1st Impressions - Crying and Havocking
(all the photos I am using I have stolen off of BGA or BGG, I will try to credit where possible)
I picked up #Cry Havoc online just before the lockdown hit here in the UK, so I haven't gotten to play it nearly as much as I might have hoped, however, here is my impression from two 2P games and one 3P game on TTS:
So the first somewhat confusing impression of Cry Havoc is the the awesome looking person on the front of the box seemingly has no connection to the game. None of the factions seem to be a match and there are no 'characters' in the game. A mystery that I may never solve...
Once you get the box open though, things are a little clearer. In essence the game is a card driven area control/dudes on a map game with a high level of asymmetry. The game is split into 5 rounds: 3 actions per player and then battle resolution and scoring (if applicable). This gives you 15 actions in the whole game, which makes it an incredibly tight game with a lot of tricky decisions that feel very meaningful/impactful. With your actions you can do one of 3 things:
Play a card/s:
(@herrohgrant on BGG)
You will play one or more cards from your hand, adding up all of one kind of symbol (Movement, recruiting, building) and do that much of that thing. e.g. if you were to play the leftmost and rightmost cards in the picture above for movement (arrows) you would get 4 movement. This is divided however you like amongst you troops (1 unit 4 areas, 4 units 1 area etc.), if you move into an area occupied by another faction your trigger a battle (which is resolved at the end of the round) and that area is locked (no one in or out and no building activations) which can be used very tactically. Recruiting is as straightfoward as it sounds, you place X number of units into your HQ area. Building points can be used to either build or activate buildings (or both). Each faction has it's own entirely unique buildings and starting deck of cards and special abilities which give a lot of character to them.
Draw a new card:
There are a number of decks which give more powerful but specialised abilities, you draw two and discard one. While this takes up a whole action (of which you only get 15) it allows a small amount of deck building and seeing as you only draw 4 cards each turn, can help you keep card advantage for the battle phase.
You have to have the right card in your hand and again it takes a whole action. However, only one player can do this each round and while every gets to score, you get extra scoring whcih for some apporaches can make all the difference.
Action order is variable round to round but consistent within each round. Once everyone has taken their actions we move onto the battle phase.
(@the innocent on BGG)
The battle system in Cry Havoc is excellent, there are no dice or luck: you take all the units that were in that region (will only ever be from two factions as areas lock). The attacker places first giving the defender a key advantage. They place their units on one of three objectives, you can then each alternate playing cards from your hands which may allow you to move units around (again the attacker goes first), then the objectives are resolved in order(there is a card that flips the order):
Area control: Winner (majority) gets control of the area (even if all their units end up killed) all other units must retreat to adjacent territories and 2VP. Defender wins ties.
Capture prisoner: Winner takes one of their opponents units (from another objective) which you will score 1VP every round. Also limits how many units the opponent can have on the board. If there is a tie nothing happens
Attrition: Both players simutaneously remove units from the board for each unit they have there and score 1VP for each.
I love this as players can be trying to achieve different aims so both can come out feeling like they got what they wanted, or neither.
Finally there is
If someone activated scoring (or automatically on round 5) then everyone gets points for how many gems are in the areas they control (areas can gain and lose gems throughout the game) and whoever activated scoring (or everyone in final round) scores a point for each zone hey control. This can be key early game for factions that can spread quickly (humans and trogs).
Each of the four factions has a very different play style (and plenty of room to be flexible within that play style):
Humans: Can move/deploy repadily, can take control of empty zones without units present, and their buildings are then used to fustrate attempts by other factions to take those areas.
Trogs: Native population, get extra units popping up as other factions explore and have tunnel sytems that allow them to strike at other players weakest points. Have the disadvantage of starting right in the middle on top of the most valuable areas so are fighting everyone.
Aliens: Either turtle or use hit an run tactics to amass as many gems as they can in their area (they have the ability to steal gems from zones) they can then use those gems to get a whole heap of points.
Machines: Get a slow start as they are a building focused faction. However, once they get going are a military meat grinder that can be pretty unstoppable. However, they have few/no extra scoring methods so have to dominate a lot of the map in order to catch up/
Overall I have loved this game, I cannot wait to try it at 4P as the dynamics in play at 3P are wonderful (at 3P the trogs become an environmental hazaard in a really compelling way) and can imagine it being even better with four. It is a good mix of tactical and strategic, every decision feels meaningful but because they are limited the game doesn't. The combat is quick and simple but in my opinion much more interesting than dice rolling. The asymmetry is very pronounced but not so much that it is inaccessible as you all have similar actions available they are just of varying importance/significance.
I liked it enough that I got the expansion not long after (and a mini-expansion as part of my BGA win) and although I haven't tried it out yet I have high hopes.