I dug this one out last night and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Looking at the game over the years I couldn’t imagine how the game could work: the units available just seemed so limited! Of course, it turns out each unit is balanced to fit into the setting… and the Demon player can get along just fine without heavy or fast units because of his happenin’ transportation powers.
The game utilizes a split map. Demons transport to the human colony mapside and attack it. They only hang around for a single turn and pop back to their corresponding hex neighborhood after a brief moment of mayhem. If they can enter a city hex, they build a transport on the human side… which allows them both to hang around indefinitely unless they get more than 5 hexes away from it. A transport built on the human side also allows the Demons to bring a Breeder slug over… and the Breeder will produce a new permanent Demon on the human side once per turn if it stays within 5 hexes of that transport.
The human player has mostly infantry units– which are much tougher to kill if they are in their cities. He also has Thumper and Slider armor units… and his roads give him high mobility. Demons have volcanoes on their side of the map… volcanoes that will kill them if they accidently pop back on them! Yay.
The game play breaks down to a clear opening, middle game, and end game. In the opening, the Demon player sends Demons over for hit and run raids. He can also opt for a hit and die raid: if he teleports onto another unit, both are destroyed. (This is a good way to get rid of those pesky Thumpers….) The Demon player is inlikely to get killed unless he lands on a unit or city by accident…. And it takes at least two demons operating together to get even a small chance to kill an infantry in a city. The human player must remain spread out because the Demon can attack anywhere at any moment. The demon player has fewer units, though, and cannot afford to exchange units very many times.
In the middle game, the Demons are attempting to take and hold a city. They concentrate to the weakest area of the human colony and dig in. If things don’t look good they can opt not to build a transport, pop back, and try again somewhere else. But if they commit to holding the city, they will send the breeders over and hope to survive long enough to produce some serious Demon power. Note that the Humans can possibly take over a Demon transport and make a counter attack to the weaker Demon world.
In the end game, the Demons and Humans fight to the death… or if the Demons were repulsed from their city… they regroup and try again. At this point, both sides are seriously reduced in the number of units they can field. Every lucky hit and accident counts big time here and tension can be really great.
In our game, I was quite lucky in the opening. I terrorized the humans taking very few losses… and exchanged 3 Demons for 1 Thumper and 2 Sliders. In the middle game, I sent 4 demons to attack one double-city. We took it, and the following turn I sent in two Warrior-Breeder pairs over. One of the pairs teleported onto an infantry counter! I also failed to defend my cities well and my human side transport was destroyed. I built another in an undefended city, but my breeder was delayed in producing new Demon Warriors. The terrible accident combined with the tactical failure cost me the game. I simply did not have enough material to mount another major attack. I did manage to terrorize my opponent for a few more turns, taking out an infantry unit or two before one of my last remaining demons popped back into a volcano….
All and all, this was a surprising and unusual game. The luck factor will probably annoy modern players as several turns can go by with the Demons teleporting and neither taking nor giving any casualties. There are tactics that reduce the luck factor, but in the heat of battle they can easily be forgotten. Once the middle game is reached, a quick and bloody battle will ensue that has an entirely different flavor than the hit and run segment. It took us an hour to read the rules and set up… and about two hours to play our first game. Of course, you can’t truly understand a new game until you’ve played it 5 times at least… but we were intrigued enough to want to invest the time to do that. (Next time I play the Human Freefeet colonists…. I suspect my opponent has some nasty tactics to spring on me… slagging key cities with his teleport accidents so that my mobility is undermined and such like….)
Bravo, Metagaming… we miss you.