A long time ago GW released the Wargame series, which consisted of board games based on epic battles from their created universes. Battle for Armageddon was the first one produced and is based on the Second War for Armageddon when an Ork horde threatened to tear the planet of Armageddon from the Imperium of Man.
The background places the game with the Orks massing on the borders of the Armageddon Secundus, while the Humans have been slow to gather their defences with a thin blue line standing between the Orks and the vast cities called Hives. It is these Hives that are the key to the game, with the possession of them being the winning conditions for each player.
The set up is asymmetrical as the Orks start with all of their pieces available while the Humans start with a few pieces but can rapidly build up their resources so long as they can hold on to their factories and Hives. Further to this the Orks get the initiative during the first turn and gain an attack bonus during that turn, while the Humans suffer with reduced building options.
While reading this background you might find some similarities to the German Invasion of Russia in WW2 – Operation Barbarossa. This game is surely based on that historical event, and two others according to the designer’s notes and it has been given a Warhammer 40K polish.
Each turn starts with players choosing two of six Phase Selection cards. The cards have a pair of actions on them and those phases are played in that order. For example Movement and Combat, so you can move any and all of your pieces and then attack with any or all of them. Once a card is completed play then swaps to the other player who gets to play out their card of choice. Note that you place the two selected cards in order facedown, so you have to determine what you need for the turn and which order they will come.
Initiative is rolled after the Phase Cards are stacked and the winner of that is the first player for the turn. Before any actions each player also draws a Special Event card from their own deck.
Each playing piece has three numbers on it that give value for Attack, Defence and Movement in that order. Which seems to be the basic set up for many of the more standard wargames both past and present. These along with Combat Results Table (CRT) give the game a base that any wargamer can understand. The game also uses Stack limits, normally of three counters. The Orks have a further restriction where they cannot mix their Tribes together. Also rather than hexes the board is divided into amorphic geographical regions that have the usual sort of terrain effects.
However there are a few tweaks that change the game from the norm, firstly the Phase Selection cards as previously mentioned, and also the Special Event cards. These represent historic events that can be played for one off effects such as Drop Pods to move your Space Marine counters to any board section that is not Ork occupied.
The game ends if at the end of a turn either the Orks have captured three of the five Hives on the board, or the Humans control all five Hives and have removed Ghazghkull from the Ork side. If neither player has won by the end of the eighth turn then the game is a draw.
The game plays well; with the various mechanical elements being easy enough to slip into the background while you work out your strategic plans to crush your enemy. Set up is relatively quick, although pulling out the correct Imperial forces takes a little time – you have specific forces, but no overall indication of which they are apart from a list. The addition of a symbol on the required counters would have helped here.
Once you are into the game you have lots of decisions each turn not least of which is the selection and order of the Phase Selection cards. As mentioned each card has two actions, but only one card has build on it for example. You also have to consider how you need to attack, are you attacking and then moving to exploit openings or moving up to the next line of defence?
Combat is fairly straightforward, add up the total attack and then total defence work out the ratio of those values and then roll the dice. The results then result in the loss and movement of forces on each side. Thus you can get sudden breakthroughs and collapsing of the line. One thing to note is that each counter can only attack once per Phase action.
Building is one aspect where the two sides differ. The Orks get to build a unit for each pair of ruined factories or Hives they control. So in the early part of the game they can’t easily replace forces while later on the numbers generated are much larger. The Imperial forces get a number of Build Points related to the number of Hives and factories they control. Various units have different costs but also are placed on a Build Track in different locations. So for example you can churn out Hive Gang (street gangs defending their homes) counters in one turn while Titans and Tank Divisions will take a number of turns to arrive. This gives another point where decisions are crucial, you will need those Tanks but too many and you will run out of foot troops to fill the line.
Finally there is Supply to consider. At the end of each Phase Selection card the current player has to check that each of their units can trace a line back to their Supply locations. If a counter cannot trace a line back then it is destroyed, however if it is on a Hive or Factory counter you get a dice roll to keep that counter. So if you over extend yourself you can easily lose key counters, unless they have captured or retained those key locations.
I can recommend this game to any one who enjoys the background of Warhammer 40 000 and fancies a different sort of game. This is an out of the box complete game that needs no further preparation than knowledge of the rules. It Is fits into a two hour time slot as the game has a fixed end, and so long each both players keep the pace then a conclusion within that time should occur.
Also as mentioned it is a wargame in the classic sense although one that is relatively simple and straightforward. This could be a good stepping stone to those or perhaps if you already play those a pleasant change of pace.
I like the fact that you can recognise the historic background of the game and I find that it is easier to play a game that is slightly removed from true history, as I feel uncomfortable removing counters that represent actual people.
This game could do with a 2nd Edition, perhaps Fantasy Flight Games might do something but given the reaction to Horus Heresy 2nd Edition it seems unlikely.
Some improvements I would like to see would be Initiative Cards/Counters, so while one player might get a run of initiative it would then swing back to the other player towards the end of the game.
There also could be more Special Cards, the expansion adds one per player, but still only a total of seven with up to eight turns played and two drawn before the game begins. I know that the Special Cards are recycled if used, but some seem like they should be one use per game while others are more generic.
There is an expansion for this game that adds in additional units, Special Event cards, additional optional rules and a whole new set up – playing the First Armageddon War. However I have not played this so cannot comment on what it adds to the mix. Nor have I played the other two games in the Wargames Series, those being Horus Heresy 1st Edition and Doom of the Eldar.
A number of years ago Games Workshop released the files for this so you could Print n Play. These along with many other files were removed from circulation in recent years however I have these files, and the ones for the expansion.
Message me if you want them.