York Faction Preview: Imperial Army

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Battle for York is still going through graphics production, but I wanted to create a short, four part series to illustrate the game's four asymmetrical factions to give you a better idea of how the game plays.

Today's preview focuses on the Imperial Army. However, before we do that, I want to give you a really brief summary of York's gameplay so that these previews make sense.

Battle for York is an area control/war game that lasts for 6 rounds. At the end of these 6 rounds, the winner is determined, essentially, by the player with the most and/or best collection of territories and the most victories in battle. In York, you need to fight, and win fights, to ultimately be victorious.

Every round follows 3 primary steps: Reinforcement, Actions, Battles. Before I explain those, let me describe the cards. Every card has 2 simple properties: a number (1-3) and a symbol (infantry, cavalry, artillery, scout).

During reinforcements, every player may discard any number of his 5 cards to add Units to the board. If I discard 3 cards with a 1, 2, and 2 numbers, I'd get to add 5 Units. Players all have a finite pool of 15 Units. If all 15 are out, you can't add more. This phase is very key: you're deciding which cards you'll save for special abilities and how many Units you need.

Actions are where the meat of the game takes place. In turn order, players will take 1 action at a time until all players take 3. There are 3 simple actions: Move, Declare an Attack, and Draw a Card. There are 2 slightly more complex actions: Build a Fort (add a Fort to the board with defensive/reinforcement bonuses), and Special Maneuver. Special Maneuvers are essentially very powerful cheats. Every Faction has a unique Special Maneuver. To activate one, you need to discard cards from your hand with matching symbols. For example, to activate one you may need to discard a Scout and Cavalry card. This is where the symbols come in.

Finally, players fight battles. There's an attacker and defender, which dictates which battle tactics a player can use. Battle Tactics, like special maneuvers, are powerful abilities that require you to spend cards of the indicated symbols.

The winner claims a Unit token from the defeated player. This reduces the defeated player's Unit pool AND grants the victor 2 points.

In a nutshell, choose how many Units to add to the board, choose how to position them, choose how to fight with them.

Now, let's discuss the Imperial Army!

The Empire of York is an old nation that spans a large island continent. Think Australia, geographically, with an autocratic, Tsarist Russia like political entity. After centuries of misrule, the Imperial family has abdicated and fled with the few remaining assets of the treasury. Other than this, they aren't a part of the story of York. We're focusing on the present and the future, not so much the past.

This is why things are difficult for the Imperial Army. For centuries, they've been the aggressors of the emperor. They were used to conquer foreign lands to increase the size of the empire. They were used to repel invaders. They were also used to police the interior of the empire, especially with the dissident regions and upstarts.

The Imperial Army isn't an evil or negative force. They are professional and disciplined and largely formed by members of the working class (see the gentleman at the top of this story). Civil war is raging and the Imperial Army seeks a return to normalcy, peace, and the way things were. They are open to change, but first, they want the war to end.

The Imperial Army was inspired by the British Army of the 18th and 19th centuries. They are highly disciplined veterans. Well armed, well led, and incredibly well-trained. You always read about the British troops never retreating in the American Revolutionary War and that sense of "Hooooold!" was the impetus for this faction.

Dig in! Dig in!

They are very defense oriented and can often win battles when being attacked. Every faction has a unique Defensive Tactic. For the Imperials, it's "Dig In." When being attacked, the Imperial player can play a single Infantry card. His defensive power is increased by the reinforcement number on the card. If you play a card with a 3, rare, you can inflict massive casualties on the attacker.

The Imperials can also be powerful on the attack, but they lack subtlety. Their weaker offensive tactic is charge. This can, fictionally, scare 2 enemy Units out of the battle territory. They're still alive, but they won't factor into the current battle. Or, my personal favorite, bombard. This artillery barrage eliminates 3 Units outright. This is an expensive, but essential tactic for taking a fort from the enemy.

Finally, the Imperial Army can quickly surprise their enemy using the Double Time special maneuver. Like a disciplined army on the march, the Imperials can be where you least expect them very quickly. Double Time allows the Imperial player to take 2 move actions AND move into a battle territory. Typically, once a battle is declared, it's essentially locked. With Double Time, the Imperial player can tip the scales in his favor.

Finally finally -- every faction has a "special ability," a passive factor that changes how they play. For the Imperial Army, their "discipline" theme inspired me to give them more efficient card use. The Imperial player can use a single card for BOTH Reinforcement AND a Tactic every round. Typically, a card can be used for one of these things, but not both. If properly used, this can really tip the scales in the Imperial player's favor.

What do you think? Anything you care to know about the Imperial Army? They are defensive, blunt, and direct. They use tactics honed over the centuries. Discipline, after all, leaves little room for innovation.

Look for a faction preview on the Republik Militia next week. They are wily, manipulative jerks with a cause.