October 11, 2016

Playing Betrayal at Calth: Scenarios 1-3 overview

Think I've said it before but if you have a copy of this game and haven't tried it yet then you really should give it a go.  Its easy to learn, easy to play, a great way to get kids involved in the hobby and its fluff plus its fun as well.

The game also has a fair bit of replay value the original game comes with 6 scenarios and the first issue of the new look White Dwarf has modified versions of these 6.   Combining multiple sets would give you really big play areas and you could easily write your own scenarios.  These could if you wish increase the size of the forces used and turn BoC into a quite decent sized skirmish level contest.

Managed three full scenarios this afternoon after picking my son up from school.  He already has the rules memorised including all the weapon stats and as a result he was able to put all his attention onto the tactical side of the game.  End result I got my ass handed to me... much to his delight.

Game Play
The rules are really simple and I won't repeat them here as you can read them elsewhere and watch various how to play videos.  My kids and I have modified them a little bit by not using the Tactical cards available for each faction - these really add to the depth of the game but are difficult for younger gamers to get to grips with.  Those cards though are important as they are used to count game turns. You draw a card each turn and once you've drawn them all times up.  Instead of doing that we just count turns instead e.g. 7 cards in the scenario = 7 turns, 6 cards = 6 turns.

While the rules do seem simple at first the Tactical Cards, the alternating unit activation process (I go, You Go...), and effects that strip action points make it a very tactical game that requires a lot of thought.  You can play it simple but you can also play it smart so it strikes a great balance.

Scenario 1 - Wrath of Veridia
An easy one to start with.  An Ultrasmurf Tactical squad vs. a Word Bearers Tactical Squad.  You can equip them in the same you would any normal Tactical Squad (no Grav though).  To keep things simple we kit our squads out the same each time - a Veteran, 7 basic marines, one with a Melta and one with a Heavy Bolter.  The scenario map had 3 hexes protected by blast doors that closed at the end of set turns.  To win you had to get bodies behind those doors before they closed (max. 3 per hex) first in Turn 3, then Turn 4 and finally Turn 6.  Everyone else gets vaporised by Calth's Sun.

The initial mad rush for the doors - UM all go right hiding behind cover, 1/2 the Word Bearers rush the first door while the rest go right to gun down some Ultrasmurfs
The squads start on opposite sides of the board and you have to rush to to make the doors.  The first door closes in 3 turns which is just enough time for one unit (the models in a single hex are called a unit) to make one door.  However, the Word Bearers door - No. #1 - is the first to close.  This gives you a minor dilemma.  You can rush that door and get a unit to safety but that's all they can do. If they delay at all to shoot for e.g. they won't make it before the door shuts.  The Ultramarines player on the other hand has more time so can sent guys out to block your advance or attack you.

The icons are action counters each unit gets 2 actions per turn - you can lose them through critical weapon affects (from Bolter fire) or through losing combat.  This makes getting initiative and deciding who to shoot at important.  Remove a units action points and you can seriously screw with your opponents ability to win.
3 hexes to the green area behind the door = 2 actions and 1 full turn for the Word Bearers Veteran Sergeant and his unit.
The Word Bearers Sergeant abandon's most of his Squad and is safe behind one blast door.  His remaining men are left to their own devices and have to try to gun down some Ultrasmurfs hogging all the safe space behind door #2 which closes in 1 turn.
I should bring my son to tournaments with me and get him to roll dice - he has the most amazing ability to roll hits and critical hits at just the right time. 
This is a good scenario to start with as it gives you an easy way to learn game mechanics it's also a really good test of your tactical ability.

Scenario 2 - Flood the Vaults
The misguided corpse loving fools of the Ultramarines are trying to stop a large force of Word Bearers from getting access to the caverns under Calth's surface.  A small unit of Ultrasmurfs are now racing to activate a cut off valve that will flood an access chamber where hundreds of Word Bearers are gathered for the coming assault.  But only the Smurf Captain leading that unit can activate the valve. The Word Bearers job is to kill the captain and let their brave comrades attack the scum of Calth that have fled into the caverns.  The Ultrasmurfs have their Terminator Captain and a full Terminator Squad - 3 of whom don't start until Turn 2.  The Word Bearers are restricted to a single Tactical Squad - their job is kill the Ultrasmurf captain sacrificing their lives if necessary.

There is more cover in this game with LOS lines blocked in several directions, difficult terrain also slows your advance.
In this scenario the Word Bearers have a slight advantage in that they can get into position around the vital valve first.  But... the Ultramarines have Terminators and unlike 40k proper they are very Terminator like in this game just as they are in the fluff.

These one didn't go well for me.  If your playing the Word Bearers you should just charge full tilt at the Ultramarine captain and try to kill him or at the very least hold him up long enough to prevent him opening the valve.  The Terminators are hard to kill unless they get a Melta to the face but they can die.  Thing is there are a lot of them. Oh and Flamers in this game are brutal when they get critical hits.

Scenario 3 - Knives in the Gloom
Sol Gorax a Word Bearers Dreadnought has to access a gateway to get into the cavern complex proper.  A Word Bearers Tactical squad is supporting his advance.  In their way is an Ultrasmurf Tactical Squad and another of Terminators.  The Terminators though only come on if a unit of Smurfs can activate a Teleporter.  To win the Word Bearers need to get Sol Gorax to that gateway, the Ultramarines just need to kill him or hold him up for long enough.

Game play point to note here is that Dreadnoughts are hard to damage initially as you randomise where you hit them when you shoot them.  With Tactical Marines firing bolters the max number of hits you can get is 6 meaning to damage most modules the Dreadnought is going to have to fail a lot of dice throws.  You need to get lucky with your initial shots and hit a weaker area first or give it a Melta to the face.  Once he starts taking damage it becomes progressively easier to kill.

This scenario is also one where terrain plays a big part in how the game plays out.  That terrain funnels your movement and there is a very vital bottleneck close to the gateway that the Word Bearers have to get through.  You can also get Terminators teleporting in behind you which doesn't help much.  This is one scenario where I think not using the Tactical cards makes a big difference to the result - these really add to the game and provide a strong balancing factor.  But still its a fun way to play and I nearly won it... nearly..

The bottleneck the red lined hex's are impassable terrain that block LOS.  White dotted lines around a hex represent difficult terrain and slow going - you can't run into or out of them and there's one just in front of the Dreadnought.

Thoughts on Scenarios 1-3
These work really well and don't take long to play - we got through all three in 90 minutes give or take.  Each scenario adds more or slightly different units and increases in particular the tactical difficulty level.  However, it remains a very simple game to pick up and play and as stated a great way to get your kids involved in the hobby.   Not sure if Scenario 3 works within the stated Turn limit as it seems very easy to block the Dreadnoughts advance which is all it takes to win.  But then again I was getting out thought by a 7 year old so who knows...

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