Moe's Game Table: Polyversal Preview
Publisher: Collins Epic Wargames
Game Designer: Ken Whitehurst
Artwork: Bruno Werneck
Ages: 13 and up
Playing Time: 120-240 minutes
Near Future War
Polyversal is the new 6mm miniatures wargame from designer Ken Whitehurst and published by Collins Epic Wargames that brings the challenge and chaos of being a commander in a unique, near future, military sci-fi setting to your tabletop.
The complete box set is stuffed full of everything you’ll need to get started in telling your side of the conflict; rulebook, tokens, dice and models that you select from pre-designated force pools of either UN, OPFOR or both.
The miniatures are being provided by five different manufacturers and are all ready to go, so there will be no delays that have plagued other miniature heavy projects by having to wait for miniatures to be designed and cast.
A huge value-add to Polyversal is that it’s an adaptable sandbox from which gamers can easily use any scale miniatures that they already own, to bring any world they want to life. While the rules are intended for 6mm, it’s also compatible with larger models with some range scaling.
Combined Arms, Mass Combat
The beta copy of the rule book I received was mostly complete, lacking only art, some polish and formatting but was otherwise in good form. Some minor rules were not present as they are in final development but overall I was impressed with the work done. It’s a very easy rule book to follow and will have you up and playing in a very short time.
Units in Polyversal are broken into seven classes: infantry, cavalry, light, main, heavy, super-heavy and colossal and run the gamut from various infantry and recon vehicles to tanks, walkers/mechs and aircraft.
Each of these units are represented by Combatant Tiles, similar to unit cards seen in other miniatures games and they’re pretty slick, not only in form but also function. The smart layout of these hexagonal tiles showcases all of the given model’s stats and during play, counters for orders and effects are placed on them here for easy tracking.
Everything in the game is geared around unit effectiveness, both at the command and individual unit level. Effectiveness dictates who gains the initiative to act first, the physical reach of a command unit’s order capabilities and how well an individual unit fights. While you can make plenty of units go boom, you’re biggest aim in combat is to degrade an enemy units effectiveness on the battlefield.
This is a great equalizer because no single monster unit will always be king of the battlefield if you play it smart when facing them. Taking on an uber tank or walker with massed fire may seem pointless because it can soak up a lot of damage, but those hits could still induce the key component to driving down effectiveness, stress.
Stress is one of several modes of damage a unit receives in combat and is generally the easiest but a very important one, because it is in effect how the game models morale. When a unit takes enough stress without rallying (rolling against your effectiveness number to recover) it can quickly become combat ineffective, if not outright destroyed.
The action in Polyversal is controlled via Battlegroups and at the center of this structure is the Command Unit. This is a unit chosen by you that is responsible for issuing orders to all others in the group and for the unit’s initiative rolls. Orders can only be given to units that are within its command range, which is equal to double their effectiveness number.
For example, a command unit with an effectiveness rating of a d8 has a command range of 16” and so on. If this command unit takes stress, its command degrades to the next level, in this instance down to a d6 using the Dice Type Modifier mechanic which we’ll cover below. Now the unit has a command range of only 12″ which can leave some units orphaned, so screening your command units becomes of paramount importance.
This is something you will have to balance throughout the game because units degrade as they take stress from combat, just as real people do and I like how this personifies your units and forces you to manage their cohesion constantly.
In order to activate your units to move and attack, you must first gain the initiative. This is determined through opposed rolls between the two chosen command units effectiveness ratings, minus any stress (-1 for each stress) they may have taken. The winner has the initiative and may activate a number of units equal to the difference in the roll and the activations alternate.
To illustrate, Unit A with a d8 effectiveness and 2 stress rolls a 6, getting a final number of 4 and Unit B’s d10 with 1 stress rolls a 7, getting a final number of 6. Unit B wins the initiative and may activate 2 units in its battlegroup before Unit A can.
I really dig this mechanic because it keeps the situation fluid and evolving, forcing you to constantly adjust your tactical plan. It also keeps everyone involved and while it’s still an IGOUGO, it’s much quicker and immediate with little downtime for either player.
There is a varied mix of nine different orders that you can issue to units in Polyversal, from standard advance and assault to overwatch and defend, the game offers enough choices without bogging you down in minutiae. The intent is to put you into a game tactical situation that feels authentic without becoming a wearying simulation and Polyversal keeps things on target in a fun and very engaging way!
Putting Steel and Lasers On Target
Streamlined combat is the meat and potatoes of this game and Polyversal has a pretty elegant and interesting system in place to handle it. All weapons are assigned a die type, from d4 through d12 and are color coded for easy visual reference; these are also labeled with text to aid colorblind players which is a great addition that can often be overlooked.
Engaging a target with direct or indirect fire is very straightforward; it must be within range, inside the firing arc of the weapon(s) used and have line of sight, that’s it. No worrying about range bands where effectiveness drops the further out you go, you’re either in range or you’re not.
Attack rolls are quick and dirty; take the total roll of the unit’s three specific targeting, effectiveness and weapon dice and compare it to the evasion value of the target, if it exceeds this number the attack is successful. There are multiple levels of damage that can be applied and a few examples of these are Stress, Destroyed, Immobilized, Fuel Leak or Weapon Destroyed. A simple and easy to follow damage track on the target’s Combatant Tile quickly tells you what the effects of the hit are.
You can also maximize your chances for a better result by linking weapons to gain a Dice Type Modifier. Dice Type Modifiers change the die value up or down as required, similar to how DRM’s work in most wargames. So a d8 gets upgraded to a d10 in a linked fire attack for example, a pretty elegant and a cool innovation in Polyversal.
I love how combat is streamlined in this game, by eschewing charts and opting to not force players to fill in damage tracks on sheets which just wastes time better spent rolling dice and blowing things up. It works very, very well and allows large numbers of models to battle it out on the table in a reasonable time frame.
To round things out are some pretty neat abilities at your disposal; electronic warfare, mines, air droppable units, damage control systems, battlefield repair and some other special attacks to surprise your opponent with. There is just enough chrome to deepen the experience without burdening the system or the players with unnecessary steps.
The main rulebook will come with several scenarios and a full army construction system to allow you to build your forces from scratch when battling friends or designing your own scenarios. This goes hand-in-hand with the unit construction rules which make adapting any model you have a snap, creating stats for any miniature you own within minutes. A VERY useful and easy to use tool that will see plenty of use for backers wanting to add their own minis to the fray!
Readjust or Fire for Effect?
Every so often a miniature game comes along that captures your fancy and lands right in your wheelhouse, for me that’s where Polyversal sits. Not only does the setting sound plausible and fascinating to play in but the streamlined system makes it easy to jump right in and enjoy.
It doesn’t require a lot of prep time to study reams of rules or remember mounds of exceptions, most things that are needed for play can be found on the quick reference guide. There are some special effects that will require a quick reference to the rulebook but not too many that you’ll be searching it every turn.
Some miniatures games can become a victim of their own design, tacking on too much chrome and over-complicating the simplistic. Polyversal doesn’t suffer from that problem nor is it dumbed down. In fact, it hits the right balance of enough complexity to make you think through your tactical choices while remaining streamlined to maintain a fast-paced game that you can easily understand and most importantly, enjoy!
The Polyversal system has a lot going for it; an engrossing story line and framework for gamers to help build upon and expand, astounding art from Bruno Werneck, a self-contained box set with elegant, streamlined rules that you can put right on the table, and an open system from which you can adopt your own models to, in any timeline you wish.
I think Collins Epic Wargames has a winner here for miniatures fans, especially those who love 6mm, an often ignored scale.
Polyversal returns to Kickstarter in early May and for miniatures fans, it’s one not to miss!
Company Website: http://www.collinsepicwargames.com/
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Collins.Epic.Wargames
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/CEWargames
Note: A preview copy of the rules were provided to me.