Hate (2019) review
At the origin of the game, there is a book. Hate: The Chronicles of Hate is a graphic novel published by Image Comics from the imagination of Adrian Smith. In a universe all in black and white, the author / illustrator plunges us into dark fantasy pure and hard. With very little dialogue, we follow the misadventures of Ver, a character without much charisma or stature who through a hazardous choice will become the champion of Mother Earth. This one will do everything to release it. While accompanying him, we will discover a gloomy world where Man lives only for war and violence. In this primitive side, the woman is nothing but a vulgar object, almost invisible.
Despite a somewhat (too?) classical scenario, Adrian Smith depicts a dark world (some would say too much because of the strong presence of the black color), a violent and ruthless world. The absence of dialogue "forces" us almost to study each square of this graphic novel well to understand the history. War, violence, witchcraft, charismatic characters, monsters of all kinds are on the program and all with beautiful illustrations.
This book is a cult book for any fan of Dark Fantasy. Even if he does not reinvent the genre, he offers a very tasty black and white adventure, as well as colorful characters.
Adrian Smith was famous for his participation in the Warhammer 40000 universe, notably by illustrating Dan Abnett's books and role plays. For a few years, he has been working closely with the game publisher CoolMiniOrNot (since 2017 he is also the main artist) where you will also find his talent in games like Blood Rage, Rising Sun, The Others.
It is therefore logical to find Adrian Smith’s illustrations behind the game Hate. He is assisted by Edgar Skomorowski (Solomon Kane, Rising Sun). Hate is from a Kickstarter. It's even unique to Kickstarter. Indeed, judging this project too mature, CMON decided to make it an exclusivity of this platform.
To adapt the universe of the book as a board game, CMON has called on several designers. Raphaël Guiton (Zombicide), Jean-Baptiste Lullien (AT-43), Alexandru Olteanu (Kick-Ass) and Nicolas Raoult (Massive Darkness) had the heavy task of making a game like the book. This is not the first time they work together especially with regard to the three French authors (including the former excellent publisher Rackham).
Hate is a skirmish game that traditionally pits two players against one another. But not only that ... No, you can play up to six players, as the box suggests. But how is this possible? Hate offers a campaign that allows you to chain clashes according to the number of players. Each clash is composed of two battles. Each battle corresponds to a scenario chosen by the attacking player. Each clash opposes two players, so two tribes because each player embodies a tribe. In the first battle, one player becomes the attacker and the other the defender. In the second battle, we reverse. Each scenario has its own goals, its own battlefield and possibly its own rules. Also note that there are scenarios that offer you two players against one, two against two, everyone for themselves …
So back to the campaign. The campaign offers you a follow-up of your successes or failures. The tribe with the most victory points at the end of the required number of clashes (for two players, the campaign is five clashes) will prevail. This tracking is found using a sheet representing a map of all available territories. At the beginning of each fight, the attacking player indicates which territory they wish to seize. It must be connected to a region that they already have. If the territory is virgin of all tribes, they chooses their defender. If there is already a tribe installed on it, it is this one which becomes the defender. The winner of this first fight takes possession of the territory. They indicates the name (or that of their tribe) on the map. Then, during the second fight, it is up to the defender to become an attacker and thus choose their destination.
The map is composed of several zones: the outer circle, the inner circle and the capital. Each zone offers different bonuses but above all the available scenarios are not all the same. The choice is therefore important according to these two bits of data. The bonuses of a territory are usually used at the beginning of a clash or the first fight. Each territory possessed offers a number of victory points, more and more important at the end of the game, according to whether one approaches the capital or if one moves away from it. But for that, you still do to have them.
Participating in a campaign allows for a very interesting experience. Besides the map that will change according to your victories or defeats, there will be a constant evolution for your tribes.
Each player has a leaf associated with their tribe. This leaf represents your village. There are buildings like the torture chamber or forge, that will serve you during your games. It is possible to upgrade existing buildings and unlock new ones by recovering resources or completing missions (depending on rewards). Villages will evolve based on your successes and actions during a game. They are mostly used during a campaign. The more your village grows and develops, the more it will help you in your battles.
The game proposes to put us at the head of one of the available tribes. There are eleven, all different.
Each tribe is composed by miniatures of a prince (the leader), a champion, a shaman, six warriors (two of whom have different postures) and two young bloods (the novices who are identical). Each figurine has a colored base to better locate it according to its battlefield. The Prince, the shaman and the champion are unique figures. Each tribe has its own character-design. No tribe is like another. Each miniature is associated with a card that represents it’s abilities: number of attack dice, defenses, displacement value, powers (innate or won). In addition to this, each tribe has its own improvement cards (8 in total). Finally, note that some tribes have a capacity of clans.
To vary the pleasures, you also find the presence of mercenaries. These figurines, all unique, are really strong. It is possible to recruit mercenaries during specific missions. But the task is not easy. Once a mercenary has acquired your cause, he joins your army and can be engaged during a battle. He replaces then a warrior or a young blood of your tribe (this one is not dead but will remain in the village). But for this, you will have to unlock your Hall of Heroes, present in your village. You will only have a maximum of two mercenaries (if you have room for). Once one of these warriors dies, they leaves your tribe. When they die, they die.
At the end of each battle, what is called an "intermission" takes place. Prisoners can be eaten or tortured at this time. These acts are not insignificant because they bring you resources or hate and more. The resources (which can also be recovered from the trees during the scenarios) allow your village to improve. Hatred can unlock new improvements, whether general or specific to your tribe. It is also at this time that players update the campaign but also and especially the attribution of the scars of war. Each character knocked out during a scenario and not captured (or released for lack of space) must make a roll of three dice. Depending on the result, they will receive, or not, scars (loss of an eye, hand cut ...). This passage, and especially the way these wounds are described, is very second degrees and rather well brought. A scar is ok, a second and it's death. At the end of the intermission, you move on with the second battle or redo a new clash.
Be careful, a captive that is tortured or eaten, dies. A dead person in a first battle can not participate in the second (if it's a new clash no problem) and at the end of the campaign there is a loss of points. A dead character is reset. In other words, we remove all its scars but also its improvements. Sometimes it can hurt. Especially near the end as you’ll attach yourself to your warriors. It can be frustrating to see your favorite, a survivor of all battles, die and become a mere novice again.
Improvements like scars are represented by cards. Each character is supposed to have sleeves (pity there are only a dozen that are included, not enough for all). The changes are slipped into these card protectors. Your character has updated info in real time. And from one game to another, nothing is easier to see your evolution in the campaign and especially to keep it up to date. It is unfortunate that these cards are a bit fragile and that mixing them may lead to damage (that's what happened to me).
The fights propose very simple resolutions. Each character has an attack and defense value. This value represents the number of dice to throw. Added bonuses are available (forging, support of other units, cards). The number of successes is the number of injuries. The defender does the same and you’ll compare. If the attacker touches at least once, the defender is knocked out. If the defender equalizes or exceeds, nothing happens. A knockout figure is not dead yet and stays on the board. Among the available actions, a warrior close to a KO figurine (friend or foe) can capture it. It is then put on their character sheet. They stay there until the end of the battle or until the warrior in question is also knocked out. During an intermission, these captured figurines can be eaten or tortured. So be careful, there is no friendly neighborhoods in this wild world. A young blood can as well kill a veteran Prince if luck is on his side.
On the dice, there's the traditional face "hit", "defense" but also a joker face. There is also another, the skull. This one corresponds to savagery. Normally, except for some tribes, they get five savage pawns per turn. These are the pieces that allow you to activate your miniatures. Except for Princes and mercenaries who ask for two, a savage pawn activates a miniature. Dice with savage sides will add new pawns to your supply. Each model can only be activated once (except forging power or cards). You’ll leave these pieces next to, to show that they have already played. An activated character can make a movement then an action (and not the other way around). Among the available actions, it is possible to: harvest resources (if you finish your move next to a tree), try to loot a hut (you have to finish moving in a hut), do nothing, fight or pick up a body.
Looting a hut can be profitable but dangerous. Some have warriors ready to defend themselves against the invader. Others, on the other hand, offer no resistance.
When a character is knocked out, the attacker gains a hate. Hates are one of the two resources of the game. They allow, as we have already seen, to benefit from improvements.
At the end of the number of clashes required, according to the number of players who participate, you’ll move to the counting of points. During the campaign, you’ll evolved on two tracks. The first is the resources, the second the hate. To know how many points you have, you take the one you have the least of. This is you base point score. Victories are added to the battles, the dead are taken away from your tribe. And there you go. Whoever has the most, wins. So you have to be careful not only to try to keep your warriors alive for as long as possible, but also to strike a balance between resources and hatred. This condition to gain points (found in many other games) is very clever. It prevents focusing only on the murder aspect or only on the gathering of resources.
With Hate, component quality level, CMON sets the bar very high. The 32mm figurines are awesome. They are without imperfections (even if some players have had breakage following the transport). They are teeming with details. It's really the most beautiful I've seen in the world of the board game and they largely equal to those that can be found in the world of the figurine. The chosen scale makes the thing even more pleasant. On the board, the rendering gives a really good look. The box is full of components and yet everything is simple and quick to install.
The huts, the trays and the trees in 3D, available only during the campaign (and that I did not take this….sniff), make it possible to add relief to a deserted landscape.
The illustrations are beautiful. Little more with the figurines that look like the illustrations. The graphic universe is respected (which seems logical). Nothing is watered down. The dark, gloomy and crooked atmosphere is there. By its theme, it’s an adult game.
In a concern for detail and especially perfection, some black spots could occur with the components. For color-blind people, the possible lack of ease of visibility (the color stands can not necessarily be adapted).
The principal board is too sober, but this side is ultimately in line with the installation mechanics scenarios. Since landscape content can change with each battle (and not the landscape itself), this lack of original customization works perfectly.
The difference in height zones can be a bit difficult to spot. But we end up getting use to it.
Still in the details, the Feast token are a bit hard to see compared to the rest of the plastic components.
Finally, the inserts for upgrade can be fragile (I have some damaged) and it is a pity that CMON did not supply enough to protect all cards characters (it lacks a dozen).
As for the mechanisms, they are simple. There are good ideas, even very, very good ideas, all in the service of simplicity. The parts are fluid. Possible actions are logical. Zombicide managed to simplify the board games, Hate managed to simplify the skirmish games.
No complex actions, no movements to take cover, no measure of distance ... This is all very simple. But not simplistic. The reflection is present. The choices are sometimes Cornelian. On the other hand, those allergic to luck, I can only say to you: “FLY, YOU FOOLS !” Luck is omnipresent. At once, everything can switch around. I really like the possibility for a weak character to kill a strong character on a single stroke. It reminds you of the cruel side of this universe and the fact that no one is safe. But it's clearly not going to please everyone. Heroic actions are present. The reversals of situation also in a battle but even more during a campaign.
The diversity in the scenarios offers a variety of pleasant situations. Even though there are only a few, their choice will depend on the areas to attack, so you can easily avoid the fact of constantly replaying the same way. Not to mention also that it is possible for players to create their own scenario (we have begun to try this).
The duration of a game is pretty amazing. Sometimes it can go very fast. On average, battles can go up to an hour, but war a lot longer. The system of savagery to activate our figurines forces us to make choices, and to regain them makes it possible to surprise the others.
The campaign mode is very pleasant to play. The evolution of our characters is simple to perform. But even here, the choice is important. The intermissions are fun to perform and the scarring system is very fun. The tracking on the map is a small bonus. We find ourselves telling stories, to follow our characters and get attached to them.
Hate is more than a very nice surprise. It's a game with simple rules and extremely fun. It's also a really beautiful game. Just the illustration on the box is amazing! I really like what Adrian Smith does, so when combined with incredible figures. Wow! It is a real pleasure to dive into again and again in this gloomy, violent and addictive universe. I didn't really expect it. And yet, I find it really great. Not in the complexity or in the reflection that it could generate, not in a potential puzzle to solve. No, Hate is pure fun. Simple, brutal, violent as the universe it lives in. If you like skirmishes a little bit, I can only advise this to you. For me, it is clearly an essential game for those who love the ameritrash.
Technical Score 9.95 / 10
The miniatures are awesome! The cardboard quality is good, the cards are nice. This is close to faultless, as some minor defects however prevent it.
My BGG Score 10/10
(Exceptional, still wants to play it)
Maybe not the most strategic, nor the most tactical, but it is clearly fun in the pure state. Simple, easy to set up, a well done campaign system. A success.
Combined Score 9.975 / 10
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