Something that did not really click for me until I saw the game played a few times is just how dynamically the models in Judgement move around the table. Part of this has to do with the ability to take multiple move actions in a single turn, but another part of this has to do with Combat Maneuvers.
As mentioned in the Overview I did a few weeks (okay it’s been a few months now) ago, the dice Judgement uses have three different symbols - hit, combat maneuver (commonly just known as “symbol”), and J which counts for both at once.
When you roll your dice pool, you only get to use three of the dice out of the total number rolled, and while this would usually be a simple decision to take as many hits as possible to do more damage, the Judgement Combat Maneuvers tend to be high impact enough that sometimes doing less damage is better.
Every hero has something interesting they can do with symbols, whether it be inflicting a status effect like Fire or Poison or Curse or Knocking Someone down or doing a ton of extra damage or even getting another free attack.
These are printed on the back of a heroes card, and they always have a cost associated with them. Let’s have a look at Rakkir’s card, since he is in the starter box.
Rakkir starts off the game with one Combat Maneuver available to him. He has the ability to inflict Poison on an enemy model if his attack pool results in both damage to the enemy model and a pair of Symbols (or Js since they count as both).
If you want to see what Poison does, it nicely outlines it on his card for you! Aside from making enemies easier to hit, Rakkir also likes enemies being poisoned so that he can spend a Fate (no action required) and do 2d6 True Damage.
Sweet little anecdote. I am playing with my middle brother over Christmas break. It’s his third game, my tenth ish. I have yet to beat him (still haven’t, four games later) and I am feeling pretty good about this game. I have two souls on Thrommel who is one of the more tanky heroes in the game, and he is contesting the shrine so that I can have my two squishy other heroes run around killing Monsters and Heroes.
Last activation of the turn, Rakkir comes charging in, rolls J, J, Hit for his first attack, J, J, Hit for his second and leaves Thrommel on 10 health. One natural 11 on 2d6 Toxin later and my Dwarf is dead and the game spirals out of control.
Okay back to the article. Once he gets to level 2, Rakkir can be the most irritating little sniper on the planet. Charge something, drop a Shadow Orb after the first attack, attack again, roll a Symbol and use the Combat Maneuver to bounce back to the Effigy (or another, pre-placed shadow orb) and (presumably) safety.
Generic Combat Maneuvers:
Every hero in Judgement can perform two generic combat maneuvers, and the basic rhythm of the game is severely influenced by them.
The first, and less impactful or common is rolling three Js on an attack. This is the only combat maneuver that works on a free strike, and when it happens the enemy model is immediately knocked down. When you are knocked down in Judgement, you do not engage models, you cannot make attacks, and you lose 3 AGI to a minimum of 1. It takes an action or a Fate to stand back up, so this is a huge deal, and also extremely rare.
The more important generic maneuver is the push. Simply put, every time you attack someone and have a symbol in the three dice you keep, you can push yourself or, if it is a melee attack, your target OR both of you. Every symbol that you roll lets you push one model an inch, and this can be split up between your model and the attacking model.
Quick note: once you’ve decided how many symbols to use on pushes per model, you have to move them up to that many inches in a straight line. You can’t do wiggle pushes just like when you shove something in real life it goes in one direction and doesn’t go back a foot and then curve left a foot.
The impact of this combat maneuver cannot be overstated. It lets your hero disengage from fights, it lets you push enemy models into hazardous terrain or the waiting arms of a neutral monster, it lets you move farther than expected to engage or contest in one action, it can clear a charge lane for another hero….
If you haven’t watched or played a game yourself, this might seem to be somewhat trivial but, simply put, the limits of what you can do with pushes are more or less defined by how creative you can be on the table.
When you play a game of Judgement, you are enacting a battle taking place on the Shadow Plane, a place which numerous entities call home.
Most of these beings really dislike your heroes jumping into their world, and they come out of the woods, swamps, fire pits, ether etc. to defend it.
Neutral monsters are one of the most interesting parts of playing Judgement. Very few other tabletop games have an AI running that actively messes with the players. Even more importantly, the AI can be used to tremendous benefit if Combat Maneuvers are used well (more on this again in a second).
Neutral Monsters spawn on the map at the beginning of the game. Every turn, if they are alive, they move a distance (usually d3 inches) closer to the closest Hero and if they make it into melee range, they smack them.
It’s worth noting here that monsters hit very accurately (most are MEL or RNG 8) and considerably harder than any hero does, and all but one of them have nasty combat maneuvers of their own that they can activate such as Poison on Vujasha and Ashtooth and Fire on Inferno.
Monsters have a couple of other interesting points to them. They will immediately attack any hero that enters their melee range through any movement other than an advance/charge. This includes if the Monster is pushed into a hero (or vice versa), if the Monster is placed next to a hero (or vice versa), and if you push yourself closer to a Monster (or vice versa).
Monsters provide resources when you kill them. Heroes that kill a monster get to level up (woot!) and if there is a friendly hero within 2 when you kill the Monster, you also get to harvest fate from it, which varies depending on its fate bounty. Inferno and the newly spoiled Dor’Gakaan also give you secondary effects when you kill them.
Monsters contest Shrines and Soul Pits, which can be really irritating since you only generate Fate after the phase in which Monsters move. I’ve had many turns where I’m controlling a Shrine at the beginning of the turn and suddenly am not when the monster rolls max move towards my hero and is now contesting.
Monsters also respawn, although they take a break turn in between dying and coming back. This means that no matter what, there’s going to be a Monster on the table for at least half of the game, and learning how to manipulate them is key to success.
Most 3v3 maps are dominated by the turn 1 race for the Monster and determining who controls the Shrine. In the future, I will be publishing scenario guides for these, but each one plays a little differently since they all have different Monsters. I’m going to briefly go through the Monsters and my thoughts about killing them efficiently and then wrap up this article.
Gloom has the second highest AGI of the monsters at 4, and she also has the Invisibility rule that prevents her from being shot from farther than 3 inches away. This incredible ranged defense is mitigated by having the fewest boxes (8) and the weakest attack out of the Monsters. She also has no combat maneuvers.
Her positioning is very different between the maps she is on, so giving specific advice on how to get her turn one varies, but in general she does very well against ranged and magic aggressors like Istariel and Allandir, and gets preyed on pretty heavily by melee aggressors who can do lots of burst damage with one attack like Rakkir, Zhonyja, Fazeal, and Brok.
Ashtooth had, until recently, held the title of Nastiest Monster in the Game. With the previewed rules for Dor’Gakaan, he probably takes a slightly backseat position when vying for that title, but since the Demon hasn’t been released fully yet, it is still a little early to say.
Ashtooth has a low AGI of 3, but when coupled with RES 1 and 12 boxes, he is the tankiest of the first wave of Monsters by a stretch. He also has Regeneration (2) which pushes his durability into frankly silly levels for a Monster.
He is both immune to Poison and has the Poison combat maneuver on a 2 inch melee weapon that hits REAL hard. Using him to apply Poison to models that your opponent has already activated can be a huge deal, and gives support models that don’t have a prayer of actually killing him (Bastian, Gendris, etc.) something to do with their melee attacks.
Ashtooth, in contrast to Gloom, really hates ranged Aggressors, who prey on his low AGI from safety on a turn by turn basis. Melee aggressors tend to be less effective against him since virtually none of them are capable of killing him with a charge and follow up attack thanks to his RES 1. Brok and Zhonyja can certainly do it, but most of the others have a pretty difficult time unless they have the Armor Shredder - and even then it usually relies on multiple crits.
Ashtooth is probably my favorite Monster at this point. He’s dynamic and interesting to play with on the table, but he’s not as frustrating to kill as…
Vujasha is an infuriating Monster in a lot of ways, and so far she only appears on the Swamp Map. At AGI 5, she is really difficult to hit significantly and she has a special rule that prevents magical artefacts from working against her so Vorpal Blade (+1 MEL), Heartseeker (+1 RNG) and Ring of Power (+1 MAG) do absolutely nothing to help your accuracy.
She has the Poison immunity and Combat Maneuver like Ashtooth, and when she activates she gets +1 inch of movement if she’s touching rough or hazardous terrain (which is everywhere on the Swamp Map).
Oh speaking of activating? She does that every single time a Soul is harvested, either from Soulgazing or from killing an enemy hero. It’s not uncommon to have both Vujasha activate 2-3 times a turn, and for most players the first Swamp Mat game is a lot of getting eaten alive by the Vujasha.
Final interesting point about Vujasha - she spawns a soul when she dies, which means that occasionally there are games with 4+ souls floating around.
Heroes that are particularly good against Vujashas are Marcus and Thrommel with their Knock Down effects, Zhonyja with her insanely high melee of 8, and Svetlana who can push them around and never get attacked once level 2. Having a Soul Gazer is very important as well, since there are going to be lots of Souls on the maps where Vujasha is.
Inferno is a Fire Elemental, and unique to him in the first wave of Monsters is a ranged attack that he uses if he cannot get into melee with a Hero. He also has dual attack, so he hits twice every time he attacks at all, and his MEL is less accurate and lower damage than his RNG (although his melee attack ignores 1 RES. He also sets people on fire with both his melee and ranged attack, so Minotaurs beware.
Inferno has a pretty cool upside when he dies, in that the hero that killed him gets to choose a stat and bump it up by one for an entire round, which can make already tanky heroes insanely hard to kill, or give your soul gazer a bump if somehow they are the one that kills it.
This guy is coming out sometime in the next year, and I’m not going to mention too much about him since we don’t have firm rules yet. He has a really nasty melee attack, and if you kill him you get to take his Demon Sword. I’m super excited to see artwork and sculpts for this guy and I’m sure when we know more I’ll be writing something about him.
Judgement has a ton of things that make it unique, and both Combat Maneuvers and Monsters contribute strongly to that list. Both of them add different layers of interactivity to the game and give both players more resources (and obstacles!) to handle every turn.
Thanks for reading!