There’s a common misconception nowadays about gamers who are serious about playing Games Workshops Warhammer: Fantasy or 40K that it’s just a hobby game. For some gamers who put in a fair amount of time and money that might be true. But for those who are or becoming serious about these games, these have really become lifestyle games. The amount of time and money invested into gathering, building, painting, and playing your army (or armies) in tournaments around the world can be staggering. I mean we’re talking about spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on this “hobby”. You know what would be great and of interest to any gamers without the being a huge time and financial commitment: more Warhammer gateway games. You’re in luck, read on!
This brings us to today’s review of Combat Arena: Clash of Champions from Games Workshop. This fast-paced tactical game pits powerful warriors across the 40K universe in a last-fighter-standing contest for 2-4 players and that plays in about 45 minutes.
Players will need to determine two things when first playing Combat Arena: Clash of Champions, choose their fighters, and determine either the base or variant rules to play. Once these are determined, the game is played in rounds and each has the following two stages:
Stage One: Prepare – the Action cards are shuffled and five are dealt to each player per fighter but keeping cards separate and secret from the other player(s). Then each player puts as many Initiative cards per fighter forward as they have energy which will make the Initiative deck for that round.
Stage Two: Fight – the top card of the Initiative deck is drawn and the player that owns that fighter is able to resolve an action with that fighter. This continues until all Initiative cards are drawn and the round ends after the last fighter resolves their action.
Actions: Players can resolve an action in two ways with their fighter. They can reveal an Action card from their hand and resolves one of the three actions listed such as move, attack, or a special action such as Dodge or Deflect. Players may also discard two cards from their hand (ignoring all actions listed) and use a Unique action printed on their Fighter reference card.
Some Action cards will have an Energy Modifier that will move a Fighter’s action token up or down the Energy track.
A fighter will also suffer Wounds from attacks (usually multiple wounds) and when this occurs a player will move the Health marker down per the number of wounds the player suffered and if it reaches the bottom—that player then takes a damage marker and covers the top space on their health tracker. If the player has placed an injury marker on the top space they will also draw from the Critical Injury deck and resolve the card. When the bottom space of the Fighter’s Health track is covered they are defeated and that mini is removed from the arena. The fighter who dealt that killing blow moves up 3 spaces on the Energy Track. The last player with their fighter(s) standing wins.
As usual with most Games Workshop games, Combat Arena: Clash of Champions production values and minis are excellent. You will need to build these 4 unpainted minis but they’re all push-fit and awesome in detail once assembled. The rulebook includes assembly instructions as well as examples of what final painted minis can look like. Plus, the arena board, cards, and rulebook are all top quality, and like the minis, have excellent design details.
One of the biggest positives for Combat Arena: Clash of Champions that any gamer should like is the fact that the rules are easy to learn and this makes this game fast to the table. Also, given that the Energy track directly ties to the number of Initiative cards you get per round makes this a well-balanced game. This is because certain powerful Action cards will move you down the Energy track so you cannot use too many powerful Action cards and risk limiting your Initiative next round.
Now Combat Arena: Clash of Champions plays nothing like the Warhammer 40K tabletop game but most gamers even serious 40K gamers will like the price point for this game no matter what. It’s affordable and is a nice gateway game for gamers not familiar with the 40K universe to dip their toes into the waters without a huge investment of money and time. It even allows serious 40K gamers to get their hands on some Champion figures that you can only buy in other sets as well.
Now, I did have an issue with the variety of fighters in Combat Arena: Clash of Champions. The game comes with 4 as I mentioned above: a Space Marine Lieutenant, a Space Marine Terminator, a Necron Warden, and a Chaos Marine Champion. I must admit with such a rich and deep 40K universe I was shocked that 2 space marines (yes, these are different marine chapters and types) were included and not another race. I mean there’s such a wide selection such as Orks, Eldar, Tyranids, Tau, and even Dark Eldar. This seems like a missed opportunity to show someone new to the 40K universe just how expansive it is.
The last thing I had an issue with was two mechanics in Combat Arena: Clash of Champions. There’s a map element called an Arc-Snare. If a fighter is pushed into this space—that player rolls a die and can discard action cards and add +1 to the die roll. Otherwise, a roll of 1–3 and that fighter is blasted into unconsciousness and defeated. This map element is totally unnecessary and unbalances a game that is very balanced given how the Energy track is directly tied to the Initiative Deck.
The other element is when a fighter is defeated their fighter reference card is flipped to reveal the Fate of the Defeated table. This allows an eliminated player to still do something to opposing fighters (even damage) if they roll high enough. I don’t like player elimination but in a contest of champions there’s no way around it and the Fate of the Defeated table just seems silly.
Combat Arena: Clash of Champions like other Warhammer gateway games I have reviewed, such as Crypt Hunters, does not emulate the table-top games but gives you a nice glimpse into the universes of Fantasy and 40K. What Combat Arena: Clash of Champions does well is gives you an affordable, easy-to-learn, and well-balanced game that will hopefully interest new gamers in continuing to explore this universe.
What holds Combat Arena: Clash of Champions from scoring higher is a lack of variety of fighters from a universe that is expansive. It also provides some unnecessary and silly mechanics that might frustrate gamers and basically help unbalance the game a well-balanced game.
Final Score: 3.0 Stars – An easy-to-learn and well-balanced contest of champions game lacks some variety in fighters but is still nevertheless fun to play.
• Lack of variety of fighters
• Some game mechanics are unnecessary