Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
I knew it was probably not going to work for me as I first read the rulebook. If I had been performing my due diligence I probably would have read the rulebook before I acquired the game, but since I do not have the driving force of Essen excitement to keep me focused on reading the rules, I admit I have been a bit lax about it lately, which probably explains my indifferent reaction to many of the games I have played recently. If it is a special powers card game, tactical miniatures game, or bigger, meatier game there is already a good chance that I am going to acquire it, and since Abaddon is a tactical miniatures game and has an at least moderately interesting theme I figured it would be worth checking out.
Of course I did feel some measure of uncertainty as the release date got closer. Tom Vasel on the Dice Tower stated that is was mostly a good game for playing pre-teens and I heard some rumblings that it was definitely one of the more simple games that Mr. Borg has produced. I almost pulled the trigger and cancelled the pre-order, but the enthusiasm of one gentleman in my group, he is a big fan of mechs, was enough to get me to reconsider. So I picked up my pre-order and we ended up playing the game on Sunday.
Abaddon is a game about battles between giant robots that uses a fight for resources on a distant planet as the pretext for having said battles. Now this is a reasonably cool concept, but it is used largely as window dressing as most scenarios end up being things like, “You have been ambushed! Escape!” This last of flavor is rather disappointing particularly compared to the historical context for Borg’s other games or even some of the completely ridiculous, though fun, fiction for games like Earth Reborn. The game play is most important, of course, but having context for the game play is something I typically look for in my tactical miniatures games, and its lack was slightly off-putting.
The game play was similarly disappointing. There are four different units, each of which is differentiated in their movement rate, combat die rolled, and hit points. Each turn a player rolls a scenario defined number of dice which have symbols corresponding to each of the types of units as well as a “command” face that works similar to a wild and a “weapon systems” face that lets you draw more cards. When activating a unit, you are able to move it based on its movement rate before choosing a target. At this point a targeting card is played by each player and a comparative die roll is made, with the winner doing a point of damage to the loser.
There is a little bit more to it than that, in the form of undifferentiated terrain, critical hits, and direct vs. indirect fire but on a whole it is rather bland and kind of boring. There is very little decision making too involved in using your units, and no ability to conduct forward planning of any kind. You are at the mercy of the dice, and while the same can be argued for games like Command & Colors: Ancients, at least those games involve a level of look ahead as to what you potentially could use in the future, even if what you can use is not what you want to use. The game is quick, with little downtime, but that is more due to the lack of real decisions to be made than anything else. Even when situations where the move to be made is not obvious, the decision is trivial enough to not be time consuming.
It is not often that I flat our regret purchasing a game, as usually there is something that is at least something that I find interesting about them or makes me wonder how I would jury rig things to make it more to my tastes, but Abaddon failed to provide me with even that level of enjoyment, as most of the things it does well I have seen before, mostly in the Command & Colors titles, and the things it does well are mostly in the implementation of the physical design. The way it tracks status conditions from critical hits and the transition from hit points to victory points is clever, but that alone is not enough to save the game.
I do think this game has a place for those who are completely new to tactical battle games or whom are likely to be playing this game with a pre-teen, but even for them I would recommend something like Summoner Wars over this. If you have any sort of familiarity with these sorts of games, or just prefer meatier games in general you can pretty safely skip it.