High Command Rapid Engagement: Deck-Building For 2

High Command Rapid Engagement is a two-player strategy card game set in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms universe. It’s designed by David Carl and William Schick. It retails from $8 to $12.

High Command Rapid Engagement is a quick-start version of the High Command deck-building game. There are multiple sets of cards available, and the full game can be played with up to four players.

But Rapid Engagement is game meant to stand on its own. Each player chooses a faction — Khador or Circle Orboros — and they strategize to gain the most points by the end of the game.

How it works:

Each turn, an event card is drawn. It will usually require or allow players to do break a rule during that round, such as holding more cards than usual or looking at cards before they are drawn.

Two location cards are placed in the center of the table. They are worth points, and they usually give an ability to the player who wins them.

Players start with 12 cards, which they shuffle and put into a deck. They generally keep six cards in their hands at a time.

Four cards from another deck of cards are placed face up in front of the player. These are army cards, and they have health, which allows them to defend themselves, and power, which allows them to attack.

On a player’s turn, these cards are available to purchase if the cards in the player’s hands have the right amount of “command” or “war” purchasing power.

After the first two turns, a player can pay to “rush” an army card directly to a location. Otherwise, the card is placed in the player’s discard pile. When the player’s draw pile runs out, the discard pile is shuffled and becomes the new draw pile. Cards in the player’s hand must be paid for again to “deploy” them to a location.

Cards played to a location will battle any enemy cards there, calculating their power and health and taking into account any special instructions on the cards.

At the beginning of a player’s turn, he can claim a location if he has at least two more cards than his opponent at that location.

Play continues over 10 to 15 rounds, depending on when the final turn card appears in the event deck.

Why you might buy High Command Rapid Engagement:

The battles in High Command Rapid Engagement are tense, and you will feel you earned a location if you can claim it.

The powers of the two factions are radically different, forcing players to use different tactics.

There are lots of types of army cards in the deck, so the game has a lot of replay value.

If you’re interested in the High Command games, this is a good introduction at a reasonable price.

If you like games where you get to build your character or deck to make it more powerful, this one allows for that.

There are lots of combinations that can be very powerful for both factions.

Why you might not buy High Command Rapid Engagement:

I played seven times and could not get the red faction to win. When my opponent and I switched factions, he couldn’t get the red faction to win, either. The green faction won easily at first, and even as we figured out better tactics for red, they still weren’t enough.

That leads me to believe the factions are not as balanced as they could be.

The battles are tense, but they are also long. You can battle over the same location for several turns, which can lead to feeling like the game is not progressing. If you let a location go, however, you’ve given up a significant number of points, often too many to recover.

Some of the art is quite graphic. The shaman character, for example, is holding a severed head. On the other hand, the art is very well done.

My conclusions:

I enjoyed combining cards and working with the deck a lot.

But two players playing well means a lot of stalemate in the battles, which are the heart of the game.

The factions being unbalanced and some of the artwork (and I admit to being a bit squeamish) make this one a miss for me.

But I understand why the collectible game — which is more customizable — has so many fans. I’m quite curious how the game plays with four players, but I’m still concerned the battles would drag on.

Full disclosure: I got a review copy of High Command Rapid Engagement from Privateer Press. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

Consumer Expert Teresa Jackson

I'm a journalist living in Central Oregon. I have two little kids, which for me has meant staying home. And playing board games.

Lots of board games.

I'm also an avid reader and a theology nerd.

You can follow all of my interests and personal quirks on Twitter @teresawjackson and at www.tablebyteresa.com.