 different difficulty levels ? Easy, Normal, Challenging, Hard, and Very Hard. It may be worth noting that Challenging is the recommended difficulty level for players who are experienced with this type of game. Certainly playing on Easy, whilst a fine way of getting to know your way around the game, is not very challenging at all ? I?d certainly expect readers of Wargamer.com to be starting on Normal unless they?re just out for an ego-boosting rapid bash (and face it, we all like that on occasion).

 

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Movement and shooting are extremely simple, and unsurprisingly just like Panzer Corps. Click on the unit you wish to move and the hexes you can move to are indicated by white dots which are, as you?ll guess, the centre point of a hex. An arrow indicates the path you unit will take and clicking on the destination moves the unit. Units can move through each other but cannot end their move in an occupied hex ? there is no stacking even with aerial units. 

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Targets that you can shoot at are indicated by a red targeting reticule, and the predicted outcome of the shooting is shown ? damage you will take on the left, damage you will inflict on the right. Remember these are predicted and there is a random factor that means that the exact damage may be different. Another thing to remember is that the damage inflicted is Hit Points and not unit strength points ? for example a Titan is shown with a unit strength of 1 (it represents a single Titan) but has lots of hit points so if your predicted damage is, say, 5 you will only destroy the Titan if it is already heavily damaged. This means it is well worth checking what you may achieve on all your potential targets and choosing carefully ? nice decision points for the game, we don?t want it too simplistic after all. 

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If you check out the above screenshot you will also see (on the right of the screen) that details of the unit you have selected are shown. In true Warhammer style there are a number of attributes to each unit and these affect how the unit shoots and fights. This is where you can see what the unit?s Strength, Hit Points, etc. are. Mouse over an enemy unit and you can see their stats as well ? useful for planning as mentioned above. This area also shows things like the weapon ranges, armour piercing value and accuracy. All these factors are taken into account when shooting at (or fighting) an enemy unit and will need to be factored into your decisions more and more if you play the game at the higher difficulty levels. 

Most scenarios are all about gaining and keeping control of designated victory hexes ? very much in line with 40K tabletop. However, on occasion there are additional or other victory conditions. Pay attention to these otherwise you may carelessly fail to succeed at a mission ? which can be very embarrassing if you?ve otherwise done well ? 

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When playing the campaign units that survive a battle gain experience (indicated by the golden skulls) and so become more effective in later scenarios. Therefore, it becomes useful, nay important, to keep them intact. Obviously one way of doing this is to use them carefully during the battle, however, unless you hide them away and they do nothing this will not help you win. However, there are 2 options you can use to bolster damaged units ? Replenish, which restores their strength, and Rest and refit which restores morale. The former uses up Requisition Points (see below) whilst the latter just take up the units move. 

Each scenario allocates you a number of Requisition Points to use during the battle. The most obvious use of these is buying new units as reinforcements. In each scenario you have a number of ?slots? for units, and when you have lost units you can fill empty slots with reinforcements ? these can only appear in a limited number of designated hexes, and so what you choose to buy as reinforcements can be affected by how far they will have to move to get to the action. Different scenarios allow you a different range of units to buy, however, in general as the campaign wears on the Imperium gets a larger and larger range of available units. They start with only Imperial Guard troops, but as time passes Space Marine?s and the like start to arrive to repel the Orks and by the end you have a truly bewildering array of choices. 

 

Problems? 

Well, like any new release not everything is tickety boo. Many gamers, especially the hard core wargamers, like to know how things work in a game under the hood and I?m afraid with Armageddon that is a bit impenetrable to begin with. Alas the game manual is rather lightweight on this sort of ?how it works? information only giving a generalised overview ? it also has, I believe, some inaccuracies (it mentions ammo supply for example, and I don?t think that is a feature of the game). 

The multiplayer system has, for me, the most significant omission. When you get a turn back after your opponent has done their stuff there is no replay of their moves for you to watch and see what has happened. As there are a lot of units in play it is far too much to rely on memory for where your units were, especially if there is any material length of time between moves ? it?s just not going to be possible for the average player. This leaves you (or at least me) with the feeling that you are somewhat blundering around rather than having the level of control you need. This omission does rather put a dampener on multiplayer for me. Additionally it would be good to have a chat system in multiplayer in the way Slitherine have for Battle Academy or Pike and Shot

Lastly, and not a problem really, more a case of something that I?d like to see in an expansion, is that you can only play the full campaign as the Imperium. It would be a great addition to be able to play as the Orks as well, although given the story line of the Second War for Armageddon I suspect it would not be as simple as just playing the other side. 

 

Conclusion 

So, what do we think overall? I?ll keep it short and say that this is a good game, although with a couple of things that can be improved ? but isn?t that ever the case with a new release? And based on past experience with their games I?m happy that Slitherine will take feedback on board and put out improvements as soon as they are able. They have said that they are looking at this as being the start of a series of 40K games and so we can expect to see a whole raft of the other races and factions appear in future expansions along with ongoing improvements. This should please the 40K fans and tactical gamers alike. 

So my conclusion is that this is a very enjoyable wargame. Even if you are not actually a fan of the 40K setting you can play this out as a tactical wargame and get many hours of fulfilling gameplay (assuming you don?t find the 40K imagery off putting). In fact (confession time) I?m finding it more enjoyable than Panzer Corps! It is certainly well worth the launch price of $29.99/£24.99. I?d recommend that if you?re interested get it now as the price will go up after tomorrow ? the launch price is only for the first week. It?ll still be worth the full price after that as well, but why miss out on the savings. Highly recommended. Buy it 

You can find details on purchase, etc. here

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