This past weekend I went down to my local Games Workshop and they had a copy of the new Horus Heresy board game Betrayal at Calth and I managed to grab a demo game with one of the regulars down at the store, with a member of staff pointing out how the rule system works and answering any questions we had.
First of all the models are amazingly detailed, they are plastic, and it looks like they are replacing the Forgeworld Resin Mark IV armour by the fact it is no longer available on the Forgeworld site. This looks positive for the future of plastic Heresy models.
The game itself is very entertaining. I played the first scenario where the Word Bearers and Ultramarines face off against each other in a race against the clock to reach the safety of the blast doors at the other end of the map before the doors slam closed and the surface of the planet is irradiated by Calth’s dying sun.
Each of the forces consists of a 10 tactical marines, one with a special weapon, and one with a heavy weapon. The Word bearers, utilise a flamer and Heavy Bolter, and the Ultramarines have a missile launcher (which is amazing when it crits) and a plasma gun.
When playing the game, it’s best to forget most of what you know about 40k. The turn goes as follows. Roll Initiative, which is 3 dice +1 per Sargent that is still alive, and the player that has the highest number of hits wins, and goes first and you both pick up a command card which gives your marines a special benefit. This happens every turn.
Another thing that changes is that turns alternate by actions. Each squad of up to 3 marines has 2 actions, which can be move (move 1 hex), run (move 2 hexes, but cannot be done if you would pass through rubble or are in an adjacent hex to an enemy), shoot, or assault. There is also consolidate which is not going to be covered here.
When it is your action you choose a unit, and spend one of your actions, then your opponent spends their action, and you continue to alternate until neither of you have any left and then the turn ends and you go back to the initiative phase. Repeat this until a victory or loss condition is met. In the scenario I was playing, that was turn 6, when the last blast door closes and anyone outside the doors dies.
The shooting also differs from 40k, in that marines are a lot more survivable. Every marine has 2 points of armour, so they roll 2 dice and any shields reduce the damage by 1, then each marine also has 2 stamina which the amount of damage dealt, has to equal or exceed. This means that an entire unit of 3 marines that shoots their bolters (2 dice each) will get usually 3-4 hits, and “might” kill 1 marine if he fails his saves.
When rolling to hit, every one or more critical hits has a special effect. For example if firing bolters, if you score a critical hit your opponent loses a single action meaning that if they only have 1 they can no longer do anything this turn. This is particularly useful in this scenario because it is time sensitive and requires units to move across the map, if you can slow your opponent, you can get more of your units behind the doors than theirs, and win.
Honestly though, it’s quite simple and you will pick it up very quickly within a game or 2. In my game I won using the strategy I just explained, I moved across the map as quickly as I could and sacrificed a unit to shoot and slow him down.
I’m looking forward to getting my own copy, though finding time to assemble and paint the units is a different problem entirely.