Saturday, June 22, 2024

Invasion Of The Brood Is a Functional Entry Point For Wargaming

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War games. What are they good for? Well, usually they’re good for losing several hours of your night as you move little pieces of plastic around and do a bunch of math. They’re not really for everyone. And even if you do have an interest in them, it can be intimidating to learn all the rules (and god forbid you ask one of the seasoned wargamers for advice). There’ve been attempts to make wargames more palatable as the general board game market grows, and Petersen Games, maker of big strategy games like Cthulu Wars and Glorantha: The Gods War, decided to take what they learned from their big releases and condense it for something small. From Sandy Petersen himself, it’s Invasion of the Brood.

What’s In The Box?

Invasion of the Brood box

The thing about Invasion of the Brood is that the design of it is very…standard. The art and visual design is interesting enough, but it’s very basic “alien invasion” aesthetic. The board, where all the action takes place, feels like it’s straight out of an X-COM game thanks to its blue-on-black digitized look and use of minimalist symbols to represent the different resources and areas. I think it’s trying to be a throwback to alien invasion movies of the 80s and 90s (which, again, is very X-COM) but that look has been done to death at this point.

The pieces in this game are entirely cardboard, which mainly benefits the cost ($25). But considering how well known Petersen is for their minis in game, it might have been fun to see at least some more interesting pieces included. It’s not super-cheapy cardboard, mind, and the included cards are well printed on a sturdy material, so it really just comes down to preference. And if the choice was made in order to keep the price down, then I can applaud them for that. Though they made the insert the dreaded “trench” and included no bags for a game with a LOT of pieces, so minus points for that.

How’s It Play?

Invasion of the Brood map
Definitely not X-COM

Invasion of The Brood isn’t the most complex strategy I’ve played, but it does take a minute to wrap ones head around (the booklet is insanely thick for a two player game). One person plays as the Humans, who are trying to wake up the nations to earth to join their coalition against the invading Brood (again, not X-COM) and build the Project Orion craft to send some nukes straight down the Broodmaster’s gullet. The Brood, meanwhile, is trying to get their workers implanted onto every continent while fending off the forces of humanity. Pretty straightforward stuff.

The asymmetry at the core of the game is fairly interesting. Humans have certain phases they work within, with each one giving them a particular set of things they can do. This, combined with the need to wake up other countries to the plight of the world, means that humans have a slower, more methodical playstyle. The Brood, by contrast, benefit from faster action since they start a bit stronger and need to get into certain places before the humans get too strong. They use a “Mindpower” pool to fuel their actions, meaning they can be a little more flexible with their choices than the human side. This also makes up for the fact that, once both are at full strength, the Humans outfun the Brood by a decent amount. It’s a neat strategic shift being done.

Combat, when the two sides fight, is pretty straightforward. The attacker rolls a die and if it matches or exceeds the combat unit’s attack value, they hit. Then, the defender rolls. But if they exceed their defense value, they’re killed. The ease of kills in the game makes the back and forth a lot faster than in other games, though there are some modifiers. Both factions can use air-support (mind controlled in the Brood’s case) to bolster their attack value, giving a few more strategic options to each attack. The Brood’s warriors can also go Berserk, where they attack every human unit near them at once, potentially wiping out a huge chunk of enemy force in one go.

The Verdict?

Invasion of the Brood is a weird game. I’m not sure who I could recommend it to. If you’re a seasoned wargame or strategy fan, you probably won’t be as interested in something rather minimalist and simple like this. I think that there’s things to appreciate in this game if you are a fan of the genre, but nothing that really gets to the complexity of even other games by Petersen. New people will appreciate it as a good way to try out strategy games, and the low price point definitely helps with that. Nobody is gonna drop 100 bucks on their first foray into a genre. But the theme is a little…generic. It really should lean more into the “throwback” nature of the setting and aesthetic rather than just being sort of “generic retro.” The mechanics are part of the sell, but when aiming at the audience this game is you can’t only assume they’ll be into the mechanics. The theme matters as well, and I just don’t know if it’s strong enough to carry the game. If you do get a chance to play, I’d say it’s worth a shot. Maybe it will get more exciting if future factions get released.

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Invasion of the Brood was released as part of Petersen’s “Monster Invasion” Gamefound campaign, and will be shipping later this summer.

Images via Petersen Games

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