Alternative win conditions are one of the things I look for in a great tabletop game. Most any game that only cares about killing your opponents models that isn’t chess basically boils down to “how good are my stat numbers” and “have I made any huge placement mistakes that let you kill my good stats numbers guys with less good stats numbers guys”, and threat ranges are king. Inevitably, without some kind of objective, the game turns into an hour long dance around the table while you try and not lose your army to an unforced error and hope your opponent makes an unforced error or gets unlucky.
Warmachine has scenario, Malifaux has schemes, Infinity has objectives, and Warhammer plays out narrative fights.
In Judgement, you fight over souls and, to a lesser extent, fate.
Okay you’re back? Let’s go.
In order to understand why Soul Gazing is important, you have to take a bit of a dive into Judgement’s lore. The Judgement universe deals with multiple planes of existence, and the battles that are enacted in the game play take place on the shadowy realm of Between. The Old Gods dwell above and steal the power from Souls that pass from the Material Plane, called Athien, into Between. A long time ago, the five races sent five champions to Between to challenge the Gods and put an end to their meddling with the mortal world. The five failed, but were able to escape and scatter to the edges of Between. They learned to harvest Souls like the Gods, and between the Gods and the new self styled Demigods, souls became scarce. Between is a place suffused with Souls and their power, but sometimes Souls pass into the plane faster than the fabric of that reality can absorb it, and the Souls pour out into the open.
These places are called Soul Pits, and they pop up fairly regularly after large amounts of deaths on Athien.
The Demigods used to travel to Between in order to claim the Souls out of these pits, as the Souls give incredible power. However, while on Between the Demigods could be trapped, diminished, or even killed. Eventually, one of the Gods and a powerful Necromancer named Zaron figured out that if Zaron could be summoned physically to Between, he could harvest souls for the God and the God would never have to leave the safety of his realm.
The other Demigods quickly figured out that this was a good plan, and started summoning heroes of their own. Naturally, fights broke out and now summons to Between to fight for Souls are part of the lives of these “Summoned”
Okay, back to the mechanics of the game. You can read more about the fluff here.
Basically, the way to win the game is to break the enemy Effigy to stop them from summoning their heroes back to Between. You can do this by straight up killing the Effigy (which is really hard) or by reducing the max health of the Effigy down by taking Souls. Every Soul bound to either your Effigy or a member of your Warband reduces the health of the enemy Effigy by four, and since Effigies have either 16 or 20 health depending on the size of the game you are playing, that is a big chunk of it.
You can get Souls in two ways - kill an enemy hero, or take the Souls that spawn from the Soul Pits. While this is a risky proposition since Soul Gazing takes two of a heroes three actions, it is also much easier than killing an enemy hero and often you do not have to expose your hero to retaliation.
Now, when your hero dies, any Souls bound to them disappear (usually, there are some exceptions for specific heroes), and this leads to interesting games where one player has three of four required souls to win, but all bound onto one hero. The other player mounts a desperate counterattack, kills that valuable hero, resets the score down but leaves themselves open to counterattack.
Other times, heroes will rarely die but Soul Gazing spawned souls will be taken turn by turn until one player wins.
This dynamic system makes Judgement eminently replayable as no two games will ever play out the same way.
In the lore, Fate is the power of the Old Gods given to mortals on Athien. Fate-Touched people are more lucky, or stronger, or smarter, or more magically inclined than regular people.
In the game, this is represented by Fate Tokens, which can be generated in a variety of ways and can be used for a pretty large selection of abilities.
First of all, Fate can be used to re-roll any dice roll once. This can be an attack, a Soul Gazing attempt, a damage roll from a special ability, etc. You can also use Fate to heal a hero for five health if you spend an action, or to reduce your opponents charging dice number by one dice. Fate is also the method by which you buy Magical Artifacts to increase your heroes’ power levels.
Fate can also be used to execute some extremely powerful in-game abilities and combat maneuvers.
Each player gets a Fate at the beginning of turn 1 and turn 2. After that, Fate is generated in two ways. First of all, if you control a Shrine, which is an in game model somewhere in the middle of the table, you get a set number of Fate every turn. Additionally, at the beginning of the turn you get a Fate for each Soul bound to a hero or Effigy you control.
While Fate is not a requirement to win the game, the person who has access to more Fate almost always has a significant advantage because they have access to more rerolls, more healing, and more powerful abilities.
Judgement has a unique take on resource management and scenario. It is deeply steeped in the Lore of the universe and translates very well to the tabletop. The dual resources required to effectively play the game lead to massive amounts of depth even when you have very few models on the table. Every decision is interesting, and you can play the game in a huge variety of ways. I personally love the way that the game encourages you to engage with your opponent and the table, and I have yet to play the game the same way twice.
As always, thanks for reading, and we will see you next time!