Tuesday, 16 August 2016

HALO Ground Command - a fair few games in...

Oh the joys of being a teacher in summer, enforced time off... So quite a few games of HGC have been had with a number of differing people. Lessons learnt, rules made sense of and fun had all round. One of the beguiling aspects to the rules is that while the booklet looks quite daunting on first read the rules are extremely intuitive in many ways, also the rules book is laid out in such a way that core aspects are repeated in greater depth as you read on. Both of these aspects mean that by about the third game we were not even looking at the rule book, or indeed the quick play reference; all that is needed really (after you have got the core rules down) is the info on the unit sheets. For instance last night I spent 10 minutes going through the core rules and stats with me mate Shaun and then we started playing - he had it down pat very quickly.

But underneath this seemingly easy game play is a mother lode layer of subtlety with the interactions of the units and the mechanics. Both opposing forces play very differently, even with the basically half force Battle Groups you get in the starter box. Covenant wise you want to get up close and personal as quick as you can - not necessarily close quarter combat range but the weapons are shorter ranged based and always count as 'point blank' where that extra fire power rating is very handy. Conversely the UNSC want to use their longer ranges and good suppression to stop the Covies advance - hit them hard and hope they fail their suppression test. This often leaves them out in the open, or at least unable to fire/charge if done as a reaction.

Talking of reaction, learning when to use the reaction is a big part of the game play. To start with it is very tempting to use it, because you can. But after a few fails and then enforced activations it becomes apparent it is often better to wait til your activation, where at least a shot is guaranteed. However, a well timed reaction can, and often does in the UNSC case, stop the enemy dead in its tracks.

Take, for example the 'Hogs in the picture above, they had already taken out one unit of Grunts with their initial foray forward and now a good reaction roll (helped with some orders from above to lower the target number) was about to do the same to another unit (serves them right for being unpainted I hear you say).

Melee is pretty brutal, as it should be... One quickly learns not to get your 0 melee stat armoured units near to anything that can charge them (grenades in, down, under your vehicle is not a desirable occurrence). But that said any melee is not to be taken lightly, unless you have a high melee score and a heroic save to, well, save the day. So Spartans kinda shine here, but then again my War Host leader has been doing pretty well himself. In the picture above he had stormed the bunker basically by himself (losing a few grunts on the way - but hey, that's what they are there for), the combination of the cover from the bunker and his heroic saving let him see out the fire (as seen by the dice) from the unit behind. All in all as it was the last turn of a 'King of the Hill' scenario I was feeling pretty snug... Until that pesky Spartan on the right charged in!

The air missions have a really smooth mechanic to them, yes they can be powerful (especially in the base box set games) and are likely to take out a weaker unit, or damage a stronger one... BUT they cost you VP points. All well and good laughing at the fact you just vapourised a Grunt unit until you realise it got you 1VP and you gave away 2VP !  So, like the reaction mechanic, you have to be careful when you use them - OK to start with you will, again because you can, but now we only use the when we need them. I lost a game last night by 1VP and this was because I had run some combat air patrols when things were looking grim and if they had succeeded in taking his Spartan out I would have won.

I do like the exploding dice mechanic - always have from the first ever try of it all the years ago with Unchartered Seas playtests. But it works really, really well in this game, really well. Did I say really? But it does. Everything has a chance of glory; just some things more than others.

SO, how is it going? Well no one I have showed it to so far has not liked it, it is smooth and quick (after a learning curve) and is HALO. Yeh, I feel a bit like a fan boy, no I really didn't want to get into another game but hey, that's life and did I mention IT'S HALO !!!!

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