News at 6 for Oct. 30th, 2032
Within the last 2 hours it has been revealed that the army special forces units has sealed off a wide area around the old municipal buildings in the heart of Manhattan, and several violent explosions have been heard. No explanation has yet been given for either these of the isolation of the area, but, 40 minutes ago, the head of ASFU, Col. Miller, announced there would be a press conference at 2100 hours.
This is the foreboding beginning of Auroch Digital’s Chainsaw Warrior.
Based on a Games Workshop classic of the same name, Chainsaw Warrior puts players in the boots of the titular cyber-hero as he comes out of retirement to address a dire threat to New York and the rest of the world. Previously a Special Forces soldier, Chainsaw Warrior almost met his end in the closing months of the last great war. Rebuilt as a cyber-commando at the behest of Col. Miller, he is re-activated to deal with the threat facing the city.
At the center of this emerging conflict is a black science phenomenon know as Spatial Warping. Described as reality pinching and contorting, resulting in a gap to… somewhere else.. the latest occurrence of this has had dire consequences. Unlike previous episodes, this time the gap has remained open, and gangs of dark and violent denizens from the other side have poured through, in an effort to take the city. The first two squads sent in to deal with this have failed; only 1 man in 20+ returned to tell the tale. Now, it falls to Chainsaw Warrior to fight his way to the enigma and save humanity from whatever was on the other side.
Now that you have some background, lets dive into the gritty, difficult gameplay that has characterized many of Games Workshops titles, both physical and digital. Players begin by selecting a difficulty from the standard list of Easy, Normal, and Hard. This has a direct effect on character creation and amount of gear available. My recommendation would be to start on easy, and move up from there if you are feeling ballsy, as even the easy mode in this game is fairly difficult.
Players roll up the following statistics (using some number of d6s), with amount of dice and modifiers for each determined by game difficulty: Endurance, Wounds, Hand to Hand, Marksmanship, Reflexes, and Equipment Allotment. Endurance determines how much poison or radiation a player can withstand before dying (these are applied to the character by certain enemies and encounters). Wounds indicates how much physical damage the player can withstand before succumbing to his injuries. Hand to Hand and Marksmanship determine the players relative skills in those two forms of combat, while Reflexes is used to avoid traps, attacks, and certain special events. Equipment allotment does just what it sounds like: determines how many gear choices you are able to take with you. Finally, one last d6 is rolled and compared to a chart to designate a special skill; this skill then modifies one of the previously rolled attributes in a positive manner.
Once statistics are in the book, players select gear. There is a fairly large selection to choose from, including melee weapons, guns, heavy weapons, devices, and clothing/armor. Each item costs a certain number of points from your Equipment allotment, and you should ensure that you spend every single point before continuing. When in doubt, take more devices, as these are KEY to having a successful run at the enemy. I would also heartily endorse both the Chainsaw HTH weapon (obviously) and the Rope Gun device. The former makes you a force to be reckoned with against most of the enemies in the game, as well as giving you a mechanism to cut open locked doors, whereas the latter will get you out of many sticky situations that arise during your slaughter-fest.
Fully kitted, Chainsaw Warrior departs to find the Spatial Warping anomaly and put a (bloody) end to it. Play begins with 2 decks created from mostly random cards, with some light construction rules. The first deck, for instance, will not have any encounters modified by lack of light. The second deck will at some point have the Darkness, the big bad boss, somewhere within its 54 card bulk. Both decks contain this number of cards, and players must tackle all of the first deck before moving on to the second. The second deck can end at any time the Darkness is drawn and defeated.
Play proceeds with players drawing a card off of the current deck, and dealing with whatever comes up. The card’s unflipped side show what type of area you are in, such as corridors, hallways, balconies, and the like. This is primarily for flavor, although some of these location types have game effects as well. This could be enemies (ranging from zombies, mutant rats, and cultists, just to name a few), encounters (including traps, locked doors, secret passages and weapon drops), and even empty areas (you will hope for these, as they give you a breather most of the time, and don’t take your resources). These cards can really vary in difficulty depending on your statistics and gear. The strategy that I found most useful was getting a great hand to hand score, and pairing it with the chainsaw for ease of combat. This carried me through large swathes of both decks largely unhindered.
When an enemy character card flips face up, players normally must fight them before proceeding. Combat is usually handled by rolling opposed stats and comparing them to see a winner. The player may make 1 marksman attack on most enemies prior to entering hand to hand combat. To do this, players roll 2 dice and compare it to their reflexes. If it is under or equal to your Reflexes, you get the shot off prior to the enemy closing to melee range. Assuming they get the shot off, the player then rolls 2 dice, adds his marksman bonus (which is somewhere between -2 and +3), and compares it to a set target number based on the enemy being fought. If he meets or exceeds, the enemy dies (all enemies are defeated in a single successful combat roll; none can take more than 1 hit). If hand to hand combat happens, both sides roll 2d6 and add their HTH stat. High roll wins, with ties forcing another round of rolls. Combat can go on for many rounds, and options for escaping or taking “lucky” marksman attacks within combat become available depending on the outcome of each roll. Lucky shots are somewhat of a crapshoot, as 2/3rds of the results have dire consequences for the player.
Players need to worry about more than just combat, however. Traps will often cause wounds or loss of gear to the player, although depending on your reflex skill and what items you brought, you may be able to circumvent them easily. I was a fan of the Rope Gun for allowing me to avoid chasm traps, as well as allowing me to skip cards in the deck by using it on Balcony cards prior to their flip.
Skipping cards is important for two reasons: first, it does preserve your limited resources (guns and some devices have a limited number of uses), and second, each and every action in the game takes 30 seconds to complete, and the player must finish the game within 60 minutes. These are not done in realtime; rather, time is like a limited resource, giving you and additional foe to manage in the form of the clock. For those doing the math at home, that means you have roughly 120 actions available to you before the clock runs out, and assuming you have to go through both decks in your entirety (doesn’t often happen, but it could) that leaves you at 108 actions, assuming 1 action per card (you will often use many, many more). That potentially gives you a slim margin of 16 actions before time runs out.
Once players make it to the second deck, things get HARD. Twilight descends, making combat tougher as players combat rolls get negative modifiers (this can be mitigated with gear like the torch (flashlight for us yanks) or IR goggles, which eliminate the negatives from darkness). The player continues through the deck until “The Darkness” (notice the capitals) card is flipped. This is the end boss of the game, is supremely tough, and deals out buckets of wounds. I’ll admit to having encountered The Darkness only once thus far over multiple playthroughs, and he mostly wiped the floor with me. I did emerge victorious on our one encounter; not because of my skill with a chainsaw, but rather from sheer, unadulterated dumb luck. Knowing I was going to die after the next roll, I elected for a “Hail Mary” strategy, and took a lucky shot (as explained above). I rolled a 6, 1 of 2 results that would allow me to win. Suffice to say, I felt good about it, and it will go down in my list of gaming experience as legend.
End all be all, Chainsaw Warrior is a fun game for anybody who enjoys tough card/board games. The gritty storytelling and graphics are well done, and the music will be well received by anyone who enjoys John Carpenter-style dark action scores, a la Escape from New York. Those who want an easy game will not find one here; you should probably pass, to be honest. You will lose, and you will lose often. If you haven’t been turned off by this yet, you might check it out. A follow up title, dubbed Lords of Night is also available.
So, what are you waiting for? New York needs you!
Chainsaw Warrior is available on both PC and MAC via your favorite digital distributors, as well as iOS and Android devices.
For those intrigued by this title, but looking for a bit more fantasy in your punishingly hard single player card and dice games, we encourage your to check out Forest of Doom. Read our thoughts on Forest of Doom in our review.
For more information on the classic single player board game of Chainsaw Warrior, click here.