We could stop at the artist-hermit’s name and let his achievements speak for themselves in selling this game, but there’s a little more to it than that, and we’d like to issue a slightly longer than usual Starter here and go into first impressions territory.
The world of HATE (so hateful it’s written in all caps) was penned by the aforementioned uniquely twisted (in a good way) individual in a couple of graphic novels that sell their plot through style and prefer to tell a story via images rather than copious amounts of text.
As you can see from the images strewn across this article, it is dark, depressing, brutal, and entirely not kid-friendly. It is as adult a medium as it can get, with kidnapping, suffering, mutilation, slit throats and slavery being front and center in the opening pages of the first volume.
The general visage of the universe has seeped into the skirmish boardgame at hand, also titled HATE, published by CMoN and currently racking up the funds on KS after getting funded in under 30 minutes.
Its selling points (aside from the gruesome take on life in general) are top-quality miniatures, a campaign-mode that sees your faction grow in strength following each battle, and many thematic elements like the ability to literally feed your enemies to the fire for the benefit of your people. Which is all well and good in our book.
The more HATE, the merrier.
While I’ve not read (or rather seen) the second volume of the series in its entirety yet, I have to say I did not feel the need for a game to outline the setting in such a way as HATE: TBG does.
More to the point, the big battle in Vol. I, while sprawling and masterfully blending dozens of characters into one big, noisy affair replete with blades, spikes, bulging muscles and raging beasts, was to me but a side plot to the unlikely hero’s journey that Worm embarks upon.
What’s more disconcerting though is CMoN trying to sell it as mature but not in the sense that is described in the book, rather the kind of cheapened “mature” a 5th grader acts like behind their parents’ backs… Have a video so you can see what we mean…
CMoN have opted to go loud and dumb (down to the full-cringe trailer-voice guy) rather than brooding and subdued, and while the imagery is definitely in line with what we get in the comic, the take on it left me giggling awkwardly and facepalming instead of doing awed double-takes like when I first saw Smith’s work.
Some have pointed out that this is intentional, that they’ve gone for the cheesy 80s-90s action movie factor, but seeing as they’ve been building this up as setting/game with an adult theme that deals with death and damnation, and taking themselves very seriously in doing so, you’ll understand where the disconnect comes from.
If this game were a soundtrack, it would try to pay homage to War Pigs and end up switching genres altogether, coming up with the most offensive-for-the-sake-of-it rap song, with a horny teenager consulting on the “edgy” bits and Vanilla Ice performing. At the town fare.
Yes, I’m 25 years old and can come off as a pissed off octogenarian. I blame Russian bots for it.
Of course, it bears mentioning I have nothing against offensive content and am jumping out of my happy boots to see something stemming from such a gruesome place make it to a rather mainstream platform, and coming from a highly respected/well known publisher (and immediately getting a strong “why is this happening?! WHY?!?” reaction from some boardgaming groups and forums I’m in, much to my and others’ amusement…)
But when you seize such an opportunity only to slather it in a puerile take on the whole shebang you’re definitely going to lose out on some of the support you’ve garnered, as comments on the game’s Facebook page have started to bear witness following the video reveal.
Glossing over that, I get to another point which others also seem to have a spiked bone to pick with: the lack of a sprawling display of troops or a zoom in on a Worm-like gang that the comic displayed… I genuinely thought that this would be found in one form or another in this game, but instead we get a different PoV that has little to nothing to do with the (arguably thinly veiled) plot of the book, and rather a take on the universe itself than the actual comic so bear that in mind.
We have a gridded board which blindsided me something fierce as this never in a million years worked as a wargame played in such a limiting environment. This means that the number of troops (11 models a side, with 51 models as a starting point in the box and plenty already unlocked as SGs) are also limited, so that’s another strike against it in my book.
Second, this seemed more of a setting that built up to face-offs that were over in a flash, and through highly mystical, primordial means, all the while teasing an all-out war in the background. I just don’t see this happening here with the thin veneer of not exactly groundbreaking mechanisms layered on top of the strong visual presence.
Safe to say the quality of the components will be top-notch, as CMoN are known for this, and the miniatures added through SGs by the end will be so bountiful this will probably be worth it for the resale market alone. And don’t berate me for preaching dodgy resale, “price-gouging” practices, I’m (sadly) not the one doing it...
One of the biggest pluses the game has is it’s one of the first ones that hops the civ-building and skirmish battle train that Kingdom Death: Monster or Gloomhaven have successfully brought about before.
Your characters, regardless of which of the tribes available in the main box you choose are all individuals and act accordingly gaining skills, equipment, and powers, but suffering wounds as well, all of this managed via the same kind of transparent card overlays that the game (not unlike Gloom) uses to showcase character evolution.
The gameplay doesn’t seem to hold anything new or exciting for the genre, looking like a run-of-the-mill troop vs. troop card-aided dice-chucker with a little positioning and terrain awareness thrown in, as I alluded to before.
The small model count will make for a rather involved take on things both on and off the battlefield, having to manage both a handful of soldiers in combat as well as ensure their long-term survival. And these kinds of skirmish games on the constant up and up recently, with even indie ones like Frostgrave going from strength to strength, there’s definitely a market for this and I think there’s little to no chance of it not hatefully breaking down the $1MLN mark on sheer looks alone and going well beyond that.
Another strength comes in the form of tribe-specific action decks which speak of even more differentiation between warring factions, conceivably aiding in replayability once you’re done with a campaign. And if you’re not into long conflicts taking place over multiple scenarios, the game can still provide one-off slaughters for the maimer on a tight schedule.
Also bears mentioning that the game will be KS exclusive so this campaign may be one of the few chances people have to get their hands on it, if a little on the expensive side for most, with a single pledge level available at $120.
All in all, proceed at your own pace with this, the Gung-Ho Geeks rate it a HATE out of HATE for presentation as well as a “meh” out of “not what I expected” overall, with a big sigh lingering over what I feel is a missed opportunity to blend 2 modes into this (mass battle and troop-level quests).
Most of these are definitely influenced by my personal expectations/ideas for what the game would hold, and there’s nobody stopping you from playing it however you see fit out of the box. But the offensive-for-the-sake of it stands as my main point, and I’m pulling no punches in saying they’ve chosen one of the most mind-numbingly stupid ways to go about it, all things considered.