A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Victory Point Games office. While I was there, I playtested their upcoming title Assault on Galactus Prime with the game's designer and had a wonderful time. As the release date for that game approaches, I'll post a review of that gem. I was also able to meet one of my favorite game designers -- in both computer and print games -- Chris Taylor. When it comes to game mechanics and concepts, it just seems that Chris Taylor has a direct link into my subconscious. Either that or we have been having secret psychic discussions about games, books, movies, etc. for decades.
A perfect example of how his designs seem custom made for me is Forlorn: Hope.
Forlorn: Hope has a familiar and well loved theme...Marines vs. Aliens. Ever since I first read Heinlein's Starship Troopers, I have been a fan of the genre. I own a number of games that follow the theme: Bughunters, Starship Troopers, Space Hulk, Death Angel, Aliens, Doom of the Eldar, to name a few. Basically, if it has a small squad of outnumbered and desperate combatants facing off against a rapidly populating army of insectlike foes, I'm game.
When Forlorn: Hope was released last year, I was jonesing for a new addition to the genre. In actuality, I was jonesing for a game of Space Hulk 1st edition, but was having trouble finding one at an affordable price on eBay. I owned the 2nd edition, but I wanted to play with the original "d6" based rules. During this time, I happened to be reading one of Victory Point Games bi-weekly reports and noticed that they were featuring a new game by Chris Taylor called Forlorn: Hope. As I was already a fan of his, and of VPG, I immediately ordered a copy. Not long after this, Games Workshop released a limited edition of Space Hulk 3rd edition which used the mechanics of the 1st edition, so that itch was scratched. I carried my copy of Forlorn: Hope around for months, including to last year's Gen Con, but the stars never aligned to put together a play session.
That changed this last weekend, when most of my regular gaming group was unable to attend our regularly scheduled gaming schedule due to the game day falling upon a holiday weekend. It turned out that only one of my regular gaming group, Eric Lytle, was able to stop by. Thankfully, Eric is one of the few members of my regular group who loves board games as much as I do...and he's a fan of the Marines vs. Aliens genre to boot. I pulled out my copy of Forlorn: Hope, went over the rules with Eric, and played two quick scenarios. All of which took slightly more than two hours. The rules were clear, the play was quick, and the game exciting.
The rules to Forlorn: Hope are simple enough for the beginning gamer, but dynamic enough to satisfy the veteran.
One player takes the role of the space Marines who venture aboard a savaged space station named Hope. These Marines have been given a mission objective that must be fulfilled. The other player controls the Xeno "Mind" and seeks to devour all of the delicious Marines foolish enough to venture onto the Hope. The missions define the make up of the Marine squad and the forces available to the Xeno "Mind." The players set up according to the basic rules, and the Xeno player will draw a number of "mutation" cards which can affect game play as the mission unfolds. At the beginning of each turn the Marine player rolls to determine how many Action Points he or she has to spend on actions, every movement or shot that the player wants a Marine to do requires the expenditure of points. The Xeno player gets to activate every living Xeno during his or her turn. Play goes quickly and the combat resolution system is quick and deadly. The temptation is to play cautiously as the Marine player, but each scenario has a limited number of turns for the player to fulfill the objective and play must be fairly aggressive to succeed.
Our two sessions were bloodbaths, but the Marines did manage to recover the "Master Control General Function Neuralnet" from the Hope in both instances. Forlorn: Hope manages to capture the hopelessness, desperation, and horror of the best sessions of Space Hulk while keeping game play simple enough that the action never bogs down into rules discussions.
Like most VPG games the game is fairly expensive, but the games are crafted by hand by a company that is dedicated to making every gamer into a game designer. VPG is the only game company that I can think of that considers themselves both a company and a classroom. Given how quickly a session of Forlorn: Hope goes by, and considering the replay value due to different scenarios and mutation card effects, there is a lot of bang for your gaming buck in this product.