Forbidden Stars, a new strategic light war game from Fantasy Flight Games, is set in the grim Warhammer 40K universe and sees two to four players vie for galactic domination. Players first select their faction: the human Space Marines, the mysterious Eldar, the brutal Orks or the evil Chaos Marines. Next, players construct a game board using tiles that feature worlds and voids. Each player's worlds contain objective tokens for other factions.
Each game round is played out in three phases. First of all, players take turns planning their actions by placing command tokens in their system tiles. Then, players take turns resolving their actions. They can purchase new units, spaceships and structures; they can dominate their worlds in order to collect resources; they can strategize to buy more powerful cards for combat or various upgrades; and they can advance, essentially moving ships and units to new locations.
Whenever a player moves ships or units to a location containing an opponent's units, combat ensues. After an initial dice roll, in which the number of attack, defense and morale symbols matter, players each select cards from their combat deck to help them. After three rounds, if neither side has been eliminated, morale will determine the winner.
Finally, players end the round by collecting objective tokens, playing drawing event cards, moving warp storms around the board, and collecting material, the game's currency. As soon as one player has collected a number of objective tokens equal to the number of players, he or she wins. Or, whoever has the most objective tokens after eight rounds wins.
Forbidden Stars is a very fun game for fans of the Warhammer universe or lovers of great strategy games in general. Fantasy Flight Games has created another beautiful production. The miniatures, the tile systems, the cards and the artwork are all top-notch. The factions play asymmetrically, and the game rewards aggressive behavior. Players who simply build up their forces and hide will lose. The game also has a fun deck-building aspect, as players can select and build up special cards for their combat decks.
Combat itself is a lot of fun and offers a lot of good choices with the cards. The downside, however, is that in 3-4 player games players not engaged in combat have a lot of downtime, as combat can go on for a while. Still, that is a minor complaint in what is a really fantastic game that plays a little like a science-fiction cross between Axis & Allies, Dominion and A Game of Thrones, The Board Game.
Time: 2-3 hours
MSRP: $99 (The game can be found online in the $60-$70 range).
Battlelore, 2nd Edition, Hernfar Guardians & Warband of Scorn Army Packs: In 2013, Fantasy Flight Games released Battlelore, 2nd Edition, an updated version of the classic light war game that uses the Commands & Colors engine. Though the game met with much acclaim, it appeared that Fantasy Flight Games was not going to expand this game until earlier this year when two new army packs were announced.
Both army packs add new plastic miniatures, cards, scenarios, tiles and tokens to the game. For instance, the Herfar Guardians army pack expands the Daqan Lords faction and includes a siege golem, a four-legged creature that offers a brutal ranged attack. Also included are the Ironclad heavy knights and the battlemage sorcerers. This army pack also includes the crystal spire tile, which boosts the attack strength of units that start their turn on it.
The Warbad of Scorn army pack expands the Uthuk Y'llan faction and includes the Doombringer, a massive, powerful spider creature. Additionally, the pack boasts fanatic Beserker units and magic Dark Sisters, which have powerful ranged attack abilities. This army pack also includes a blood field tile, which allows units to heal.
Both army packs include new lore decks, which allow players to play dirty tricks on one another during combat.
Fans of Battlelore, 2nd Edition will delight in these two new expansions that really bring a lot to the game. Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games has released these expansions in blister packs rather than boxes, making storage tricky. The two army packs can fit in the base game box with the original content only imperfectly, and new storage solutions will have to be found when Fantasy Flight Games releases future content for this great game.
Time: 45-60 minutes per scenario
MSRP: Each army pack retails at $39 (The game can be found online in the $27-30 range).
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: email@example.com