26 January 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Marines

An introduction to commanding units and Heroes in Horus Heresy

Today we take a deeper look at the mechanics of Horus Heresy, the two player board game set during the epic Battle of Terra, where the Warmaster Horus revealed the depths of his betrayal of the Emperor with an all out assault on the Imperial Palace. To date we've detailed the opening scene with the Bombardment and Corruption phases, and continued with a look at how units and Heroes are represented in the game. Today we're going to examine exactly how you command your units and Heroes into battle, whether your legions are racing towards a pivotal strategic objective or pressing forward with a relentless attack against the enemy. In Horus Heresy, all of these operations are managed by issuing and executing Orders.
Each player is given an Order deck of 40 cards that covers everything from simple troop movements to the  building of defensive fortifications, from frenzied assaults against your opponent to brutal orbital bombardments. Although the specific set of orders available to the Imperial and Chaos player may differ, the information as presented on each card is organized in the exact same way.
Pictured at the right is an order card from the Imperial player's deck. This is a great example of the basic information found on every card, starting with the name of the order at top and followed by the card's effect – a description of exactly what the player may do at the time this order is executed. For this card it should be obvious that the Imperial player will gain two new Tank Divisions and may bring them onto the board in a friendly or neutral factory area.
The final important detail is the pair of skull icons pictured at the left edge, which denotes this order's Initiative cost of 2. Every order has an Initiative cost that will range between zero and three skull icons. We'll explore Initiative in a future article, but for the moment I'll reveal only that Initiative is a primary mechanism in Horus Heresy, and one that introduces an unprecedented layer of strategic gameplay. Not only does Initiative have a huge impact on the choices you will make as you command forth your forces, but it does so in an exciting and uniquely challenging way. You will need every last shred of your strategic ability to prevail!

Let's continue with today's discussion and look at the Chaos order "Assemble," which includes additional details you will find on cards from both factions.
At the bottom left you'll find the green Starting Order icon. Both players begin the game with a small number of key orders at the ready, and the Starting Order icon marks every card that starts in your hand rather than in your order deck. Of course you will have many opportunities throughout the game to draw additional orders into your hand, gaining ever more exciting and impactful options as the battle rages on.
At the very bottom center of this card is the recycle symbol. Normally, once an order is executed it is then placed on your order card discard pile. However, if an order is marked by the recycle symbol you instead place it face-up into your Reserve, rather than discarding it.
During future Action phases you may choose to recycle an order from this pool, rather than drawing a fresh card from your Orders deck. This can have a tremendous impact late in the game, especially if you've planned a strategy that requires a certain well-timed order to succeed, and that card happens to sit conveniently in your Reserve pool!
The last bit of new information we're going to cover today is called the Strategic Effect. An order's Strategic Effect will always be beneficial to you in some way, but it requires that you become a craftier player and start to consider your future plans. Let's see how this all comes together during game play.
The board in Horus Heresy depicts the environs of the Imperial Palace and its surrounding terrain, split up into individual areas equivalent to the spaces into which you put your playing pieces. At the right edge of the board is a smaller version of the surface of Terra that is divided instead into "regions," and it includes positions for placing Order cards. Every area on the main map is therefore easily identified as belonging to a specific region.

This abstracted depiction of Terra is known as the Strategic Map, and it's one of two ways to deliver orders to your units and Heroes. Each Round you may choose to play an order directly from your hand and execute it at the card's full Initiative cost, or you might instead place that Order on the Strategic map in preparation for a future round at a cost of 1.
There are two potential benefits gained from playing to the Strategic Map: you can execute an expensive Order for lessthan the printed cost in this way, and more importantly it's the only way to gain the Strategic Effect for that order. You'll soon come to appreciate the effectiveness of planning a long-term strategy rather than impetuously issuing orders at whim. The benefits to be gained by establishing a deliberate course of action and making full use of the Strategic Effects of your orders are substantial enough to alter the future of the Imperium, whether for good or ill.
However, the greatest challenges with long-term plans will arise from your opponent. When you play to the Strategic Map you are opting to take advantage of your card in a future round, rather than immediately. The conditions of the battlefield and hence your priorities may have changed by the time you can execute that order. Also, as both you and your opponent can make use of the same Strategic Map, what happens when both players have an order in the same region? We'll continue to examine initiative, activation, and orders in more depth in upcoming articles.

Keep your long-term goals clear in your mind as you act or you'll quickly find yourself overrun by a more judicious opponent. Horus Heresy places you and your opponent at the heart of the legendary Battle for Terra. This is war – and whether you play as the Emperor or as the Warmaster Horus, your forces await your command!

Horus Heresy is a board game that pits two players against each other to recreate the most famous battle of Warhammer 40,000's rich history, in which the Warmaster Horus's betrayal of the Emperor comes to its climax. Taking the side of either traitor or loyalist, players control a fearsome array of units, including the Emperor and Horus themselves. Brother fights brother, and the universe hangs in the balance!

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