I heard about this game on Fortress:Ameritrash via a review done by Michael Barnes, and I have to admit that I was a bit intrigued about a game that has you running around ridding the world of two of the most hated things on earth: Nazis and Zombies. I mean, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t revel in stacking Zombie bodies like chopped firewood, and then if you add the fact that the Zombies work for the Nazis? As the two Guinness guys state so eloquently, the game is simply “Brilliant!” This game is much like one of the best games ever made by man or God, Space Hulk, but the differences not only allow Grindhouse to state that Incursion is better in many ways than Space Hulk, it allows them to prove it. The similarities really only rest upon the use of a few mechanics such as facings as an integral part of gameplay, action point allocations, and overwatch. Even then, though, the mechanics are changed significantly and are in fact even better than Space Hulk’s sometimes ambiguous rules, making for a clean, easy to play game. In short, this is the game Space Hulk should’ve been, had Games Workshop had a little more imagination.
Incursion is a campaign-based game that finds “The Lucky Seventh” (7th), an American commando force whose main claim to fame is wearing diesel-powered “APE” suits that are essentially small, armored weapons platforms, facing throngs of the undead, fell beasts, and their Nazi creators. The basic idea is that in an alternate past where Germany has developed a “Special Weapons Division” (SWD) that has not only mastered the art of reanimating the dead as Zombies, but has a few other tricks slid down their jack boots such as Blitzhunden, werewolf-like creatures, and superhuman commanders to lead this legion of the occult into battle. Under the Rock of Gibraltar lies their lair of evil, and that’s where the 7th are to strike during Incursion. Seven individual missions make up the built-in campaign to defeat the SWD’s plans to use a doomsday weapon to change the direction of the war. Thus begins the Incursion.
When you crack open the incredibly engaging box, you’ll be awash in cardboard that lies under the great rulebook that’s well written and really smartly laid out. There’s a big, beautifully illustrated board, and a great many die-cut sheets of character standies and chits of myriad purpose that all punch out cleanly and without danglers. Below that are two decks of cards, made up of Battle Cards and Player Cards that are used to track character stats and implement special powers, respectively, during the game. There’s also about thirty or so stands for your standies, which are not enough for all of them, but enough for any scenario that you will possibly play. This means that you will be removing standies from their stands on a regular basis, so be advised that some fraying may eventually occur if you’re not careful. Finally, there’s a bunch of D6 dice in the box which are the primary dispensaries of death in Incursion. All the components are of great quality, and I especially liked the thickness and durability of the cardboard components. They’ve got to be about a sixth or fifth of an inch thick, and they are solid as stone. All in all, the quality of the components is top notch. If you prefer the feel of leaded soldiers to the cardboard standies, Grindhouse has a full complement of pewter models for not only the SWD and the Lucky Seventh, they also have a full set for MI-13 which represent the British contingent in the world of Incursion, although they are not represented within the core game. Those models look absolutely bad ass, too, as you can see from the photograph below.
Setup is a simple thing thanks to the double-sided board that comes in the box; you simply choose a pre-made scenario to play or make up your own, then set down the entrances and exits for both the Allies and the SWD, as well as any mission objectives or doors required. Next, you choose a set amount of Battle Points of models that you wish to play with; Sturmzombies are ever-spawning like the Genestealers from Space Hulk, but unlike Space Hulk, all the character types in this game are unique, which really gives you some actual strategic options. Each model has its own card as well, to remind you what kinds of weapons and other traits each character has, and these are laid before you on the table. Finally, each player takes several Battle Cards, with the amount being based upon the size of the armies in Battle Points. That’s the setup, and when you include the placing of standies on their stands, we’re talking about a three or five minute process at best. The beautiful thing about this game is that it’s not just a “kill ‘em all” system, and it has a multitude of objectives that you can enlist to make the game infinitely replayable and “fresh”, and there’s a ton of objective chits so you can make the game as difficult or simple as you wish every time you play.
Gameplay begins with an amazingly simple, yet brilliant, mechanic. Each player is given a set amount of Command Points which are like free actions that can be used by any player’s model at any time, but these are also used to determine initiative for a round. At the beginning, each player secretly bids a certain amount of these tokens, and upon the simultaneous reveal the player with the highest bid wins the right to go first. Both sides then lose their bid amount in Command Points, meaning that the player who goes first generally has a disadvantage in total actions throughout the round. This mechanic has singlehandedly changed the way I look at how initiative should work in all games; It’s flawless. Anyhow, on each player’s turn they have an unlimited amount of time to take actions with all of their models, and each model has a set amount of Action Points to spend on their turn. Actions are of the standard variety for wargames: move, turn facing, shoot, andperforming special actions such as performing a mission objective. Generally, the 7th are at a disadvantage because their units are more expensive, but many can take multiple wounds whereas the Zombies are one hit wonders, although they have the capacity to infinitely spawn, so they can swarm the 7th. The SWD forces also have a variety of units, with suicide-bomber Zombies, the quick and deadly Blitzhunden, and three SWD “heroes” that are strong, have special abilities, and most importantly, with firearms. On the flipside, the 7th all have firearms, many have special skills, and they all have hand grenades which can clear out a hallway or room with relative ease. It’s a dicefest, no doubt, but the balance is about as perfect as I’ve seen when it comes to the die roll values. There is, of course, the pinnacle of human gaming achievement in this game: overwatch. Grindhouse doesn’t call it “overwatch”, but instead calls it “Reactive Fire”, although it is very similar in design to the Space Hulk version. The good news is that the Grunt APE models, which represent the lowest ranking characters on the 7th side, are immune to the “Jam” mechanism that is so prevalent in Space Hulk, although they have their own weaknesses.
During gameplay, both sides can play Battle Cards upon themselves or upon the enemy, and these cards are the true differentiator from other wargames I’ve played in this genre. These cards are totally gamechangers, and you can buff your own guys or weaken your enemies, heal your guys, and a variety of actions in between. When playing a Campaign, these cards can be stacked under your models’ character cards as experience bonuses, allowing a pseudo-RPG method of buffing your guys throughout a campaign and enticing you to play smarter to keep those guys alive. Another slick mechanic in the game is that each card has a price on it, and an opposing force may use their Command Points to cancel the power from coming into play. For instance, if I wanted to play the “Minor Wound” card upon my opponent, which reduces their Action Points, my opponent could spend two Action Points to force me to burn the card, cancelling the effect. The key to this is that knowing this from the beginning of a round can ultimately change the way you bid for initiative because in many cases you’ll want to reserve some of your Command Points to negate a negative effect an opponent would play upon you. It’s really well designed, and although the tactical complexity can get a little scary at times because of the weighing of these factors, it’s amazingly fun to sweat it out during the initiative phase while facing the fact that something bad may happen to you during the round because of a card. At the beginning of each round you get to draw up to your hand limit, which is determined by the initial force size chosen for the scenario, and if you have cards that suck, you can discard them.
The game goes on until one side is completely killed or if a side completes their mission objectives. As stated, characters that survive can earn experience, making them more formidable for the next scenario in a campaign, but in a one-off mission this isn’t a factor unless, like me, you write down what you had to carry on the characters the next time you crack Incursion out again. All in all, the game is an amazing design, two bloody fistfuls of zombie-killing fun, and is truly a successor to games like Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel and Space Hulk. Now that I have Incursion, I don’t really see myself playing Space Hulk very often, and although I do like Sci-Fi themes more than World War 2 Alternate History themes, I have to say that the phenomenal retro art in this game really grabs you by the cojones and makes you want to play again and again. If you like tactical wargames, this is an auto-buy. My only complaint in all of this is that the pewter models are on the expensive side, with a near-full set of one faction costing around $100.00, so you’ll be in the game $250.00 plus time in painting if you want to have a fully outfitted game of Incursion. I can tell you that my wife already has the website in her email Inbox, and a listing of what I want for Christmas. Hopefully, I’m not getting another pair of Doc Martens and a chainsaw like I asked for last year!
Why Incursion Is A Diesel-Powered Killer:
– The art is superb, and the theme is so prolific you can’t help but get excited to play
– The game balance is as close to perfect as I can think of, so there’s no runaway winners
– Replayability is right there with sex; you’re never going to really get tired of playing it or run out of ideas for “scenarios”
– The component quality is superb, with high-quality cardboard used throughout
– A price of $33.99 at CoolStuffInc.com is a hell of a value for such a great game
What Can Be Thought Of As A Rectal Incursion:
– $250.00 to get a full set of a game is a bit much by light tactical wargame standards
– While I may be wrong, I can totally see my cardboard standies getting buggered up from repeated insertions into the stands
This game is an auto-buy for anyone who likes light tactical wargames, and those who do not have this game are missing out. Grindhouse is an independent publisher of miniatures and games, and we need to, as hobby game fans, support small businesses who come up with amazing products like this. Go buy the game!!