Cry Havoc is a 2016 release by Polish publisher Portal Games. We think Portal has hit a solid mark with this release, blending territory control and deck building with a strong “economy of action matters” style of gameplay. You’ll often find yourself thinking two, or three, moves ahead to find the optimal sequencing of plays.
But, that seems like a standard description of any strategy game. Where Cry Havoc sets itself apart is with its Skill Cards system, and the semi-complex player combat mechanics that is almost good enough to be repackaged as an entirely different game.
Anyway, check out this review below to see what’s up.
Materials: 9 of 10.
Cry Havoc is dense. With over two hundred and fifty working parts and tokens (not counting the playing cards!) included in the box, you would normally expect some quality control issues. We found each piece to be cut precisely and with a fairly high level of detail. The figures look great. The cardboard tokens are thick, and for the most part, cut into special patterns so that they can mesh with other pieces.
The card stock is the usual plastic/fiber blend you’d expect from a deck of playing cards. Nothing spectacular, but certainly not below average.
Between the cards, tokens, figures, and the gigantic board, the art quality is outstanding as well, with plenty of intricate details.
Gameplay: 8.5 of 10.
With any strategy game, a pool of new players will always be off to a rocky, non-stop rules-referencing wreck. The same holds true for Cry Havoc, but we found that with some smart design techniques, Portal Games was able to make quite a few of the game mechanics feel intuitive and easy to grasp. The amount of times we said “Oh, that’s right!” far outweighed the amount of times we said “Wait, but why?”.
Your action pool consists of: “Move”, “Recruit”, “Draw Cards”, “Build/Activate Structures”, and “Activate Scoring”, which furthers player’s progression towards ending the game and provides a slight Victory Point bonus to the person who takes that action.
Cry Havoc plays off of its deckbuilding aspect here, in that cards are played from your hand to take one of the above actions, with the strength of the action based on how many cards you play for it. Once your deck is depleted, you’ll shuffle your discards back into your deck, and draw from there. Over time, you’ll acquire more and better cards to enhance your actions.
However, from the above actions, you are allotted three per round. If you chose to “Move, Recruit, and Build”, then you’ll have missed your chance to acquire new cards from the available card decks. On the reverse, if you did choose to Draw Cards to supplement your card pool, you’ll have forfeited a different action!
The more territories you control, the more points you get. The more battles you win, the more points you get. Fairly standard fare!
Where Cry Havoc really hits its stride is the battle mechanic. Players choose to assign their available units in a “battle region” to any of the three tasks: “Region Control”, “Capture a Prisoner” (there’s a ransom system!), and “Attrition”. The more units you assign to a task, the more likely you are to succeed versus the defending forces. However, after all units have been assigned, players may then play cards from their hand to alter the course of the battle. Units could be destroyed, or reassigned, or more! After the smoke clears, the balance of power may shift, prisoners may be taken, or units may be killed and placed back into the reserves to be recruited again.
After all the battles have been resolved, points are scored and a fresh round begins, possibly with someone else going first due to the Initiative system.
Originality: 8 of 10.
Cry Havoc bears a fairly strong resemblence to other recent releases such as Blood Rage by publisher Cool Mini Or Not, but only in specific gameplay mechanics. Outside of the similarity of some of the mechanics, Cry Havoc does a great job of giving each player a unique play experience, and even includes some background lore for the four races present in the game. Each nation shares the same basic “grunt unit”, but has all unique structures and Skill Cards.
The Humans rely heavily on territory control and structure expansion. The Wraiths feel similar to the Protoss from StarCraft II in that they rely on crystals, one of the game’s resources, and have “warpgate” style gameplay. Watch out for that hidden pylon! The Machines employ a strong drone-based attack and ORBITAL ION CANNONS, among other spicy toys in their arsenal. The Trogs are the native fauna of Cry Havoc‘s world. They’re basically dopey golems out to defend their homeland and stop the other three races from taking their crystals. They’re craftier than you think, though, as they can travel through hidden tunnels and plant traps around the map to help ward off invaders.
And all of this was only with the default Skill Cards that were suggested for “New Players”.
Replay Value: 10 of 10.
As just said, all of this was just from what you could probably refer to as a tutorial experience.
With the additional tactics cards, skill cards, event tokens, exploration tokens, and some good old Trog ingenuity, we’re expecting to get many, many, sessions of this game in.
Overall Average: 8.9
Pros: Accessible, yet deep, strategic gameplay. Beautiful presentation with top quality materials. Fantastic and unique battle system.
Cons: Some rules were placed in places that seemed slightly out of the ordinary, causing some confusion during scoring turns. This is absolutely still our fault, but we feel the particular issues (Scoring for Crystals as Trog, for one) could have been presented in a slightly more “HEY, THIS IS IMPORTANT” manner.
In the end, Patrick took home the win with Humans at 108 points. Pete, the runner up, played Wraiths to a solid 84 points. Willie, the Machines, took third, sneaking in on the last turn to pass me at 68 points. And myself, Tyler, brought up the last place position as the lowly Trogs, despite my best efforts to defend my homeland.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our review of Cry Havoc. Check it out as a potential Christmas gift for that special board gamer in your life. You can find it in stock at Jacksonville Game Center, of course! Give us a call any time and we’ll be plenty happy to set a copy aside for you before they sell through.
I consider it a solid addition to my personal selection of games, and look forward to playing it again, soon! Probably as the Machines. ORBITAL ION CANNON has a nice ring to it.