Publisher: Toy Vault
Game Designer: Richard Borg
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes
Kickstarter Price: $ 15
Back in 2012, Toy Vault released Abaddon, another title from prolific designer Richard Borg. The premise of the game is of a war-torn world where corporate military forces of the Commonwealth Alliance battle the original settlers of the planet, the Satellite City-States. War has raged for years over territorial claims of a powerful source of energy known as Feronium, call it the new oil.
The battles of Abaddon were fought by men and women on the ground as infantry, and towering above, piloting giant mechanized robots called Links. Toy Vault builds upon the base game with a new expansion called Shattered Command, coming to Kickstarter on 11/15.
Bigger and meaner
For those who have not played Abaddon, it is a sci-fi squad tactical game that uses a modified but familiar system from other Borg classics such as Command & Colors, Battlelore, Battle Cry and Memoir 44. Instead of using cards, activations and commands are issued by dice. The activation dice determine which units can be used for movement and combat, along with drawing cards and attacking with special weapons.
Abaddon came with 16 missions and Shattered Command piles another 8 on the docket and are an evolution from the later ones of the base game. They’re bigger and meaner, with sides fielding up to nine units inside of some very congested terrain.
That terrain is no longer simply an obstacle to move around or hide behind, now these locations can be entered to gain cover and concealment. This cover gives you defensive bonuses but also offensive penalties to balance things out. Victory conditions revolve around gaining victory points, by scoring hits and wearing your opponents power crystals down. To make your choices tougher and more tactical, activation dice have been cut back from five to four. It may not seem like a lot to lose, but this slight decrease in unit activation odds makes your choices matter a little more.
There have been some other changes to activation dice as well. Command die rolls allow you to draw two weapons system cards, instead of just one. Weapon system rolls add in a new option of drawing Command Bunker Program Cards. These are abilities used by the new Command Bunker unit, and you start with three of them at the beginning of the mission.
The Command Bunker is an immobile, hardened building, and is a bear to destroy. Although bunkers can’t initiate attacks, they can return fire on every single unit that attacks them in the same turn! They hit with a d10 and can soak up six hits before being destroyed and are immune to critical hits but can still dish them out. These bad boys were obviously not built by the lowest bidder.
These are prized possessions for your opponent, not only for their VP value but their command and control capabilities. Command Bunker program cards provide twelve unique actions to boost your forces when played. Here are a couple of examples of the options available.
Broadcast Virus is the Doomsday Bolt’s smaller cousin. It’s a potent weapon that can inflict two damage on a targeted unit with a matching activation die roll. It’s a great way to finish off a pesky Link or infantry unit while the rest of your forces tend to other targets.
Temporary Weapon, Shielding and Movement enhancements give you a +2 to attacks, shields and movement. A very nice little boost when you need that extra little oomph!
The Super Doom Boost lets you roll two activation dice when attacking with the Doomsday Bolt. This doubles the already slim odds of getting that roll that you need to outright kill a targeted unit.
Shattered Command incorporates eight equipment upgrades for your Links and troops, and they all felt pretty balanced. These upgrades add flexibility and punch without increasing complexity, keeping Abaddon a very straightforward game with just a touch of essential chrome. All upgrades are handled via a point system, which can also be used to create more scenarios of your own.
The Reflection Gyroscope is a great piece of kit to put on your Recon Link. It blocks an enemy unit from responding to a ranged attack with a weapons card. While it doesn’t guarantee a win in an engagement, you’re definitely in a higher percentage bracket. The RG is perfect for a Recon Link, letting it move in for hit and fade attacks while staying nimble. At a cost of only 3 points, this is one to surely add to your force. Nicely done!
Jump Jets and Rockets are for infantry and Links respectively, allowing them to jump over terrain or other units. Throw this onto your Recon Link with the Gyroscope and you can hit a target and jump out of the line of fire. Of course, jumping a Link comes with a risk. After jumping, you roll an activation die and if the roll matches the unit, it takes a critical hit and gains a Wild Fire card.
The big hitters are the Dual Auto-Cannon for Heavy Links and Secondary Weapons for Medium’s. With these you can use two weapons cards to attack two separate targets in one engagement. To balance its strength, if a critical hit is rolled against you in the first combat resolution, the other weapons card is discarded.
Infantry has a couple of more upgrades available. Elite Equipment lets you sum the two die rolled in close combat and Stealth Beacon can only be attacked when an enemy unit is within three grids. Using this with Jump Jets really lets you harass an enemy’s rear lines and be a general pain in the tukus. I’ve got to say, it’s a lot of fun to do!
Over-Drive Shifter is the final upgrade for your Links. It allows you to move, engage in combat and then do another move again. In dense jungle and city terrain, it’s great to be able to move, shoot and scoot to frustrate your opponent.
Worth the upgrade?
While the base game of Abaddon is pretty fun and has good replayability, it definitely needed a little extra something to elevate its enjoyment further. Shattered Command does exactly that by bringing some tweaks, refinements and new toys to play with, building a richer experience in the world of Abaddon.
Trimming the activation dice from five to four is a small but significant change. Yes, you’re still up to the mercy of the dice with what can be activated, but now you’ve got to be more mindful of how you play units. This makes your choices a little more tactical and that’s a good thing.
Equipment upgrades add flexibility and utility to the vanilla Links and infantry of the base game. Outfitting units with extra firepower or maneuverability can help mitigate finicky dice and give each force a unique identity. These upgrades allow the player more agency in customizing what they field, opening up tactical options unavailable before.
The Command Bunker is a lot of fun to play with and against. Having it serve a true command and control purpose makes it both a valuable asset and a high value target. It’s a fantastic addition to the game system, and if stretch goals are hit, will come with its own miniature! Including a simple point system for mission creation is another smart add-on. Players can now easily create and share scenarios and campaigns of their own, further increasing replayability and allowing gamers to help build out the game’s universe.
Toy Vault has done a really solid job with this expansion, adding enough goodies and the right tweaks to breathe more life and value into Abaddon. Owners of the base game will see backing this as a no-brainer and newcomers can get the whole package at a great price. Fans of Richard Borg titles should definitely check this out, especially if you like sci-fi and mechs. Who doesn’t like mechs?
Shattered Command hits Kickstarter on 11/15.
Company Website: http://www.toyvault.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/ToyVaultInc
Note: A prototype of this game was provided to me for this preview.