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High Command is the new tactical card game from Privateer Press, based in their War Machine world. The card game takes a more strategic overview than the miniatures game, which is perhaps to be expected in a game called High Command. What on the tabletop is an army, is merely a resource to be deployed where most needed in this game.
The objective of the game is to get more victory points over the course of your game than your opponents. The principal way to achieve this is by capturing objectives before your opponents. Additionally, the more expensive cards in your deck will themselves be worth victory points, which can make a difference.
The game is for 2-4 players, and works best with the full four players. Four of War Machine’s factions are represented in the High Command box, and each players in the game takes on the role of a different faction. The factions are Khador, Cryx, Protectorate of Menoth, and Cygnar. As with other deck building games, your deck at the beginning is rather basic, and you will improve it over the course of the game. There are two buying resources, Command and War, and you use these to add more cards to your deck. In addition, troops and warjacks have a rush cost. Pay this higher cost and you can move them from your buying track straight into play without having to shuffle them into your deck and wait for them to come back.
Using the cards in your hand you choose whether to spend your available resources buying or deploying your troops.
Capturing objectives is done by having two more troop or warjack cards than any other on an objective at the start of your turn. Buying and deploying troops is doe after capturing, meaning you need to let each other player have the opportunity to contest the objective with you before you can capture it. Each player has three warcasters who can be rushed to an objective to help tilt things your way. They are aggressive cards which cannot help you capture objectives per se, they mainly help you destroy an opposing force. Your three warcasters may be used once per game, so choose wisely!
Once captured, an objective enters your deck and generally provides superior buying ability to the cards you start with. The troops and warjacks used to capture the objective are placed in your occupying forces pile and will play no further part in the game. This means that you have to consider wisely which troops will capture an objective. Deploying your strongest troops may ensure victory, but you will need to spend the next few turns recruiting before you can contest again. The occupying forces mechanic does a good job of keeping the game even, stopping any one player rushing ahead through superior forces.
Each captured objective is immediately replaced by another. Some objectives let you do something when you capture it, usually something small but useful. Each faction has an objective that is worth an extra victory point for that faction alone. It’s worth reading over what each objective does before committing your forces to capture it, or drive an opponent away.
Each round a new Tides of War card is drawn, and one of these ends the game. This is shuffled separately and will be one of the last five cards encountered, so no one know quite when the game will end. Once the Tides of War decks is getting low, you may wish to commit all of your resources each turn rather than holding back for a future turn that may never come.
As with other Privateer Press games, the box for High Command gives no indication of age, players or playing time. Come on, guys. There’s a standard template for this stuff. Use it. It’s an unforgivable oversight. Having played, I’d call this is a 40-80 minute game, playable by 2-4 players, ages 14 and up. There. Was that so hard?
High Command is an enjoyable deck-building game, and you don’t need to be a fan or veteran of the tabletop miniatures game to gain an understanding of how to play. Like other deck building games this one appears highly expanadable. The four factions included are by no means complete. The Convergence of Cyriss, Mercenaries, and Retribution of Scyrah factions are not represented at all. If this game is successful years of expansions await.