1. Nevin - Aldaris (Protoss) : Home Planet - Tarsonis
2. Mick - Arcturus Mengsk (Terrans) : Home Planet - Chau Sara
3. John - Tassadar (Protoss) : Home Planet - Halcyon
4. Mervyn - Jim Raynor (Terrans) : Home Planet - Braken
5. Mark - The Overmind (Zerg): Home Planet - Victor V
At the beginning of the game, every player must chose one of his Stage I Leadership cards to start the game with. Nevin was the only one to chose his special victory condition requiring all the other players to accumulate 20 Conquest Points to win the game. Nevin would win by accumulating 15 Conquest Points or win at game end by default. Mark chose "The Overmind" leadership card which gave him an extra Conquest Point every turn as long as the Overmind was in play. I chose the "Warp Gate" which let me move all units in the area with the Warp Gate to any other area that was friendly to me or empty at the end of the Regrouping Phase. Mervyn chose the "Storage Facilities" which gave him 3 resource tokens at the start of the game and allowed him to collect up to 3 more resource tokens at the start of the Regrouping Phase provided he had unused workers remaining in his worker pool (this is a nice ability for the Protoss whose units are expensive). Mick chose "The Sons of Korhal" ability. This allowed him to use the star order token. When executing it, he could chose to use it as a Mobilize, Research, or Build order and he could chose to treat it as a special order provided he fulfilled the other requirements for using special orders. Nevin's special victory condition was going to make it tough for any of the other players to win and increase the game's playing time.
The set up of the map dictated where the early battles would be fought and in this case it was divided along two major "fronts". In one front, Mark and Nevin would be the major combatants and in the other Mick, Mervyn, and I would fight over planets.
In the beginning, Mark's Overmind token allowed him to take the lead in Conquest Points but it did not take long before Nevin's units invaded and destroyed the Overmind taking away Mark's bonus Conquest Point ability. While Nevin and Mark waged war against each other, Mick and Mervyn fought on Antiga Prime allowing me to expand to Hydrax peacefully and eventually the space area of Erebus Station. Mick would land on the land portion of Erebus Station where we would maintain a truce until turn 5. Mick's initial battle went badly forcing him to retreat to an empty area of Antiga Prime but at the end of the turn a "navigational error", played by Mick, caused Mervyn to lose his way back to the planet when Mick swapped the Z-axis end points between Antiga Prime and my home planet. After a second round of battle, on the following turn, this left Mervyn with a lone isolated unit on Antiga Prime and Mick with a gleam in his eye thinking of future clean up operations on Antiga Prime. After the "Navigational Error", Mervyn had "backdoor" access to my home world, Halcyon.
During the turn 3 planning stage, I told Mervyn I was going to trust him not to invade my home world so I could consolidate my holdings on Hydrax. Mervyn did not attack my home world but he did contest Hydrax. I can't blame him as that was the only logical expansion route off his home world, Braken. Turn 3 saw more fighting between Nevin and Mark, and Mervyn and I. Nevin and Mark fought to a standstill on Dylar IV while I managed to defeat most of Mervyn's forces on Hydrax. Turn 3 saw the appearance of the Stage II event deck and during the end turn Regrouping phase everyone chose to play their "Hero" Leadership card.
A Hero has abilities specific to that faction and the following additional abilities common to all heroes, immunity to splash damage, immunity to mind control, and immunity to technology card abilities that destroy units outright. I placed my hero, Zeratul (Dark Templar), on my home planet in the area where the Warp Gate was located so I could warp him off planet if need be during an end of turn regrouping phase. I think it was at the end of turn 3 that I used a "Navigational Error" event card to swap Mervyn's and my z-axis routes back to how they were at the beginning of the game giving Mervyn a chance to come to the aid of his lone unit opposing Mick on Antiga Prime.
More fighting ensued during turn 4 between Nevin and Mark, and Mervyn and Mick. I landed on Mark's home world intending to attack his lone hero but he had evacuated his planet before my troops landed. At the end of turn 4, all factions were on at least 3 different planets but I had a slight lead in Conquest Points and so was attacked by Mark, Mick, and Nevin during turn 5. Turn 5 would be our last turn of the game as both Mick and Mervyn had other commitments that evening so we called the game at the end of turn 5 in favor of Nevin since none of the other players were anywhere near the 20 Conquest Points required to win.
Two-player game in progress - Outpost vs. Moloch
Each faction's playing pieces include one HQ tile and 34 other army tiles divided up between Instant Action tiles and Board tiles. The Board tiles are units representing either "combat" units or "modules" that enhance a units abilities or give them additional abilities. Instant Action tiles, as their name implies, are not played on the map but cause a certain action to occur immediately when played. Examples of Instant Actions are Battle, Move, Sniper, Push Back, and Air Strike.
At game start, each player shuffles their 34 tiles and places them in a stack. This will be their draw stack used during the game. After setting up your draw stack, each player's HQ is placed on the map starting with the first player. The are no terrain effects on the map in the base game so all hexes are the same. For a two player game, only the 19 hexes in the center of the map are used. The other hexes are reserved for future scenarios. After the HQs are placed the first player then starts the game by drawing the top tile from his stack and revealing it. The player then has three options, play the tile, discard the tile or save it for a later turn. The second player then takes his turn by drawing the top two tiles from his stack and either plays it, discards it, or saves it. Play then passes back to the first player but from then on the players will draw a number of tiles until they have three revealed tiles. Once this happens a player on their turn will first have to discard one of their tiles and then takes their turn as before, i.e. discard, save, or play a tile. This turn sequence continues until all players have drawn all of their tiles from their respective draw stacks at which point the game ends and a winner is determined. The fun part is deciding where to place your tiles to do the most damage to the other player when a battle occurs and the resolving of the other instant actions.
Combat units will have at least one of the following combat abilities, Melee attack, Ranged attack, Net, or Armor. These actions will be assigned to a specific hex side of the combat unit. This indicates in what direction that ability can be used. Combat units, if it has an attack type ability, will have an initiative rating which determines when it fires during a battle resolution . Units that have a better (higher) initiative rating can destroy enemy units before they have a chance to fire. Melee and Ranged attack are the abilities that cause damage to enemy units. The Armor ability provided protection against ranged attacks, and the Net ability prevents an enemy unit from doing anything. Finally, a combat unit may have one, or more of the optional abilities: Mobility and Toughness. Mobility allows a combat unit to move during the owning players turn. Units without Mobility can only move when a Move Instant Action tile is played on that unit. Each Toughness icon on a combat unit increases the number of hits required to destroy a unit by one. Units without a Toughness icon require only one hit to destroy. So how does a battle begin?
Battles are initiated when a player plays a Battle Instant Action tile, the 19 hexes of the play map are filled with board tiles, or at the end of the game (the final battle) when the last tile is played, discarded, or saved. All units with the same initiative fire simultaneously, with higher initiative ratings firing first, and all fire from the same initiative is resolved before going on to the next lower initiative rating. Combat units and modules are removed, at the end of the initiative phase they were fired at, if they take hits equal to their wound rating. Hits on HQs are recorded on the score track on the map board. HQs start on the 20 space of the track with each hit deducting a point of their total. It they go below the 1 space the HQ is destroyed and that player is eliminated from the game. If this was a two player game then the game is immediately over and the other player wins. The game has quite a bit of strategy trying to figure out how best to use the Board tiles and Instant Actions you've drawn and plays quickly so if you are eliminated in one game you have plenty of time to get even.