Review: Lords Of War – On The Table

lords-of-war-logoIn the first part of this review I looked at the physical components of the game, what you got in the box, and so on. In this part I’ll cover the rules.

So you know where I’m coming from, I’ve played LOW about 15-20 times with several different opponents and with many different combinations of armies. I win some battles and lose others, though I possibly have slightly more wins than losses.

 

The Basics

The game is centred on the cards, and most of what you need to know is written on them. Each represents either a commander or a fighting unit of some sort. Some are regiments of infantry, some cavalry and others monsters, chariots, archers or whatever. It’s a fantasy game, and most of the tropes you’d expect are included in one of the armies or another.

If we ignore the art and look at the rest of the card, we can see a number of symbols, arrows, grids and numbers. This is the meat of the game.

exaple_card

The card has 6 features to note:

  • Name scroll: tells you what they are called – in this case a Goblin Shanker. Fluff only.
  • Art: pretty picture. Fluff only.
  • Purply-red shield at the top: the model’s rank symbol. Used when assembling bespoke decks. In game, the only difference is whether it is a Command card or not (see how to win, below).
  • White circle: this sits above the rank and shows you the type of card: spear, cavalry, etc. In game, spear and bow count as Support models. The rest are ignored in basic play.
  • Blue and red shield at the bottom left: defence value. A critical game value. From 1 to 9. Most are 1-6.
  • Arrows with numbers in round the edge: attack value and direction(s). The other major game value. Between 1 and 5. This card has a 4 attack directly forwards and a 1 diagonally to his front left. There are 8 possible directions of arrows, and I don’t think any one card has them all. This is key: each card only attacks in a limited number of directions, and the values of these attacks usually vary.

example_archer

Troops with missile attacks add one more feature to their cards: a ranged attack grid. This is the black box with white dots in at the top centre. The number at the bottom of this box is the attack value. If you imagine the card is where this number is on the grid, the dots show which card positions it could attack.

 

Rules Of Play

Essentially, you simply take turns playing a card from your hand onto the grid, attacking an enemy card and trying to destroy it. Then you either retreat a different card from the grid back into your hand, or take a new card from your deck. That’s one turn. Then your opponent does the same, then back to you, and so on.

When you play a card it must attack an enemy model by being placed in a position in which it points one of its arrows at it. The only exceptions are support cards which can be placed next to one of yours instead. This lets you put archers at the back, for example.

Once you’ve placed your card you work out the attacks from both armies and take off any cards that have been killed. This could include the one you’ve just placed if it’s going in for a suicide attack. An attack against a card is the total value of all the enemy arrows pointing at it (plus possibly a missile attack). Thus you can kill a weaker (lower defence) card with a single opposing card, while cards with higher defence need two or more to gang up.

In order to kill a card you need to beat its defence value.

example_play

In the example shown above, I am placing an Orc command card on the right. Note that each player places their own cards facing their side. Attacks are simultaneous and both sides fight.

When we work out the attacks, the Dwarf card has no arrow pointing at my pig on the left. It does have an arrow pointing at my character on the right, for a total attack of 2. This is less than that card’s defence of 5, so it does nothing. 

My attack back is the total of all the arrows I have pointing at the Dwarf. This is 3 from the pig and 4 from the character for a total of 7. This is one more than the Dwarf’s defence of 6, so he is killed. I remove that card and place it in my victory pile. 

If you kill the opposing general then your opponent misses a turn. Other than that you simply take turns placing cards and making attacks until one of you wins.

You win by killing either 4 command cards or 20 in total of any type. Simple.

There are a couple more wrinkles for unusual circumstances, but that’s pretty much it.

 

Intermediate And Advanced

The above is a description of the Basic game. Lords of War also has an Intermediate and Advanced form. The Intermediate adds a couple of simple rules: one for cavalry and another for berserkers. Advanced is playing with hand cards face up instead of hidden. I’ve not tried Advanced as it is a pure information version and that style of game doesn’t appeal to me as much. The intermediate rules are a simple addition and worth adding after a game or two to learn the basics.

Part 3 will be my analysis of play and my views on the game’s pros and cons.

Posted in Board Gaming, Review | 4 Comments

Hoary Old Chestnuts

DFLogoWhen I sail through the stats for this site, I am often surprised by the continued popularity of my Dreadfleet review, and even more of my Salvage Project. This is even though I’ve done nothing with it since Jan 2012. Every now and again someone asks whether I’ve done any more on it. The short answer is no.

I suppose that there are many folk like me who spent all their gold hoping for a great game to go with the lovely models, and were disappointed. Despite this, and given the lack of resale value it’s hardly surprising, many have hung onto it.

I was looking at my copy the other day and wondering what to do with it. It may be worth half what I paid, if I could sell it. There’s certainly nothing else I want to use any of it for, so I can’t repurpose it to a different live project. Which left me to ponder whether it might be worth resurrecting the Salvage Project.

On the one hand I’m certainly not short of projects. On the other, it’s a big box of uselessness as it stands, and I need the shelf space for something else, or for it to earn its keep.

On balance, what seems like the best way forward is to give it one last go with the revised rules. The nightmares stopped a while back, and some of the cloying awfulness that hung around the box has dissipated. Maybe I can start from a relatively clean slate and see whether the revised game contains a worthwhile germ of a game I’d like to keep.

One more chance then. Fail here and it’s off to Davey Jones for sure…

Posted in Dreadfleet | 24 Comments

Review: Lords Of War – In The Box

lords-of-war-logoLords of War is a fantasy card game depicting a battle between two armies. It comes in packs of paired armies, though you can actually fight any army against any other, and there are rules for making your own mercenary decks by mixing up Dwarfs with Orcs, Templars and so on.

As I write this, there are three twin packs available for a total of 6 armies: Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Lizardmen, Templars and Undead. There is also a Weather & Terrain pack that I’ll look at in a separate article. Finally, they have just started a Kickstarter campaign to expand on the armies they’ve already done.

I’ve bumped into the cheery fellows behind this game a few times, and at the last UK Game Expo I had a chance to sit down and play some games with their demo team, including against the designer. They were kind enough to give me the copies for this review.

As is my wont, I play things several times before I write a review. Well, now that I’ve had a chance to get LOW on the table in various combinations of armies and against different opponents, here I am. In this part, I’ll discuss what’s in the box. In part 2 I’ll look at game play. Part 3 will be conclusions and a variant I thought of which you might like to try.

3_boxes

Let’s start with the box as you buy it. The twin pack is a convenience that allows you to make a single purchase and have a pair of armies, the rules and battle mat in one go. In other words, one pack is all you actually need to play. Additional packs simply offer more choice. This format also does well as a distribution tool as it can be placed beside a till and used as an add-on sale. Good for stores, and well-liked by distributors. Black Box Games have thought about this :)

So what’s in a pack?

low_contents

Each of the packs comes with two decks of 36 cards, one for each army. It also includes a paper gaming mat and a rules sheet. It fits neatly in the box, and as long as you can fold the rules and map back up then it goes back in for storage neatly too¹. With the amount of stuff I have in my study and on my games shelves, being compact is definitely a plus point for me. top_down

 

The Cards

The cards are fairly normal playing card size (57mm x 88mm), though a little narrower than the card sleeves I have to hand. I don’t plan to put them in protectors as that would stop them from fitting in the box, so that’s not an issue for me. Just thought I’d mention it.

Their quality is excellent. I can’t see a black core, but also can’t see any show-through either. They have a nice snap and shuffle well. The surface is smooth, which I personally prefer to linen finishes. printing is vibrant and none of the cards I have seen suffer from any register errors. All told: a good quality product.

All the cards in the various armies have the same design on the back. On the upside this allows you to mix and match to make your own mercenary armies. Unfortunately it makes sorting them out slower if they get mixed up. Not a big issue, though occasionally things creep into the wrong deck. Personally I’d rather forgo the mercs angle and have different backs.

The place the cards really shine, and a major feature of the game, is the artwork.

sample_cards

All the cards have gorgeous, colourful art. The style is most reminiscent of old Fighting Fantasy gaming books, with smatterings of similar vintage Warhammer, children’s book illustration and suchlike. It’s intended to appeal to a wide audience, and the reactions I’ve seen shows that their efforts and experimentation in this regard has paid off: almost without exception people react in a positive way.

Much of the art is repeated across cards as most non-leader cards appear two or three times in the deck. To add variety, the art is usually mirrored, and sometimes recoloured. This gives the impression of more different pieces of art and works fine for me. The only grumble I have heard is a lack of consistency about whether the facing of the figure depicted in the art matches the directions of attack (which I’ll explain in part 2). Can’t say it worries me, and it’s obviously helped to keep the costs down. Seems like a sensible decision.

pairsEach of the Command cards has its own unique piece of art, which helps add some character to these heroes.

Each card has the icons and stats required to play written on it, so there’s minimal looking up required during play. They also have icons for a card’s rank, which is only used in deck building and for distinguishing Command cards (for victory conditions). My only real complaint about the cards is here: the symbol for Command and Elite is much too close, and I frequently muddle them up in play. Both are a cross surrounded by four dots. See for yourself:

command_vs_elite

On a white page in the rules they don’t look bad, but among the rest of the art they aren’t nearly as clear as I’d like – especially when you have one or the other without the comparison. This doesn’t break the game by any means, and I can tell them apart when I think about it; it’s just irritating that I have to stop and think every time.

Niggle aside, the cards are lovely to look at and work well in the game.

 

Battle Mat

This is a fold-out sheet of paper, like a small poster. It’s a grid on which you pay the game, though the rules do suggest that you could play on a table and simply imagine the grid. I know that some people are very anti-paper mats, but I’m not one of them. It’s nicely printed, bright and cheery and fits well with the card art in style. Different decks have different mats. However, at the end of the day it’s a simple grid, so there’s not much to comment on. I suppose one thing that might be worth mentioning is that if it was a heavier board it wouldn’t fit into such a compact package.

 

Rules

The rules are on a small black and white poster which folds out like the battle mat. I’ll discuss the game play in part 2.

The rules themselves are pretty clear. Note that there are slight differences between the rules in the different sets. At least one game feature appears in later decks (moving cards) which is not listed in the early decks that have no use of it. This doesn’t cause any problems as long as you remember to refer to the later version of the rules if you have a query and are fighting armies from different packs. Otherwise you might get confused when the rules for moving units aren’t on the rule sheet…

 

The Whole Package

All told, Lords of War is a neat little game, well packaged in a practical format. It’s quite inexpensive when you consider one purchase buys a whole game. It’s also easily portable and will make a reasonable filler.

The art is very attractive and I can see this being a good way to introduce younger players and non-gamers to gaming. As long as they don’t mind a lot of carnage :)

Next up, how the game plays.

 

line

 

1) I’ve not found this a problem and I’ve unpacked (and repacked) each of these boxes several times.

Posted in Board Gaming, Review | 7 Comments

Tinkering With The FAQ

I’m going to try a slightly different approach to dealing with the FAQs for a bit and see how we go. Rather than doing nothing at all, then big updates, I’ll try to trickle out the replies to comments, getting a bit done here and there. For example, I’ve dealt with a few more of the DZ questions today. The big updates will then largely be collations of things that are already in the comments.

Of course, I understand that most of you won’t bother reading through all of the comments to see what’s been answered. I probably wouldn’t do that myself either. However, the devoted few who post most of the queries and debate such things will, I’m sure, be on hand to help refine these answers. This should help them to be more robust when they do get collated into a more user friendly format for a broader readership.

Also, it occurred to me that some of the FAQ documents were getting a little long. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I answer all sorts of questions that have only been asked once rather than only dealing with the ones that come up lots. This is because I assume that the ones I hear are the tip of an iceberg, and that if one person asks then there are probably more that I either don’t hear or simply don’t say. I’d rather be thorough even if it does make it look a bit long.

The other reason the FAQs have got a bit long is that I discuss the why of an answer and don’t just say yes or no. Again, that’s just me. When I read someone else’s FAQ I find it helpful to know why in case anything comparable comes up that isn’t answered directly. Also because I’m curious and just want to know.

What might be useful is if I try doing 2 versions of the longer FAQs in future; one as it is now and the second condensed and without my waffle (just the Q & A, no D). That might be a more convenient document to print out and have on hand for a game.

Just a thought :)

Posted in Deadzone, FAQ | 25 Comments

Basic Card Play In Mars Attacks

In each Turn of Mars Attacks you are given a choice of options (see page 6). The vast majority of the time you will be doing one of the first two, so we’ll focus on those for now. These choices are:

  1. Activate up to two different models.
  2. Activate one model and play a card from your hand. 

Put simply, do you choose quantity or quality? 

You can activate two models (quantity), or a single model and enhance its actions (or your overall position) by playing a card (quality).

Some people seem to be a bit confused by “play a card from your hand”. This means exactly what it says, and it refers to any card you play, not just Support cards. A couple of examples should make this clearer.

  • If I SHOOT with a model and play a card to give him a bonus to that attack, then I have activated a model and played a card from my hand. There is nothing more I can do in this Turn.
  • If I play a Support card and then activate a model, I cannot then play a second card from my hand to boost his action.

When it says (page 12) that “You may only play one card to modify each test and you do not have to play any” it is not changing the above rule. It is simply stating that there is a 1 card limit per test and this is optional. You must still obey the basic limitations explained above, and so if you have activated two models this Turn you have already chosen to deny yourself the option of using a card. Both rules are correct and both apply.

What’s important here is that this rule also applies the same limit to the player who is not taking a Turn. His response is also limited to a single card per test. This is important as the cards with the Skull icon that you play in your opponent’s Turn are not limited otherwise.

Posted in FAQ, Mars Attacks! | 4 Comments

Did You Miss This?

I’m a bit surprised by the sparsity of comments on my post about design theory. Did it get lost in the shuffle? There have been some great suggestions so far, I just thought there might be a few more enquiring minds out there.

Still taking suggestions :)

Posted in Game Design Theory | 4 Comments

Fastest Kickstarter In The West

neptunI often hear people bemoaning the lateness of this or that Kickstarter project. Some are over a year behind schedule, and so it’s hardly surprising folk get peeved.

In contrast to this trend, I recently got a boxed game called Neptun from Queen Games. This campaign finished on the 1st of September 2014, and had an estimated delivery date of December 2014.

It actually arrived before the end of September!

Naturally, even this speed comes in for a bit of flak. The criticism I’ve read is that Queen are just using this as a pre-order system. Indeed, depending on where it was printed, it may even have been on a ship by the end of the KS. Even if it was printed locally they must have been pretty well advanced with the whole thing. That’s true.

Is this a bad thing?

Personally I don’t mind. When I look at a KS I read the delivery date like I check the rest of the page, but it doesn’t make a difference to buying in or not – it’s more of a hint towards how realistic and experienced the creator is. Whether I actually pledge or not depends partly on a more general assessment of the people supplying it, though it’s mainly the project itself (and shipping/tax costs). Regardless of what the nominal use of Kickstarter is, I am perfectly happy with people using it as a pre-order system. It may allow me to see a product I hadn’t been aware of, and it probably allows the company to promote its wares more broadly than traditional methods. In either case, I don’t see how I am suffering.

One argument I’ve heard against this sort of thing is that it drowns out the genuine and deserving people who are really just starting something up. I disagree, certainly as far as I am concerned. On the occasions I look at Kickstarter with a view to spending some money, I trawl through all of the currently active gaming projects. If I expect them to deliver a project I want then I consider pledging. If not then I don’t. To be honest, the delivery date is of little interest in itself. I’ve already got plenty of toys to be going on with, so I can wait :)

I suppose that people who only look at the summaries of KS on news sites, or only buy things they think are heavily discounted may have a different view. Personally I think that whatever Kickstarter was ostensibly set up to do (and I’m not convinced what they say in public and think in private necessarily match) it has evolved since it entered the real world and continues to do so. In our supposedly free market it will reach the level the buying public deserve. No sense complaining about some theoretical ideal which never really existed anyway.

But that’s just me. What do you think?

Posted in Kickstarter, Random Thoughts | 12 Comments