There’s a certain allure to tabletop miniature games. Seeing vast armies comprised of actual, physical models on the table before you invoke something of a sense of awe. Spending countless hours painting your favorite character models and armies and finally fielding them in a friendly battle is a fantastic sensation. That personal connection you feel to your homemade armies compensates for the lack of flashy, animated gameplay. However, the rules in these games are no less tactical and require a strategic mind.
Moonbreaker seeks to translate those feelings into a digital experience, fully encapsulating the sense of collecting, painting, and fielding your models without the often exorbitant cost of entry of physical model games.
That barrier to entry really is one of Moonbreaker’s biggest advantages, if you ask me. Model games such as Warhammer can cost hundreds of dollars to assemble one army and then some. In Moonbreaker, the price you pay is simply the cost of the game, after which every single model is available to you. Every other purchase is purely cosmetic.
This means that any army you could imagine making with Moonbreaker’s cast is available right from the start. This is doubly true when you realize there are no restrictions on which models can be in an army.
Rather than going for a faction-focused wargame approach, each model in Moonbreaker is a unique mercenary that can be added to any “crew.” The only exceptions are captains, who are your command units and can only be placed one to a crew. Each crew consists of one captain and ten crewmates, who are all balanced by the cost it takes to deploy them. This lack of restrictions allows for some incredible tactical variation in teams, with very little or arguably no “must-have” units in the game.
The gameplay in Moonbreaker is pretty similar to a lot of what you might find in the tabletop gaming sphere, with the only difference being an utter lack of dice. Units move and attack with special abilities that allow you to cast as long as you have the resources to do so. Units can be deployed and used instantly (though not moved) as long as it’s your turn and you have the points to deploy them. Games are won by capturing points or killing a crew’s captain, with a constant tug of war until one side establishes dominance one way or another.
One big complaint I have with the combat is that ranged attacks have a percentile hit chance. While this is undoubtedly done to balance the game for melee attackers, you can miss with a 90% hit chance, and you’ll find me complaining about it constantly with my nearly-all-ranged crew roster.
Moonbreaker had the option to make the cast highly animated, taking advantage of the video game format like some other tabletop-to-video game series conversions. However, Moonbreaker stays true to its inspiration and displays every unit as a solid, static model. Though SFX and voice acting are prevalent, no effects or animations are present, allowing you to utilize your imagination the same way you might in a physical tabletop game.
This also allows the game to have an incredibly in-depth unit painting system. You can paint each and every model in the game with as many palettes as you want, utilizing an incredibly close-to-real painting simulation that takes advantage of base coating, airbrushing, palette mixing, and more. Players can get lost for hours simply painting models without ever playing the game and still get plenty for the price of entry.
The game modes are split across a single-player boss rush mode, multiplayer battles, and VS AI practice matches. Most people will probably be drawn to Multiplayer, with the ability to take your personalized rosters toe to toe with other players online. Though exciting, I will say that at the moment, I am struggling to find other players online, which will hopefully change as Moonbrteaker gets a much-deserved player boom.
Boss Rush is an interesting take on the formula, featuring an almost rogue-like ten-round match where you face off against AI-controlled crews with persistent captain health. You gather new crewmembers, buffs, and other bonuses as you proceed down the ladder, with increasingly difficult fights. The only downside to this mode is that you have to take in a preselected army roster and can’t bring your own crew in from the start, though that may skew the balance considerably if you could.
My only issue with Moonbreaker, which I recognize as a matter of taste, is with the game’s character designs.
Once again, this is a matter of personal preference, which not every player will relate to. However, I feel like what really makes a tabletop-style game is your ability to connect with your models. Not only do you need vast freedom in customization, but you should like the models and feel a connection to the character you bring to the table. That’s what makes fielding special characters and spending hours painting them feel so special.
The extensive lore for each character in Moonbreaker helps, but if we get right down to it, I’m simply not a fan of the game’s style. It feels too high-sci-fi, much like Guardians of the Galaxy in its presentation, and doesn’t appeal to me personally. With less than a crew’s worth of characters I found fascinating, I must admit that the game failed to capture my attention for too long. However, this is mainly an issue of my taste and could completely change should the game get a DLC or roster expansion that manages to catch my fancy.
The Final Word
Moonbreaker is an utterly unique game, unlike anything else on the market right now. Though I didn’t find a personal connection to the game’s cast of characters, it’s impossible not to recognize the game’s fantastic conversion of tabletop wargaming to the virtual space, creating a game with tons of customization and fun, forever replayable mechanics.
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