22 May 2015 | Forbidden Stars

Rules of War

Preview the Basics of Combat in Forbidden Stars


“Blood Runs. Anger Rises. Death Wakes. War Calls.”
   –Codex Iyanden

In Forbidden Stars war is not only inevitable, it is hungered for. Valorous Ultramarines and stealthy Eldar alike crave the thrill of battle, the joy of brutally slaughtering an enemy, the sights of crimson blood on the battlefield and bright explosions in the skies. All of your orders and plans culminate in the moment that you can unleash a devastating assault upon your foe. 

Today’s preview introduces you to the mechanisms and rules of war in Forbidden Stars. We’ll take you from the moment that units first meet on the field, through the ensuing waves of destruction, to the always-unpredictable conclusion of battle when one army triumphs and another tastes bitter defeat.

Battle Begins

The initial meeting of the front lines is always violent, sudden, and significant. It can irrevocably shape the fighting that will follow. So too, the preliminary skirmishes in Forbidden Stars can create advantages and disadvantages that shape your strategies for rounds to come. To illustrate the basics of combat, we are following the course of an early battle between the Ultramarines and Craftworld Iyanden Eldar.

The Iyanden Eldar are determined to take control of a planet filled with ancient, wraith-wrought artifacts, seeking to claim the objective that lies there with a few units of lower command levels before the Ultramarines who defend that planet can build a stronger military presence. As soon as the Eldar land on the occupied planet, fighting breaks out. To invade is to attack. No territory is ever shared.

Even with the best laid battle plans, the outcome of war is never certain. Therefore, before the armies' unique tactical arsenals come into play, battle begins with a roll of the dice. Each unit has unique combat, health, and morale values, with combat value determining how many dice a unit rolls. The Ultramarines player rolls three dice, two for his Space Marines unit and one for his Scout unit; while the Eldar player rolls four: two for each unit of Aspect Warriors. But while the Eldar roll more dice in the encounter, the Aspect Warriors are fragile, slain if they take a single point of damage, while the heavily armoured Ultramarines units are tougher and harder to kill. 

Bolters ( ) show an attack, shields ( ) counter bolters, and the aquila  ( ) marks morale, which is vital to achieving victory in a battle between evenly-matched armies. These results suggest that both factions will deal each other some damage, since neither rolled enough shields to block all attacks. But in fact, nothing is yet resolved. These results are the mere foundation for a surprising and cunning tactical battle. 

Shock and Awe

In Forbidden Stars each player has a deck of ten faction-unique combat cards. At the start of combat you draw five of them: these are the tactics and resources you can utilize in battle. Once dice are rolled, you and your opponent each secretly select a card to play. You’ll play, reveal, and execute cards three times, and each time assess the damage dealt. 

The first execution round.

The Eldar player decides to send her swift Howling Banshees into battle. She gains another die to roll and earns a . The blaster icon on the card's left is permanently added to the dice results. Because her Aspect Warriors are fighting, she can also activate the unit combat ability at the bottom of the card, spend an   to rout the Ultramarines' Scout unit, and deal enough damage to incapacitate these troops without wholly obliterating the unit. Routed units lose their morale, cannot activate unit combat abilities, and cannot take further damage untill all other units on their side have been routed.

In return, the disciplined and faithful Ultramarines use Blessed Power Armour to bolster their defenses, gaining a and two shield tokens. Shield and bolter tokens provide added defense or firepower for a single round of combat and then are spent and do not last for the entirety of the battle. Thinking that the Eldar may gain more , the Ultramarines player also converts his only  into a . The intense fighting continues.

The second execution round.

Now the Eldar player, seeking better defenses, sends the merciless Striking Scorpions into battle and gains another die – an . They also force the Ultramarines player to lose a die. He chooses to lose a , but then launches an Ambush. Now a total of four take aim at the Eldar, killing one. The relentless battle continues. 

Fury and Flight

At this point the Space Marines have everything to lose and the Eldar have victory within sight. Yet, remaining cautious, the Eldar player opts to attack (and if necessary retreat) by playing Hit and Run. The Ultramarines go on the offensive and unleash the Fury of the Ultramar, forcing the Eldar player to reroll one  and give up another. This move proves to be a deadly mistake. The  turns into a , so that the Eldar attack with six  and annihilate the unit of Space Marines, sending countless self-sacrificing soldiers to death. As they fall, however, they bravely manage to slaughter the other Eldar unit. 

The third execution round.

After this round, the battle is over. The routed Scout unit, being the last unit on the planet, wins the battle. Had a single Aspect Warrior remained, however, the Eldar would have won. Between this unit and the dice, the Eldar would have had four   . They would have seized victory through brutality and strong morale. 

Victory and Defeat

So two weak Eldar units destroy a unit of Space Marines, but die in the attempt and a lone scout triumphs. When she chose to attack, the Eldar player made a dangerous gamble, staking everything on the hope that her Aspect Warriors could stay in the fight long enough to wear down the formidable Ultramarines. Fortune does not always favor the brave. Through a combination of strategy and luck, the Ultramarines sacrifice a powerful unit early in the game but retain control of a strategically significant world.

This battle was but a preliminary skirmish between fledgling armies. Our next preview will look at a larger battle and mechanisms of combat not yet discussed, from the superior tactics of Combat Upgrade cards to last-minute reinforcements and ruthless Orbital Strikes. The barbarous, reckless Orks will take on the vicious Chaos Space Marines in the war to dominate the Herakon Cluster, and the stars will once again turn red with fire and blood. 

Fight for glorious victory. Pre-order Forbidden Stars from your local retailer today! 

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