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Warhammer 40,000: Regicide Review

I will give the twisted minds behind the Warhammer 40,000 universe credit, they at least know what they're doing with atmosphere. The series, a reductio ad absurdam of pretty much all science fiction and a little fantasy, is known for its rich atmosphere and utterly insane character designs. (Well, and codex creep, but that's for another article). It's a huge, bombastic setting of spaceships the size of former Soviet republics and ten foot tall warriors with six lungs and specially made ribs. 

Queen takes Bishop. Check. 

Queen takes Bishop. Check. 

Regicide, by comparison, is a tactical strategy game taking some of the elements of chess and mixing them with XCOM and Warhammer 40,000. It's not nearly as expansive as the source material it takes from, but in its own weird, restrained way, it does manage to be a lot of fun. 

Given the blitz of games in the Warhammer universe lately, I don't feel as much of a need to recap the plot, but I'll give a primer for those who are unfamiliar. In the year 40,000, humans have expanded all over the place due to the ability to travel through "the Warp," a terrifying dimensional layer filled with things that literally make people's heads explode just by looking at them. This has taken them all over space, and put them into contact with hyper-aggressive race after hyper-aggressive race, all of which they want to kill for various reasons, and who want to kill them in kind. That's all. That's the plot.

A Blood Angel captures an Orc

A Blood Angel captures an Orc

But chances are, if you've picked up this game, you haven't picked it up for the rich campaign, so allow me to get into the mechanics: This game is weird. It requires a few games to develop a good tactical strategy, as playing with traditional chess tactics and doing things like attempting to weaken the back rank and truck through the opponent's specialized pieces will end your strategy in a hail of bullets. The game's strategy requires more finesse, using good tactical moves and a variety of special abilities to brutally slaughter the enemy's pieces and win the day. 

Every turn is divided into two phases. The first is the movement phase, which plays exactly like chess. You move one piece a turn, and are allowed to capture pieces if they can move on to an enemy space. But where it gets interesting is the Initiative phase. Every turn, you're given a certain number of action points to spend on things like defenses, grenades, and firing on the enemy. What could be a brilliant chess move suddenly turns into a rout when your piece is left within firing range of three or four enemies that then tear you apart. Similarly, I'm a terrible chess player, but with the added dimensions of being able to fling hand grenades at your opponent's well-developed center, I found myself winning a lot more often. (I may have also had the thing on novice difficulty...shhh...)

There's also an added level of complexity with abilities and orders that advance as you win more matches. Some of these can shield your units from damage, add movement, and restrict your opponent's movement around the field. A lot of these, at the beginning, minimize damage for the most part. 

However, there are two issues I have with the game right now, possibly because it's just been released. First, the boards and backgrounds are kind of boring. As far as I've gotten (played a few games to get the mechanics down), I haven't unlocked many more, and wasn't too interested in getting heavy into online play (losing constantly isn't really something that excites me). Second, it can be a little difficult even with the tutorials to find a good balance on the game. This barrier of entry goes away after a few games, but it is there, and it can be difficult to get used to the strategies. More than once, I found myself winning by a hair after concentrating fire on the enemy King, my board devastated.

In the end, though, it's definitely worth it. It's an interesting take on a classic game, and it has just enough replayability to keep it interesting. 

4/5

Full Disclosure: Reviewer received early-access version of this game

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