Game Day: Halo, Halo, Halo!

The Lehigh Valley’s annual Celtic Festival is underway in Bethlehem, which means that most of my friends chose to drink, eat and listen to great music rather than game.

That said, two of us were still able to get a little gaming in, namely a playtest of the new Halo ActionClix collectible miniatures game from WizKids Games. That provided a lead into even more Halo, as I fired up my newly-purchased cpy of Halo 3 and tried (and largely failed) to get into match making with my Geezer Gamer clanmates.

Halo ActionClix

Halo ActionClix is WizKids Games’ latest incarnation of their successful Clix game mechanic, which began with the super-hero centric HeroClix, mutated its way into the thunderous future of MechWarrior and then came back slashing in HorrorClix. The game also represents WizKids most recent attempt to expand its base into the mainstream.

We ran through two sessions of the game, the fist a “red vs. blue” battle featuring opposing teams of Spartans, which Damon won decisively. The second time around, I played a predominantly Covenant army, augmented by a single Flood unit, while Damon mixed up his Spartan army with some ODSF troopers. My brute-shot wielding Minor Brute and fuel-rod firing Black Ops Grunt – with a little help from their exploding Flood ally — won that battle.

My initial impression is that the game is a lot less complex than the rest of its Clix kin; each figure has one or two special powers, one innate to the figure, one based on its current weapon. Like the other games, these powers change as the figure takes damage, but there’s no where near the diversity of your average HeroClix figure.

The game plays fast and brutal; no pushing rules means that figures can act round after round with no penalties, and every figure can move and shoot on the same round. The speed of the game, as well as its straightforward nature, should make it scale well for larger battles (if only WizKids had actually given rules for scaling beyond “do what seems right”). The lack of complexity should make it easy for non-tabletop gamers to pick up, but veterans may be disappointed by its somewhat simplistic nature. That said, it’s no where near as simple as WizKids recent Star Wars constructible card game or Wizards of the Coasts own constructible Transformers game, so it may make for a good introductory game for those trying to get their friends to put down the Xbox controller for a while.

Struggling through Halo 3

Afterwards, I turned my attention to what I heard someone say was “The Harry Potter of Video Games”. Truth be told, Harry Potter was a lot more satisfying than my initial forays into Halo 3’s multiplayer; at least the book never complained about not being able to connect to my eyeballs.

I’m not sure what the problem is – heavy network traffic from the launch, my cable modem, the alignment of the Moon with Jupiter – but I find myself unable to venture into Halo multiplayer about half the time. When it connects, it’s great. When it can’t, it’ll either search for and find games, but then say that none of them are good matches, or it will say data isn’t available from the Halo 3 servers.

It’s all the more frustrating because Halo 2 rarely had these problems; indeed it has been the gold standard for online play on any platform.

I suspect part of what’s going on is growing pains for Microsoft and Bungie, and part is my Xbox learning the best Live connections; under Halo 2, your Xbox had to spend a few days “learning” the network; I’m guessing the same is true of the sequel.