Warhammer: Invasion is a two player dueling Living Card Game (LCG) set within the same universe as the original Warhammer Fantasy series. The Games Workshop Warhammer universe is well known across the globe. Chances are you have heard about it in one form or another — it spans collectible tabletop miniatures, video games, books, board games, and card games. Here we have it in the form of an expandable card game, one of the Fantasy Flight Living Card Games (a TCG/CCG-style game with non-randomized packs released monthly).
Living Card Games are incredibly popular because they do not require booster packs or a high investment to be able to play. The initial Core Set gives you everything you need to get going with four factions, and you can expand your game with additional Battle Packs that add new content to the game and can easily be mixed with the content from the Core Set. You save money from not buying random packs to get the cards you want, and there’s the potential to have hours of customizable fun even with a single Core Set — sounds like a great deal to me!
Does Warhammer: Invasion have what it takes to distract us from our digital devices? Read on to find out…
Warhammer: Invasion is a two-player dueling card game where you try to burn your opponent’s Capital to the ground. In our base set we get access to four Capital boards, four faction decks and plenty of neutral and other cards that can be mixed in. Our four starting factions are: Chaos, Dwarves, Empire, and Orcs. We are also given some cards from the Assault on Ulthuan expansion pack, which features the High and Dark Elves. This preview made me want to buy the expansion straight away, as their flavor is right up my street! Sadly, though, I can’t build a High and Dark Elves deck as you can’t mix Order and Destruction factions together… 🙁
Game set-up is really fast and you can get into the game within a matter of minutes – That’s the quick part over with! The first time playing a full duel will take a little longer than the 1-2 hours suggested on the back of the box. This is because you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the phases and referring to the rulebook when a new keyword appears that you haven’t come across yet. After a couple of games, though, all of this will come as second nature and you can probably finish a game within an hour. Yes, this is definitely a bit longer than your average Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh! duel. This isn’t your typical card game that can be over in minutes and will require some time investment to learn, play, and master.
Each player has a Capital board that has 3 zones: Kingdom, Quest, and Battlefield. Each of these has 8 hit points to begin with, and when a zone loses all of its hit points it is considered to be ‘overrun’ and ‘burning’. The objective is to burn at least two of your opponent’s Capital zones in order to win the duel. The zones (except Battlefield) also grant benefits to the action player each turn during each zone’s respective phase. You can also enhance these effects by placing additional Units and Support cards in these zones to defend and enhance their base Power number.
Power allows you to attack, gather more resources, and draw additional cards each turn, depending on which zone Power is in. Placing Units in the Battlefield will allow you to declare attacks each turn on any of your opponent’s Capital zones. Combat is divided into separate stages too, for simplicity. Damage is assigned to all Units who have attacked or defended that turn, so it’s not wise to rush in with a force weaker than what the opponent has waiting for you!
Other variants of the game can be played with the additional cards from the Core Set. One of these is the Draft mode, which lets you mix cards from the starter decks to create something a little different. On one side you mix all of the Order cards (Empire, Dwarf, and High Elf) together and then do the same with the Destruction factions (Chaos, Orc, and Dark Elf). The players then add additional Neutral and Treaty cards to their piles. However, the most interesting cards to be added are the Draft Format cards. Playing this way adds a completely unique way of conducting a draft, adding benefits and hindrances to players as they draft cards, completely modifying the way a draft is done. Doing this repeatedly will get you ready for some competitive deckbuilding events – if that’s your thing!
One of the most impressive aspects of Warhammer: Invasion is the amount of strategy that is needed to win. Most games will usually go down to the wire. Resources are very important early on, so placing Units with Power into the Kingdom zone is one of the first things you’ll want to do as this increases the amount of Resources you have to use on playing cards and activating card abilities each turn. Remember to not leave the zones too exposed though, unless you don’t mind one zone burning and then will focus on fortifying the other two zones with more Units and Developments. Remember, two burning zones and you’ve lost the game.
A single Development can be played once per turn. This is any card from your hand played face-down into the chosen zone to add one hit point to that zone. Depending on the deck and the amount of card draws you gain from the Quest zone, you should be doing this at least once a turn. Interestingly, some card effects only work if there are a certain amount of Developments at that zone, making it a kind of secondary resource threshold you need to meet. It is very easy for the damage to get through to zones from enemy Units, so regularly playing Developments from the start will help make them more resilient when serious combat really begins.
Overextending can cause issues for your opponent if you have some cool battle tricks in the form of Tactic cards. These are essentially “spells” that can be played from the hand if you have the required number of Resources available to play them. Interrupts and abilities can also be triggered during your opponent’s turn in response to effects that have been triggered.
I did find that with so many Units, Supports, and effects to remember each turn, that I often forgot things. In a few instances I gave myself too few resources in a turn, or forgot that my opponent had an effect that would trigger when I attacked. I’m not sure if there was ever a way to make this cleaner and more condensed, but it would have made my life a little easier. There can be many cards on the board with a lot of effects to keep track of, so it becomes highly strategic and often very delicate.
Small mistakes could cost you the game (and for my opponent it did, when he didn’t realize that a Unit he was counting on being able to defend next turn couldn’t do so due to one of my Building’s effects!). A few games in however and these things start to become a little more apparent and easy to remember, as you’ll be thinking less about other things such as the correct phase order, damage assignment, and allocating resources.
Once you are comfortable with a deck, you will begin to notice complex strategies and partnerships between cards. Getting to this level will greatly increase your chances of winning and shortening the play time. The best advice I have is to try and keep a track of your opponent’s effects as much as you can. Knowing when to time a Tactic card can easily swing the game in your favor.
As with any game in this genre, there are a lot of big-box Expansions and Battle Packs available now for Warhammer: Invasion. Each one expands on a particular theme or cycle within the Warhammer Fantasy universe. New factions, cards, heroes, and much more can be found within. I’ll list a couple of the quintessential Expansion sets you’ll want to own, as well as talk about the smaller but no less awesome Battle Packs that are available.
- Assault on Ulthuan – This expansion brings you the decks for the High and Dark Elves (my favorite factions!). Two forty card decks, two Capital boards, and also new cards to support the first four factions from the Core Set are among the contents. The Dark Elves excel at taking prisoners and exploiting them to deal damage, or sacrificing them for their own needs. The High Elves are more of a control-based deck with plenty of cancelling and negation effects, along with some hit-point-gaining effects. Two play styles that appeal to me greatly and they face off against each other well! (Get it here!)
- Legends – Containing 165 new cards (3 copies each of 55 cards) which consists of new cards that can blend into any of the games factions. This expansion serves up some of the legendary champions and heroes from the Warhammer Fantasy world. The new ‘Legend’ card type brings new cards that are among the most powerful of a faction’s Units, able to influence all zones when placed into play. This set will intensify your strategies and gaming experience. (Get it here!)
Battle Packs add new cards in 6-part ‘cycles’ to expand on specific themes and stories throughout the game’s life. It is hard to go into any real detail on these in a brief manner, so I’ll just say that they usually contain cards that will enhance factions, expand on game mechanics and sometimes add in new ones. The Battle Packs really do bring new levels of excitement and immersion that is hard to find in a regular TCG. Buying them all over time will definitely keep the game from going stale for you and your friends. From a competitive standpoint, these packs save you a lot of money as most packs contain 2 or more of each card contained within so you don’t need to spend as much money on this game as randomized TCGs/CCGs.
Warhammer: Invasion has been published by Fantasy Flight Games. This means that if you hop on over to YouTube, you will find some very impressive introductory videos that will help you get started and learn the game without having to read too much of the rule book. These high-quality videos from Fantasy Flight have always been a favorite of mine and I really do wish that other companies did the same thing, as some tabletop games are so complex you need hours to just decipher the overly complex rule books!
Playing feels like you really are at war with another nation and trying to siege their Capital. Razing it to the ground and decimating their forces are all part of your strategy throughout. You’ll think things like, “How do I get around that cancelling effect?” and “How do I stop that incoming 5 Power beast from overwhelming my Battlefield forces?”. Time goes by quickly and you hardly even notice that you’ve been at this war for well over an hour!
The downtime between turns can be a little longer than I’d like, given the complexity and variety of options during a player’s turn, but the player interaction is kept up through having to explain or read effects and deciding whether or not to defend that zone with your stationed Units. I absolutely adore the artwork on every card, although the quality of the artists does vary a little bit, and everything has been finished to the highest of standards — but I would honestly accept no less from a Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight Games publication.
This is a game you should pick up and check out if you like slightly longer, more thoughtful and complex card games. You don’t have to be a fan of the source material to enjoy what’s on offer here, so give it a go. You won’t regret it.
For more images of the game, click here.
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