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Subject: Early Positive Impressions of Warhammer: Diskwars rss

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Sam London
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I have been meaning to write a review for a long time. Unfortunately games that I am very passionate about tend to be old news when I finally get around to playing them. Since this was not the case here, and there are still no reviews available for Warhammer: Diskwars, I figured I would take a stab at it. Short version: this my first review so please be gentle.

Introduction

I want to take a moment to present a series of disclaimers for this review. The first is that I have been wanting this game for eight years. Maybe not this game specifically, but earlier in my board game collecting career I was hoping to find a game that gave me the feeling of playing a miniatures game without having to deal with the miniatures hobby. I have since become a much more competent painter, but I still find the cost of entry into miniatures games to be obtrusive when I know some of my most played and enjoyed games had a 20$ price tag. I know other games exist which attempted to scratch this itch (Battleground: Fantasy Warfare being the most obvious) but I always felt like something was missing (besides the miniatures).

My second disclaimer is that I had never even heard of the Diskwars system prior to this game’s announcement by FFG. As such I have no attachment to the system and cannot compare how things function in this iteration to the original.

My third and final disclaimer is that I love the Warhammer and 40k mythos. They have boundless appeal to my inner teenager and just having this theme probably makes me a bit more forgiving about certain flaws when compared to a game about manufacturing goods.

All that being said, on with the review.

Components

I was very impressed with the components for this game. My expectations were high since this is a Fantasy Flight product, but they somehow managed to exceed them. The game comes with a ruler for measuring ranged distance, 4 dice (3 custom and 1d6) for ranged attacks, a number of cards of various types, and a mess of counters and terrain tiles. All of these are solid and functional and the card stock quality was better than I expected (I was expecting LCG stock). The star of course though is the disks. They are made of thick cardboard and feel very substantial. I was overjoyed when I began to punch them out and realized that I had thought the small unit disks were the large unit disks. In general all the disks are larger than I had expected them to be, which makes them more impressive in play and also very readable.

If I had one complaint about the components it would be that there are not spoiler cards of disk stats. These would have been incredibly useful in play since you may want reminders of specifics of unit stats without telegraphing by leaning over the table to look at them. Far more commonly, disks are often obscured by other disks, and being able to ready stats off of a card would have been better than lifting one disk to read the one under it. This is a relatively minor complaint though.



Light Rules Explanation

I am not going to rewrite the rule book here, but I figure a small idea of how the system works will allow you to get more out of my thoughts on gameplay. Basically each player has a small hand of command cards. This hand will vary from player to player depending on personal tastes and army construction. Command cards have 3 parts to them: a stance which dictates who goes first, an activation number which is the number of disks you can activate this turn, and text that may offer special abilities on this turn. Each player plays one of these cards face down and simultaneously reveals them. The two revealed stances define who goes first and second based on a quasi-rock, paper, scissors mechanic, though it should be noted there is a fourth stance that makes it easier for a player desiring to go second.

Whichever player is going first now activates as many disks as he can, up to the activation number on his played card. A disk can only be activated if it has not been activated already and if it is not pinned (I will come back to pinning). When a disk activates it can 1) move by flipping the disk end over end on the field a number of times up to the disk's move value 2) make a ranged attack if available 3) use a focus ability if able and 4) pass the activation. Ranged attacks are a means of dealing damage during the activation phase and where the vast majority of the games luck exists (dice have to be rolled to count hits) and focus abilities are often unit specific activation (using magic for mages etc.).

Once both players have activated their units the command cards are discarded and each player plays a new one. This continues until either all command cards have been played or both sides have no eligible units to activate.

Any time any part of a disk is on top of another disk the bottom disk is said to be pinned. Ordinarily as soon as you pin an enemy disk while moving the activation ends. This is key as units that overlap are said to be engaged. After the activation phase is over all units that are engaged deal damage to one another. Units have separate attack values for whether they are pinning their opponent or are pinned themselves. If the damage dealt exceeds the toughness of the target it is destroyed.

Following this phase all tokens (including damage) are removed from the field and a new round begins with players having access to all of their cards again. Play continues for five rounds or until one army is eliminated. If an army is eliminated the last player standing wins, otherwise whoever inflicted the most casualties wins.

I am leaving out a fair number of rules here, most notably wounds, scrums, and army building, but hopefully this is adequate to give a sense of the rules and how simple they are.



Gameplay

I rate this separately from the rules and my rating here will be very subjective. My rating of the rules represents what I think of the mechanics and innovation present in the core system, whereas my gameplay rating is more about how the game feels. The game plays very quickly and feels very streamlined. Activations happen quickly and smoothly and I rarely am feeling like there is down time.

Due to how little luck there is in the game, units feel very different. A single point of attack difference, which would be small factor in a lot of games, is the difference between utterly outclassing similar units here. Additionally, focuses and passive abilities add to the feel of units. Even though everything is just disks, large units feel large, and huge units feel huge, in equal parts due to them flipping end over end on movement, and also because they tend to be better and more expensive units.

Building armies is incredibly simple, and for a one regiment training game or two regiment short game, could probably be done immediately before actual play without sinking too much time into it. Building your deck of command cards is equally simple, and offers an extra place to specialize your army. If I had an issue here, it would be that you always must have more small units than large and huge units in a regiment. While I can appreciate the spirit behind it, this stops me from making an all cavalry regiment to deploy on the flank.

I love ranged attacks in this game. My wife and I used to play a lot of Summoner Wars, and would get angry when rolls didn’t go our way. In Summoner Wars you have a 2/3 chance of a dice hitting while in Diskwars you have a 1/3. The psychological difference here is actually huge. In Summoner Wars (remember this is for every attack here) when you hit with dice it is "expected", but when you miss utterly, which should be less common, you feel cheated. The opposite is true in Diskwars. Every ranged attack made (the only time you usually roll dice) feels like a long shot. When you miss, you half expected to, and when you roll great it feels like a triumph. I really enjoy this as it makes ranged attacks relevant and powerful, but also the most risky way to deal damage in the game.

My favorite aspect of gameplay though is likely the concept of pinning. The tactics that go into pins and scrums (which I didn’t cover) are a lot of fun and very accessible. As an example, one game against my wife I had maneuvered poorly and left one of my heroes exposed and activated near her Boar Boyz. As a protective move, I had one of my Marienberg Swordsmen rush forward and pin the Boar Boyz, thus preventing my wife from activating them this round. She could have gotten around this with some lucky ranged attacks from her archers, so it isn't a guaranteed "get out of jail free" card. This notion that you can quasi-force activate an opponent’s units by pinning them is one of my favorite parts of the game.



Conclusion

This is the game I have been wanting for eight years. This feels like an extremely simplified and streamlined miniatures game without miniatures. My original ask did not include a streamlining of a "traditional" miniatures game rule set, but now I see that it is a fundamental requirement for what I was trying to accomplish. I am trying to get friends to buy into these types of games with me. The initial investment hurdle is always a problem, and when I tell them they need to partake in the hobby aspects of miniatures gaming they’re already out the door. Having a couple hundred page rule book to go along with it is another hurdle I didn’t need to deal with. The fact is that, provided you already have armies built, this game can be taught well enough to play and you can be in the action inside of five minutes. There will of course be frustrations when they didn’t realize that units with the mobile trait can make a ranged attack or focus AND move in a single activation, but the point is the basics of play are very accessible.

An elephant in the room that I want to address is the common FFG core set issue of the box not containing a “complete set” of the different units. Similar to the LCG core sets you receive three of some units (the maximum of the same small unit that can be present in a regiment) and only one of others. It should be noted that there is plenty (and more) in this core set to enjoy and build armies with. More Core Sets are not necessary to enjoy army building, especially when you consider that regiments of different factions (but the same alignment) can join in one army. Regardless, this usually infuriates me (even though I own three core sets of more LCGs than I care to admit) but here I find myself able to forgive it. The first reason I can forgive it is because this isn’t a matter of simply printing another 100 cards and increasing the price tag accordingly. These are large, thick pieces of cardboard, and including more would have greatly increased the box size, production and shipping costs, and would have made the price of entry for us a lot higher. The second reason, and for me the most compelling, is because the army building rules are actually quite flexible. For a three regiment game, if you wanted a full contingent of a Marienberg Swordsmen (3 per regiment, so 9) you will need three Core Sets. But let’s say you and a friend get very into the game and want to do a six regiment super epic battle. Technically this is possible with one core set, but if you wanted to do army building it could require considerably more. For this reason, unlike with the LCGs, defining a “complete set” of any unit besides heroes is problematic. For the record I own three Core Sets of Warhammer: Diskwars right now, and depending on how certain friends who haven’t taken a crack at it yet respond, I may buy more.

As a neutral note, playing this on a bare tabletop would be a mistake. Disks tend to bounce a bit when you flip them and can be hard to not accidentally slide. An 8 dollar sheet of felt from a fabric store fixes this simply, and also greatly adds to the aesthetic of the game.

I love this game. The people I have gotten to play it have greatly enjoyed it. I look at the field, and while it requires more imagination than if there were miniatures, I can see my Hochland Pistoliers riding in from the flank, while my opponents dragon is dog piled by infantry in a desperate gambit to slay it. I eagerly await the first expansion announcement, which I imagine will add the Dwarf and Dark Elf armies to the game. I sincerely hope this game catches on within the community as there is a fantastic light war game in here. It puts me in a tough spot though. I have been trying for a few weeks to spark up a BattleCon tournament at my work that only needs one more shove to set off. Now I am contemplating attempting to switch us over to Diskwars.

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Kevin Seachrist
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Yep, this is the review that turned a maybe into a yes. Thank you! Oh, and my wife hates you.
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Sam London
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My wife was on board until I made the "I want more core sets" pitch.
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Chris G
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I was planning on getting this after seeing some demo videos and reading the rulebook. But your review sealed the deal. Excellent job, especially for your first review.
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Sam London
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Thanks Chris. I've always wanted to try my hand at a video review, but my camera and I never seem to be in the same place when the mood strikes. I'm glad I could help.
 
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Piero
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Pre-ordered it after reading this review. Thanks.
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Randall Barnes
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Hey Sam, If you're looking for a minis game without minis look into Battleground: Fantasy Warfare as well. Great game and very portable.
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Scott Everts
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Nice review! I was a huge fan of the original Diskwars but hated the blind purchase model and ranged combat system. This new game looks so much better and has a much improved combat system.
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Noway Jose
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So to have a more complete army building experience one would need multiple core sets right?

How many more do you think to make it complete? 1? 2 more?

Cheers
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Sam London
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Boze wrote:
So to have a more complete army building experience one would need multiple core sets right?

How many more do you think to make it complete? 1? 2 more?

Cheers


This is difficult to say. Like I stated in the review, "complete" is very difficult to define here. The first question you would need to ask yourself is what size your games will be. If you want to play three regiment games (which seem to be the intended standard) I would go with three core sets (and did). This provides enough of the standard infantry to pad regiments as needed, and enough of the specialist infantry to build a regiment around if you wanted to (black orcs as an example).

If you are asking how many you need to build literally anything you want, it would be something obscene like nine. But I don't think anyone should really do that.
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Noway Jose
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Thanks
 
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Josh B
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AnotherHorrorFan wrote:
Boze wrote:
So to have a more complete army building experience one would need multiple core sets right?

How many more do you think to make it complete? 1? 2 more?

Cheers


This is difficult to say. Like I stated in the review, "complete" is very difficult to define here. The first question you would need to ask yourself is what size your games will be. If you want to play three regiment games (which seem to be the intended standard) I would go with three core sets (and did). This provides enough of the standard infantry to pad regiments as needed, and enough of the specialist infantry to build a regiment around if you wanted to (black orcs as an example).

If you are asking how many you need to build literally anything you want, it would be something obscene like nine. But I don't think anyone should really do that.


What's your estimate as to game length for 2v2 regiment and 3v3 regiment matches? Curious what FFG will ultimately use for the tournament system...

Great review, BTW! My three copies are on the way
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Sam London
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Duration of course depends on who you are playing with. If I had to venture a guess at average I would say about 30 minutes per regiment. So about an hour and a half for a three regiment game. That estimate may change as we all get more familiar with our armies and will be longer for teaching games.

I'm pretty sure FFG will go with three regiment games for the tournament standard based on how they describe it in the rule book.
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MGS
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AnotherHorrorFan wrote:
Duration of course depends on who you are playing with. If I had to venture a guess at average I would say about 30 minutes per regiment. So about an hour and a half for a three regiment game. That estimate may change as we all get more familiar with our armies and will be longer for teaching games.

I'm pretty sure FFG will go with three regiment games for the tournament standard based on how they describe it in the rule book.


What makes you say that? If I am not mistaken, the rules say 2 regiments for a shorter and 3 regiments for a longer game. I did not get the impression of one being the standard over the other. I would guess that the 2-regiment game is more likely to become the competitive format although I would not be surprised if they leave it up to the TO. If nothing else, the duration of the 2-regiment game is quite appealing for a tournament time slot and it is a fully realized game.

Great review. It would have convinced me to get the game if I weren't a convert already. Thank you.
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Sam London
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It is really just a guess. Where match duration is definitely a consideration, I figured three regiments was more probable because a four card command deck doesn't allow for as much strategic variety, not to mention the army building limitations. With them spinning up tournament kits I guess we will know for sure soon.
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Thanks for the great review. It was well written for any review let alone your first.

This game surprised me considering I found out about it on a BGG ad. It looks like we have similar tastes in games (Summoner Wars is my favorite game). I was looking at BattleCON but this may be more of what I'm looking for.
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Frank Müller
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thank you very much for this fine review. Do you think that epic 6 vs 6 regiment games require a 3x6 foot table instead of the standard 3x3?
 
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Randall Barnes
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They DEFINATELY would if one wanted to do that.
 
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Sam London
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enpeze wrote:
thank you very much for this fine review. Do you think that epic 6 vs 6 regiment games require a 3x6 foot table instead of the standard 3x3?


I would probably personally go more like 4x5 since I like more distance to maneuver and place terrain.
 
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Aaron s
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Boze wrote:
So to have a more complete army building experience one would need multiple core sets right?

How many more do you think to make it complete? 1? 2 more?

Cheers


One thing that's left out of this is that you can do a full on Order side, so you can do an Empire Regiment + High Elf Regiment vs Chaos + Orcs. Which opens up the army building significantly without buying another core set.
 
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Sam London
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I did mention this in my review. Like I said there is plenty of building you can do with just one core set but if you want to specialize more with specific units you will want more sets.
 
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Dustin
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how is this better than battlelore 2nd edition?
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SeerMagic wrote:
how is this better than battlelore 2nd edition?


I have played neither game but I have researched both. Hopefully someone else will be able to give you a better answer.

1. This is a miniatures game without the miniatures. Therefore it is much cheaper to get into. This game gives you four armies for $30 while BattleLore gives you 2 for $60.

2. This is more of a miniatures game in the sense that it is played on a 3 x 3 area. BattleLore is confined to a board.

3. Some people (myself included) find the disc mechanism interesting. I can play many games that are similar to BattleLore but there is nothing else like DiskWars that I am aware of.
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CJ
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SeerMagic wrote:
how is this better than battlelore 2nd edition?


You don't have to clean, assemble and paint your playing pieces to make them more colourful than concrete grey?
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Dustin
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elgin_j wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
how is this better than battlelore 2nd edition?


You don't have to clean, assemble and paint your playing pieces to make them more colourful than concrete grey?


even in their concrete grey form they look better than little discs.
 
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