Product: Warhammer 40,000 Relic
Company: Fantasy Flight Games
RELIC BOARD GAME OVERVIEW
The spiritual successor to Talisman, Relic and its first expansion Nemesis, is a board game from Fantasy Flight Games set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. In the Relic board game players take the role of heroes travelling around the Antian Sector, defeating the enemies of the Imperium in order to gain experience, items and relics, in order to be the first one to complete the drawn scenario. The game is for two to four players.
The Nemesis expansion adds four enemies of the Imperium, new heroes and subtly changes some play, to add a much welcome and needed change. Nemesis also increases the players to a maximum of six.
The Relic board is a rectangular setup, broken up into three main sections. The Outer section is the largest and contains the easiest locations to complete encounters in. The middle section increases the difficulty and generally adds more challenge. The inner section is the smallest but also the most challenging and slowest to complete, with semi fixed encounters on the tiles.
As is typical for Fantasy Flight games, tokens and cards are a mainstay. There are plenty to go around and cover a full range from player stats, missions and items, to the corruption and power decks, and the three threat decks.
Each player in the game plays a characters of Imperial background, a hero. Nemesis also adds anti-heroes, or enemies of the Imperium. Each character has a unique card and playing piece which allow a player to set the character stats, and see the special abilities and upgrades for a character.
The Nemesis expansion adds no new tiles, but does add for new enemies of the Imperium which function differently to the heroes, with their own threat deck, enemy deck, tokens and playing pieces.
To begin the game a scenario is drawn, either selected or randomly, to indicate the final objective of the game. The gameplay of the Relic board game is quite simple and streamlined. Each turn a player performs four basic phases, the Movement phase, Exploration phase, Engagement phase and Experience phase.
A dice is rolled and a player moves their character that many squares, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. This applies to the outer and middle tiers. The inner tier has its own special style of movement, usually allowing only one square to be moved at a time.
When a space is landed on, icons indicate the threat deck a player must draw from. This represents the threat their character may encounter. There are three icon colours, each representing one of the three character stats and briefly aligning with an enemy. Red representing the Strength Stat and Orks primarily, Blue represents a players Willower and the Tyranid threat, Yellow tests a characters Cunning and represents Eldar. Chaos is also represented in the game, and spans across all colour icons. When a Nemesis lands on a square they have their own threat deck to resolve, which is independent and non-interactive with the hero threat deck. Each tile may also contain a text box, giving some instruction to the players on it
Any rewards a player may acquire generally revolve around upgrades either through levels, by defeating foes and gaining experience, or by receiving items, relics or power cards. Items and Relics generally give characters a stat boost, but may also have other uses. Power cards allow players to use the card abilities, or substitute the card for a dice roll. The correct use of these power cards can be game changing and is intricate to how the game is played.
One nice touch is the introduction of Corruption cards. These cards are usually obtained via the threat deck, where a player has the option of gaining something in exchange for receiving a corruption card. This adds a lot of flavour from the 40k universe and I applaud the use of it. The corruption cards themselves are a mixed bag, most are hindrances but some do provide benefits, tempting you even more next time there is a corruption decision to make.
Player characters have minor interaction in Relic. The base game allows no combat between characters and they usually ignore each other on their quest to gear and level up, and complete the mission. Nemesis breathes a breath of fresh air into this, not only allowing Nemesis to attack heroes, but also to allow combat between heroes. The Nemesis themselves often receive benefits for winning a combat against a hero, whereas as heroes now can make a choice to hinder other heroes.
Defeating threats is again simple and straightforward. Each threat colour corresponds to a heroes statistic. When entering combat with an enemy, both the player and enemy total the value of the stat being used, plus any modifiers, then rolls a dice adding the result to the total. The higher result wins, with either the hero, nemesis or threat being victorious. Any draws result in the end of combat with no adverse effects to any side.
If no threats are present on a tile, then any text on the square will be resolved.
This is essentially a tidy up phase. Any enemy tokens can be handed in for experience. Mission cards are checked for completion and power cards are tidied up.
As previously mentioned , the Nemesis expansion adds four new enemy playing pieces. These are the Khorne Beserker, Tyranid, Eldar Aspect Warrior and a Slaanesh Daemonette. The role of these nemesis are to thwart the players and arrive at their own victory. The Nemesis characters have their own rules. These follow the hero rules very closely but the Nemesis have their own threat deck and nemesis cards, in place of the Relic threat deck and items, power cards and missions. Each Nemesis follows a very different path to victory, primarily focused on one of the three key stats. The combination of threat cards, nemesis deck, special abilities and unique victory conditions really gives each nemesis a unique playing style. Again this feature has been implemented well.
Nemesis also adds a few new Heroes added to the mix. The new heroes follow the rules in the basic Relic ruleset.
The single key, game changing, new rules in Nemesis is the ability for characters to interact with each other. This was sorely needed and turned a fun, but ultimately bland game into something much better.
Finally, Nemesis also increases the players to a maximum of six.
Relic is one of our more frequently played board games. It does carry the feel of Warhammer 40,000 with it. It is fun but I feel the Nemesis expansion is necessary as the game feels rather bland without any player interaction. The alternate objective and different playstyle of the Nemesis characters is also a welcome change.
The main down side of Relic/ Nemesis is the problem also encountered in Talisman,. A small amount of luck (a few lucky runs, victories over threats, or a good draw of cards), can quickly elevate a character to the point of being near undefeatable. This is especially easy if you focus on one stat and then play carefully, particularly when it comes to movement.
Relic is also a long game, we often use the basic scenario so we have a definite conclusion to the game. Other scenarios can add a significant amount of extra time to a game. When we schedule a game, we allow a full 4 hours of an evening. Combine a long game with the ability for a character to get a long way ahead of others and sometimes focus is hard to maintain.
Ultimately I feel like I should love this game, I love the simple mechanics and the 40k universe and background. A lot of the rules and systems implemented really capture that background feel. In the end though, it just misses its mark for me.
I rate the Relic Board Game a 5/10.
The Nemesis expansion raises that for me, to a 6/10.
Relic (including the Nemesis expansion), being the Warhammer 40,000 version of Talisman, suffers many of the same problems as its predecessor. Primarily, once one player’s character has reached a certain point, they escalate quickly and become pretty much unstoppable. There’s also a significant reliance on luck to get you through the game – again this can feed a character’s “event horizon” if enough rolls and cards come up good.
For instance, the game the other night saw one nemesis, the Genestealer, bring few Tyranids out onto the table. Even when they were drawn they were of low enough levels to be destroyed straight away. In this case, luck worked against the player and he found that he hardly progressed for the entirety of the game. On the flip side, in a game prior the Slaanesh nemesis had a resounding string of luck where all the characters drew corruption cards like it was going out of fashion. He rapidly accrued Infamy and won the game resoundingly.
Don’t get me wrong: I want to like the game. I really do. But on a fundamental level, Talisman/Relic is busted. Once someone reaches their escalation point the conclusion is decided. This could be managed by having a sliding scale of rank advances (so you need to get more trophies as your rank increases), but then you might find that the already long game turns into something that needs all day to play.
Regardless of those complaints, the mechanics are simple and the game is strangely compelling. I do enjoy it even though half way through most players become little more than waiting spectators. I can’t explain why I want to play it more, but nostalgia for Talisman probably is a factor, as is the potential for greatness.
Rating 5 out of 10. I’ll play it even though I know I’ll be disappointed in it.
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Contents: Board, extensive list of tokens, cards and dice. This is a hefty boardgame in true Fantasy Flight games style.
Game Style: 2 to 4 players (6 with Nemesis). D6 based, roll and beat target number.
Price: get a price on the Relic Board Game at Amazon (currently 27% off)
get a price on the Nemesis Expansion at Amazon (currently 20% off)
Some pictures of our game in progress are below.