Take “Battle Chess” and add in a little tactical combat with a “Warhammer 40K” flair, and you have “Warhammer 40,000: Regicide.” This game combines the cerebral strategy of chess with the sheer brutality of “Bolters and Chainswords.” That might sound fantastic on its face, but can be a bit strange when in practice.
A NEW KIND OF WAAAGH!
The game has two modes: Classic, which is straightforward “Battle Chess” using “Warhammer 40K” characters. Things get complicated when you step up to Regicide mode, which has two phases for every turn. There’s the movement phase, which plays out like chess, followed by an Initiative phase, where players unleash a variety of special moves against opponents.
With Regicide, players have to completely rethink their strategy, because there aren’t necessarily any “safe” areas to rest on. Your piece might be safe from being taken by traditional chess rules, but that won’t stop adjacent pieces from unleashing devastating attacks, or those standing two tiles away from shooting at you. Fortunately, players are only allowed a certain number of special moves, and more powerful moves cost extra points. However, it’s not uncommon to think that you have your opponent backed against the ropes as you tear into them with a queen or knight, only to have the tables turned when nearby pieces all aim their guns toward it.
Each special attack has an accuracy rating, which can be fantastic when the odds work out in your favor, and infuriating when they don’t. Using pawns to shoot usually shows a 65 percent chance to hit from a distance, but it often seems to be less than that. Grenades are even worse during the early parts of the campaign. Pieces can and do miss with melee attacks that have a 90 percent chance to hit. The only guaranteed way to defeat a piece is to capture it as a chess move. You don’t have to put the king into checkmate. In fact, with all the bullets and bombs going off, it’s a tough thing to do. Sometimes, it’s easier to shoot your way through and wait for the king to die.
The campaign is divided into 50 chess puzzles using the Regicide rules. Your enjoyment depends largely on how much you love solving these chaotic brain teasers. Boards are specially arranged with different piece types, along with barricades sitting on tiles, and the goal isn’t always to wipe out the enemy pieces or checkmate the king. Some are deceptively straightforward, like trying to get a knight into a heavily fortified area.
Although “Warhammer 40K” chess puzzles might appear to be a poor use of the license, many of these puzzles are quite difficult and will require plenty of planning. Especially since your pieces can be cut down by gunfire. The Chess AI can be set from Novice to Veteran Master, but I usually found that it doesn’t really matter how sophisticated the AI is. It can eliminate powerful pieces as a matter of luck, so long as it can get enough shots in. There were times when I wished I could turn off the Regicide rules and just play a straight puzzle, but then I’d probably miss being able to shoot my opponents. Players can level themselves up and unlocked devastating new powers, and individual pieces are improved through use, but progression can be slow-going. Skirmish games aren’t worth a lot of experience, and they won’t level up your pieces. The only way to make any real progress is the play the campaign, and that goes back to how much you enjoy these puzzles. I also wish the game had a more direct means of leveling up pieces, since experience through use is a bit too random. There are some games when you rely on certain pieces more than others.
One great aspect of the campaign is that it tells a really interesting story, and uses voice actors from the venerable “Dawn of War” series to play the characters. However, the developers can go a little overboard with the mixing, especially when psychic energy starts interfering with communications. Lines have so much static on them, I had to read the subtitles to understand what was being said.
Additionally, while I love the meticulous detail that the pieces have, I’m disappointed by how Regicide only has Space Marine and Ork sets to play with. Perhaps more factions will be added in the future. Furthermore, the pieces only have one animation for each action. As much as I love watching the Weirdboy bludgeon enemies to death, I’d appreciate an alternate animation or quip every now and again.
FOR THE EMPEROR
“Warhammer 40,000: Regicide” cleverly combines two different strategy games, but it also loses something along the way. It took me a long while to grow accustomed to the Regicide rules, and I still can’t honestly say that I like having my Librarian shot up by a bunch of pawns. Or how a laser toting Loota can kill my Assault Marine in one shot. Sure, Regicide takes strategy to an all new level, but this level is a tad too brutal for me.
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