Saturday, 14 June 2014

Game Review - Lords of War

Lords of War Review

One of the problems with running the Expo is that very often you don’t get to see the show, and you only find out who won the awards in the aftermath.  Such was the case with Lords of War, which I only really encountered in December at Dragonmeet.

Lords of War won the Expo Best Strategic Card Game award in 2013, but I first played it as a demonstration game at Dragonmeet and I have to say that while I wasn’t a part of the awards system for that category, if I had been, I’d have voted for it.

At the basic level, it’s a simple game, you start with a battleboard (included in each pack or you can buy the deluxe one), 7 spaces wide, 6 deep, and takes turns to place a card and then either draw a card from your deck or take one up from the board that you didn’t place down this turn.

Simple so far…

All cards have arrows pointing in certain directions or the colouring of dots on a three by three grid to indicate where the cards ranged firing affects (in the case of some cards, both).

The only constraint on the placement of a card is that it must engage one of the enemy cards or be placed in a support position to one of your own cards.  

When you manage to line up enough damage against an enemy card, you remove the card as a casualty and it goes in your victory pile.  Amass twenty of these (or four hero) cards and you win…

As a concept goes, it’s very simple, it enables even non-gamers to get involved in the game within minutes, and while the advised playing time on the side of the decks is thirty to forty minutes, that’s when you’ve got advanced players taking time to plan out moves and strategies in advance.  When you’ve got two newbies having a go, it takes far less time than that as every card laid presents a new target, and rather than aiming at the heroes with the high defence rating, it becomes a race to clean up the rank and file to get the win. 

Initially starting as the Orcs vs Dwarves battle set, it was soon complimented by the Elves vs Lizardmen battle set, and following a successful kickstarter campaign, the Templars vs Undead battle set.  There have also been separate decks that have been brought in to allow for the use of weather and terrain in the game, and the creation of Foil cards with significantly higher prowess than even the generals of the armies.  

Unlike some companies, who got a single win and then sat back on it, Black Box are continually coming up with new ideas and ensuring that they keep adding to the background of the game, adding in new characters and teasers for the new armies that will be forthcoming.  With the creation of each new army, the range to play has increased and with the inclusion of points costs each card, it’s possible to field composite armies with troops chosen from many different sets and to make customised armies that best suit your own fighting style. 

The production values on the game are excellent, with all the cards printed on good stock and the boxes neatly designed to hold both decks and the board in an easily storable package.  The artwork is consistently good, every image clearly conveys the nature and type of card, there’s no way to mistake an archer for cavalry, and it’s this attention to detail that make the game particularly fun to play.

If you’re new to the game, certainly start with the Orcs vs Dwarves, as the newer sets require significantly more planning to get them to work properly, such as the Lizardmen, who don’t hit that hard, but hit in far more directions, and the Templars, who hit hard in very limited arcs but have massive armour values to back them up (as my undead opponent remarked when the Pavise hit the table again…).  With the inclusion of the advanced rules, weather, and terrain, this game can be as simple or as involved as you like, and from a game that can be played start to finish in ten minutes flat, it’s possible to have games that last for hours without any loss of the tension that makes the game good.

Looking forwards to seeing what they’re going to do next…