Grim-Dark Galactic Conquest… It’s a winner! Check this out!
Hey BoLS Readers! AdamHarry back with my review of Forbidden Stars from Fantasy Flight Games. I’ll just get this out of the way now: It’s a Thumbs-up from me. I totally think you should get this game because I enjoyed playing it and want to play it again. So what is it? I’ll let FFG explain that:
Forbidden Stars puts you in command of massive armies battling to claim the Herakon Cluster at any cost. In every game, you and your opponents build up your forces, expand your strategic options, and clash on the field of glorious battle. You’ll deliver orders to your troops on a strategic level and command your armies through tense tactical battles as you fight to claim your objectives. The first player to capture his objective tokens is the victor, but your opponents will undoubtedly defend them against you. You’ll need all your strategic skill to outwit and outmaneuver your opponents and claim the Herakon Cluster!
Four distinct factions await your command in Forbidden Stars. You may take command of the noble Ultramarines, using cunning tactics to battle for the glory of the Emperor and the Imperium. You may rise to become a warlord of the vicious World Eaters Warband and bathe the Herakon Cluster in blood for Khorne. You may lead the fast riding Evil Sunz Orks and overwhelm your opponents with the weight of numbers. Finally, you may join the seers and warriors of the Craftworld Iyanden Eldar and use your massive power to fight for the survival of the Eldar race.
That’s a pretty straight-forward description and I can appreciate their flair for the dramatic. But it’s true – it’s a board game for 2-4 players that pits you against each other in a battle for control over a Cluster of systems. Forbidden Stars has elements of a grand empire building game like Twilight Imperium or Civilization – but simplified. It’s more action packed and quicker but it still has a ton of strategic elements. So lets get into the review!
The physical box and it’s contents are outstanding. The game pieces are made to withstand multiple play throughs and look good as well. In particular the Land Raider really stands out in my mind. It’s got an amazing amount of detail from the actual Land Raider Kit – only smaller. If I had to guess at how they did that I would say they took the CAD file, shrank it, and reproduced the plastic piece in a single mould some how. And that’s just one of the many game pieces. Just about everything is created to a high standard.
The game board or rather the tiles that make up the game board are all heavy duty material much like most of FFG’s board game products. I have no issues or complaints about the quality – it’s good stuff. All of the tiles are double sided and the printing is well done, I don’t know what else to say: This is a great product coming from a company that is no stranger to producing high quality board games.
The gameplay is pretty simple to learn yet the strategy is deep. Each faction has a set amount of starting forces and part of the board is controlled by them. Each faction also has 4 objectives on the board and must complete 3 of them to claim victory. At any point alliances can shift as players will try to maneuver to stop each other from completing those objectives. Your enemy one turn may be your ally the next turn when the Ork player is looming over two objectives. It leads to a lot of table-talk and diplomacy, but all bets are off when the dice start flying.
The order system is unique. It reminds me of Twilight Imperium in someways but it’s a little more forgiving. You can place multiple orders in a system and they go in a stack. The stack of orders is resolved top down – so the last person to place an order is the first person to resolve the order. For example the Space Marine is wanting to to invade a system so they place an order token face down. The Ork player sees them place an order face down and can only assume it’s the ‘advance’ order so they place a ‘deploy’ order down hoping to reinforce the system before they get attacked. The Marine player then places another order on top of this system (you only get 4 orders a turn and you only have 2 of each of the 4 orders to use). The Ork player can either place another order on top of that stack or they may want to back off and use one of their orders some where else. It can lead to some very tense moments in the game.
Combat is a great combination of dice and a light deck building mechanic. You roll dice based on the units in the fight but you can also play a card from your combat deck to boost your attacks. The effects range from getting extra hits or armor to making you re-roll a bunch of dice – each faction has different decks and options. Honestly this was probably the most ‘clunky’ part of the game but it only took a few rounds of combat before understood how it worked. It only felt clunky because we had never done it before and had never seen how the combat deck worked. The combat is one of those things that you just have to try out and then it just sort of ‘clicks’ for you and you have that ‘Ah-ha’ moment. The combat decks are also ‘upgradable’ in a sense as you can buy cards and replace other cards in the deck. But the combination of dice rolls plus the combat cards can lead to some fun battles on the board.
The Final Verdict
Well – I kind of gave it away already: It’s still a Thumbs Up from me – so I guess that’s 2/2 Thumbs Up at this point. I had a blast playing it and the overall quality of the game components plus the game play mechanics has won me over. On top of that it’s set in the grim-dark and it captures the feel of each race on a macro level. If you have a group of friends that play 40k this is an easy sell. If you like the large scale grand empire building games, but would rather they take an afternoon vs a weekend, you should pick this game up. If you have kids and you want to introduce them to 40k without worrying about broken mini’s and chipped paint jobs – this is a no-brainer. Heck, if you want to get 4 Battle Fleet Gothic fleets or run a campaign with some fancy tiles – this game is a perfect compliment to that.
Forbidden Stars is in stores now – Anyone else want to dominate the Herakon Cluster?!