Sunday, 16 July 2017

Open War!

Firstly a quick apology for the lack of recent posts. Our family business recently took a direct hit from lightning and it blew up all sorts of kit, including our Internet, so things have been a little chaotic recently. Mostly sorted now though.

Anyway, though there have been various interesting looking things appearing recently, like the slug-like Nurgle Plaguecrawler and all those scary-looking new Primaris Marines, the thing I've been most taken with is the new Open War cards. I think these are one of the most interesting things to happen to 40k since Maelstrom Missions, and yes, I am counting 8th Ed in general in there.

Simply put, the Open War cards increase the number of potential 40k scenarios to 1,728. That's not a typo, and it assumes two armies of equal Power. Not only that- and this is something I really appreciate as someone who lugs his armies around on buses- it means that all you need to play rules-wise is the core game rules and the Open War deck.

Where do I get that big number from? Well, there are 12 Objective cards, which tell you what you're trying to do to win, 12 Deployment cards which define the deployment setup (no shocks so far, I know) and 12 Twist cards that alter the game, sometimes quite dramatically. So that gives us 12x 12x 12 potential scenarios. Some of these can be pretty major- several of the Deployments have points or even entire borders where the two players deployment zones touch, meaning you could start the game with armies 3" apart, for example. One army could be surrounded in the middle of the table, or split between up to four zones.

The Twists take this further and really shake things up. There's one that forces a more 7th Edition style of deployment, where one player sets up first and gets the first turn if they aren't seized on, and others that cause troops to heal, speed up or slow Movement, impair shooting, etc. Combine that with objectives that can range from Power-based Kill Points to sudden death victories for controlling several Objectives at once, and it becomes a real challenge to successfully play to the scenario.

I've not talked about the Ruse and Sudden Death cards yet, because since they only come into play with unbalanced forces I think they're less likely to be used, but they're still quite interesting. A player who has less Power then their opponent gets a Ruse, and these are usually fairly minor, like a redeployment, a bonus to certain actions, or ignoring Morale. Sudden Death cards are much juicier, and take effect if one player has half or less their opponent's Power. Building on an idea from Age of Sigmar, they introduce a secret win condition for the underdog player which will win them the game immediately if they achieve it. Since they vary from killing the most powerful enemy unit to driving the enemy out of a specific board zone, in such a game the player with the more powerful force is going to be pretty nervous to say the least, and the underdog will have some interesting options as far as bluff and double bluff goes.

"Oh please don't go over there and take my Objective, B'rer Fox" [Wins next turn on Drive Them Out card]
It's fair to say that Open War probably won't find a home in competitive tournaments- certain combinations can make things very tough on one player or the other. For example, I played a couple of games with them at the weekend and in the first my Tyranid-playing opponent was unfortunate that we drew the Kingslayer objective card, which means you have to destroy more Power than your opponent and Warlords count double. Since his Warlord was the Power 15 Swarmlord who was on his own due to the point level and I was playing Dark Eldar with splinter and Dark Lances, he was some 30 Power down very quickly and would have been nowhere near parity even if he'd killed my Power 7 Lelith. Overall, though, I think the fact that they force you to deal with situations outside of the norm makes the cards interesting and a good tactical challenge.

Are they perfect? No, and I think the most obvious silly thing is the card backs. For example:

As you can see, the backs of the various types of card are clearly different, but not all that different. Each type of card has a moody greeny-grey grim-dark face on it, it's just a slightly different moody greeny-grey grim-dark face. Since the cards are printed in full colour, I'd have liked to have seen each type of card with a different coloured back to make sorting them into their respective piles nice and simple. But that's a minor gripe, and one which shouldn't dissuade you from trying them out. I certainly plan to get plenty of mileage out of mine.

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