Cry Havoc: The Future of Area Control
Publisher: Portal games
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 90 - 120 min
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): A fresh take on Area Control with deck-building mechanics for the Millennial gamer.
Today, I’d like to talk about a game that has received mixed reviews and emotion – Cry Havoc. Fans of Area Control games are likely aware of the game however others may have noticed the game, its art and miniatures, and wondered if it’s a game for them. My goal today is to help you make an informed decision.
Cry Havoc falls in a weird place among Area Control games. It’s not easy for new players to learn but rewards returning players. Each faction plays differently as most asymmetric war games do, and this allows players the freedom to choose a particular path to victory. However, this choice can often box a player into a specific style of play if they want to win. The Trogs spawn across all the regions, Humans use structure bonuses, Machines use buildings to overwhelm opponents and the Pilgrims hold crystal regions to generate victory points. Most players believe the Trogs are the most powerful faction. I disagree and after numerous plays, it’s clear the Humans are hands down the best faction in the game.
In the box
Lots of awesomely crafted miniatures, gems, and cards. This box is heavy. We aren’t talking Gloomhaven heavy, but it holds its own. The components are durable and feel great. The map is even double-sided! One side plays for 2 players and the other with 3 and 4 players. It’s important to note that the game plays differently at all player counts and this keeps it fresh and exciting.
4th Wall Break: I’m a sucker for maps and this one is beautiful.
The miniatures are beautifully crafted and detailed. The card art is absolutely gorgeous. However, I am disappointed that you cannot find the box art on ANY of the cards, boards or tokens. (Seriously, that’s a party foul!) Otherwise, the artwork is a home-run!
Cry Havoc will last a maximum of five rounds. There are six phases to each round:
- Events – Each round will trigger an event that will impact positions of players and/or gameplay.
- Draw cards – This is the deck-building mechanic in the game. During the draw phase, a player will draw 4 cards and discard down to 7 if necessary. Players customize their decks by controlling various terrain types that enable players to perform certain actions.
- Actions – In initiative order, players take actions. This is the core of the game. Using cards from their hands, players will gain a number of symbols to move, recruit, build and activate structures, draw cards, change initiative order or enable scoring.
- Battle resolution – see combat below.
- Prisoners – Players score 1 victory point for each prisoner they own. Then, in turn order, players may pay 2 victory points to return a unit or choose to leave them imprisoned. (You better write a letter home explaining why you won’t save your friends!)
- Scoring – If a player enables scoring, the player that activates it scores 1 victory point and then all players score 1 victory point per crystal in each region they control.
Terrain types are essential to Cry Havoc. Understanding which terrain best suits each faction will allow players to customize their deck to suit their needs. Machines favor building regions, Humans and Trogs favor regions that gain them movement and Pilgrims need a balance between movement and building. Ensuring your deck functions well with your faction is crucial.
I’m going to be honest with you. I purchased Cry Havoc solely for the Objective based combat and I’m glad I did. This mechanic is the future of the Area Control genre. I’ve never played a game that balances combat as well as Cry Havoc does. Combat goes from 0-60 mph on the first turn. If you aren’t fighting other players, you’re thrust into war with the Trogs and I love this game for it. It’s as beautiful as a night sky filled with fireworks, Ride of the Valkyries blasting over loudspeakers and Old Glory waving in the wind.
4th Wall Break: I personally despise dice in strategy games however, I understand they are a necessary evil. However, I firmly believe Objective based combat resolution is the future in asymmetric war games. There is no random chance or luck involved and it’s all about skill and decision making.
There are three essential parts to combat: Region Control, Capture Prisoners and Attrition. Combat is resolved after every player has finished their actions. When a player initiates combat with either the NPC Trogs (2-3 player games) or another player, he places a battle resolution token in the combat region. These are numbered and will be resolved in numerical order after actions between all player’s ends. This is important, because a player cannot enter a region with a battle token.
Combat resolution is the bread and butter of Cry Havoc. First, the attacking player chooses where to place his or her units on the objective board. Then, the defending player does the same. Objectives are resolved from top to bottom and each player has an opportunity to play tactic cards from their hand or utilize faction abilities that may alter the flow of the battle. These shifts can oftentimes lead to a crushing defeat or a miraculous victory. The choice is yours.
Players compare the totals, i.e. units, on each objective. You want majority control of an objective to “win.” The player with the higher number in Region Control places any surviving units back into the region; the higher number in Capture Prisoners takes an enemy unit captive; for every unit in Attrition, a player destroys an enemy figure from the battle board and the player’s awarded points for each kill.
Combat continues until all battles are resolved. Players proceed to the cleanup phase before beginning a new round.
Positives and Negatives
- Beautiful art, detailed miniatures and quality components.
- Objective based combat is exciting and allows players to make decisions based on skill and without luck.
- Deck-building allows players to craft their tactic strategies.
- The rulebook needs revision and various rules questions are sometimes ambiguous.
- Faction imbalance and complexity for new players
- Game length – sometimes the game ends short with a run-away leader.
If ease of entry for new players is important and you generally dislike faction imbalance, then Cry Havoc is not for you. If you are interested in taking the time to learn how to play each faction, their strengths, weaknesses and overall game play, then this game is absolutely for you and is one of the best on the market.
Regardless of how you feel about this game, if you enjoy area control, you owe it to yourself and your nation to at least try this game. The objective based combat is reason enough to play it.