Notice the notches on the cards? They aren't just for show. At the beginning of the game, players take turns placing markers on the field. One type, weapons, allows your unit to draw a card from the Weapon deck when landed on. Halo cards are similar, and include bubble shields, gravity lifts, and even the dreaded Flood instant-death card, just to keep things interesting. The Weapon and Halo cards fit right into the notches on the cards, keeping things nice and neat.
The "Interactive" part of the title comes from the included DVD. Instead of rolling dice and drawing cards randomly, players can instead pop in the DVD to take care of all the randomization, as well as show a few brief clips from the games to illustrate the action. After the first few tries, we abandoned the DVD method; it just took to long and besides, rolling all those dice yourself is just more fun. The DVD also contains the game rules and a few different scenarios, including a few campaigns with different objectives than the standard slayer and capture the flag varieties.
After a crash course in the game rules, we sat down to play. Unfortunately, there is no real co-op in the game. It's strictly a versus affair. However, with three of us, and only two sides to choose, the boys decided to co-op with each other and team up to take down the old man. To the surprise of none, little brother picked Master Chief, so dad was stuck playing as the bad guys. We decided to have the boys alternate turns, going once each per two moves of mine. Since the official rules only allow for one character to act each turn, this worked out to be quite fair and reasonable.
We ran into a bit of a snag when setting up the board. It seems that the maps in the rulebook require more than one set to actually complete! We adjusted it the best we could and got started. After just a couple turns, my Arbiter and an Elite had nabbed improved weapons, and the other Elite had a Bubble Shield, which could avoid any ranged attack. I was feeling pretty good about things, until my oldest son equipped a lowly Marine with a long range sniper rifle. Since we were playing the normal version of the rules, the Marine ended up being the MVP of the game, one shotting my best dudes before they even got in range. Eventually, a Brute stomped a hole in him, but the damage had already been done.
My youngest son was quite upset when Master Chief was defeated, so he took out his aggression on my last remaining Brute. Left with three grunts, with no weapons left to speak of, I tried to keep my strategy as authentic to the Halo experience as possible: I ran away, fleeing to the cover of a chain link fence. The three huddled grunts were only able to take out a single Marine before being reduced to a pile of goo. The boys high fived, and we shook hands, laughing at the hilarious turn of events. It was a fine first session, and we look forward to many more.
The Halo Interactive Strategy Game was a great bargain. I'm not sure if I would have purchased it at the $50 retail price, but at anything less than $20, it's a steal. As a board game conversion of a successful video game, it works pretty well. There is indeed a bit of strategy and tactics to use in order to win, which was a nice change from the reflex-based skills that win online. Best of all: no whiny 12 year old opponents with potty mouths, and no tea-bagging at all!
Unless you're into that sort of thing...
Thanks to BoardGameGeek for the use of a couple images!