I’m often asked the question “What’s the difference between Anima Tactics and Helldorado?” This is a great question because while the two games are both miniature skirmish games by Cipher Studios, there are important differences between the games, and it is just as common for players to find one game appealing and the other less so as it is to find fans of both games.
But before we get into this discussion, I should point out up front that yes I am a volunteer for Cipher, so I’m going to be biased, and we just gotta take that for what it’s worth. I honestly wish I wrote this article prior to volunteering for them, because in fact it was my enjoyment of both games that really sealed the deal for me signing up to demo and host these games. So yes, just let me say up front that I enjoy both games tremendously, I feel they both have something for gamers of all kinds, and really, as long as you walk away from reading this with just a little more information to judge for yourself what you want to play, then I’m happy with my work here. But yadda yadda, some of you just just want to see a side by side overview of each system. Okay fine. The following breakdown is the most generic summary and does not include all the nuances of each system.
System: Anima Tactics/Helldorado
Game size: 2-8 pieces (average 5)/ 5-15pcs (average 9)
Game Length: 20-120 minutes (average 60)/ 30-90 minutes (average 45)
Die system: D10 (1-3 dice rolled)/ D6 (5 dice maximum rolled)
Play area size: Variable, 48″ x 48″ max or game board with 1″ squares/30″ x 30″ standard
Turn system: D10 initiative, alternating activations/ “Dominance”, alternating activations
Victory conditions: Scenario points + what you killed/ Conquest points
So those are the boring basics that tell you only the most generic things about each game, and the list is far from comprehensive. So now, let’s take a closer look at these differences:
The most apparent difference between Anima Tactics and Helldorado is the background/setting. It has been my experience that the games’ settings is one of the key differentiators as far as which to choose in the early going. The strong anime’ influence/theme of Anima Tactics and the 17th century world plundering hell tend to be polarizing. This is a good thing though, as it can help guide you through the process of choosing one game over another more quickly. However- if you are like me and you enjoy both settings- then you might want to read the rest of this article.
2. “We’re all super heroes!” versus “Obey your officer!”
One key difference between Anima Tactics and Helldorado is looking at how your party/company is built, organized, and how it operates on the table. Although both of these games are skirmish games, the groups you run are quite different when we compare them. For example, in Anima Tactics, it’s more like building a team of “superheroes”, or maybe an all-star basketball team to compare it to sports. Each piece in Anima Tactics has its own special abilities, its own AP to manage, and it synergizes with the rest of the team in its own unique fashion. Also, Anima Tactics never requires the use of leaders, and in fact some of the most common game settings don’t even allow you to field a leader. Conversely, taking an officer (leader) is required in Helldorado, and officers play a crucial role in how the company operates, lending command points which play into Dominance and issuing commands during the game. In Helldorado- your officer is much like a “Quarterback” is in football, to use my earlier analogy.Your selection of officer can dramatically change how your company plays, and although losing your officer during the game doesn’t automatically cause you to lose, it can be quite crippling for your company.
3. Gnosis versus rerolls, Organizational advantages verus Command mechanics.
In that last section we began discussing some of the command mechanics, and this is a good point to dive just a little deeper into each games’ mechanics. Both games use dice as their random number generators (D10 for Anima Tactics and D6 for Helldorado), but how the dice are rolled and what can affect those rolls are different as well. Anima Tactics uses a D10 system, which is nice because it gives you a greater probability spread than your typical D6, and includes a Gnosis system which allows you to roll multiple D10’s (usually up to 3 when combined with other bonuses) and select the single most favorable die before adding it to other bonuses/penalties. In Helldorado we see a D6 system, but multiple D6 (with a cap at 5D6) and rerolls, which provides a generous spread of success rates along with the manipulation in the form of rerolls. There are also negative rerol situations in Helldorado which is an interesting twist on multiple D6.
With regards to how these parties/companies are built, we have other distinguishing features between games. Anima Tactics has 2 modes of party construction, either along alignment to allow for a greater range of models to choose from, or along organizations, which bring with them the option of using organizational advantages. In Helldorado, building and managing your company has to do with command points. Command points dictate certain aspects of your list-building, such as the number (and sometimes type) of troopers you can include, and command points are regularly spent during the game to issue commands. Some commands are commonly available to most officers (such as Vae Victus and Vae Solis) while other commands/abilities are specific to that officer.
4. Combat systems: Duelling superheroes versus simultaneous destruction.
Also up for comparison is how combat takes place in each of these games, as each features a different ebb and flow to how combat is resolved. I personally feel that these two different approaches help each game capture its specific setting and theme. For Anima Tactics, combat is tied into a replenishing AP system, and features a number of options for reactive moves- perhaps more than any other miniatures game currently in the market. In other words, in Anima if you want to hit someone/something, your target or even models nearby your target can immediately react to what you’re attempting in the form of dodges, counter-attacks, intercepting, and other reaction abilities. This results in a very tactical, head-to-head feel in the combat, where you’re not just waiting your turn while your opponent runs up and tries to roll your target defense number. In Anima you can actually do something about it, and if you were savvy enough, maybe you planned on your opponent trying to hit you at that moment.
But even if your opponent is just rolling dice trying to hit a defense number doesn’t mean you must defend. In fact if you think a good offense is a good defense, then check out Helldorado’s melee combat system. Helldorado features a simple and elegant dice versus defense mechanic, but allows combats to be carried out simultaneously, which can often result in the loss of both player’s models- so combats are fast, decisive, and absolutely brutal in hell!
5. Advantage cards and lemures!
The final pair of differences I wanted to briefly discuss are advantage cards and lemures- more of the distinguishing features of these two games. Anima Tactics features advantage cards- basically upgrade cards- which may be purchased up to 10% of your encounter size (so a 200 level game allows you to select up to 20 points of cards). These cards might be equipment cards, plot cards, or team cards that allow for some customization of your party. I especially like the team cards, because they are fun and fluffy, but not totally necessary just to achieve a playstyle. Helldorado does not have advantage cards, but it does have one of the most interesting spell mechanics I’ve ever seen in a miniatures game, and that is the lemures system. In Helldorado, the lowliest creatures in Hell (called lemures) can be captured by infernalists and basically inflated with the essence of a spell- growing from inches in height to a few feet. Players select which of the available lemures to embue with their spell (lemures have different abilities, so selecting the proper vessel is important), which then moves off to seek the target of said spell. Very, very fun and fluffy mechanic, and unlike anything you typically see in miniature skirmish games!
I could have gone into better detail with what I described above, but the goal of the article was really just to highlight some of the differences between these two games. Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two that will help you make decisions on these games. For me personally, I find myself enjoying each game’s rather unique take on miniature skirmish systems so I have prominent place for both games among all the games I’m playing. Both are very fun games with superbly rewarding miniatures and rich, full settings that are well reflected in their game mechanics.
Thanks for reading!