Kharnage: YEAARGHH! - Crush your enemies and hear the lamentations of their players!
I’ve waxed lyrical about the Devil Pigs in previous articles; their addictive pulp graphical style combined with the exciting and challenging Heroes System produced the excellent Heroes of/Shadows over Normandie series which are without a doubt two of the best Wargames out there. With a very good baseline established, the Devil Pigs are now looking to branch out with some different games and the first one we’re getting a good look at is Kharnage!
Kharnage: YEAARGHH! And yes, I do insist on using its full name, is a strategic (but not too much so) and brutal (very much so) card game designed by Yann, Clem and the rest of the Devil Pigs team and of course featuring the jawdropping visuals of Gaël Denhard.
The goal in Kharnarge is to take control on the strategically essential, astoundingly beautiful, envy of all other nations…hill. Yes, just a hill. Admittedly it is a nice hill. It may or may not have a very commanding view of the surroundings, or it may not. You won’t know until you get up there! To do so you’re going to have to drive of the armies of the other players by simply causing as mayhem and bloodshed as possible. Oh yes. If every Tarantino film could be rolled into a card game, this would be it.
Each player takes command of one race’s army, whether it be Human, Orc, Goblin or Dwarves. You can also mix some Mercenaries in here for an extra dab of chaos. This earns you the right to take that faction’s Army and Command Card deck (2&5) as well as its generals (3).
Killing in the name of
Command Cards decide how your turn plays out. You start with a hand of these (8) and must play one at the beginning of each turn (4). Each one shows:
- Initiative Value: The player with the lowest initiative value goes first.
- Reinforcement Value: These are the number or army cards you can draw and play this turn. Red flags are normal units where black flags can be generals and special characters.
- Attacks: These are the kind of attacks your units can perform this turn. Will it be a thundering charge, a hail of arrows, or both?
- Power: These are special abilities that can affect your units during that turn.
Army cards represent the units in your army/horde/rabble. They are placed in front of you (7) and are always turned to face the hill in order to make things more visible for your opponents and also so that they can see the impending doom charging towards them!
Units can be placed in the First, Second or Third line of attack depending on the symbol on their card. All units can attack during a turn in waves with the more powerful units hiding out at the back. If you want to get at them, you’ll have to grind your way through the meat shield first.
Army cards show:
- Defense value: How much damage you need to deal to them in order to destroy them.
- Attack types: These show what kind of attack the unit can perfom.
- Skills: Some units have special abilities indicated by these icons.
Some rather monstrous units such as giants can take up more then one card! If you draw one of these you immediately go and find the missing half from your deck before placing them in your battlelines.
King of the Hill
The player with the lowest initiative gets to attack first. When attacking you execute the attacks show on your battle card from left to right. Melee attacks can be directed towards any adjacent (left or right) players. Ranged attacks can target anyone.
The player’s lines attack one after the other. You add the total attack value of that line together and direct it towards another player’s army where you can spend attack points to destroy enemy units (depending on their defense value). Any unused points are lost. Note that you can opt to split your points between two players and if you do so these points are rounded up in the case of an uneven split! Any destroyed cards are taken by the attacking player as trophies for later.
If you manage to wipe out the entire enemy army then you’ve caused a real KHARNAGE! You can should Kharnage! out and thump the table and if you break the table you win the game. Ok maybe not but that kind of rule wouldn’t be that out of place in a game like this. In reality you get a Kharnage token which is worth more points at the end of the game. On top of that your opponents have to reply to your bestial cry with YEAARGHH! Or they lose a Kharnage point if they have one.
Once the player has finished crushing his enemies and hearing the lamentation of their women the turn is passed to the player with the next lowest initiative score until all players have taken a turn.
Each player then tallies up the total of all the units he has defeated and the player who perpetrated the most mass murder that turn takes the 5 point Domination card, the second player most apt at slaughter takes the 3 point card and the bronze killer takes the one point card. Any other players have obviously not reaped enough death and glory that turn so they get nothing. After players throw their cards onto the hill. In the final version of the game there will be an image of the now dead unit so you’ll be creating a mountain of dead cards as the game goes on!
The game ends after the turn that players place their final battle card and the players tally up their number of Domination points with each Kharnage token worth 1 extra point. The player with the most domination points wins the game and the fabulous, corpse splattered hill!
I feel like the Pigs have struck the perfect balance between the quick and easy card game genre and something a bit more tactical. When you sit down to a game like this, you don’t want it to last too long, which Kharnage doesn’t, but you also don’t want it to be too simple or brain dead, which it certainly isn’t. Sure the principles are simple; murder the living daylights out of everything around you, but the simple goals and rules of the game do hide some complexities that mean even strategy veterans will get a kick out of it.
Cleanup on aisle 5
The balanced, fairly similar (outside of a few racial particularities) decks mean that, sooner or later, everyone will have access to their full arsenal. With this in mind you have to manage your battle cards, initiative and reinforcement values and any eventual special powers that could turn the tide of battle. Once again, everyone has the same tools at their disposal, card draw aside, and everyone will get to use all their cards so there are plenty of opportunities for the tides to turn.
Battles don’t seem as simple as it may first appear also. The aim of the game being to eliminate as many cards as possible. But sometimes you may want to go after the tougher units in order to deprive an adversary of a hard hitting unit. Even if it costs you a few domination points, taking out an enemy’s giant is generally worth it. I like how this system encourages you to not pile onto one player too. Sure you should always go for a KHARNAGE! if you can but sometimes it’s more advantageous to take out more units from multiple players in order to vie for Domination points.
This is Devil Pig once again at their best. Kharnage is everything you’d expect from a game whose title replaces a C with Kh and whose subtitle sounds like some sort of drunken bellow. The way the gameplay interacts with the layout and then the artwork is masterful. The way you use the different battle lines to fight your enemy and protect other troops, the way the card layout looks like a real army and then the way those dead cards then all become a pile of corpses on the greatly coveted hill is just perfect. All three elements work together to create an immersive experience that conveys the games theme perfectly. I’m going to get the chance to try this one out at the Cannes Festival next week and I’m already giddy at the tought of the Kharnage I’ll be able to reap! Following that, look out for this on Kickstarter towards the middle of the year!
You can find out more about the game and download a first draft of the rules on the Devil Pig's Website!
The images shown in this article are works in progress.