Richard Borg of Command & Color fame plus Mechs…sorry Links what could go wrong with this combination I thought. Abaddon is an entry level war / strategy game that uses elements of the C&C system with some twists that add a little more randomness to the game play. It’s scenario based, plays 2-4 players and is easy to learn and plays quickly. So join me as I take you threw this futuristic world of mechanized… link combat.
The Bits & Pieces
The game comes with one battlefield game board which is pretty generic, there is a scorched earth landscape on it but the quality is good. A rule book with a second section for mission scenarios. The game comes with 16 of these which I’ll discuss a little more later on. Their is a bonus scenario on the website as well. There are 32 unpainted soft plastic figures in 4 varieties. You have Heavy, Medium and Recon Links in addition you have Infantry squads. You get exactly 8 of each type. The sculpts are done nice enough but I always find soft plastic harder to paint. You also have to attached stickers (Argh game designers hate me) to the back of each link which should take about 30 minutes.
There are 16 battle dice in 4 different colors to match the unit types. You have black 10 sided for the heavy links, red eight sided dice for the medium. Blue 6 sided for the recon links and finally green 6 sided for the infantry units. There are also 10 activation dice (more stickers!) which are used to see which units can act during a turn. 80 weapon system cards which are used for combat and special attacks.
30 wild fire cards which are a mix of luck and unlucky circumstances that are the result of critical hits. There are 140 power crystals in 4 colors, these are in fact not crystals but card board bits which plug into the unit bases. think of them as hit points because that is what they are. You have 4 lock on relay bits which have dual uses. 2 victory point cups to hold the 32 victory point chits some of the missions use.
There is also card board for wild fire markers and terrain. Terrain comes in the form of cities, villages and forest and frankly adds very little to the game. Once unpacked you have a lot of bits. Even though the box is big they don’t exactly go back into it nicely. I don’t have any complaints, other then affixing stickers, about the components.
I’ll admit I was a little gun shy on this game after my last toy vault experience with Godzilla. However 51st State was a winner and I saw a few reviews on Abaddon that described it as a mid level strategy game. I love Mechs (um..links) and I really love the command and color series so I pulled the trigger on this one.
This game is about as entry level as a war / strategy game can get. At first that dampened my enthusiasm for this game. Luckily even though the game has apparently been toned down it is a very fun game to play.
You start by picking one of the 16 scenarios and about half of these are as bland as vanilla ice cream. In fact none of them are that out standing but the game is so easy that creating your own and actually modifying some of the rules for scenarios should be easy to accomplish.
Players then collect their forces and set up according to the scenario lay out. You pick a crystal color and then give the units the number of crystals they get. There is no difference in the links. All heavy links move 1, have 5 crystals (hp’s) and roll d10’s. All medium links move 2, have 4 crystals and roll d8’s. In fact each figure has a sticker on the back giving you the stats so there is no need to look up this information if you forget it.
Each scenario will tell you who starts, how many weapon cards to take etc. So once set up the game begins in short order. In a 3 or 4 player game the turn sequence is determine by the lock on relay bits. There are four of these numbered 1-4 and each round they are randomly selected. So the person who selected #1 goes first and so on.
A players turn is broken down into 6 phases.
The first phase is the place lock on relay phase and the player put his bit on an enemy sector (map square) doing this gives any attacks on that sector a +1 on die rolls. If you forget to do this you’re out of luck and this can easily be forgotten. Remember show no mercy to your opponent!
Phase 2 the player rolls the activation dice. These dice have 6 possible results the first four match one of the unit types and rolling one of these means you can activate one of those units. Lets say you roll 2 red or medium units on your activation dice. You can activate 2 red units or one red unit twice. Using more then a single die on a unit allows for multiple movements but not multiple attacks.
One of the other two results is called a weapon system result which allows you to draw a weapon systems card. Finally there is the command result which acts like a wild card die. You can use it to order a unit of any color, draw a weapons system card or to play the doomsday bolt card. This card is a special attack that can only be used with a command die result.
Phase 3 is called the order units phase and you put your dice next to the units you want to order. Phase 4 is the movement phase and you move the units you assigned dice too. Units can move in any direction. There is no such thing as unit facing and diagonal moves are permitted. In fact the only movement rules are you can’t move through another unit or terrain piece and you can’t move diagonally between 2 occupied spaces.
As you can see terrain plays no role in movement. These heavy hulks of machine can’t navigate the forest spaces apparently. The next 2 phases called play weapons cards and battle resolve around combat and for all purposes can be considered one phase.
Combat is either of the ranged or close variety. If your link is adjacent to an enemy your in close combat, if not it’s ranged.
In ranged combat all units have a range of 5 squares and in order to attack you need to play a weapon systems card. You then determine line of sight which works much like movement. If a terrain piece or unit is in front of you then it blocks LOS to the enemy.
So during the play cards phase you should take a weapons card for each unit making a ranged attack and place it face down pointing at the target. Weapons cards have numbers from 1-8 on them which increase the die roll. It can get kind of crowded on the board when doing this but the intent is to place all cards and then carry out attacks.
It may not seem like much of a difference if you were to choose an attacking unit, play a card and then resolve the attack but there is. So make sure you put all your cards on the table before rolling dice.
There are some special ranged attacks called indirect attacks and these are represented by weapons cards. These cards allow attacks that are not affected by LOS. For example the Long Range Bombardment card allows you to target an enemy 5-8 spaces away without LOS. You place the card face up on the attacking unit and declare your target.
After the attacker has placed all his cards the defender may place cards face down to react to all ranged attacks. He may only react to one attack against him so if 2 units are targeting him he can only react to one. Indirect attacks can not be reacted to normally. There is a single card called aniti missile system which can be used to cancel attacks. A player can choose not to play a card on defense. This is considered defending with his shields only which has draw backs. The biggest of which is you usually are going to lose the die roll.
During ranged combat cards are reveal, lock on markers added and appropriate dice are rolled. The higher die result wins and the loser removes a crystal, if the higher total is twice the lower then the losing unit removes 2 crystals. Some weapons cards also add bonus damage. On the off chance a defender wins but has only chosen to use his shielding then he does not inflict damage on the attacker.
Close combat works in the same way expect no cards are added. Obviously close combat benefits heavier links and is a good way to stop a enemy which is pounding you with long ranged attacks.
The other wild card in combat is critical hits. When either player rolls a one during his attack he scores a critical hit. This hit supersedes any other die results. For example I could roll a 8 on a d10 with a +7 combat card but you defend with a 1 result on a d6 and +2 combat card. Well that 1 cancels out my success and gives me a critical hit.
If both players roll ones then both score critical hits. Only a defender using the shield only option can not score a critical hit. The player who is receiving the critical hit draws a wild fire card and applies the results of the card.
After all of the above has been done the players turn is complete and it is the next players turn.
Scenarios dictate winning conditions so there is no set end game condition. However most of the included scenarios are just eliminating the other teams units or doping enough damage to them.
So Abaaddon wasn’t what I was expecting but it turned out to be a really fun game. The rules are introductory level so your mileage may vary but there is certainly fun to be had in this game. The scenarios as previously stated could use a boost and frankly so could movement and LOS rules but for what it tries to be it gets the job done.
The best part about Abaddon is that it is so entry level you could easily add rules or make up your own scenarios. In a way it’s like a war gamers construction kit if they want to put in a little work. As of this writing however there is not a single user made scenario for the game on board game geek, nor a single variant either which is not a good sign.
I’m not expecting much in terms of expansion that doesn’t seem to be the Toy Vault way and while I am speculating I wouldn’t be surprised if this game was toned down at their request. All things considered however Abaddon fits into my library as it’s an easy game to play with my kids I just don’t see it being their 5 years down the road.