Another surprise release from GW comes in the form of execution force. While people either love or hate these kind of releases, I have to confess I really love this one for a number of reasons that I'll explain below.As an aside look out on my other blog for a post that'll be coming in the next week with all 4 of the original assassins painted - I will likely be selling them on if anyone's interested.
1. The WD in the week prior to release not only came with a painting guide of sorts but also with an 8-page pull out in the middle which is effectively Codex: assassins. I already have the dataslate (which is near identical) but the paper version is so much easier to read. Plus it fits the current format and has great pics of the new models.
2. Box contents - I heard lots of complaining about the lack of box contents compared to SH, which while it is a fair comment has to be put into perspective. The 4 assassin models you get in the box are new, exclusive and probably would retail at £15 each if released as clamshells - that's £60 of the £75 already spoken for. Plus you get a Chaos Lord, 15 cultists and 3 Chaos marines - at worst you could offload those on Ebay and break even considering the above. Then on top of that you get a whole game which is effectively better than free considering the above, at which point I;ll move on to the next point.
3. The game is a cracking little release in itself. Simpler and much quicker to set up than space hulk, while it may lack the complexity and variety of its predecessor it does have a couple of distinct advantages. Firstly, the use of event cards and random room placement will ensure a different game each time. Add to this the abilities possessed by each Assassin which are under your command to choose when they are used. Secondly, it's not one on one like with Space Hulk, and this is where I think Execution force really shines.
Several times I've played Space Hulk with someone new to the game only to see them disheartened as their Genestealers are continually mown down and then before they know it, they've lost the game. With execution Force the game mechanic means you will always be playing against the game, whether it's you playing a game on your own, with a friend or as a group of 4 controlling an assassin each. IMO this makes for a much more interesting approach as there will never be a clear winner and loser - you're all in it together trying to beat the game. Lastly it's worth noting there are slight variations on the game to keep things interesting, such as trying to achieve the win without losing a single wound or using a single ability.
4. Backtracking a bit let's talk about those gorgeous models. They take less time than you may think to assemble and can be assembled with or without the scenic bases should you choose. The Vindicare is pretty similar to the existing one in terms of proportions and static pose. The Callidus has a much better synskin suit and is way more lithe and dynamic than the old model. The Eversor likewise is a bit improvement with lots of detail given to small parts and a great pose. The real winner I think though is the Culexus, who is much better posed/proportioned, has a much larger and aesthetically improved animus speculum and also sports a choice of two different faceplates. Overall, a fantastic little addition to the GW range and hopefully they will release them all at some point later on to allow people to bolster their collections.
On to talking about the actual gameplay a little, it's a pretty easy ruleset to get used to and as mentioned you play against the game itself rather than a flesh and blood opponent. The idea is for you to use your 4 assassins to navigate around the corridors of the Astropathic Sanctum, your main goal being to reveal the 12 hidden rooms until such time that you discover the control panel and teleport chamber to move to the final game board. On the way of course you will encounter a host of bad guys on patrol, who will follow preset patterns until such time that you alert them, at which point they will actively seek you out. Once you have access to the teleport chamber and move to the final game board you will become able to slay the enemy Sorceror Lord. If you achieve this before the end of turn 16 then you win. If all your assassins die or you run of time, game over.
Each of the Assassins can perform two of five (non-duplicated) actions per turn. Move 6, Sprint D6, Melee, Shooting or heal a wound on a 2+. Each Assassin has it's on wargear which will influence its melee and shooting attacks and modifiers, plus abilities (i.e. the Eversor gets a 5+ feel no pain and can also make the same action twice in a turn) plus tactics, each of which has 3 duplicated one-use only tactics and an omegon tactic which is a single one-off use. Again using the Eversor as an example, his frenzon allows you to make another additional action per turn and his omegon tactic explodes him wounding all enemies in an area on a 4+.
After the Assassin turn, we get the renegade turn, which the players control. It is broken down into 5 phases. The first progresses the turn by moving the Chaos familiar along a scale. Next, we get to action all the patrolling chaos models. Thirdly, we turn over an event card, which is 1-4 per turn depending how many renegades are 'on alert' - as these cards generally favour the Chaos side it's better to use more stealth and have as few on alert enemies as possible. Next, you get to move/attack with the on alert models using a flow-chart protocol. Lastly, you raise the alarm, which may put even more enemies on alert for next turn.
Overall I found my first run through a really fun experience and can see that while it isn't as varied a game as Space Hulk there is still plenty of scope to have a different game every time. As mentioned, it also has the benefit of being a solo game as well as co-operative. A nice touch from GW and a move in the right direction after the questionable release that was Dreadfleet. It definitely pays to have cross-compatibility with 40K on your side and I hope we get to see more 40K releases twinned into unique stand-alone games in future. Cheers.