I wanted to share some thoughts and observations Iíve made playing with some newer players. Some concepts are confusing or unclear, while others just get missed. There have been a few posts and questions in chat about some of these concepts, so here are the notes I have. Feedback is welcome!
First, a glossary of a few key terms you'll see discussed:
Pin: A pinned unit can not attack or take an action during combat, but they can defend.
Artillery: Denotes if the unit is an Artillery unit. This will appear in the effect text.
Damage: Two points of damage on one unit will kill that unit. A single point of damage may be repaired.
Kill: Killing a unit removes it from play. Many units kill outright, whereas taking two damage will also kill a unit.
Light Armor: Light Armor can take a maximum one point of damage, and then it is killed. This will be denoted in it's effect text.
Heavy Armor: Downgrades damage one step when being applied to the unit. A kill becomes a damage, a damage becomes a pin. You cannot (offensively) pin a unit with Heavy Armor.
Negates Heavy Armor: A unit with this ability does not have its damage downgraded when applied to a Heavy Armor Unit.
Tough: A tough unit is cheaper to repair. Typically, this is half cost. If a unit is tough, it will state so in the effect text and tell you the repair cost as well.
Swap: Allows you to swap a card from play with another card either in play or in your hand (the card will state which)
Reserve: A unit played directly from your hand into combat. Reserves are shuffled back into your deck during combat if undamaged, otherwise they are discarded. Any unit type after the '+'
on a doctrine can be played as a reserve.
There are four card types:
Additionally two types, Units and Factories, are further divided into subtypes:
Infantry (Green Infantry Symbol)
Support (Green Gun/Artillery Symbol) <------ NOTE: This does NOT mean it's an artillery unit.
Armor (Red Tank Symbol)
Fighter (Blue Crosshair Symbol)
Tactical/Bomber (Blue Bomber Symbol)
Support Units (Provided by Bakta)
Note: As support units seem to be a confusing issue to newer players, this section will explain that type of card in detail - Mr. Tauntaun
Supports units are identified with a green gun icon on their top left corner.
Type of Support Units
Support Units comes in five types to this day:
To qualify as an Artillery, a support unit must have artillery printed in bold in it's text box.
They usually have a Up/Down arrow printed in either Artillery or Battle Phase allowing them to be swapped with other units. Allowed type of units to be swapped with are described in the text box. Some swapping is specific, e.g if the text mention artillery then you will be only able to swap played card with a card with "artillery" printed in bold on it, either from hand or from face up cards according to text. So to fully be able to use those cards, one may have to keep an artillery card in hand at all times.
Some cards' abilities can destoy/pin them.
To qualify as an AA, a support unit must have AA printed in bold in it's text box.
They can be deployed in defence against all aerial doctrines.
To qualify as an Obstacle, a support unit must have Obstacle printed in bold in it's text box. Some cards, like the engineers, affect them specifically.
To qualify as an Fortification, a support unit must have Fortification printed in bold in it's text box.
They are only deployed in defence. To this day, very few cards affects them specifically.
Some cards, like the Katyushka, are neither AA nor Artillery.
Deploying Support Units
A support unit can be deployed in place of any other second infantry deployed.
1- An attacker using "Infantry" doctrine uses 3 infantry units. Only 1 out of these 3 can be a Support unit, whatever the type.
2- A Defender against a "Massive Attack doctrine", has to deploy 2 units, and up to 2 more as reserve. Should he deploy one infantry, the second one can be a support unit. Should he add a second infantry from reserve, he then may too add a second Suport unit from reserve also.
Swapping Support Units
It is important to keep in mind that swapping takes place before damage in any given battle phase.
Headquarters are a special kind of cards with unique, global and/or passive effects. You deploy them as you would a unit card, and they remain on the table for the duration of the game or, in the case of Propaganda Machine, when used. These cards are difficult to use, but when used properly they can be a game changer. Each HQ card will detail how and when to use the card. Note that cards with passive effects do not stack (ie are not cumulative).
Infrastructure is a very important concept to understand. Infrastructure is a shared resource pool. It governs how many cards you can draw and how many factories you can put out in one turn. You start the game with 3 infrastructure. That means you can put out 3 factories and draw no cards, or 2 factories and 1 card, etc. You need to plan ahead, as the drawing and armament phases are far apart. You will draw cards from a fresh infrastructure pool, so remember to leave some left over if you want to play any factories next turn.
Just remember factories played plus cards drawn cannot exceed your infrastructure.
IMPORTANT: During the armament phase, you have the option to sacrifice (discard from play) 1 Airplane, Tank and Weapon factory to PERMANENTLY increase your infrastructure cap by +1. The bonus lasts the remainder of the game. So if you up your cap to 4, it will always be 4 unless you raise it again. There is currently no mechanic to reduce infrastructure at this time. It is generally unwise to raise your infrastructure above 6, as you can only have 6 cards in your hand at a time. Many games will see an increase to 4, 5 is rare, 6 is extremely rare and I have never seen 7, but have heard of it happening.
There are five phases in a turn:
Armament (play cards)
Combat (fight with armed cards)
Production (Have your factories produce their goods and refresh your infrastructure)
Repair (Repair any damaged units)
Draw (draw new cards)
Combat takes place when on player plays a doctrine, commits forces to that doctrine, and the enemy opposes with his own units. This brings up another window where the fighting takes place.
Combat is broken down into three distinct phases of its own and take place in the following order: Artillery - Battle - Close Combat
What your units can do is reflected in the three boxes under their names.
Once any unit is used, it becomes pinned.
A few things to note about battle:
- All damage is assigned per phase before moving onto the next. This becomes important, as you can prevent your enemies units from acting if you play your cards right.
- You cannot assign multiple types of different damage during the same phase and allow them to stack. For example, if you are hit with a Pin(Infantry) and a Damage in one phase, you can not pin and damage the same infantry unit during that phase. You must pin one infantry, and damage another unit. There are a few exceptions, but this is the general rule.
- You cannot kill a damaged unit with a kill token if an undamaged unit is present. You can't apply a kill to a damaged unit until all units left are damaged. EXCEPTION: Targeted kills. If you have a Kill Tank token, the only tank is damage and no other units are, you still have to kill the tank. Also, if your opponent has the ability to assign damage to your units, he may assign that damage as he pleases without restrictions (IE Killing a damaged unit with a kill token).
- Some units have very situational abilities in some phases of combat that can be wasted. The most common instance I see of this is the Engineer. In the artillery phase, he can be deployed to kill an obstacle. If there are no obstacles present, this will WASTE the engineer's attack. The game will still allow you to attack in this phase even if no obstacles are present, so you need to be careful.
Reserves are an integral part of your army. They allow you to mount an adequate defense without crippling your offense. But they can be difficult to use properly. A reserve unit is one played from your had directly into combat. Once in combat, you will see a small token on your card (looks like a person) denoting it is a reserve. If a reserve ever takes even one point of damage, it is discarded. Otherwise, it returns to your deck to fight another day. There are three ways I have found to use reserves effectively:
Defensive Surprise: Lure your opponent into a fight then turn the tables on them. Get them to commit that pesky Tiger Tank to battle with no other tanks, then drop a Heavy Armor killer ATG
or artillery down. Or drop an artillery unit to allow you to control the battlefield. A reserve employed in this way can really swing the tide of the game to your side.
Defensive Fodder: In almost all cases, a reserve unit is not nearly as important as one already on the table. This means you can deploy a reserve with either the intent to sacrifice it or to do some damage and take a bullet for another unit. In either case, you are deploying the unit knowing you won't get it back. When using reserves in this fashion, make sure you do so efficiently. This means either taking a kill shot, to save a unit in play, or take two damage to save a unit (or units) or keep repair costs down. Don't ever apply a single point of damage to a reserve unless you have no other choice. There are a few exceptions, such as if you are weak vs. heavy armor you won't want to sacrifice your anti-HA cards in this way.
Attack: A few doctrines allow you to deploy reserves as part of your attack. Maskirovka and, to a lesser extent, Infantry Probe excel at this. This gives you the tremendous advantage of seeing what your opponent deploys for his defense before all your forces are committed. The attacker always deploys reserves first, so keep that in mind as your opponent can still play his defensive reserves. This can lead to some consistently devastating surprise attacks.
A few things to note before reviewing each of the combatants. Each faction has their own strengths and weaknesses. Each has two (Except the Comintern, who have three) faction specific attack doctrines, one faction specific kill doctrine, and one General/Field Marshal in the collection. Generals are not 'unique' in game play terms, so you can have multiple copies on the table at the same time.
Strengths: Infantry, Inexpensive Units, Powerful in Close Combat, Plentiful Armor, two 3 point Doctrines, Surprise Attacks
Weaknesses: Airpower, Low quality Armor, can stagnate
Attack Doctrines: Maskirovka, Deep Operation, Massive Attack
Kill Doctrine: Attrition (Sacrifice a unit of your choice to kill and enemy unit of the same type)
General: Zhukov (Support Unit. Swap with any other legal unit in the artillery phase and unpin that unit)
Possibly the best faction for new players to play due to the many options available. The Comintern's main advantage lies in Infantry. It has good quality infantry and a lot of them. And, for the most part, they are cheap. As infantry is needed in every deck for defense, this is already a large feather in their cap. Their three point doctrines both revolve around heavy tank use. As the Comintern has a lot of tanks, you can use them as attrition and wear your opponent down with an armored onslaught. Maskirovka is a very popular deck design, as it's cheap and allows you to launch many surprise attacks utilizing your reserves. The down side is they only have one quality armored unit (IL-2, equivalent to a German Tiger) and that can sometimes make you gun-shy to commit them against superior forces. They also have a propensity to stagnate. The Comintern can get off to a blazing start, but a hand or two of bad draws can really halt your offensives in their tracks. Infantry deployment slows or stops, or you lack the reserves to play a Maskirovka. This gives your opponent a valuable window to counterattack. Balance is very important to keep this chance to a minimum.
Strengths: Armor, Kills things dead in Battle Phase, Units favor killing over damage, Heavy Armor
Weaknesses: Artillery, Many units narrowly focused, very expensive units
Attack Doctrines: Blitzkrieg, Kesselschalcht
Kill Doctrine: Stossgruppen (Sacrifice any infantry unit that can attack to kill an enemy ground unit of your choice)
General: Rommel (Infantry Unit. Swap with any tank in the artillery phase and unpin that unit)
The Axis kills stuff dead. And then blows it up again for good measure, because they can. This all comes at a very high unit cost and upkeep, however. So factory balance and cheap:expensive unit ratio need to be considered carefully. If properly built, the Axis can present the most powerful battle phase in the game, allowing for multiple Kills/Damage/Pins in that one phase to decimate a defense. As all attacks need to be resolved before the next phase, they have the ability to guide what units they want killed. Axis units, while very good at what they do, tend to be specialized. Their aircraft either intercept or kill ground units. Their tanks kill tanks or damage. Given the high cost and a bad draw, this can make for some very difficult defensive battles. Their Motorcycle Infantry, however, is tremendously useful in getting the units you need on the battlefield there, either proactively or reactively. You'll probably need to play test certain deck types a few times before you get the hang of the Axis.
Strengths: Airpower, Artillery, Quality Units, Versatile, Battlefield control, Only faction capable of destroying factories
Weaknesses: Armor, No 3 point Doctrine, No Faction HQ, Moderately Expensive, Least Useful General
Attack Doctrines: Strategic Bombing (Airpower-Destroy Factories), Fire Superiority
Kill Doctrine: Victor Target (Pin 2 Artillery, kill target ground unit of your choice)
General: Patton (Support Unit. Swap with a tank of your choice in the artillery round and unpin the current doctrine)
The Allies are probably the most difficult faction to play. Lack of a 3 point doctrine, the least useful general and no HQ add up to an uphill struggle. Hold on, not so fast. They are also a lot of fun and have the most creative potential. The obvious route is airpower, given their doctrines and high quality aircraft. Artillery/Support is another viable route. You can do an infantry attack, or tank attack. You can also get super creative, make an infantry attack deck with Forward Air Controllers and a few B24 Liberator bombers to destroy a few factories at the same time. Or play a lot of artillery and constantly swap out cards; your opponent will have no idea what's coming. The Allies are tremendously versatile. They can perform just about any strategy moderately well, and excel at a few others. All it takes is some creativity.
The Golden Rule of 3
Early on, balance is very important. As you learn more about the game and how to best take risks, you can move away from the rule of 3, but for a balanced deck I recommend the following:
1/3 Defense (this should primarily be infantry, but can mix some support units as well)
1/3 Offense (units needed to support your starting/main doctrine, as well as additional doctrines and HQ cards)
A few reasons for this. First, 33% factories will give you enough to build, unpin and repair without having to prioritize too much. Second, and most importantly, statistically speaking, 33%
factories gives you the best chance to draw a least 3 factories in your initial 10 card draw. This will enable you to get a good start going, and units out quickly.
So, that leaves us with 2/3s of a deck to play with. The next step is defense. A majority of this third should be filled with infantry, and with a few support cards. Consider your doctrines. Put in infantry that will not only help you in defense but can also have an important dual role in your offense. Statistically, you should draw an infantry or two in your starting hand. They are always good to hold onto as you will need them eventually, and they tend to be on the cheaper side. REMEMBER: Tanks, planes and big guns are cool and make enemy units no more, but your infantry is king of the battlefield.
Defense should also include any cards your deck may be weak against. For example, Allies tend to have a lot of trouble with heavy armor. It's good to throw in 2-4 ATGs and/or Victor Targets (depending on deck makeup) to combat that. Or, if your deck is weak vs. air power, 2-4 AA guns should find their way in. They have a primary purpose as a deterrent, but can also be used as fodder or a valuable attack asset if they are not needed for their primary role.
Lastly, the Offensive third of your deck. These are the cards that will pack the punch for your doctrines. Typically this will be tanks, planes and strong support cards. But this can also include some more powerful or specialized infantry, such as Engineers or Mortars. Tailor to your starting doctrine first and foremost, and put in other doctrines that can make use of the same cards. For example, if Blitzkrieg is your starting doctrine, make sure you fill this third with enough tanks and planes to make it work, and throw in Combined Arms and/or Air Support as secondary/tertiary doctrines.
Again, this is not a hard and fast rule, but merely a guide to help you along. Some of my decks still adhere to this rule, others have drifted far away from it. As you continue to learn, you will form your own deck strategies.
Another step in deck building is keeping healthy ratios of cards in your decks. For example, Combined Arms requires a Tank/Infantry/Infantry. If this is your starting doctrine, you will want to include one tank for every two infantry in the deck. Additionally, your factories will want to have (roughly, depending on the cost of your cards) 2 WF for every 1 TF. If you want to be really precise in your ratios, add up and average the costs of your cards. If your average tank costs 2 TF and your infantry costs 1.5 WF, that says you want a ratio of 1:1.5 TF:WF (as you have half as many tanks as you do infantry).
Again, this is a guideline and not a rule, but can really help in balancing a deck.
Overall, this game has a small learning curve, but most kinks can be worked out after a few games. Above all else, keep at it. If you are unsure how to do something, or why something happened the way it did, ask your opponent in the chat. We're all a helpful bunch, and would be more than happy to talk about what happened.
The HOI: TCG is a very fun game, and I look forward to it's eventual deployment, as well as future expansions and some of the unseen promo's. I believe with a little help, we can all make this a successful venture.