Victory Points
Strategy in Miniature: The Game Play of Relic Knights

Joe Perez | 24 Feb 2015 11:00
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Gameplay and Learning Curve

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Relic Knights is a unique game in that once the game has begun, gameplay continues in an ongoing fashion between players, with alternating model activations between players. This is again an attempt to capture the high speed feel of anime combat in the game, and after half a dozen games I can say firsthand that it does so successfully. All stats and abilities are present on a units tracker card. Unit card stats are broken down into a few key numbers. Speed has two numbers associated with it. The first shows how far the unit can initially move and take an action. The second number is the maximum distance a unit can move after making an action, or the follow up move. This double movement allows for the fast in and out combat that is a characteristic of animes. The cards will also display how many wounds a unit can take before being removed from the table, if the unit has the ability to store esper there will be a section for that on the card as well, and any combat skills or abilities will be detailed on the card with the associated Esper cost. Any additional special rules or unit abilities will be detailed on the card. Some attacks will cause you to draw additional esper from the deck.This card actually plays more of a role in the gameplay than simple information.

Players utilize something called a Dashboard. This is a section of the board in front of them that contains all of your unit tracker cards, your Esper Deck and anything else you are using for the game. At the beginning of the turn, the leftmost unit in the ready queue moves into the active slot. This unit becomes the active unit and then takes all of their actions. This generally consists of movement, action, and then follow up move. Alternatively a unit can choose to forfeit all of their actions and choose to refocus. Refocusing is an action that allows players to tailor their hand and gain a held esper. The player draws five esper cards from the deck, and the unit gains a held esper for later use. The unit, after completing it's actions or refocusing, the unit then goes back into the inactive pool and the next card unit slides left into the next ready slot, and the active player can discard as many of their cards as they want, and then draw back up to the hand size of five esper cards.

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During a unit's activation, some abilities will allow the active player to draw additional esper cards for further actions, but the player may only have a maximum of five cards at the start of the next turn. Some units have an ability to press an attack by spending additional esper, which increases the damage of the abilities done, which is the primary use for these additional cards. Players choose which units they are going to activate by placing them in the ready section of the dashboard from the idle pool. This allows you to choose the order in which you can respond to your opponents, and you can move the same unit into the ready slot multiple times for reaction. Some abilities will allow players to directly affect the opponents line up, removing units from the active queue and placing them back into the inactive queue, forcing opponents to alter their strategies.

During setup, players decide who is the hero and the villain of the scenario. To determine this, players shuffle and flip three esper cards. Each player adds up the total esper that lines up with their leader's affinity. Whoever has the most, chooses if they want to be the hero of the villain. Villains perform the next flip to determine scenario conditions, and will deploy units first and wil take second activation. The Hero will deploy second and take first activation. Winning the game comes in terms of Scenario Conditions, which act as the victory conditions unique to a player's faction. To determine the scenario conditions, the villain shuffles their deck and allows the hero to cut it. Then two cards are flipped. The first card flipped sets the villains win condition and the second the heroes. The primary esper determines the primary condition and the secondary the second condition. There are special conditions if a void or wild card is drawn, everything is detailed in the rules that come with the miniatures and on the cards from the esper decks themselves.

Final Thoughts

This is the quickest, roughest description I can offer about the game, but I assure you it sounds far more complicated than it actually is. At this point I've played almost a dozen games with friends in my local area, and at first I thought the system was rather daunting. After a few games, it became clear that this is one of those systems that will take you a game or two for things to start clicking into place and as you play more, things will become more apparent. Interactions between units and abilities will become easier to identify and esper manipulation and the general flow will become easier much quicker than you would think. It is not any big surprise that I'm a big fan of diceless systems like in Malifaux, but this one is very well done and very easy to pick up. The pace of the game is one of the most refreshing things about it, and after you get the basics of the mechanics and start to go a bit quicker you can see how truly fast paced the game can be. The additional movement and followup movement are great for setting up tactical strikes, and the ability to choose which units activate in what order works very well. One of the most interesting things about the game is that unlike others once the play starts it just keeps going. There is no reset after every unit has gone like other games, everything keeps going until one side claims victory. This makes gameplay continually engaging throughout the entire match. Combine this with defensive actions and even when you aren't the active player you are still playing.

The game is a lot of fun, and the over the top anime action and abilities and spells feel fantastic to use. It is a well constructed, fantastic game that hits every mark that it has set out to, and that is something that I wish I could say about more games. The game can scale from skirmishes up to massive battles and does so with easy. The mechanics make it fairly easy to go from one to another. The visuals on the models are fantastic and don't carry with it the grime and dirty feeling that most futuristic style games carry with it, and overall I find myself very impressed with the game. It is well worth your time if you're a fan of miniature wargaming, and I highly recommend seeking out demos at your local shop or if you are a convention find the Soda Pop Miniatures booth and ask some questions. Entry into the game is fairly reasonable compared to other miniature games, with a starter set running you about $50 USD. The full color hardbound rulebook will run you an additional $50 USD, or you can find the basic rules included in any starter set or for Free Online . Expect to be seeing more about this game in the future.

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