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Invaders: Armageddon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First impressions after a few solo plays rss

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Ethan Krindle
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This review is based on my early impressions after a few solo plays of the expansion content (i.e. me playing against myself to the best of my ability - there is no official "solo mode"). I will assume that you are familiar with the base game.

What's in the box?

Invaders: Armageddon contains four different expansion modules that can be played separately or combined together.

Danger From the Stars: This module adds a new invasion zone, the alien mothership. Like other invasion zones, players can each add up to four cards to fight over this zone, but there are two key differences: first, strength totals are checked at the end of Mankind's turn, not the Invaders'; and second, winning this zone does not cause any drain. Instead, if the Invaders overpower or tie Mankind, the ship's "Tesseract" powers up, and the Invader can use it on his next turn to either reduce a card cost by 1 or power up the ship's super-weapon (which can destroy any Mankind card in play when fully charged). If Mankind wins, the Tesseract and the super-weapon both power down, Mankind gets a free ops center token, and the mothership takes a point of hull damage. (Mankind can also damage the mothership using nukes, although this does not get him an ops token, and he gets a missile silo token that can be used as a free one-time 'nuke' against the mothership.) If the mothership is destroyed, the invasion track drops two spaces, and Mankind has the option of dropping it a third space by sacrificing two heroes of the resistance.

The Death of Man: This module adds three 'city' conflict zones with space for only one card. Strength totals are checked at the start of each player's turn - if Mankind is winning, the Invaders are drained for 1 card, while if the Invaders are winning, the city is destroyed. (There's a little more of a 'tug of war' to it with a marker moving up and down a track, but that's the basic idea.) Destroyed cities give a permanent -1 power to the Earth invasion zone they correspond to (e.g. if Tokyo is destroyed, Eurasia suffers a permanent -1).

This module also adds "Squid" and "Jet Squadron" tokens. "Squids" are 1-power tokens that the Invader can add to city zones or the mothership at a rate of one per turn. They can't be killed and don't take up a space, so they represent a gradual permanent increase in power for those zones. "Jet squadrons" are two-power Mankind tokens that can be moved using ops centre tokens, and also don't take up a space. The Mankind player starts with one in each city zone and can gain up to two more as the invasion track moves down past specific spaces.

The Kiss of Doomsday: This module adds "Strategy Control Panels", which are like extra hidden strategies that the players can activate. Each player has six control panels, and at the start of the game, he randomly removes one, randomly takes one, and then chooses two more of the remaining four. This results in each player having three face-down control panels, and his opponent doesn't know which ones they are until they are activated and flipped face up. Possible effects include awakening a naked, beautiful star-vampiress (Mark has clearly been watching Lifeforce) or cloning the President of Earth and stuffing him inside a giant war mech.

Reinforcement Packs: This module adds a separate "reinforcement deck" for each player, plus one extra Hero of the Resistance for Mankind. Each turn each player gains a reinforcement token, and at any time may spend three tokens to gain a reinforcement card. Reinforcement cards can be played or used to pay costs just like other cards. Among other things, the Invaders can gain access to massive Kaiju cards, while Mankind has a new assortment of giant robots (Mark has clearly been watching Pacific Rim).

Thoughts on how it plays

Before getting into the expansion, I should probably give some context on how I felt about the base game. I have a soft spot for Invaders - the dark and frequently disgusting card art evokes the kind of sci-fi horror movies I love - but it's fair to say that it was a game that I wanted to like more than I actually did. I had two main concerns with it: first, it felt strongly unbalanced in favour of a skilled Invader player. Second, and more serious, playing Mankind just wasn't as much fun. The Invader had all sorts of sneaky options and interesting decisions - he could abandon one strategy in favour of another as the state of the board changed, and keep the pressure on Mankind in a variety of ways. By contrast, Mankind mostly seemed to do the same thing every turn - build up defense, neutralize the most threatening Invader cards. Even when you're winning, it feels like you're just hiding out in a bunker instead of doing anything exciting. The only time it got fun was when I got to deploy the one card in Mankind's deck that shakes up the strategy (you know which one I mean).

I'm pleased to report that the Armageddon expansion does wonders to fix these issues. The big game-changer is the alien mothership - this finally gives Mankind a way to go on the offensive and make the Invaders nervous for a change. A two- to three-point change on the Invasion track is a huge swing in favour of Mankind, and the fact that Mankind can gain ops centre tokens for damaging the mothership should not be overlooked - this allows Mankind to be far more flexible with his troop deployments, and renders certain cards from the base game far more useful.

The city invasion zones feel like they have less of a significant impact - they're more like an optional side-show that you just can't quite afford to ignore, because while they aren't game-winners, they will give your opponent an edge if you let him exploit them too cheaply. I didn't find this module all that interesting on its own, but it gets a bit more interesting when combined with the mothership. The Invader can start stacking squids on the mothership to permanently increase its defense, which puts pressure on Mankind to get some hits in early while he can... or Mankind can take advantage of the fact that the Invader isn't using those squids to fortify the cities, and start draining him for cards. I also liked the fact that the Mankind player now gets free jet squadrons as the invasion track moves down - this forces the Invader to be a little less cavalier about using the invasion track for free card draw or discounts.

The strategy control panels give both players some interesting "get out of jail free" options, but what I really like about this module is the semi-randomness of the selection process. This means that you can never be sure which panels your opponent has, even if you know which ones he tends to favour. This creates some fun moments of second-guessing - can I rely on my Black Hole Manipulator to get me some drain this round, or does he have the Panel that cancels it?

The Reinforcement Decks add a nice splash of variety to the usual card-play without changing things too drastically. You'll probably only see 2-3 of your Reinforcement cards each game (out of around 26). Some of them aren't all that compelling and will probably just be used to pay for other cards, but even then, a free card every three rounds will help you deploy some of the big fun options that were often just too expensive in the base game. Some reinforcements, however, can shake things up significantly. For example, the Invaders have a card that can render three Mankind cards "blank" for one turn only. As you can probably imagine, that can be devastating if played at the right moment.

Finally, I'll comment briefly on how the expansion modules work together. My impression is that the different modules seem designed with the intent that you use them all together - for example, some of Mankind's reinforcement cards require him to spend an ops token to play them, which would be prohibitive without the extra source of tokens provided by the mothership. While throwing in all the modules at once might be a bit overwhelming if you're new to Invaders, experienced players shouldn't have much of a problem. And unlike many games with modular expansions, the different modules in Armageddon actually feel like they synergize and enrich one another's strategy, rather than each module just being "one more thing going on".

Overall, I'm very impressed with this expansion, and I expect that "base game plus all expansions" will be my new preferred play style. If you thought the base game was fine just the way it was, then Armageddon may be a solution you weren't asking for. But if you had similar concerns to mine, then you may find that Armageddon is the game you wanted Invaders to be in the first place.
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Ryan Byrd
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Great write up. I tend to enjoy the base game a lot and do not feel it needs help, but I am also look forward to this expansion. I am more excited now that you gave some details.

Where did you get you copy? I am finding it difficult to find it with reasonable shipping costs.
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Ethan Krindle
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I got mine through NobleKnight.com; they tend to have relatively good shipping options (to Canada at least, no idea what the situation is like stateside). It looks like they still have it in stock: http://www.nobleknight.com/ProductDetailSearch.asp_Q_Product...
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