Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach (direct link) holds true to tabletop roots, and the turn-based strategy game manages to capture the feel of the more complex strategy games that its publisher, Slitherine, is known for, while managing to be surprisingly accessible to newer players to the genre.
The game features two factions: the Ork Goff klan, and the Space Wolves chapter of the Space Marines, and it doesn’t stray from lore in terms of units, their uses, and the faction heroes. These include the High King Fenris and Ragnar Blackmane, as well as others, for the Space Wolves; and Ork Warbosses including Grukk FaceRippa and Mogrok da Mangla.
It features two campaigns, both of which deliver. The first, Stormclaw, missions and scrimishes; and the second, “Hour of the Wolf,” has over 25 missions and scrimishes.
The campaign plays out much like the original Dawn of War II campaign. You are shown a large map, with conflict zones marked throughout. You will need to gradually capture these zones by winning matches against the AI.
The rounds themselves also have a good feel of variety, with different types of missions and objectives, and the maps are well detailed with objects that can provide cover. Objectives vary, but they often revolve around capturing and holding critical points.
Staying true to the tabletop, at the beginning of each match you are given a limited number of requisition points, which are used to select units. More powerful units of course cost more, and so it’s up to you how to balance between the different strengths and roles you’ll need.
Your units will also level-up along the way, and each unit has its own unique name. While this doesn’t add an XCOM level of depth to characters, it does give a solid sense of progression, and it makes you want to keep your units alive.
The campaign only allows you to play as the Space Wolves, but you can play as the Orcs during the multiplayer modes or in a customizable scrimish if you choose.
The more recent Warhammer 40k games from Slitherine was Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. It was a good game as well, with large maps and more units, but it doesn’t have the same fancy graphics and animations of Sanctus Reach.
If we take Armageddon as an example, however, it’s possible we could see some expansions for Sanctus Reach that could bring in other factions or additional campaigns. Yet, it’s just speculation at this point.
The multiplayer mode in Sanctus Reach plays much like the single player game, and if you host the match you can choose your faction as well as the game mode (such as deciding if one player will attack or defend, or if it’s a free-for-all to snag critical points).
The defining factor of multiplayer, however, is its play by mail feature. It’s not a game where you click “end turn,” and then watch as your opponent takes his move. Instead, when you end your turn, you’ll be returned to the multiplayer menu, and you’ll receive an email when your opponent has completed their turn.
For some players, the drawn-out nature of this system is pleasantly welcome. You can take your time thinking about each move, and you also don’t have to sit and watch your opponent mull over their options. On the other side, you also won’t be able to play directly through most matches. My recommendation is that player who want to continue playing should host multiple matches.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach has the feeling of some of the original 40K games, and does a very good job at capturing the feel of the tabletop.
Each unit type has a purpose, and every choice from which you choose to deploy to how you position them across the map has a strategic element to it.
Fans of 40K should enjoy Sanctus Reach, as should gamers who enjoy grand strategies or a good game of chess.
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach is available on Steam for $29.99. It requires a 3rd-Party account with Slitherine for multiplayer, but I found it unintrusive.