In 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 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.
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.
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.
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.