Friday, October 3, 2008

Broken warriors

Back to Eric's choice, and sticking with the area movement theme of the past couple sessions he chose Warriors of God, a recent game from MMP on the Hundred Years War between France and England, and another in their (increasingly mis-named) International Gaming Series.

The game is up to the usual MMP production standards, which means good. Colorful components, nice big counters/tiles, good map. We did have a problem with figuring out where one unit went (Navarre) as the banner symbol on the counter doesn't match that on the map, unlike all the other counters, but that was it. The rules are fairly strait-forward, the only area of confusion was in the description of sieges, and it was mostly in the terminology used. I'd lose the quips, jokes, and smart-alec comments from the rules, however.

Play-wise, players first roll for initiative, with the winner taking the first and last impulse, the number of impulses being the loser's roll +2. (Each player is +1 on their roll if their king is in their home country.) Players then take impulses in turn, each impulse allowing the movement of one or more leaders (with their attached troops) to an adjacent area, one over an obstructed border, two over a clear, or three over a river.

At the end of movement battles are fought in contested areas. Each player chooses their leader to fight the battle, and gets a number of dice up to the lesser of the leader's command rating or the number of troop points, plus the same again for longbow troops. This gives the English an advantage, as the French don't have longbow men. This means that for the same 3-strength leaders, an English army with 3 longbow men will roll 6 dice to 3 for the French. The defender has the option of fighting the battle as a siege if they control the area. Any 6 rolled is a hit (with the difference between the two leaders' bravery rating added as a modifier), which removes a troop point or a leader. The non-aggressor has first option to retreat after each round (any retreating army being subject to a free attack at +1), otherwise the battle continues to the next round.

After this you determine the control of areas. Leaders in their home area automatically succeed (if they don't have any mercenaries), otherwise they have to roll their rank or less (1-3). Controlled areas raise new troops, depending on their area value (1-3), and these troops may be deployed through controlled areas. Special troops, knights (absorb 2 battle hits), longbow men, and gunners (used in sieges), may be swapped for regular troops, 1 for 1.

Then the fun begins, as each player rolls for each leader on the board to determine if they die and get removed. The turn of entry it requires a 1, next turn 1-2, next turn 1-3, etc. New leaders may be placed on the board, either in their home or a controlled area, and may take over troops left by dead leaders, and any troops without leaders are removed.

Our playing was another of those unsatisfying games. You know, the one where absolutely nothing goes right for one player, and everything goes right for the other. The game was over as an automatic win by the end of turn 7. The unusual thing was that it was Eric on the receiving end this time. He didn't roll a single area control hit, and his combat dice sucked, as well as his leaders dieing off at ridiculous rates. I rolled '1' after '1' for my area control, buckets of '6's in my combat, and most of my leaders were being carted around in wheelchairs by the time they snuffed it, they were so old.

What's even more odd is that things started out normally enough. Well, normally enough when I'm playing, as Eric had ~5VP lead by the end of turn 3. Whilst this was, in large part, due to his better play, the previous turn did see all but 1 or 2 of my leaders die after I went on a '1' rolling spree (rolling 4 of them in 6 rolls), and Eric had won initiative in the first 5 game turns, despite me having a +1 modifier in three of those turns, so he'd had 5 extra impulses to play with.

At that point the game turned around, and within 4 turns I had the 30VPs for an AV, which happens pretty quickly when you control 12 VPs/turn, and have several killed/captured leaders which each score 1VP. In the one turn Eric lost all 3 leaders that he'd built a decent enclave in southern France with, allowing me to walk in take control quickly. He similarly lost control of another 3VP area in the north, and each battle went my way, losing him more leaders to death or capture. Of course, each of these controlled areas allowed me to raise more troops, and my leader rolls meant I could claim control of more areas. I spiraled up, Eric spiraled down, game over.

I had been warned beforehand that this was a game I wouldn't like. The random wackiness of the leader death is just the sort of mechanism that I dislike. Whilst I wouldn't quite say it's the worst game I've played, I certainly wouldn't be too interested in playing it again. It's very tactical, you have to work with what you've got, as you don't know what's going to be available to work with next turn. This makes it hard to build any sort of strategy, as that requires that you have a plan and it's hard to plan around wacky leader death rolls. Some would say that's part of the excitement of the game, and that it's the same for both players, but the same could be said of LCR.

I don't consider WoG to be a strategy game, as the only real strategy you can have is to roll better dice than your opponent. This is by far the weakest MMP/IGS game I've played. I would put it in the same bucket as GMT's Wellington, not to be taken at all seriously, and just treated as a wacky dice-fest. I didn't hate it, but I can't see me playing it again as there are just so many better games I'd rather play. And I certainly wouldn't consider buying it.

The only thing going for it was that it played relatively quickly. We were finished by 2130, having started setting up around 1900 and taking a quick jaunt through the rules to confirm understanding. I noticed on BGG that one person said that it took them 5-6 hours to play, so I'm at a loss to understand how they could take so long. Having said that, I'd still rather play Iwo Jima - RAtM twice in the same time.

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