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"Let me tell you a bit about the Havoc rules" Topic

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cloudcaptain25 Jul 2010 3:00 a.m. PST

This is my long overdue review of Havoc:

Brent came up to Kennesaw Georgia back late June and demo'd the game for us. There are a lot of concepts that are new to me in the book…like groups are figs are more "clumps" than units…and formations are done on the fly. I was glad to have him on hand to show us the system as sometimes I am a bit slow to pick up a new ruleset.

Havoc runs really well with about 15-20 figs per side. As your knowledge of the rules increases…you can up this number. Figures have a pool for attack and defense so can choose prior to combat to what degree they want to tweak their approach. The game is D6 based.

Hand to hand takes place at the end of the turn. Shooting occurs instantly which makes it fairly deadly. In the scope of a medium to large skirmish game…that's ideal for me.

Players take turns activating figures. You can activate up to 6 at a time that are in base to base (or chained) contact. Otherwise you are limited to activated less at a time until you can get them back into a clump. This is a very valid tactic. If you can bust up clumps of figs so they are not in contact…say shooting the middle guy out of a line of 6)..then you can limit the opponents maneuverability and tactical choices. As such this is not a game where you can fudge movement. More on that later.

So formations…the mechanics make formations work like they should. If you are in a wedge you get screening from the units in front of you but its not an ideal melee grouping. If you are in a line you can benefit from shieldwall if your figures have it…but you risk the line being easily broken up. Two ranks of three works well especially if you have spears who can support the figs in front.

Attack is strong in this game. The attacker can bid attack dice on the fly to a degree…and can use weaker units to whittle down your larger fig's defense dice (already committed)….and then come in for kill with a hero or such. Its hard to determine exactly how many dice you will need to beat someone so its not uncommon just to go "all attack" with your dice in order to win an important combat. Each fig always gets a single defense die to throw each time its attacked so you are not completely helpless.

Multiple combatants in games has aways been a weak aspect of rules IMHO. Havoc handles this by locking the combat for the turn as soon as one side has multiples engaged. For example…if A knight and an ogre are in base to base….anyone else can join. The moment either player gets another fig or figs into the fight…no one else can join until the fight breaks up into smaller fights or ends. Since the game represents small gaps of time…it was a bit alien to see in a wargame but makes complete sense. I never lost track of what was going on either which was refreshing.

Magic is very simple in Havoc. Depending on how powerful your mage is…they get the ability to add attack or defense dice to another fig. At slightly higher point investments they can gain some resistance to missiles. As such the magic becomes very tactical but far from overpowering.

Mounted units are nasty as they cause impact damage just by making base contact. After that they fight in hand to hand normally. They can get bogged down in larger fights so its best to keep them moving. Fords and other areas that effect movement are a great place to get the jump on them but if they catch you in the open its usually bad.

The game includes rules for addressing both good and bad sportsmanship. If you do something friendly like reminding your opponent that he missed activating a fig or using a vital ability….you tell him about it. He then chooses to act on it…giving you a die to use for initiative (momentum) later when you choose….or not..and leaves things as is. If said opponent pulls the time honored "oh..this guy should be another inch or two closer here so I can get a better advantage" maneuver…you can call him on it. He can continue on with the action…giving you a die…or not…and that ends that. You also can get or lose dice for playing with painted or unpainted figs respectively. It creates reasonable peer pressure to get your army finished and play by the rules. Ultimately its a gentleman's game…and if someone isn't playing by any set of rules I'd encourage anyone to walk. Event Brent earned some "bad show" dice during the course of the game…and we hounded him mercilessly about it :)

Skirmishers activate as a single group…no matter where they are on the board. You can really use them as a harassing screen in the game…locking combats and attacking weaker lone troops.

Musicians can shove figures back into a clump by "sounding the formation". They do not have to have line of sight to do this. It makes them a lot more useful than just a morale bonus.

Standards are priceless in hand to hand lending extra dice to the group they are with. However, if the enemy kills your bearer and wins the fight…they now have your banner and it gives them double the amount of bonus dice. This makes you think before committing the banner to a pitched melee….and defending your banners a vital tactic.

There are no morale rules to speak of…but the rules just lend themselves to logic play and there isn't a lot you can do with scattered figs. They are soon to fall. Also, if your opponent has activated all of their figs, you only get two more activations before the end of the turn. A well organized force can maneuver quickly and leave a larger scattered force sitting on its haunches at times. The breakdown of command and control was refreshing without having to use dedicated unit leader or order chits.

One idea you have to wrap your head around is that a grunt is a grunt. An elf spearman and a orc spearman have the very same stats. As a matter of fact…everyone has the same army list. If you can get past that (does it really matter that an elf has a +1 with bows if they are carrying a spear?), then it removes a lot of the possibly army cheese from the game. Unique units come from a group of traits making them part of the "named". This was a bit odd as well as it does not dictate actually having a name but having traits and abilities beyond the rank and file. A zombie is part of the named as is a hero. They are just modifications to basic troop types and have extra abilities or special rules. The zombies are a lot of fun as they are a big shambling horde of semi-useful troops you point at the enemy and pull the trigger. They can end up not doing much…but if they take someone down and you have a zombie fig to represent them…they are added to the unit. That could get nasty if ignored by the opponent.

During the course of an afternoon you can easily have a warmachine and WHFB player walk up…stat them out armies…and have them get a couple of games in. Its not just the generic aspects of the system…but the very way its written that makes such things speedy IMHO. Its the only game I'd really wait on someone to make an army list for if we were at a store or such.

The rules work for up to early black powder skirmish. The fantasy aspects are easy to strip out…and you could even do AWI or such if you wanted. Don't fret that you can only activate 6 figs at once. Groups can stay close to appear as a larger "unit". They just move in a sort of bounding overwatch manner. I did not find that it detracted from anything. You can even base multiple smaller figures per base and it does not change the game much…only the rationalization of what some of the traits represent.

The game is designed for round bases as figs being in base contact is so important and fudging is a no-no. We got around square based by blue-tacking them onto round recessed bases. It worked like a charm and allowed us to field more figs. I think we can probably get away with just squares the more we play within our own local group.

In summary…its a great medium to large skirmish game. You can go for larger battles if you are willing to agree to take the same dice choice and stick with groups of similar figs. Brent's group is already at that point. We are working on it.

Oh…while rolling for initiative if you tie…you create a cut scene where you can call out the enemy, issue challenges, and pull off crazy combat moves. I won't reveal too much of the mechanics but its awesome. Its the game that finally got me to dust off all my rag tag fantasy figures and finally get them organized into viable groups and onto the table.

There are more aspects I am glossing over…like scenario rules for torching buildings and the like. There's a lot in the book. The black and white art Brent used for the book is really charming in a sort of Old D&D manual meets HGW's Little Wars sort of way. The mechanics are unique…a little strange at first…but very refreshing. There are so many tactical choices that it can be nail-biting at times…but you end up playing the figs and the scenario instead of the rules if you follow me. That's the way it should be.

We've found ourselves buying new figs for the first time in years…rounding out units…painting…and actually gaming! Its great for nabbing disenfranchised players and getting them playing a game instead of waiting for an opponent to show up. You can fathom the rules by turn 2 or so…but the full understanding of the tactics can take a bit longer unless you are very tactically minded. Then you can pull several "common sense" moves and watch them as they unfold logically.

Brent is working on a Western version of the rules with some unique mechanics and seeing what he did with Havoc will certainly guarantee I will buy a copy. I know about some of the methods he is using but agreed to a gentleman's NDA which is maddening because they are super cool. These will be the first set of rules to get me into that genre but I can't wait :) Supposedly there's scifi skirmish on the way too. No news on that just yet.

Sorry for the flow of consciousness. I've been working a lot and I am sure I forgot some important points. Brent's around here somewhere too and should be able to field questions and correct anything I messed up.

Dale Hurtt25 Jul 2010 9:44 a.m. PST

Given that you "ound ourselves buying new figs for the first time in years…rounding out units…painting…and actually gaming!" I take it that the game is fun? (You only mention that word once, and only in relation to zombies.)

Thanks for the write-up. Never heard of it until now.

Acharnement25 Jul 2010 2:38 p.m. PST

Thanks a lot for the extensive review. The book seems to be 250 pages (!!) and much more rules than fluff. At this depth, it is a little surprising to hear there are no specific rules for morale.
BTW, the link to buy it from Amazon has a large handful of sample pages available from the rules so I suggest interested people to have a peek inside as well.

cloudcaptain29 Jul 2010 5:36 p.m. PST

Its crazy how the game sort of takes care of morale on its own with the loss of combat effectiveness of a group. Its not something I can't do justice to without showing someone in person.

And yes…its fun :) Darn suspenseful at times. No cheese in the rules. If people bring it the rules encourage them to be a better gamer.

Andy Skinner Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2010 11:11 a.m. PST

Any pictorial battle reports anywhere?


pushingtin06 Aug 2010 10:08 a.m. PST


Battle report with pictures:

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