Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 60-120mins
Play Time (Goof): 60-120mins
Producers: Portal Games
Designer/s: Grant Rodiek, Michał Oracz, & Michał Walczak
Cry Havoc! And let loose the Trogs of War!
Growing up, one of the first games which grabbed my adolescent gamer attention was Axis and Allies Pacific; this great, big war game (well it felt big at the time). I loved playing a single game over the course of a weekend. Taking my time to set up plays and counterplays. Coordinating battles across continents. Eventually this led to other epic-scale games, like Twilight Imperium 3.
Problem was, I never really had time to dedicate a whole weekend. And even when I made time, I couldn’t always get a group of people willing to play something so long and involved. And lordy, were runaway leader issues usually present for at least several hours.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, this created somewhat of a conundrum. I wanted those battles. Those tactics. Those meaningful decisions. But how to fit them in a shorter timefranme.. something which would appeal to a wider audience.
Enter: skirmish games. One to two hour area control games with quick yet satisfying gameplay (I’m sure there’s another definition out there somewhere but just go with me on this one). I searched the far corners of the interweb, eventually finding what seemed to be right up my alley. Cry Havoc.
I reckon I think about this game a hundred times a day at the moment (which is probably a conservative estimate). Cry Havoc has me absolutely enthralled, for a number of excellent reasons.
The asymmetrical gameplay is fascinating. When each faction feels so different and you can play to your factions strengths in multiple valid strategies I think you know you’ve struck gaming gold (crystals). The Humans feel like a well oiled force. The Machines feel like a marching inevitability of death. While the Pilgrims feel like they need to stop their damn turtling and COME OUT AND FIGHT DAMN IT!
There are two different boards, one for two players and one for three/four players. This means playing a two player game is entirely valid and keeps the conflict centered and intense.
There’s an interesting deck building aspect to Cry Havoc I really like, and would love to see them do more with in the future. It guarantees you symbols (such as recruitment, building, movement, etc), and tactics cards which can be played in certain areas. And gives you another tactical option to consider as you play. Maybe you want to build more things, maybe you’re looking to secure a jungle territory. It’s a bunch of small, fun, and crucial decisions you get to make over the course of the game.
My main negatives are really just me begging for things to be added in expansions. The game is perfectly fine how it is, but there’s a couple of missed opportunities.
Firstly, I would have liked to see a little more Unit variety. We have multitudes of different buildings and powers, but all of the Units on the board do the exact same thing. Even a single type of special unit per faction would have taken it to a whole new level for me.
Secondly, the terrain tactics decks are all the exact same. I want the water battles to feel more like we’re fighting at sea or crashing onto a hostile beach. I want the mountain battles to feel more treacherous, with enemies hiding amongst the rocky terrain or a boulder crashing into your well planned attack. I want the terrain to mean more than simply where I can use my cards.
Thirdly, unless you really know what you’re doing in Cry Havoc; the first few games are likely to end just prior to a solid climax. Five rounds doesn’t feel like enough to me. Our average play time is just under an hour for two players, and just over two for three players (even with some Analysis Paralysis). An extra round or two doesn’t feel like it would have added too much to the play time. But more of those start of round events, more opportunities to set up and battle may not have gone amiss. Even the deck building, which I count among my favorite game mechanics, doesn’t mean quite as much when you’re not able to go through your deck as often due to the short round limit. Maybe I just love the game so much I don’t want it to end.
I do have some things to say about aspects of the game such as the artwork in Cry Havoc (good and bad, but tipped in the favor of WTF?) however we’re starting to move from a Glance to a Stare. So I’ll save it for the full review.
If you haven’t thought to give Cry Havoc a look, I highly recommend you do. And after you’re done looking, play it. Love it. Cradle it in your arms at night.
In case you’re not getting my subtle hints. I like this one a lot.
I got my copy through Tabletop Wonderland
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