I have been quite the busy bee these last few days.
This Saturday at my local board game club I was super happy, as I managed to try out Relic, the new Warhammer 40,000 board game. Even better, I managed to rope three other people into playing! Huzzah!
Relic is essentially a redesigned Talisman, which I confess I’ve never played before, but have been assured is awesome. In Relic, each player takes the role of an Imperial hero, such as an Inquisitor, Rogue Trader, Commissar, or Space Marine, and must complete various missions in order to gain powerful relics, which they need to advance to the centre of the ECKSBAWKSHUEG board, where the final confrontation awaits.
A special mention has to go to how gorgeous this game looks. All the components – cards, tokens, character sheets, and especially the board – have great artwork. The playing pieces for the Imperial heroes are fantastic plastic busts which are crying out for some paintbrush-based attention.
Rules-wise, you couldn’t ask for much simpler. On their turn, a player rolls a dice for movement, then reveals Threats of the space they land on, resolve those Threats (using their strength, cunning, or willpower, depending on the Threat they face), then gain the opportunity to level up if they’ve killed enough enemies, or completed their current mission, which may be something as simple as “defeat an Ork enemy”, or something a little trickier, such as “choose another player, then try and end your turn on their space.”. When you level up, you gain bonuses such as stat boosts or extra wargear. When you’ve done three missions, you can acquire a Relic. You need a Relic to advance to the game’s dreaded Inner Tier.
The Inner Tier, you (presumably) ask? Yes! The board is split into three concentric circles; the Outer, Middle, and Inner. There’s four spaces on the Outer Tier that let you get to the Middle Tier, but only one space on the (smaller) Middle Tier which lets you into the Inner Tier, or, as we came to call it, the Fuck You Dimension. When in the Inner Tier, you progress only space at a time. You don’t encounter Threats, but every space presents you with a very difficult challenge to overcome. If you fail, you’ll lose health and precious items. You need to be at your absolute best to get through the Inner Tier, so some grinding is required to gain levels for stat boosts and wargear.
Unlike Talisman, players can’t attack each other. But on the other hand, Relic isn’t a cooperative game either; only one player can win. This led to the situation where no one was really interacting with each other. In competitive games, you have the chance to screw people over to reduce their chances of winning. In cooperative games, players are trying to win as a team, so can help each other out by trading stuff, assisting in challenges, and so on. In Relic, you can’t do either. If I play Relic again (and I sincerely hope I do), I may have to suggest some kind of “teamwork” house rules that allow players to trade items or help each other out in fights.
It’s also a long game; we were playing for about three hours, and only one of us managed to get a Relic and get to the Inner Tier, and even then she was too low-level to survive the various challenges of the Fuck You Dimension. You could argue that we were all new to the game, so we had to take some time to learn the rules and various strategies, but even so… Relic is definitely a game that you have to dedicate a whole afternoon or evening to, much like Arkham Horror, Chaos in the Old World, or Axis and Allies.
Overall though, Relic was great fun, and I aim to add it to my growing collection very shortly.