With this game and the other LCGs Fantasy Flight does (to say nothing of other non-collectible card games like Illuminati, Dominion, Munchkin series, Chez ____ series, etc.) I will no longer need CCGs like Magic again. In fact, I formally renounce CCGs here!
The goal in Warhammer Invasion (Invasion) is to burn down two of the three sections (or zones) of your opponent's capital city, which is represented by a piece of board game board-like material that sits in front of you. Each section of a capital city can sustain 8 hits, but these hit thresholds can be boosted on a 1 for 1 basis by playing any card you want face down in that section. Not only can these sections be attacked, but you must place your cards down into one of these sections whenever you play cards. By the way these sections are named (from left to top to right): Kingdom, Battlefield, and Quest. Cards are sometimes restricted in terms of which zone they can be played in, some gain bonuses for being played in certain zones, but mostly you just choose to play cards into certain zones to boost defense, or boost the hammers there. Hammers have different effects depending on the zones they're in. In the Battlefield they count as damage icons; in the kingdom they add to the number of resources you get every turn; and in the quest zone they add to the number of cards you draw every turn. Most every card has hammer symbols on it, and the kingdom and quest zones start with 3 hammers on the capital city. In order to play these cards you must pay a number of resources (that you get at the start of every turn per hammer in your kingdom zone) that the card says at the top left of the card, plus any faction symbols underneath that number, that's reduced by the number of cards of that faction in play.
Whew! There's a short summary. I hope it's somewhat succinct, and clear. I love this game. Being a long-time Warhammer fan, I guess I can be considered biased, but my time on the front lines of the Old World also gives me the knowledge with which I can grade a game of this caliber. Invasion feels like you're playing Warhammer. For those of you out there that don't dig miniatures games because you don't like painting, or building, or modelling in general, don't have to be forced into the miniature hobby to get the Warhammer experience. When you unleash the Orc deck, it feels like you have a horde of green skins at your disposal. My favorite example is the dwarf deck, which I've discovered is my favorite in the starter box. The dwarf deck is slow to start, but if you don't deal with them right away they become almost impenetrable. Let's do a faction breakdown 'cause people like that:
Dwarfs - Slow, but tough as nails, with lots of damage negating abilities
Orcs - Lots of troops, and destructive powers. Not as tough as dwarfs, and will likely hurt themselves in addition to other players
Chaos - They have some tough units, and some not-so tough units. They have alot of special abilities that screw with their opponents cards
Empire - They're the chaos of the order alignment. Their special abilities are tricky, but unlike chaos, they effect mostly themselves.
Those are the four factions released so far. They've released a few cards for Dark Elves and High Elves, but nothing that can be built into a deck so far (plus, they haven't released capital cities for either elves). They also have Skaven, but they're neutral cards that can be used with any destruction deck. The armies are ordered into two alignments: Order (Dwarfs, Empire, and High Elves), and Destruction (Orcs, Chaos, and Dark Elves). This is where the game seems most tied to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), and why my friends and I jokingly (and lovingly) call Invasion: "Warhammer Online the card game".
So far there's only the starter set with four forty card decks (one for each of the factions), along with 24 neutral cards, a bunch of deck building draft cards, and about eight High Elf, and Dark Elf cards. The deck building draft cards are used for this little sub-game where both players build decks using the draft cards which screw-up the process for the other player. I haven't given these rules a shot yet, but the basic deck building rules are quite free form and simple. No deck may have more than 100 cards and need a minimum of 50; no mixing order and destruction; and no more than three copies of each card.
They're also releasing a battle pack per month. These things contain 20 new cards inside the 40 card pack, and will boost all factions. Like the basic game these are non-collectible and all battle packs of the same kind will contain the same cards. There's also a league kit that's pretty much just a prize kit, as it contains a few prizes, and some loose guidelines on how to run a league.
Overall I'm very excited about this game, and here's why: It's a Warhammer card game that's non-collectible, and is enjoyable and re playable. It feels like I'm playing a game of Warhammer, but it's different than playing a game of Warhammer, and anyone that knows me can testify that I like games that switch up how I play. It lets me explore an aspect of the Warhammer world I've never done before and doesn't require me to buy $40 of booster packs to keep up with the Jones'. The Battle packs are around $12 CDN, and contain 40 cards instead of $5 for 15 random cards in the case of Magic: the Gathering.
Here's some downsides: right now there's some balance issues with Chaos and the Orcs. People perceive the Orcs as too powerful, and Chaos as not powerful enough. My win:loss ratio against Orcs is supporting this statement, but I've had a rough time against Chaos as well. I hope the battle packs will remedy this. Also, the league kit was a bit of a letdown. The prizes are phenomenal, but I was hoping they'd structure it a bit more for me to run the league. I understand the desire to allow the organizer tons of freedom, but I had no direction with that thing. If it weren't for an enthusiastic customer who helped organize it with me, I'd be lost at sea. Thanks Zach!
Also, one aspect that's bothering me, is the fact that there are alot of people that are buying three copies of everything to maximize their decks with three copies of every card. Now, I know this isn't something actively encouraged by FFG, or the designer, nor is this to the same degree as the arms races in CCGs, but still I was hoping an LCG would allow me to escape this kind of thing. If I wanted to be beaten by someone because their deck is min/maxed due to the fact that they spent $36 on battle packs instead of my $12, I'll go back to tapping land and burning mana. We'll see how much of an impact this has on my gaming, but I'm enjoying buying one of everything and playing it as a self-contained game just fine.
P.S. I also wanted to mention that another downside with the game is cosmetic: The box says 2-4 players. It is most definitely not 2-4 players, and I had a customer buy it on that assumption before I did some investigating inside the rulebook back when this game was released. There are no official, or satisfying fan-made multi player rules out there. FFG has hinted that they want to make multi player rules but they haven't. I tried a 3-person game and it was confusing as hell.