Recently I posted my review for a series of expansions for the Horizon Zero Dawn board game. I did the reviews in a single post because what you get in those expansions is mostly similar, just varying in monsters and hunters. I’m going to do the same thing today with the giant machines expansion for Horizon Zero Dawn. These four expansions let you confront some of the most iconic monsters from the video game: The Rockbreaker, Fireclaw, Stormbird, and the Thunderjaw. All four of these expansions come with a single, massive miniature, a fold-out game board, machine cards, and a new hunt deck. So, let’s first talk about what makes each one unique.
The Rockbreaker is a tunneling machine that that clocks in at 50-60 hit points. It has a series of 8 point pulse attacks and even some barrage attacks (a new mechanic). What makes the Rockbreaker unique is that at the start and throughout the battle it will tunnel around the board. This makes it unpredictable as it will pop up to attack, and eventually tunnel down and reappear somewhere else. This forces your hunters to run around the board to attack it, opening yourself up to its many ranged and pulse attacks. For components, it has 4 digging arms, 2 fuel sacs, and an exhaust port that can be destroyed. Removing the digging arms will help it stop tunneling a bit.
The Fireclaw, as you might expect, has a lot of fire attacks. The good news is that most of them can be destroyed as components. What’s unique about this big guy is that he actually has two sets of behavior cards. The Fireclaw will switch from quadruped to bipedal stance during the combat. Its stance will change up its attacks a little bit, but for the most part, you are expecting a lot of melee attacks with some range and pulse attacks sprinkled in.
Much like the Fireclaw, the Stormbird also has two different modes. As you might expect, this one switches from flying to landed throughout the battle. While flying, you’ll need to use your ranged attacks to hit it. Expect to deal with a lot of shock damage with the Stormbird, including a nasty 10 damage pulse attack. I should note that there appears to be a misprint on one of the Stormbird behavior cards where one of their attacks doesn’t quite make sense. So hopefully Steamforged Games will give us an errata on that one.
And finally, we have the Thunderjaw, one of the most memorable monsters from the Horizon Zero Dawn video game. This big guy has two canons, 2 disc launchers, and a tail attack, all of which hit for about 7-8 damage. What’s cool about the Thunderjaw is that if you disable the Disc Launcher component, you can pick it up and use it as a weapon (again, pulled from the source material). The disc launcher is a really powerful all-or-nothing weapon. It’s a ranged three attack that rolls a blue, orange, orange, and black die. However, it takes both of your actions to use. Still, if you can hit with this, it puts out a lot of damage. Personally, the Thunderjaw is also one of my favorites sculpts in the game.
Game Experience with the Expansion:
So, what’s it like to fight these behemoths? About what you expect, they pack a hell of a punch, have the most hit points of any of the machines in the game, and can definitely be a challenge for your group. One thing I want to note is that while they all come with their own hunt deck, the hunt will only use machines from the core game. Which makes sense, because Steamforged Games doesn’t know if you have other expansions or not. So, with that in mind, I’d only recommend getting one of these expansions if you already have at least one of the other big-box expansions. That way you at least get some variety in the lead-up hunts. These expansions let you play with these machines as your hunt goal or tack them on to the end of a regular hunt for one more encounter. So, there is still some variety here.
For components, these sculpts are easily some of the best in the game. The Stormbird flies on a clear post, the Rockbreaker is half-submerged into the ground, and the Thunderjaw just looks amazing. Most come in multiple pieces and can either be glued together or broken apart for easy storage.
So that brings up the question “Do you need all four of these big guys?” Unless you are a massive fan of the game or a completionist, I’d say probably not. While they are all awesome, they probably aren’t different enough where you need to buy all of them. I’d say get maybe one or two of the ones you are most interested in and start there. Coupling the Thunderjaw expansion with something like the Sacred Lands expansion would be a great bump in variety for your game. You are most likely not going to fight one of these big beasts every time, as some of their battles can take quite a while. But when you are in the mood for a slugfest, look no further.