January 15, 2014 by crew
It begins in the Year 1631. War rages across Central Europe, hundreds of thousands fighting and dying in the name of their rulers and their God. City-states and nations have been engaged in this conflict for thirteen years, and it shows little sign of abatement. Until, that is, the discovery of the Passages.
No one on Earth can explain the how or the why of the Passages. They link parts of Earth to parts of a New World. It is only natural that men would explore this new land, and declare it for their own. Despite the reality of the location and the entities that already stake their claim to this forsaken land of crimson rivers, mountains of ash and fields of bones.
Welcome to Hell
Hell Dorado is a 28mm skirmish wargame from Cipher Studios, originally by Asmodee. It covers an alternative history where the 30 Years War was interrupted by an unexpected land rush for a New World – not the Americas, but instead, Hell itself. The discovery of multiple Passages to Hell was originally an accidental discovery, but eventually the powers of Europe have invaded Hell to exploit its riches and stake claim on this fantastical land. And they are not alone.
The Demons, led by the Princes of Hell, do not take kindly to the interlopers who seek to cast them out of their own demesnes.
The Lost, the numberless damned of hell, struggle for liberation from the lords of Hell, and trying to establish a safe haven for themselves.
The Saracens, Arabic peoples from our world, have walked the hidden paths of Hell for some time, with Passages of their own.
The Immortals, the followers of Yanlouwang, the Lord of the Dead for Qin, the people of the Jade Emperor.
And finally, the Mercenaries – the warriors for coin, who care little for the goals and beliefs of those they fight alongside; so long as their money is real and coffers plenty.
Each faction in Hell Dorado is strongly themed.
The Westerners are a polyglot of European soldiers – Catholics and Protests, Swedes, Germans and Spanish and more. They tend to specialize in powerful ranged weaponry and heavy armor.
The Demons are the rank and file of the rulers of Hell – a surprisingly orderly collection of demons who seek to protect their lands and cast out the myriad invaders. They have dozens of horrifying powers which exploit their own sinister origins, as well as the fears of their foes.
The Lost are comprised most of Damned – those killed on the Earth Above and fighting their way up the chain of existence in Hell. They specialize in speed, as well as sheer simple brutality.
The Saracens are amazingly good at synergy – they are the strongest faction of buffs and debuffs. Fighting against them you will find even their weakest of soldiers becomes a powerful enemy thanks to their stacking bonuses.
The Immortals are enigmatic – their forces can flip between different statlines based on whether their Light or Dark aspects are in ascendance.
Mercenaries really have a wide array of options, as they are made up of troops from every stripe. Many of them are rebels from their original faction. And in addition to being their own faction, many Mercenaries will work for other factions, and can bring their own special talents to fill gaps for other armies.
How Does It All Work?
Hell Dorado games will generally be 6-15 models on the table, based on faction, game size, and personal preference. Players will get to experience the panoply of Hell through the use of the “Terraformation” rules – basically allowing you to tactically build your battlefield by purchasing terrain, locations and the like as part of the game experience. Hell offers a huge amount of variety in table types, and the rules help support your options for gameplay.
Activation is done through the alternating activation system; I.E. you and your opponent take turns activating one model and performing its movement and actions. This can be altered through the use of Command (see below).
The game uses all d6s for its resolution of actions. For measurement it uses Inches by default but this is easily switched to centimeters. The standard board size is 30”x 30”; rather smaller than many other games where 48”x48” is the norm.
Armies are built around charismatic leaders (called Officers), solo-style Independents, and then rank-and-file Troopers. Officers and Independents come with Command points, which is critical to gameplay. Through careful use of Command points, a Hell Dorado player makes the most of the forces he controls. Judicious Command use wins battles, and makes even lowly troopers well-honed weapons in the game.
Command points are pooled based on models in your force that contribute them, and are spent every turn for some enhancement. Command is spent either as simple boosts to stats – typically through the Vae Victis order, which allows a commander to increase the Combat or Shooting stat of a model by 1 die per command spent. Vae Soli enables you to activate models out of the normal alternating activation sequence.
Furthermore many models have special Orders that are activated through spending Command. These could be powering magical effects or enabling them to hit harder or move faster.
Truly spectacular abilities may require spending Permanent Command – meaning that if used, the Command points are removed from your pool and never replenish. There are abilities of this nature scattered across all of the factions, and if used in the right situation, they can have profound impact on the game. Overused, and they drain your precious Command points dry.
Close Combat is unique in Hell Dorado – both models involved in a particular fight typically strike simultaneously, and combats can certainly end in the death of both models fighting it. There are special models that get to resolve their attacks first – beware of them! Damage on models can degrade their performance – most factions can suffer from a state called “Wounded” which will lessen their stats and fighting ability. Demons, notably, don’t get Wounded, and some rarer models actually get better instead of worse when Wounded.
Hell Dorado has a new supplement on the way, thanks to a 2013 Kickstarter, called Inferno. It includes a wide swath of new models for each of the factions, as well as detailing the new offensive of the Demons against the invaders, led by Lord Abezeth. It’s a great time to get in on this unique game and it’s stunning line of models. So give it a try!
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