Hull Breach: Game Review
After a long wait, I finally have sat down to play and review Hull Breach. This game has been on my radar ever since I first saw at Mace Con as they were running demos for the con goers. It was their first year there as well as mine. I was looking to drum up interest and guests for my convention Storm-Con. I sat down to a demo and was impressed. I invited them to the convention and I am proud to say that Hull Breach was a featured part of our convention every year that the con ran! The team even made a scenario themed for our convention.
The irony was not lost on me that up until this last November yet again at Mace I had not had the pleasure to play Hull Breach again. When you run a convention there are so many things that you want to play and try or even pick up. Over and over again year after year I never had that opportunity to sit in on a game as the demo tables were always full of eager convention attendees. So as an attendee at Mace this last November I had the pleasure to sit down and get another game in. In the time, it took to play that demo I spent most of it kicking myself that it had taken me this long to convince myself that the game that was a constant consistent slam dunk at my own convention I had not bought yet.
Now with Hull Breach running a new Kickstarter I thought it was time to go to bat for them the way they did for my convention all those years back and give them a review. The Hull Breach team was happy to send me a copy of Loyalty & Vigilance so that I could sit down at home and really sink my teeth into the game and write my review. So at long last let’s get to it, my Hull Breach review three years in the making.
What is Hull Breach?
This single question vexed me more than any other part of this review in many ways. Most would ask the question of why this would be such and issue. Well because Hull Breach takes many aspects from several types of existing games out there and they blend them together in a unique style. Allowing for some very complex actions and deeply satisfying gameplay all the while without overly complex rules.
Hull Breach is a deeply rich space conquest game containing elements of the fleet building via a rich two third economy system. With additional elements of deck building with the goal of total domination. Hull Breach has a tremendous space combat system. With combat resolved in a well thought out flow on the battlefield that feels how a fleet action would unfold. Best of all unlike other games with damage values vs targets health. Combat is conducted with dice and target numbers. Better mimicking things such as luck favoring the bold and superior firepower overwhelming targets.
Or in their own words,
So, what the heck is Hull Breach? Well, we’re glad you asked that question. Hull Breach is a sci-fi cards-and-dice game featuring epic space combat between ships, firefights between Marine boarding parties, and plenty of clever tactics and galaxy-shaking events. You assume command of a space station belonging to one of our several in-game factions and fight it out with one or more other Commanders to achieve galactic domination! The object of the game is to protect your Station – your home in space – from other Commanders while trying to capture or destroy theirs. Be warned – they’re trying to do the same thing to you. It’s a tough galaxy and at the end of the day only one Commander gets to remain standing.
So let’s break it down a little.
So much like any other card/deck building game you have your deck and your discard piles. In this game referred to as Shipyard and Scrapheap. You have two additional cards called your Stockpile to track your Resource and Currency values. Each has a value from 1-20 anything that you wish to bring into play in the game will have a cost to manufacture. More often than not you will need some of each resource to build your item and bring it into play.
As noted above your station is the single most important thing on the field. If you lose it you are out of the game. You can begin the game with 2 modules attached to your station that will give you additional resources or features to help you in play. You may add additional modules to your station as the game goes on up to four. This is important as your opponent must capture or destroy your modules before they may finally take your station.
Lastly, you have your military forces. Marines all the way up to Battleships can be brought to bear on your opponents in Hull Breach. Combat in Hull Breach is simple well thought out and intense. Fighter ships and drones zipping around massive Cruisers and Battleships while boarding actions are being conducted in a fast paced dice chucking fleet on fleet battle. With the addition of Tactics and Event cards as well as the luck of the roll. Combat is engaging fun and intense.
As if all of this was not enough many cards have passive or activated traits that give them special abilities. Allowing you to create everything from stealth fleets to raiding fleets to dart into the battle and get off early opening salvos before the real fight begins. But have no fear there are hunters and interceptor ships out there to counter these tactics. Offering a wide range of tactics for you to use in play.
The game comes out of the box with enough supplies for a 3 person game. Tokens dice and 3 factions in pre-built decks. The box has room to accommodate another three factions. Giving you storage for all the current factions of the game pre-Kickstarter. Unlike oh so many other games out that the starter faction decks are solid, well-constructed decks. I have in speaking to their demo team been told that their starter decks have regularly stood their own against custom decks in gameplay. THIS is refreshing for the casual gamer. So often do you buy into a game and you have to buy X number of additional product’s to support the main game so that you can fully enjoy your product.
More so that even with my above statement that there is no need to construct your own decks, YOU CAN! It’s pleasant to know that once you have reached a level of play that you want to begin creating themed decks for anything from specialized boarding party fleets to an all Stealth ship armada. As long as you build your deck within the deck construction rules its all fair game!
The dice are the next huge pro for me. The RPG gamer in me loves rolling dice. In Hull Breach, there is plenty of die rolling that will take place! If lady luck favors you who knows how far you will go once the battle ensues. Just because your opponent has you outnumbered and outgunned. You might get a few lucky shots off and give as good as you get!
Each of the corporations feels and plays differently and has their own strengths. This by no stretch of the word is impressive. It is not easy to make a balanced game with six factions and still maintain a distinctive feel from one deck to another.
A fine example is in one of the games with my son, we were both surprised when we had the realization that the Stellar Tax Gate faction rolls a D10 for each of their resources a turn. This can be potentially huge or crippling. At the time of the game we played the first two turns the Tax gate rolled 10s for each resource and built an impressive strike force.
This left me worried that maybe the game was not as balanced as I thought it might be at the time. Only to see my son’s reaction as the first space combat ensued and my superior ships and station with a Staggering firepower repelled him handily. Because by comparison the Stellar Tax Gate may have the potential to earn huge resources but their station is woefully ill-suited for combat.
The cards are beautiful and easy to understand. The layout of how the cards have been put together is deceptively well thought out. Many cards are designed to be tucked and placed behind the ships they are assigned to.. Upgrades are slid under the bottom of their assigned cards to reflect any new properties that they add. All of this is subtle and easy to miss but wonderful in design.
Lastly, there is the sci-fi novel. Hull Breach is not just a space card game of factions warring for control of the galaxy. It is an Immensely thought out world with page after page of back story as to what has gone before and brought these factions to war with one and other. Loyalty & Vigilance comes with a 60-page novel covering the factions and history of the many of the units and vessels in the game as well as major locations of the setting. The Main box set comes with another novel as well.
A lover of this world could take these elements alone and use them as a backdrop for their own tabletop RPG game. Granted it’s not needed it’s extra fluff. But you know what. It makes the product that much better. When you see this level of detail go into a product it is for one reason and one reason alone. It is because the developers love their product. They tell stories about their game. It is a real breath-taking thing with a heartbeat and it shows.
Alright, I have loved up on this game. Now it is time to poke it a bit to let you all know that like all great things it is not without flaws few as they may be. At this time, there is only one way to win this game. Total destruction of your opponent, Damn. With a game this elegantly complex it sucks that you might just have to find a way to out military overcome the military if the RDF is in play. Mind you it is still a very balanced game as I have said. But if I were the colonials I would be seeking a victory on another front then the battlefield first.
Luckily in their upcoming Kickstarter, this is being addressed with the new features of:
“Diplomatic and Economic Victories”
Secondly, where the novel is wonderful and a great addition. The rulebook in its current state is not my best friend. I will say it is not dreadful. But it is not entirely user-friendly. Again in their upcoming Kickstarter they have said we will be getting:
“a revised Rulebook, complete with easier access rules for beginners; and a digital video rule book put together by the awesome team at ‘Skip the Rules'”
With no cheat sheet for turn order or ship abilities, you find yourself often and in the early stages of learning the game constantly referring back to the dreaded book for information. This slows the game down dramatically. This can be remedied with this quick reference guide found here:
Hull Breach Quick Reference Guide
(Also being addressed in the new Kickstarter from what I am being told)
So there you have it. Each of my Cons for the game either at this time has been addressed or is being addressed at this moment. It’s rare that I can say that. I find it pretty darn awesome!
Now we come to the end of this long review. What is my ranking of this product? I am a huge Science fiction lover. So Hull Breach hits me on a very personal level as a game I want to love. I really REALLY want to love this game! I am proud to say that I DO! I really love this game. This is the first game in a very long time that has had my son getting off the computer and asking to play regularly that I have come across in a long, long time. That is tremendous praise and I thank the guys at NSB games.
It stands apart from so many other games out there due to its very unique nature. In a land of so many cookie cutter games out there it is refreshing to see an elegant game with complex tactics and refreshing depth. In an era where I have to pick and choose games that stand out from the rest and I want to put in my limited game shelf space. It’s products exactly like this one that I look for.
The fictional universe makes me want to run Hull Breach RPG game! I have to admit it. I never thought something that in so many ways is just fluff for the game because an additional selling feature. Much like the card game Android has a rich vibrant world for its backdrop. You will love learning more about what is going on behind the scenes of this universe.
My last factor for my ranking boils down simply to the combat. The many layers of combat from boarding actions to fleet combat order due to ship size and the volley fire mechanics. So many little things that make the whole of the game simply addictive to play.
I have decided to give Hull Breach my Highest Rank to date. 18. Congratulations NSB team! I look forward to your Kickstarter and anything else you and your team put forward in the future!
You can find their current Kickstarter here!
And don’t just take my word for it. Here are some other peoples opinions as well!