March 16, 2015 by crew
In the dark laboratories of Dirz, a nightmare reawakens!
Hybrid is a miniatures based board game, released back in 2003, by Rackham (oh how I miss them!). Hybrid is set in the same world as their skirmish wargame, Confrontation, and centres around the secret crusade of the Lodge of Hod, as they uncovered and destroy the hidden laboratories of the Alchemists of Dirz.
The Story So Far…
The Lodge of Hod is a secret holy order within the fanatically religious society of the Griffins of Akkylannian. This secret society knows the truth of the death of the their founding father, Arcavius, and the secret that lies at the heart of the Griffin church, a secret so great it would cause a religious schism. So secret is their missions, and so feared by those within the Church of Merin, the Lodge is hunted by the Griffin Inquisitors. But, this does not stop them from carrying out their crusades. In particular, a new threat has risen that they have tasked themselves with destroying.
The Alchemists of Dirz are a society of technomancers, biomages and clones. Dirz, an alchemist of Akkylannia, sought to create the perfect being, a being that represented the true might of the one true god, Merin. However, his research led him down dark paths, befriending the Black Toga, a secret society of mages and nobles who were already learning dark magics. Dirz was eventually banished and hunted down. He and his followers fled to the deserts of Syhar, discovering ancient ruins, and founding the first Shamir – a society formed around science. He also turned to the god of Alchemy, Arh-Tolth.
Dirz of course was not able to live forever, and soon took to sleeping in alchemical stasis chambers, while his own genetics and those of other great warriors and minds were used. Terrible monsters were created by splicing the genetics from the creatures of Aarklash.
Across Akkylannia, hidden, and sealed from the outside, Dirz had created secret laboratories within which new beings and creatures were designed and bred. The scientists were locked in with the creations. And so when the first Shamir was destroyed, and Dirz mortally wounded, these laboratories were forgotten.
Hundreds of years later, and in the Empire of the Scorpion, the Empire of Dirz, through the Dawn Ritual, the god Arh-Tolth was brought into the material world. This act caused all the old laboratories to come back to life. Cloning chambers starting producing new monsters, and in the town of Glasinhar these monsters emerged to kill. So it was that the Lodge of Hod began their crusade.
Tools Of The Trade
With the premise laid out, we can delve into the game contents and how it all works.
Players take on the role of the Griffin and Dirz forces. The Griffin forces in the boxed game consist of three Purifiers, which are Templars of the Lodge who are elite fighters and armed with gunblades. These fighters are then led by a Seneschal and Venerable Ambrosius. Ambrosius is the head of the Lodge and also in game has access to auras which are holy powers that can benefit his comrades. The Dirz forces in the box consist of the massive Aberration, three Hybrids, and four Pests of Flesh. The Aberration is a fusion of flesh and steel, and armed with metal talons and a lip-less maw. The Hybrids, attempts at the perfect human, have faceless metal masks, and blades grafted to their arms, as well as crossbows that fire poisoned darts. The Pests of Flesh are rather puny and weak. They do have a hidden talent. They are internally filled with dragon fire, and so can detonate.
The game contains ten missions that vary in how models are deployed, the objectives that must be achieved, and of course, the layout of the game tiles and doors. Hybrid makes use of a number of square tiles. These tiles have gorgeous hand drawn art work, and marked by a one inch grid, makes the tiles nine squares wide. The tiles have walls marked on them, but no doorways. Doorways are marked using either the 3D doors, and when opened, by passageway tiles that when laid on the board mark a break in the walls. By mixing up the orientation of the tiles, and the placement of the doorways and passage way counters, it offer the opportunity for missions to use many different layouts, and also allows for players to create brand new missions.
How Do We Kill Things?
So, we have the map. We have the miniatures. But how does this game run?
Hybrid uses a D10 system. The aim is to roll under a target value. Fighters in the game have a core characteristic called their Natural Value. This measures their base ability in fighting and actions, and it is also their wounds. So, as a model takes wounds, their ability to fight is diminished. Fighters then have rankings, in Fighting, Defence, Shooting, and Movement. These are a measure of a fighter’s skill in each of those four modes and thus what actions a model may perform when activated. The model might also have access to better options, such as attacks that deal more wounds, acrobatics feats, or the ability to fire past intervening enemies. These rating of course are diminished when a fighter takes wounds. A fighter may also have access to equipment and abilities, which together will add to the Natural Value depending on the action taken.
So far so good.
The turn sequence of the game is an alternating activation sequence that relies on a double blind allocation of activation counters. This means no player knows which order their opponent’s figures will be activated in. This then means there is a level of tactics and bluffing within the game. For example, “will that monster attack next, or is that fighter going to move first and block my exit? If so should I have the Purifier stay in combat and fight, or run for the door?”
To mix the game up further there are Action Point cards that can be used to modify dice rolls, both by increasing the Natural Value for a roll and increasing the rank a fighter has in an action mode – sometimes you really need to deal more wounds at once. Then in addition to that there are event counter on the board, that bring into play Event cards which represent various hazards, equipment and curiosities in the dark of the labs. These cards are also festooned with flavour text that make Magic cards look like light reading.
Overall the game oozes with atmosphere and has a lot of tactical depth. Each mission gives you part of the ongoing story, as the Lodge of Hod hunts down the laboratories of Dirz. Missions can range from full on battles, attempts to steal items from the lab, rescuing fighters, and assassinating others. What about replay value though?
Hybrid not only comes with the profile cards for the models in the box – which are also loaded with flavour text on the reverse – but also more cards for other model in the Rackham ranges for the Griffin and Dirz. Some of these are for characters, like Misericorde, or Sasia Samaris, or for other types of warriors and monsters.
Beyond Hybrid, Rackham brought out an expansion box, Nemesis, which provided new tiles, new cards, new models (the Nemesis clone, the Knight of Hod, and Griffin Minelayer), and even more missions, some of which are played as campaigns. With the covers of Cry Havoc, Rackham also dished out more cards, a new tile for the game, and more missions and playstyles – multiplayer, Diablo style RPG, or using the Cadwallon RPG tiles for missions outside of the labs. This also meant profiles for new models included those from allies for either faction.
For the Griffin, the dwarves of Tir-na-Bor, the Elves of Cynwäll, and the warriors of the Lions of Alahan, joined their ranks. Highlights being the iconic Red Lioness leading the charge into the labs. For the Dirz, reinforcements came in the form of the Ophidian snake-men, and the undead of the Limbo of Acheron. A number of the new missions in that centred on these new factions.
At the time Hybrid cost a fair bit for what you got. What you got though was to a standard that at the time put GW to shame, and only now with various Kickstarter games, are we seeing a production quality that is equal to this. It’s a massive shame that this game is so hard to find brand new, and that Cyanide have really missed out on trying to publish it again – it would be a great gateway game and reintroduction of the IP to the wider gaming market. It would also make an excellent computer game to rival Space Hulk!
If you see it, get it!
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"This secret society knows the truth of the death of the their founding father, Arcavius, and the secret that lies at the heart of the Griffin church..."
"It’s a massive shame that this game is so hard to find brand new, and that Cyanide have really missed out on trying to publish it again..."