I cracked, didn’t I?
First impression, which will be obvious to 95% of more of you reading this – the Burning of Prospero game is an afterthought. A nice afterthought, it turns out, but let’s not kid ourselves: this is essentially a plastic core for a Horus Heresy army, and 95% of the people buying it will be using it to build one Legiones Astartes army for ‘proper’ wargaming with. I certainly will be. In fact I’ve already sold the Sisters of Silence because I knew I’d end up keeping some of them “in case I ever play Burning of Prospero”, which a) I won’t and b) wasn’t part of the deal by which I’d make these boxes pay for themselves. That said, I was tempted…
As you’ll see from the images above, this is not a starter set. None of that snap-together malarkey here. These are full-on multi-part plastic models, in more parts than the majority of the GW range since the legs aren’t one-piece squatty poses. The target market for this ain’t people who’ve read a couple of New York Times best-selling novels and decided they want to give the game a try – this is for people who are already in deep and not afraid to get polystyrene cement on their hands.
Despite including a board, this is nobody’s board game. It’s a wargame played without measuring sticks. Those tiles create a 2D terrain environment, similar to the sort of thing competitive Warmahordsers like and I grudgingly endorse because it’s flat-packable. The rules use ‘zones’ rather than mucking around with range rules, tape measures and laser lines: a ‘zone’ is delineated by a black border around an area of the tile, and either blocks line of sight or doesn’t. Models move two zones; zones may include up to four models, with big lads like Terminators counting as two; everyone in a zone shoots together or fights stuff in an adjacent zone together. It’s oddly elegant and does away with all that micro-measuring of squad consistency and arbitrary distances between squads and general spod-rod management to which the parent game is prone.
Mechanics are basically a dice pool: add up all the various d6s, d8s, d10s and d12s your models have available for their weapons, and beat the opponent’s roll on the various dice they have to save. The complexity isn’t in the mundane combat, but in the psychic powers. There are fifteen (three from each of the Proserpine cults), and each mission provides the Traitors with five (might be a full cult’s discipline plus a couple of randoms, or five randoms). Warp cards are flipped to cast them; Willpower cards are flipped to deny them; card flipping continues until both players have decided to let the result stand. This card fencing aspect takes place before the actual combat, and much like 40K’s psychic phase, seems likely to set the tone for the round to come.
There’s one way in which it’s decidedly unlike the parent game, though: in wargamerese, it uses Igo-Ugo for movement (players roll off, the winner gets to move all their dudes first, and the Imperials automatically win ties because they’re on the attack and dictating the flow of the engagement), but alternating activations for combat (so one zone’s worth of Imperials shoots/fights, then one zone’s worth of Traitors, and so on – if one side has more activations it gets to take them all in sequence at the end, cheerfully back-to-backing for the rest of the round). This mixed approach isn’t something I’ve seen before, and I’d have to play it to have any real idea how well it works… and as discussed, I’m unlikely to actually play this game because I’m selling off all the Imperial stuff to recoup some costs. I’m sure someone will pick up the Talons of the Emperor at some point and maybe agree to sit down and give Burning of Prospero a whirl as a side thing.
In the meantime, I have two sets of the card tiles, which should make for quite a fun 2D battlefield, easily enough to cover the 4′ x 3′ kitchen table and possibly enough for the 4′ x 4′ upstairs. As a bonus, it’ll be hella portable, which is kind of a watchword for me where terrain is concerned. I also have quite a lot of plastic Astartes to build. I don’t know if they’ll be pre-Prospero red or post-Prospero blue at this stage, but in either case they’ll be something I can batch out of an evening now that the sun’s staying out for longer.