PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

The Warhammer 40,000 universe has always been a bit of difficult franchise for many. This is because despite a massive and fascinating setting, its primary product is a skirmish miniatures battle game. It may be a galaxy filled with heroes, villains and the wildest of monsters, but you can’t fit all of those on a gaming table and lot of atmosphere is lost in translation. A surprisingly good range of books, audio dramas and video games have expanded it somewhat, but 40K’s galaxy has always felt rather claustrophobic thanks to its ‘hobby’ based origins.

Fantasy Flight Games has changed all that thanks to their latest contribution to the franchise: Forbidden Stars. This is a big box board game with an epic scope. If you’ve ever played their take on A Game of Thrones, you may have an idea of what to expect. Different factions with different strengths and weaknesses, duking it out for power and control across a large battleground. Cards and counters make it easy to control complex games mechanics, making it easy to play. Different troop types do different things, and you move pieces round in order to achieve your aims. In the case of Forbidden Stars, your goal is total domination of the galaxy. All of this means it takes about three to four hours to play. 

The game is designed for 2 to 4 people and they are four factions: Space Marines, Orks, Chaos Space Marines, and Eldar. Each have their own unique feel and design that remains true to the setting; Space Marines are solid defenders with a steady stream of fire support, Orks are a frightening and relentless horde, Chaos corrupts and so on. Each player has multiple decks of cards, and each deck controls some aspect of the game: combat, luck, and two types of upgrades. You spend the game fine tuning your faction, producing extra troops or refining turn orders so you can take more territory. Your actions have a direct effect on the actions of other players, so you also have to calculate and bluff throughout; make a particular play for territory to early and you’ll be crushed. Leave it too late and you simply won’t have the troops to achieve your goals.

The board itself is different each game; faction placement changes, the tiles can be moved round and ‘the warp’ makes certain areas impassable. You are always thinking about your next move during each turn, tracking everything else that’s happening on the board as you do so.

As this is a Fantasy Flight Game, the pieces are predictably gorgeous. The counters and cards are filled with evocative artwork from the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the troop pieces are nicely chunky; the Space Marines looks like Space Marines, the Titans look like Titans and so on. Forbidden Stars is a game that fits the feel of Warhammer 40,000 better than the anything that has come before it. If you like big, epic board games (and you’re rather fond of space-orks and space-elves) then you will like this a lot. This could very well be the board game of 2015.


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