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Cedric Chong
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Review by Game Elements: Abaddon

1. Overview

Play History

I’ve played 12 games of Abaddon, from mission #1 through to mission #6. As there are 18 published missions so far, my review is based only until mission #6. Since Abaddon is designed by Richard Borg, I must mention that I have played both Memoir '44 and Battlelore.


Abaddon feels like an action sequence of a Hollywood movie. It depicts very well lasers and bombs firing between two squads of giant robots (call Links). Thrown into the midst are smart bombs, long range bombardments, anti-missile missiles, and ability to call down a doomsday bolt from SkyEye (a “mysterious satellite system”). The background story is set in a distant future where two factions fight for control of a new energy resource call Feronium. While the background story is light, the game does very well in immersing you right into the heart of the battle.

There are games where themes are pretty much pasted on. When playing Ra, I’d never felt like an Egyptian God. When play Tigris & Euphrates, I’d never felt like I was building an ancient civilization. What Richard Borg did every well with his previous games, he brought it to the science-fiction genre. When playing a game of Abaddon, I really can imagine giant robots (Links) firing lasers and missiles at each other. The game plays fast and all the while, I’m looking to put my squad of Links into tactically advantageous positions to overwhelm my enemies.

2. Components

Cool Miniatures!

The miniatures are great! I spent two days to do a quick paint job on them. Take a look at before and after!

Great Rulebook

Abaddon has one of the better written rulebook around. Everything is clear and concise. The only thing I needed clarification were, one, the Line-Of-Sight rule; And two, how to handle a very rare close combat situation (which in all my plays so far, had not occurred yet).

Poor Storage Box

The box that comes with Abaddon is bad. The interior design (the inserts) is terrible. Once you put together all terrains, there is absolutely no way for you to put everything back into the box and still get it to close fully. If there is a way, someone has to let me know.

What I did, similarly to a few other users here on BGG, is to throw out all the inserts. That way, with careful placement, I can put everything back into the box.

Clinic Cups

In Battlelore, we have magnificent lore goblet. In Abaddon, we have cheap transparent plastic cups. The first one looks like a piece of art, begging to be painted, while the other one looks like what you get at the clinic.

That said, the bad box design and the cheap cups are probably the only negative components. The rest are okay.

Long Shrink to Play Time

Do not expect to bring home Abaddon and get to play immediately. There are a few things that needs to be prepared. One. The activation dice. You have to stick six stickers over each of the ten activation dice. Two. The status bar. You have to stick all thirty-two status bar stickers on the base of the minis. Three. The terrain tiles. You have to punch out and put together the terrain tiles. Four. The other cardboard tiles and counters. Yes, same as many other games, you have to punch them out.

Okay, not so bad. At least the miniatures are pre-assembled.

3. The Game

Quick Set-Up Time

Compared to Memoir ’44 and Battlelore, Abaddon is a breeze to set up. The only fiddly bits are those power crystals that you have to attach to the minis. But once done, you’re ready to go.

Talking about this. I was playing a game when I had this idea. Why not play it like Summoner Wars? Start the game with no Power Crystals. When a Link is hit, just attach a power crystal to the mini. So power crystals are not hit points, but more like wound tokens. To represent VPs, the opponent can use another stack of power crystals. Just a thought to make the game set up faster.

Clear Victory Condition

Victory condition in Abaddon varies based on different missions, but mostly they are based on Power Crystals, or Victory Points. Like Richard Borg’s previous games, these victory points are open information.

There are good games where winner is not known until the game ends. So you do not know exactly who is leading. Example like 7 Wonders where you count victory points at the end of the game. Then there are games where victory points are tracked and visible for all players to see as the game progresses. Examples are Ticket to Ride and Dixit where there are markers on a score track to show all players who is leading and how everyone is doing. On the other extreme, there are games like Summoner Wars, where victory condition is clear as day. You win when the opponent’s summoner is dead. No VP tracking, no special bonus points.

I tend to prefer games with clear and simple victory conditions. No mental calculations or points tally at the end of the game. No burden to increase Analysis-Paralysis (AP). Abaddon is such a game. Every turn is an exciting race to compete against your opponent in score. Clear and straight forward.

Many Scenarios

The base game comes with 16 scenarios. Toy Vault has also uploaded two new web missions. Most of the scenarios are for two players. A handful are for three and four players. Since I had only played up to mission #6, I am in no place to comment on this. All I can say is there are quite a number of interesting variations. For example, in mission #5, there is the super-charged shielding rule, where a special elite unit is made significantly harder to damage. In mission #6, the game introduces Battle Damage rule, where each Link taken out scores additional VPs. Mission #6 is incidentally also my favorite mission until now. And out of mission #1 to mission #6, I feel mission #6 is the best way to experience Abaddon. Other missions which I had not played have more variant rules like special terrain rules.

Scales up to Four Players

I have to buy two sets of Battlelore in order to play up to four players. Abaddon allows you to scale up to four players just in the base game alone. Again, a disclaimer. I have yet to play a three or four player game of Abaddon, so I’ll leave any comments to those who had. Just thought I should share it here.

Gateway Game

The best thing about Abaddon is accessibility. Its rules are simple and can be taught fairly quickly. There are games out there where the first five pages of the rulebook tells you how to play the game, and the next ten pages goes on to describe twenty exceptions to the rule. Summoner Wars is a recent game that I enjoy a lot. The problem is, while the rule is simple, the most important information are on the cards themselves. So you have a set of basic rules. And with each new faction, you need to learn five more exceptions to the basic rules. While I love Summoner Wars, and I rate it a “9”, I find myself wanting to play Abaddon more! And the fact is, Abaddon did make it to the table more often!

High Replay Value

I have only played until mission #6 so far. There are still 12 available missions that I have not played. If you are familiar with previous games by Richard Borg, you will know that scenarios can be easily created to extend on the replay value. I think in Battlelore, there are around 50 official scenarios and hundreds of fan-created scenarios. Not that I am in a hurry. I am still enjoying mission #6 so far and will probably be playing it a couple more times before moving on.

That said, I'd so gladly buy any Abaddon expansions that come my way!

4. Mechanics

Simplicity is an Art

Allow me to digress. What is the 100m race about? Be the first man to cross the finishing line. Simple. In fact, that is about as simple as it gets. But easy? Absolutely no. Simple is not easy. Steve Jobs had spent most of his time in Apple trying to take away features from prototypes until they became as simple as it could be. Simplicity is an art, and it is not easy.

Back to boardgames. I remember first playing Dixit and being left in awe at how simple it is. The rules can be explained in less than 60 seconds, scales well up to twelve players (12!), there is almost no downtime, and the game duration is just right for what is set out to be. It seems that the game is not in the rule, but in the cards and the players themselves. I just have to ask myself, why such a fun and simple game is not invented earlier.

Why am I saying all these?

Because in my opinion, I feel Abaddon has managed to take away all the fiddly rules and create the game in the session itself, and not in the rules. What do I mean? Read on.

Character Sheet on Miniatures

In games like Talisman, Claustrophobia, and Super Dungeon Explore, miniatures are used to represent characters. But to track character progression and status, we use a separate character card. We use tokens, counters, or even more cards to represent various different statuses and abilities of these characters.

When I first played Summoner Wars, I was so impressed with it. But I could not tell what exactly. It wasn’t until a few plays later that I realize the game plays very much like a miniature game. But there are no miniatures! Yet it feels like a miniature game. The genius of Summoner Wars is it simplifies the whole miniature experience by representing the entire mini as a single card. Instead of placing a mini on board, and having a separate character card, everything is condensed into that one card. It’s brilliant! Your character, all its abilities and status, are on the board. And if it suffers wounds, the tokens are placed directly onto the card itself, on the board. This is such a good idea I wonder why it isn’t done more. It takes away all the fiddly bits, redundant duplication, and simplifies everything.

Abaddon took that and went up a notch! In 3D! Abaddon is so far, the only mini game I know to have all information on the mini! All unit stats and HPs, and status effects are on the mini! Its hit points are represented by Power Crystals that attach themselves to the mini. When a critical hit lands and a special status effect affects that robot, you can just attach another flag onto the mini. Absolutely brilliant. Everything you need to know about the mini, its stats, health, and status, are attached onto the mini itself. No duplication. No redundancy. Simple. It’s almost like playing Summoner Wars in 3D. Only you can shoot further and move diagonally!

Simple Terrain

No forests, hills, hedgerows, towns, villages, rivers, oceans, beach, bunkers, sandbags, barbed wire, hedgehogs…

In Abaddon? You only have obstacles that block line-of-sight and movement. That’s it. That’s as simple as it gets. Anybody can come in and add rules and simulate real-world. Bear in mind, Abaddon comes from the same designer who had done it all for terrain rules (Memoir ’44 and all its expansions) in his previous games. It takes guts to say NO to all of them, and makes the decision of going ahead with the simple version.

Unique Line-Of-Sight

I feel the Line-Of-Sight rule single-handedly defines the entire gaming experience of Abaddon.

In my first play through of the game, I was trapped in my own world of how Line-Of-Sight should be. But after re-reading the rules and re-confirming it on BGG, I became very disappointed at its “odd” rule. Line-Of-Sight in Abaddon operates only orthogonally and diagonally, like Queen in Chess!

If you also think it is very odd, I know exactly how you feel. In fact, I felt the same way initially. So you’re saying if a unit is two spaces in front, and one space to the left, I cannot “see” it? That’s so ridiculous!

What I had found was, once I let go and accepted it, the game play suddenly changes. In fact, the entire gaming experience changes. By having this rule, every single round becomes a battle of tactical maneuvering between you and your opponent. The seemingly mundane terrain tile suddenly becomes much more important. The “limitations” of each unit’s movement speed suddenly becomes significant. And cards like Smart Bombs and Long Range Bombardment suddenly change from good-to-haves to become get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Another point to the Line-Of-Sight rule, again, is simplicity. How many games have you played where figuring out whether a unit has line-of-sight is almost like a mini-game itself? In Abaddon, Line-Of-Sight is simple and straight forward. It takes away unnecessary time spent in “logistics” or Analysis Paralysis (AP), and allows for more time to be focus on the game itself.

Activation Dice versus Command Cards

Like other Richard Borg’s designs, activation (Activation Dice/ Command Cards) serves to reduce AP and helps to move the game along at a quick pace. Limiting the number of units that you can activate in a single turn keeps the game moving quickly.

But unlike previous Richard Borg’s games, activation in Abaddon is determined by dice, not cards. As opposed to having a command card in your hand, rolling dice for unit activations tends to feel like it’s a more tactical game. This is because you don't know what you'll roll next turn.

For example: If you are down to 1 color unit, at face value, you will think you only have 2 of 6 chances to activate it. The beauty of it is, regardless of how many units you have in the game, you always roll 5 activation dice. So if you’re left with 1 unit, you still roll 5 activation dice. Now I have left my math behind when I graduated. But if I’m not wrong, the chance of activating 1 unit with 5 dice is {1 –[(1 – 2/6)^5]} or 86.8%. Now that is a very high chance! Compare that with the luck of drawing the right section card from a deck ….

I had read somewhere on BGG someone calling Richard Borg the genius of dice and card design. I believe that Richard Borg has created a pretty good system over here. But there may be a real problem with the dice mechanism, probability.

In Settlers of Catan, there is a variant where you replace the 2 dice roll with a stack of cards. The 2 dice serves well with its probability. The problem with probability is that it only averages out over a large number of rolls. Within a game, it is entirely possible for you to keep rolling badly. The stack of cards serves to balance this out. You can be sure there are only 36 permutations of that card and it will eventually show up within that deck.

Same issue here with activation dice mechanics. Although statistically sound, in fact I will say statistically easier to activate, a streak of bad luck can quickly turn the game experience sour.

But the good news is, with Abaddon, Richard Borg has removed the 3 section zones.

One problem of the 3 zones design I encountered went like this. Your left is your opponent’s right. So if you keep drawing left cards, it usually means your opponent gets the right flank cards. Great, it means conflict happens on the same zone of the map. BUT, what happens when that scenario, your most powerful forces are all on the right flank?

In Abaddon, there are no zones. Without zones, your Links can easily reinforce one another.

Based on my limited experience, I cannot say that luck evens out over the course of one game. But luck generally evens out over the course of a few games. Good tactics and strategy are what win the day.


Abaddon is random. There I’ve said it. Some people are very allergic to random. They will probably prefer Antike. Or Chess.

Abaddon has four elements that introduce randomness.

1. Activation dice rolls.
2. Battle dice rolls.
3. Weapon System cards draw.
4. Wild Fire cards draw.

It is very frustrating when you fail to activate the Links you want. But hugely satisfying when it happens to your opponent as well! It is very frustrating when battle dice roll against you. But hugely satisfying when you roll against all odds a critical-1 when you needed it the most.

It is maddening when you keep drawing “1”s and “2”s. But satisfying when you draw Anti-Missile Missile or the Doomsday Bolt card. It borderlines on rage when you scored a critical, to have your opponent ended up with +2 crystals instead of damage. But almost an ecstasy when you crit and takes out a full-powered Heavy Link.

So yes, there is luck. It is random. The best player does not always win.

With my buddies, there are several good games where we enjoy playing. However, there are a few games where one guy seems to have “figured out”. That guy wins like 90% of the time. In a group of four to five players, maybe it is fun to lose to the same guy 3 games in a roll. But after 30 games, and he still always win, well… that’s not very fun. Abaddon fills the spot for that fun simple game that plays less than 60 minutes category. There is enough luck to allow the underdog an occasional win.

5. Units

Below are the stats for the four units in Abaddon. My initial impression was there was no significant difference. However, once I started playing the game, I immediately realized how wrong I was. The difference between being about to move 1 space, and being able to move 2 spaces is HUGE. The difference in survivability of a 5 Power Crystals Link versus a 3 Power Crystals Link is HUGE. The difference in a d10 and a d6 is HUGE.

Heavy Links

Heavy Links move at 1 space for each activation die. Because activation die is a scarce resource, if you do it too often, it will be inefficient to spend more than one activation dice on a Heavy Link each turn.

Having said that, Heavy Links is also the only unit type that benefits from a special bonus from Long Range Bombardment cards. While any units can use the Long Range Bombardment, saving these cards for Heavy Links truly bring out the strengths of these power-house. A d10 battle strength attacking units 8 spaces away when the usual attacking range is only 5. That is powerful. With a range of 8, you can reach virtually 90% of the battle field.

One thing to note though.. with a d10, a Heavy Link has the lowest chance to score a Critical Hit (1 in 10). Therefore, I’d try to use a Heavy Link more often in situations where the enemies cannot defend with a Weapon System card, and avoid using Heavy Links in close combat. This is because in either of the two situations, enemy’s critical hit will override a Heavy Link’s attack. Because of this reason, Long Range Bombardment cards are all the more important for Heavy Links.

Recon Links

These Links are weak in many areas, but they move really fast at 3 spaces for each activation die. They are perfect for setting up decoys. They are also very useful in two other areas.

First, to act as flanking units. Because of the unique Line-Of-Sight rule, a unit can only target in 8 directions, and similarly, can only be targeted via that 8 directions. In practice, most of the time, a unit can at most be attacked from 3 directions. And these Recon Links are perfect units to move into Line-Of-Sight positions at both flanks.

Second, Recon Links are perfect to engage enemy units in close combat. By advancing them adjacent to an enemy unit, that enemy unit cannot defend against other range attacks with a Weapon System card. Hence, Recon Links work best teaming up with other slower moving units.

One other very important traits of a Recon Link is that with a battle die of d6, they have a 1 in 6 chance of scoring a Critical Hit. This gives Recon Link one of the highest chance to score a Critical Hit amongst all the unit types.


Infantry units move very slowly at 1 space each, and battle at d6. Their special close combat rule allows them to roll two d6 and must select the higher result. The unfortunate thing is, while a Recon Link has a 1 in 6 chance of scoring a Critical Hit, an Infantry only has 1 in 36 chance of scoring a Critical Hit in close combat.

At this point, I feel Infantry Units are the weakest, and is best to keep at range where they can leverage on their d6 die to score Critical Hits (At range, an Infantry also has 1 in 6 chance of scoring a Critical Hit).

Medium Links

Medium Links fill the Jack of all trades role. At a movement rate of 2 spaces, they can be used to cover up tactical positions. They battle with d8, which is significant, and they have 4 Power Crystals making them fairly durable in combat.

At range, an Infantry is good because of higher chances of scoring Criticals. Therefore Medium Links are great at taking out Infantry squads in close combat with naked d8 versus d6, with much lower risks of criticals.

6. Decision Making

Abaddon plays quickly and there is hardly any AP. But there are still quite a significant number of decision-making required each turn. All of the following situations came up in my games.

Command for Weapon System Cards

Weapon System card is a very valuable resource in the game. It is required for all range attack, and range defense. Without it, your chance of inflicting damage or defending an attack drops significantly.

There are four (4) ways to gain Weapon System cards in this game. First, is to roll the “Weapon System” face on the activation die. Second, is to roll the “Command” face (which is a wild card) on the activation die. Third, is to have a draw result during battle resolution. Fourth, is to draw special cards like System Reboot, or Command Jolt. In all my plays, I had only had one (or maybe two) draw results during battles. And in all my plays, I had only drew the System Reboot card twice, and other similar cards one or twice. So, the main source of Weapon System cards should come from the activation dice.

The choice is, do you sacrifice the Command die roll to draw a Weapon System card? Or do you use the Command die to activate another Link?

Doomsday Bolt

It has a 1 in 6 chance to take out any Link in the game. But you need to sacrifice a Command die that turn. Should you unleash the bolt now with a 5 in 6 chance of failure? Or use the Command die to get 100% chance of activating another available action?

Anti-Missile Missile

These AMMs can be used to counter all range attacks, direct or indirect. They can even be used to counter Doomsday Bolt. In fact, using an Anti-Missile Missile is the only way you can counter an Indirect Range attack, or a Doomsday Bolt. So… do you use the AMM now to defend against a normal range attack? Or should you save it for a more devastating Doomsday Bolt, which may never come?

Target Weapon System Cards

Target Weapon System cards are used for direct range attack. Do you use up all your high value (but very scarce) Target WS cards upfront? Or do you save it for defending a low battle die unit? Some Target WS have special bonus, for example, “Recon Link scores two additional damage”. Do you save it for a Recon Link later? Or should you “waste” it on another unit that needs it more urgently now?

Adjacent Enemy

There is a rule where a Link adjacent to an enemy unit, cannot defend against a range attack. As such, a typical tactic is to move a unit forward next to the enemy unit, and have one or two other units firing from range. This will give very good battle result, in fact, there is a very good chance of taking out that unit in one turn. But it can leave your front unit in an open position, subjecting it to retaliation fire the next turn.

Close Combat

Close combat do not need Weapon System card. But the disadvantage is your enemy is eligible for critical hits, and can return damage (very much like battle back in Battlelore). Do you move your unit into close combat, so that you can ration on your Weapon System card? But doing so may put you in a disadvantageous position, which can potentially back fire on you.

Bluffing in Range Attacks

A unit under attack by more than one range attack, can only defend with a WS card against one. So which of the two attacks do you think your opponent will defend against? Most likely the one with the higher battle die? So if you have one Target WS card with a value of “8” and one with a value of “4” but plus 2 additional damage, how should you assign them?

Focusing on the Mission Objective

Abaddon is not always about maximizing your actions every turn. Sometimes, you need to focus on the mission objective and have an overall strategy to guide the actions tactically. For example, in mission #4, the objective is to push one Infantry across the battlefield pass your opponent’s deployment area, off the board. Survival is the most important factor. In such a scenario, you have to decide when to take the risk of firing at range and when to give up the right to attack. This is because a defending unit can sometimes inflict damage on you. By not attacking, you are not giving your opponent another chance to damage you. And yet, if you do not attack, it is a 100% certainty the enemy Link will still be there.

Because the game moves fast and large amount of damage can be inflicted in a round, if you miss the chance this turn, you may never get it back. Every action you make or not make has consequences in future rounds.

7. Final Words


Ultimately, the most important point for me is fun. I play a game to have fun. And Abaddon is fun. In fact, I am postponing completion of my painting of Super Dungeon Explore minis to write this. I'm writing this but wishing that I’m playing the game instead! I wanted to play Summoner Wars. I bought new factions and wanted to try them out. But I find myself pulling out Abaddon instead. I wanted to pull out Earth Reborn and set up a game, but I play Abaddon instead.

Abaddon is a thematically-rich, enjoyable squad-size skirmish board game. It has a solid game system from the genius designer of cards and dice battles, Richard Borg. It is simple, accessible, and plays from two to four players. If you are looking for something fun, can be picked up easily, and plays in about one hour, I will highly recommend Abaddon. I hope more people will give Abaddon a try.
  • [+] Dice rolls
United States
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Be Happy in your Game!
I spent 100 Geek Gold and all I got was this lousy overtext message!
In the end, it's always about the fun. Excellent review. thumbsup
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Tanks Alot
United States
Fort Mill
South Carolina
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Thanks for the excellent review. Please consider uploading the unit attack summary in the files section. I would like to have a copy
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Chris May
United States
Fort Worth
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Feeling lucky punk? Well, do ya?
Great review. Your English is great. This is one of the only Richard Borg games I dont have and I wasn't planning on getting it. I think your review changed my mind.

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Chad Taylor
United States
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You say "Pardon my English", so I assume it is not your primary language, but if you hadn't said anything, I would never have known. This is written better than most things I read on the internet.

Sadly, I must criticize you for one thing: You are making me spend more money. I was mildly curious about Abaddon, but didn't think I'd bother. Most of my gaming is with my kid. She couldn't really get into Battlelore, but the simplifications you mention would undoubtedly overcome the issues she had. Plus, she was eyeing some guys playing Battletech the other day at the game store, so this may scratch that itch, too.
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Paul Hackman
United States
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I picked this up at GenCon.
I've played twice with my kids.

I had never played a Borg game before and was much more of a Eurogamer than a tactical miniatures gamer.

But I agree with everything in the review. It's simple and random at times, but it's fun. I can totally understand complaints about the activation dice and about the counterintuitive LOS rule, but they actually work well to create a tense and tactical battle.
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Eric Brandt
United States
First Mesa
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Get out of mah swamp!
Thanks for the review! You tipped me over the edge! Bought it, and I am glad I did. Cool stuff.
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