Review – The Convoy from Portal Publishing

ConvoyCover

Review – The Convoy from Portal Games

Designer – Ignacy Trzewiczek

Art – Mateusz Bielski and Michal Sztuka

I had the pleasure of meeting Ignacy Trzewiczek at Essen 2012 and also got to play a demo of his Robinson Crusoe game. I haven’t played any of the games from his company, Portal Publishing, yet and I thought that I’d start out small. So, The Convoy, hits my table. Based in the world of the Neuroshima Hex! universe, a post-apocalyptic world.

Flavour text from the Portal website –

Convoy has set off in the direction of New York. The Moloch made the decision – New York has to be razed to the ground. This will end the resistance of the people and will eventually break their defense lines. Steel-gray machines swarm marches to the east. Moloch destroys everything in its path. Day after day horizon is decorated with new pillars of smoke. Fire will soon visit the place that used to be called New York…

Unless … Unless the Outpost soldiers stop the march of Moloch…

A description of the game from the website also –

The Convoy is a card game for two players (age 10+), which is set in a post-apocalyptic world of Neuroshima, known for games such as Neuroshima hex, 51st State, or The New Era, a world where humanity struggles with an army of machines.

The Convoy is an asymmetric game – one player commands the convoy of powerful robots, which are moving towards New York. Its goal is to reach New York and turn it into ashes. The player has a deck of 35 cards: robots of Moloch (such as the Gauss Cannon, Clown, or Juggernaut), modules, attached to the robots (such as Network module, Kasparov module), and special cards (such as Push back, or Move). He plays those cards in the cities he passes while moving towards NY, trying to turn human settlements into dust and get ready for the final battle for New York …

The other player commands the Outpost troops. They attack the convoy and try to slow it down. The Outpost deck also contains 35 cards. It consists of soldiers (such as Runner or HG), buildings (such as Bunker or EMP Cannon) and many special cards (Move, Retreat, Medic). The Outpost has to win a few battles, slow down the march of Moloch as much as possible, and prepare to welcome robots in the New York City. And make it: ‘Welcome to hell.’

So this is a card game and although you may think that you would need to play the main Neuroshima Hex! game in order to “get” this game, I had no trouble at all understanding the context of the storyline and the need for an asymmetric design which gives both players a different type of fighting force and problem to solve.

Unboxing

In the small box, you get –

  • 35 cards (Moloch deck) with a menacingly red background for the robots
  • 35 cards (The Outpost deck) with a military green background for the human troops
  • 5 city boards
  • tokens
  • rulebook

Convoy3 Convoy2

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City Boards for tracking the progress of the Convoy

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The art is very well done, and evokes the chaotic post-apocalyptic world of Neuroshima. The colours are vibrant, the image, big and brassy. I like the look and feel. The cards of good cardstock. Nice!

Gameplay overview

I found the game process to be pretty straightforward. The layout has you placing the city cards on a horizontal line between the players. Then the players place their combat cards on opposite sides of each city card as the convoy proceeds through each card, battling against the Outpost forces.
Each phase of the game turn is as follows:
Each player draws 2 cards from his deck and adds them to his hand. Players start the first battle with six cards in their hand and there is no limit t how many cards you can have in your hand.

PHASE I

• If at the beginning of this phase a player has only 1 card in his deck, he draws only this one card. • If he doesn’t have any cards remaining in his deck, he draws none. This is important to note. There is no reshuffling, no second chances. Once you go through your deck, that’s it. Which means you need to think carefully how you use your cards.

PHASE II – TARGET CHOICE

After drawing cards, the Moloch player chooses a non-demolished district in the active city for the upcoming battle and marks his choice by placing a Battle for the District marker on this district. If there is only one non-demolished district remaining in the active city, the upcoming battle will take place there.
Note: most districts have an effect (described below) that provides some benefit to the winner of the battle and is also considered in Phase VI (Determining the End Result of the Battle). Therefore, the Moloch player should take this into account when deciding which district to battle in.
Various districts effects are triggered at the end of a battle.

PHASE III – MOLOCH’S ATTACK –

In this phase, the Moloch player may take any of the actions described below. The number of actions that can be taken is not limited and they can be taken in any order. The player may also pass and not take any actions.

OCCUPY A BATTLE STATION IN THE ACTIVE CITY – The Moloch player may play a Robot card from his hand and place it in the active city, as long as he has an available battle station in this city.

OCCUPY A BATTLE STATION IN A FUTURE CITY – The Moloch player may play a Robot card from his hand and place it in any future city, as long as he has an available battle station in such city. Forward planning is a good idea so can prepare for the final assault on New York

UNDEFENDED FUTURE CITIES – Each time a Robot card is played from the Moloch player’s hand or moved to any future city where the Outpost is not located (there are no Soldiers or Buildings at the city), it receives a +1 bonus to its strength.

USE ROBOT’S SPECIAL ABILITY – The Moloch player also possesses some units whose special abilities may be used at any time in his Attack phase. One of these units is Hornet which has an ability to move once per battle

PLAY AN INSTANT CARD Instant cards may only be played during a player’s own Attack phase and their effect is applied immediately.

PHASE IV – OUTPOST’S ATTACK
The Outpost player may take any of the actions described below. As with the Moloch player during Phase III, the number of actions performed is not limited and they can be taken in any order.

OCCUPY A BATTLE STATION IN THE ACTIVE CITY – The Outpost player may play a Solider or Building card from his hand and place it in the active city, as long as he has an available battle station in this city.

OCCUPY A BATTLE STATION IN A FUTURE CITY – The Outpost player may play a Soldier or Building card from his hand and place it in any future city, as long as he has an available battle station in such city.

USE SOLDIER’S SPECIAL ABILITY – The Outpost player also possesses some units whose special abilities may be used at any time in his Attack phase.

PLAY AN INSTANT CARD – Instant cards may only be played during a player’s own Attack phase and their effect is applied immediately.

USE THE UNIQUE FEATURE OF THE ACTIVE CITY – The feature of each city may only be used once per game and only if the current battle is fought in this city.

PHASE V – MOLOCH MODULES ACTIVATION –

Once the Outpost player finishes all of his actions in Phase IV, the Moloch player still has a chance to play and/or activate Module cards to influence the battle.

PHASE VI – DETERMINING THE END RESULT OF THE BATTLE –

After the end of the Modules activation phase, the end result of the battle is determined.

PHASE VIA – MOLOCH’S MOVEMENT UPON THE DESTRUCTION OF A CITY
If all the districts of the active city are destroyed, the Moloch player chooses one Robot in that newly destroyed city and moves it to the next city

END OF THE GAME
The game ends when all the effects of the final battle in New York are carried out. If at this point the Moloch player has at least one card in his deck or at least one Robot in New York, he wins the game – the Moloch convoy has managed to achieve its goal – New York was attacked and destroyed.
If the Moloch player neither has any cards left in his deck nor any Robots located in New York (cards on hand are not taken into account) the Outpost wins, having effectively destroyed the Moloch’s convoy.

Overall, once you’ve played a couple of turns, the process works really well, and quickly as you won’t be playing lots of cards. Until you become familiar with the different effects of the cards, will seem slower than it should but as the game goes on, things will move along. Because of the push-your-luck nature of the game, the process makes sense and puts you under the right amount of pressure. Ultimately, each turn your choices are limited as to which cards will enable you to push forward regardless, as the Moloch player, and which cards you can afford to lose, as the Outpost player and the structure of the process makes it easy to do. The hard bit is choosing which cards to play and when.

Did I like The Convoy?

Not being experienced with the Nueroshima Hex games and universe, I was concerned that this game just wouldn’t connect with me. On the contrary, I think that Ignacy Trzewiczek has pitched The Convoy at just the right level of complexity and detail to attract new entrants like me. Definitely geared for hobby gamers, not casual gamers, this game really gets you into the theme quickly as the visuals really “paint the picture” of the environment.

The process of going from one city to the next, leaving wreckage and havoc, in the case of Moloch forces and fighting whilst trying to preserve enough of a punch for the battle for New York City really comes to life as both players have to approach things differently. The Moloch forces are essentially a steamroller and have powerful forces and will probably will most of the battles leading up to the finale. The Outpost has to be more nimble and thoughtful, looking to counter-punch and chip away at the Moloch forces. They will lose some of the earlier battles and must choose how many resources to sacrifice in trying to break down the enemy but still hold onto enough of their deck to have a real go at the end to halt the Molochs.

The game feels like a gauntlet of sorts that the Moloch forces go through and there is a strong sense of the fraught journey to the final goal. There is huge tension for both players. The Moloch player doesn’t want to blow too many forces too early but can afford to through having good strength throughout the journey through the hail of Outpost fire. The Outpost, on the other hand, wants to have as many cards in their deck as possible to use at the end, but can’t afford to lose all of the battles leading up to the finale.

On the whole, The Convoy is very entertaining, relatively easy to play although it takes some time to become familiar with the cards which will speed up the game considerably. There is good replay value due to the variety of cards. There is enough randomness but there is definitely tactics in choosing cards for each battle and strategy as you make decisions which impact what your final fighting force will be. A very nice balance in a clever, well designed and fun game.

For more information go to – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/120605/the-convoy

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