Sunday, June 5, 2016

Deathwatch:Overkill - Game Review

Over the course of this week I managed to finish up the last two Deathwatch marines, bringing my set close enough to fully painted (I just need to do bases for the entire set) that I felt ok playing the game in all its glory. I know, I know - most of you probably think I'm crazy for not playing the game with unpainted models, but I only feel like I'm getting the full experience of a game when everything is fully painted. So now that every model is at least close to finished, my buddy Ron came over to take the game out for a spin.  We managed to play through the first 4 missions - each of us playing Genestealers and Marines twice a piece.

The Deathwatch advances while Ron lays an Ambush card.
The Librarian. I guess he likes to read!
Biker marine. Its really satisfying when he's killed, cuz
he is a PAIN.
Before we go any farther, I just want to explain my criteria for judging a game. I prefer games that put theme and story ahead of intricate or novel mechanics. I'm not saying that games that have interesting mechanics are bad, I'm just saying that they aren't necessarily for me. I can't get emotionally involved with playing a game that could be re-skinned as something else and not lose an ounce of gameplay (most deck-building games fall into this category for me as an example). Thus, I judge games more on the emotion they generate. I'd rather have a game where something swings wildly and upsets the balance than a game that goes exactly by the numbers. But that's just me.

The heavy weapon marine was my personal favorite!
Moving forward while watching your back!
If I had to quickly describe Deathwatch: Overkill quickly, I'd call it Warhammer 40,000 with an abbreviated rules set. This isn't a bad thing in my opinion - the game feels like it was trying to distill the two sides down to their core essences and use as efficient a set of rules as possible. while still maintaining rules like Armor Saves that are the hallmark of Warhammer. This leads to game whose core-rules are only 6 heavily illustrated pages long, and whose intricacies come from individual model rules and card interactions. The forces in the game play very distinctly, which was a really nice surprise.

The Deathwatch side gives you 11 marines to choose from, with the marine player being able to use only 4 to 6 of them in each mission. Each marine has a pretty distinct feel with different weapon load outs and special rules - and they are AWESOME fun to play. Having two shooting phases per turn, as opposed to the Genestealers one, the marines really put the Overkill subtitle to the test. The Deathwatch team will mow down hordes of Genestealers during a game, striding like near-untouchable gods of war towards their objectives. I felt their gameplay finally reflected the 30 years of Space Marine fluff where handfuls of these super-soldiers conquered entire enemy bases, cities or space ships. Engaging in a running murderfest of Genestealers is wicked fun, only balanced by the gut punch when something inevitably goes horribly, horribly wrong.
That moment before shit gets REAL.
A lot of the Deathwatch team's gameplay is centered around choosing the correct threats to deal with first and applying the proper amount of force to remove them. Even though they have an enormous amount of firepower at their disposal, the Deathwatch will always have a hard time getting everything. It becomes a matter of what threats can be allowed to temporarily endure while eliminating threats that may not be as obviously dangerous.

The Genestealer player has an inexhaustible supply of troops that swarm onto the board and are blasted into oblivion only to reappear again to the Deathwatch player's dismay. Through the use of an interesting card mechanic, the Genestealer side's play isn't just a rehash of Space Hulk. During each turn, the Genestealer player is dealt a hand of cards (the size of which is dependent upon the mission rules) from which they place models on the board and play special rules that can boost their attacks, protect them from shooting, slow down marines, ect. Only a handful of special strategies can be played per turn, so the Genestealer player needs to really choose what rules they will use or what models they will deploy. Cards with great troops on them tend to also have great special rules, so there is a lot of decisions to be made each turn. This leads to a greater involvement on the Genestealer player's end and really gets both sides invested in the game.

Not every plan is perfect. I was just about to launch an attack when
my Genestealer killed himself by fumbling his jump roll across
the gantry!
Deathwatch: Overkill is kind of a great counter-point to its obvious sister game, Space Hulk. In Space Hulk, the marine player endures a building tension and uncertainty of victory; while in Deathwatch: Overkill the Genestealer player is faced with what sometimes feels like the insurmountable task of killing the finest soldiers the Imperium has to offer. Its a nice change up for what could have ended up feeling like the same games.

The simplicity of gameplay - while still feeling familiar to WH40K - allows most missions to played in about an hour which has a lot of appeal to me. Missions didn't feel as though they dragged on for eternity and we were able to advance in the mission story quickly. By the second game, we were more immersed in the scenario than having to remember individual rules and I was really into the developing story of the game.

I really enjoyed my chance to play Deathwatch: Overkill and I'm looking forward to more. A few points to note that may concern people:

- This is strictly a two player game. I really can't see multiple players coordinating on either side. Not a big deal to me, but a total no-go for some.
- Due to some sloppy editing, the Genestealer character cards refer to the "Ambush Phase" which technically doesn't exist. It was easy to figure out the card meant the "Broodmind Phase" during which you place Ambushes, though.
- The first mission is very difficult for the Genestealer player. The scenario is basically a training mission where the marines commit genocide and have all the fun. Ron was very on the fence with the game until the second mission where he saw that the Marines could actually be killed and that it wasn't going to be a one-sided affair.

Adding resin bases to my models!
These first 6 were just a test. I think they turned out pretty well.
All told, I feel really good with my purchase of Deathwatch: Overkill. It has me eyeing Assassinorium: Execution Force and has really ramped up my enthusiasm for picking up Warhammer Quest: The Silver Tower.


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