The best part of Games Workshop's tabletop miniatures games is the glorious sight of painted armies marching into battle.
Yet focusing on that overlooks the rich and engrossing setting behind the games. It's easily deep enough to support digital spin offs.
So, Horus Heresy: Drop Assault is an obvious Clash of Clans clone. But that Warhammer 40,000 skin stretched over the top has the potential to elevate it into something more interesting.
The game starts making the right noises from the beginning. There's an introduction to the Horus Heresy, and a tutorial level featuring Predators, Titans, and other iconic units from the Warhammer world.Thousand Sons
Building a base will have a certain sense of deja-vu about it for veterans of the genre. But miniatures fans will enjoy seeing 40k units and buildings in place of cookie-cutter alternatives. Bolter turrets instead of cannons, for example, and Terminators instead of Giants.
The graphics and sound aren't outstanding, but they're good enough to bring this vision of the bleak 41st millenium to life beneath your fingertips.
It doesn't take long, however, for the generic and repetetive nature of the game to start straining at your suspension of disbelief.
You collect energy to make buildings, and munitions to explore and make units. Naturally there's a premium currency too - Machine Spirit - to hurry along the timers that pop up whenever you make anything at all.
There's a typical interlocking tree of upgrades, carefully designed to always leave you wanting a bit more than you can actually obtain at a given moment. Although canny players can get along faster in the game by making smart choices about what to spend their resources on.
As you upgrade your Logistics, more of the world surrounding your base starts to become available for exploration. Most of the landscape is full of enemy bases for you to conquer.
The game generates a lot of these for you, and they're easy meat. A few, though, belong to other players. And they're a much tougher ask.Blood Angels
There's also a PvP arena where you can go head to head against enemy forces, although the matchmaking seems to be a bit off. It will sometimes pit you against opponents far tougher or weaker than you. Still, it's a neat new feature to see real-time combat against other humans in a base-building game.
In both cases you deploy your squads of troops. Then use a reserve of energy to issue orders that move them round using waypoints, or support them with off-map fire. You can gain more energy by destroying installations during the battle.
These fights are the highlight of the game. Although the energy mechanic seems gamey at first, it works, forcing you to think carefully about how to use your limited supply and whether to divide your forces.
Player versus Player becomes a game of split-second timing, issuing orders to assault enemy victory points without losing control of yours.Death Guard
So with a good light strategy element, an appealing theme and an addictive web of base upgrades before you, it feels especially hurtful when you hit the pay to play barrier.
Of course, you don't have to spend anything. But if you want to stay competitive, or play for more than a few minutes every day, you'll need to be logging in a lot to collect loot and stay on top of timers.
There's nothing revolutionary or spectacular about Drop Assault. And it has all the free to play niggles that many dedicated gamers find so annoying.
But the Warhammer theme is well done, there's a real sense of social play, and the itch to upgrade is addictive. If you want to burn money on a bottomless free to play offering, you could do worse than this.