Game Review: Horus Heresy

The BFG photos are still coming. I’m nearly finished painting them but lost track of time before I could get around to taking some shots. It is on my to do list for this weekend though. In the mean time here is a review of Horus Heresy, which I played with HappyDD for the first time last night.

Horus Heresy a board game by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
Official Horus Heresy Website

Horus Heresy is a two player strategy game set in the Warhammer 40k universe. It lets players relive the pivotal moment in Imperial history when Horus betrayed the Emperor. One player takes on the role of the Imperials, controlling loyalist units such as Imperial Guard, Imperial Tanks, and Space Marines as well as four Space Marine Primarchs and the Emperor himself. The other player takes the role of the traitors, who have betrayed the Imperium and turned to Chaos. This player controls units such as Chaos Space Marines, Daemons, Traitor Primarchs and Horus. The traitors are attacking the Imperial Palace on Terra from space in an attempt to slay the Emperor.

The game board consists of Horus’s battle cruiser, orbiting Terra, the Imperial Palace, and the land, fortresses, and landing ports that surround the palace and the player’s battle for control of these locations. The goal of the game to control all four landing ports at one time or to slay either the Emperor or Horus, depending on which side you are. All of the movement, reinforcement, and combat is controlled by order cards, which are specific to each faction. Combat is also resolved using faction specific cards that are drawn randomly for each battle.

The turn sequence is handled very uniquely, using an initiative track that triggers combat and various special phases as play progresses. Actions taken by players cost a number of points that move them up the initiative track. Being further along the initiative track than your opponent means that they have initiative and get to take a turn. This means that one player can take multiple turns in a row provided their actions don’t change the player order on the initiative track. The concept was initially confusing and seemingly tedious when I first read about the game back in 2010. Having played the game now I must say that it is an easy mechanic to pick up and it adds a real sense of tension to one’s decisions.

Tension is a huge part of this game. There are always so many actions and orders to choose from at any given time and they nearly always all seem to be good options. While some games often present the player with situations where some options are clearly better than others, Horus Heresy had me choosing the best of multiple good options every turn. It was stressful! Going over it all in my head after the game I got the feeling that it was a good representation of how a real military strategist might feel when deciding how to deploy their forces, who to sacrifice, who to assault, and what consequences there would be. You have to decide now! You only have time to make a couple of orders!! Something of yours WILL BE DESTROYED!!!

Although the tension is very high (I feel anxious just thinking about it) the game is very fun and satisfactory regardless of the outcome. I lost, the forces of the Imperium having slain Horus who, perhaps, over confidently strolled up to the Imperial Palace along with a very strong force supporting him rather than sit back on his throne, watching from afar like the Emperor. I had an excellent siege set up but I just could seem to get enough orders out in time to take the palace.

Overall the game is very fun and I think that anyone who enjoys strategy games would find it entertaining. Being set in the 40k universe is a huge plus though and anyone who enjoys both strategy games and 40k should undoubtedly play it at least once… I would bet you’ll play it more. As is typical of Fantasy Flight products, the production quality is superb and there are a plethora of tokens, cards, counters, and play pieces unique to the game. The games rules are quite well written and easily comprehended. As with many if not all FFG games, the rules are available for FREE in PDF format on the official support page. Good on you for this FFG, this is how to run a game company (hmm, I think a company called Mantic does the same thing)! FFG successfully included a large number of play concepts and options without muddying the rules at all. There is a general consistency to how things operate and once you understand the basics, everything seems to make sense and work together. After 2 or 3 turns we were only consulting the rules to verify things we weren’t 100% on or to look up situations that hadn’t yet occurred… not bad for our first time playing. There are also seven different scenarios to choose from and while I didn’t look at what the specifics of the other scenario, there is definite replay value in each. I would wager at this point that multiple scenarios aren’t even necessary but are more of an added bonus to the game.

If you are in Canada the cheapest place to my knowledge to get this game is here at German Board Games, a Canadian company that I highly recommend. Excellent service, big discounts, and flat rate shipping!! Sadly though they don’t have an affiliate program.

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One Response to Game Review: Horus Heresy

  1. HappyDD says:

    Just adding that an awesome mechanic in this game is the “pay to play” mechanism where every time you move you advance along the initiative track toward an Imperial victory. This prevents the defensive arms race that a lot of 2 player strategy games degenerate into where you are waiting for the opponent to make the wrong move. With Horus Heresy both sides have to be aggressive right off the bat, which leads to interesting skirmishes instead of one big dice-rolling battle.

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