Ok, let’s first get something out of the way: I am a sucker for miniatures and do think that Games Workshop makes some rather great (or should I even say excellent) plastic figurines. I love assembling, modelling, converting and painting plastic ‘crack’. But even though I consider GW minis to be some of the best on the market, I have lost nearly all my love for Games Workshop as a company. The discontinuation of games I loved and the harassment of retailers AND gamers saddens me. On the other hand, even though I have been changing my focus towards other competing systems, I keep coming back to Warhammer (40k)…
Now that I’ve stated my ‘fanboyism’ for Games Workshop (although, a fanboy with a strongly emerging hatred at the same time…), let’s get into the subject of Assassinorum Execution Force. Like many people here, I’ve had strong doubts about this new game. Until last week there had hardly been any news on the gameplay mechanics. Secondly there is absolutely no reference on this game outside of the marketing speak by GW. Finally (and this is probably the most worrying part) the box is promoted as being the ONLY option at this moment to get the four assassin miniatures for your games of Warhammer 40.000. So the only logical conclusion would be that this game is to me a cash grab by GW to get gamers buying miniatures they don’t need combined with the lure of a ‘limited edition’ release. Still, even I had these worries, I jumped in (although I must confess that a 20% discount by my local FLGS didn’t hurt either) and thought I should offer you my first impressions.
From the outside
Like expected, the box of Execution Force looks rather splendid. The high gloss front of the box features a large, dynamic and beautifully rendered impression of the four assassins featured in the game. It also captures the feel of the grim and dark future that Warhammer 40.000 is known for. The back of the box has photo’s (it seems true to scale) of the four assassins in addition to an image of the content, a short ‘background story’ and game summary. In summary the usual stuff you would expect from the back of a game box.
The box is also the weight you would expect from Games Workshop. By this I mean that the box has a nice heft to it. What is surprising though, is the size of the box. Compared to previous Games Workshop games (like Space Hulk or Dreadfleet), the box is rather small. In fact, I’d recon it’s half the depth of both these games and in terms of size it is more comparable to the Bloodbowl 3rd edition box. I’ve added a photo to illustrate the size of the box compared to two well know games.
Concluding: the outside of Execution Force is impressive and exactly what you would expect from Games Workshop games. In other words a good attention to detail, gorgeous artwork, beautiful painted miniatures and heavy. Can GW keep up these positive impressions?
On the inside: First impression
Once I had removed the shrink wrap from the box, I opened the box and again was greeted by your usual GW stuff. That is, lovely sprues of miniatures first -> cardboard pieces second. It also means that you get a box that you do not want to use to store your miniatures in. In fact, like previous GW games, there are NO organisers or what so ever in the box. This is a real shame and SHOULD be fixed in my opinion, after all no deviders and so on means that your precious and fragile miniatures have a good chance of getting broken. I can therefore only recommend that you buy some foam to store your miniatures safely inside this box (that is unless you break up the box and use and store the miniatures with your Warhammer 40.000 army).
On the inside: the miniatures
Because I expect that most people who intend to buy this game, want to buy it for the miniatures I’ll first go into these bits. In the box you’ll find 9 plastic sprues, and all feature mould lines in one way or another. It’s not horrible, but for the best effect you need to clean the miniatures up. What is most surprising is the fact that the assassins feature the most prominent mould lines. On the plus side, I did not encounter any wrongly set miniatures.
Of the nine sprues, four are for the new assassin miniatures. And I must say that these miniatures look great. In line with GW’s recent releases these plastic miniatures feature good and sharply defined detail. At the same time have to admit that they might not the best of the best figurines they have released recently but they do have strong character. Because the assassins miniatures are multipart, they have quite dynamic poses. But these dynamic poses come at the expense of ‘newcomers’. Compaired to other games with miniatures, the assassins are rather complicated to assemble. In addition, you can’t play the game without buying glue and a model knife. It seems clear who the target audience for this game is, and that Execution Force is not an introduction into the Grim and Dark future…
The biggest disappointment, or best part depending on your view, are the four sprues with Chaos figurines. Here, Games Workshop has recycled the monopose sprues that are on the market for quite a couple of years now. The large benefit of these miniatures is the fact that they are snapfit and therefore easy to assemble. The Chaos Cultists are well detailed (especially compaired with most snapfit miniatures in most boardgames) and people familiar with the Dark Vengence Warhammer 40.000 starterbox will know these miniatures. The monopose Chaos Space Marines are the biggest disappointment though: these miniatures are have less detail than all other figurines in the box, they are very static in pose and simply ‘look out of place’ between the rest of the good looking minis. Finally there is the Chaos Terminator Sorcerer, a miniature that looks good, can be assembled in multiple poses and even in a Chaos Lord if you would prefer that. However, like the assassins, you’ll need glue and cutters to be able to assemble him and thus play the game.
The miniatures (the assassins in particular) look really good, especially compared to the miniatures you normally get in a board game. At the same time you also pay a premium price for this. The miniatures have some degree of mould lines on them and strangely the assassins seem to suffer most from this. In addition, the miniatures DO need glue to assemble them and the benefit of the snapfit figurines included is negated by the complexity of the assassins and Chaos Sorcerer. In other words, GREAT miniatures but not really suited for people uninitiated in the world of miniature games.
On the inside: the cardboard stuff
Like expected from a Games Workshop product, the illustrations of the gaming board, the rooms and the counters look top notch. All pieces are printed on thick and seemingly durable cardboard, although the rooms and counters are printed on a slightly thinner cardboard than the gaming board. The four piece game board in particular is extremely well illustrated. It is not textured like the Space Hulk pieces but it still looks great. HOWEVER, my game board did come slightly wrapped and this is a slight annoyance as the board is made from three separate pieces (in other words it is NOT a foldout board) and because they are wrapped the different pieces do not align precisely. It is also a shame that the game board is NOT modular, even though it is comes in three separate pieces. There is only one way you can assemble the board and other ways of assembling will result in wrongly sized rooms, ‘broken walls’ and weird black outlines running through the gameboard. I therefore think GW should have paid more attention to this as ‘modularising’ the board would have offered more options to play the game.
Even though I’m critical of the some of the aspects concerning the game board, the biggest disappointment have to be the cards included in the game. Firstly, the cards are printed on rather thin paper which makes them susceptible for bending and usage damage. Secondly, only the overview cards for the different models have nice artwork on them. All other cards lack any kind of artwork which could have added to the ´feel´ that the random event cards should evoke while playing the game. So if you want to keep your cards in top notch condition you NEED to buy deck protector sleeves in an unusual format (I’m not entirely sure which format).
The artwork on (and quality of) the game board, the rooms and counters is really nice. Like Space Hulk, they feature high gloss printing – although this also makes them sensitive to scratches – but they lack the nice textured finish that that Space Hulk has. It is not all a good news show though: in my copy the game board suffers from some wrapping. It is also disappointing to conclude that the game board is NOT modular, even though it comes in three separate pieces. The biggest disappointment are the cards though. These are made of relatively poor quality (thin) cardboard and most lack artwork.
On the inside: the rules
I have not played the game yet, but the first impression after reading the rules I have to say that the rules seem like the stuff that you would expect from Games Workshop. So let´s start with the positive points first. First the most important bit and that is that the rulebook manages to explain the rules clearly. The options are well explained and follow a preset amount of phases for the assassins, and the ‘game board Chaos phase.’
Like all games that Games Workshop has produced recently, the rulebook is richly illustrated with beautiful artwork, clear photographs to illustrate and explain the game rules and all of this is presented in full colour goodness. In addition, the rulebook features quite a bit of ‘fluffy’ background story that sets the setting of the game. All in all it is stuff that gets my blood flowing as I’m a sucker for the GW background stories and artwork. In addition to this richly illustrated and narrated rulebook, you also get an assembly guide which explains how to put the included models together. And as can be expected from Games Workshop, these instructions are clear and well documented.
Now that I have gone into the positive sides, I have to address the more negative points also. Like some people have already expressed, it is as shame that the whole game only features ONE scenario and ONE setup (a point I already addressed when I mentioned the lack of a modular game board). The randomness of the rooms in the game and the event cards that add an extra layer of newness in each game only work to give the slightly extended lease of life. The addition of a ‘video game style’ achievement list at the end of the rulebook offers some extra challenges, but it does not really change the game.
Further I have to say that the AI system controlling the different Chaos models is relatively basic and uninventive when compared to other AI systems in model driven games like the D&D board games. What is the worst thing though, is the fact that there are cases where the players have to decide what the AI does in some ambiguous scenario’s. Cases that offer the option for players to ‘exploit’.
A further point that might scare some people away is the dice fest that this game is. Personally, I have no large objections against randomness in games. That is, if randomness does normally not overrule skill. Almost all GW games are known for being dice fest games. However the amount of randomness is usually mitigated by the sheer amount of dice you throw (the rule of large numbers so to say). This means that your chances can normally be calculated in addition to the bonus modifiers you can try to score. However, in Assassinorum Execution Force you usually throw few dice. In addition the game has only a few modifiers that influence the outcome of dice rolls. This means that the impact of randomness is because of this relatively large and a lousy roll could have a huge impact with the few models you control as players.
The rulebook looks beautiful with full colour pages, nice artwork and some nice fluff to set the stage of the game. It is also nice that you can play the game on your own as the ‘enemy’ is AI controlled. This AI system is simple and functional, but could have added a bit more ‘levels’ into like the D&D board games. Sadly I have questions with the lease of life this game. Basically this is a game that has only ONE scenario, while more scenarios are normally expected with these type of games. This would have been less of an issue if the game board was modular but even though it is made up of three separate boards it can only be put together in one way. The random room locations, event cards and optional ‘achievements’ might add some extra play sessions but in general this is a rather ‘one way to play’ game. The randomness might put some people of, especially as the random dice rolls, random event cards, random room locations AND occasional random movement of ‘Chaos servants’ add to a lot of randomness.
Basically this is exactly the game I expected it to be, but unfortunately not what I hoped it could be. The setting within the Warhammer 40.000 universe, the background of the assassins temples and general opportunities for an assassination game were rather remarkable. And admittingly I have to say that Games Workshop has delivered in terms of setting, artwork and background. The quality of the components is also of a high grade, especially the miniatures but also the game board and markers and rooms – even with the slight wrapping of the board in my box. These high quality components do come with a large remark though, as some modelling skills, glue and cutters are required for the game to become playable.
In terms of gameplay, and only based on reading through the rules and not having played it yet, this seems to be a limited and highly random focussed game. In fact Games Workshop admits the randomness on the last page of the rulebook with the achievements where they “It may take several games and a lot of skill and luck to achieve them all” (notice the word LUCK). Finally I have large doubts about the amount of games you get out of Execution Force as you only get one scenario and one gameboard. Even random events and rooms can’t hide the fact that you’ll be playing the same story time and time again. In addition I’d say that you would normally get at least 5 to 8 different scenarios inside a similar non GW-game. And although the components will likely be less impressive, it will probably offer you a lot more fun in the long run.