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Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Warfighter - DVG's Legacy rss

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Charlie Theel
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“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” -Chris Hedges




I can’t tell you about war, but I can tell you that Warfighter is absolutely one of the most addictive substances you will find in the market. This unassuming Kickstarter wargame from Dan Verssen Games exploded onto the scene last month and has quickly become one of their best-selling titles. This is a marquee release that in time will come to be known as the best thing the company has ever published. Hornet Leader and Thunderbolt Apache Leader are great games, but they’re no Warfighter.

In Warfighter you take control of a contemporary fireteam of roughly 1-5 Special Forces operatives, outfit them with many gear options, and then tackle one of several missions as you maneuver your highly skilled force through the suffocating jungle or claustrophobic Middle Eastern streets. This is a card game that features hand management and dice rolling with linear progression through locations as you approach your objective and eliminate hostiles along the way. It’s visceral and tense in a way that evokes its subject matter masterfully.

The mechanisms used come across as an amalgam of influences including elements borrowed from Up Front, Space Hulk: Death Angel, and the previously released titles in DVG’s Leader series. You start off by selecting your Mission/Objective cards which give you a set number of Operation points to spend. You use these points to purchase Soldiers, equipment, and skills. This is very similar to Hornet Leader/Thunderbolt Apache Leader mechanically but there’s some clever differences here in tone and color that are substantial. Instead of outfitting face-less Aircraft, you’re fielding soldiers with personality and real-world names. You’re not selecting a generic Mk.II bomb or a Sidewinder Missile but an M4 with underslung M203 grenade launcher, or a Benelli shotgun, even smoke grenades, optics and many other options. This weaponry and equipment is more strongly engrained in the contemporary zeitgeist of film and video games and hits closer to home in terms of realization. It’s more satisfying and feels almost like a Roleplaying game as you outfit your warriors and even assign skills to boost their performance. This provides for a more satisfying and colorful interaction than that of its predecessors.


Hart has been outfitted with a weapon, some equipment, and a powerful skill. Ready for duty.


Each Soldier is accompanied with a hand of Action cards which provide a myriad of options. Your hand size is limited to the health of the soldier and there’s a nice tension in evaluating the right moment to best utilize your options. Playing Action Cards is typically free, as your troops will spend their limited actions moving to new Locations, firing their weapons, or reloading a dry mag. New Location cards arise in the Action deck and you must play them from your hand in order to build a linear path for your fireteam to move towards the objective that is a set distance from your starting point. This is similar to the card based location system of Space Hulk: Death Angel but it feels more alive and fluid as the locations form a visual path on the table in front of you like a series of scenes from an exceptional war film. You’re also able to move back and forth or fire between locations unlike Death Angel. This provides for a less claustrophobic feel and a greater sense of strategy and evaluation.

This was designed as a Cooperative game and works exceptionally well in that regard. One element of possible worry was that the Coop play was tacked on to a solo game at heart, and that’s just not the case. Each player will have a separate and distinct soldier, their own hand of cards, and will need to keep open lines of communication between him and his teammates if they want to survive. A vast majority of the Action cards can be played on other players so there’s a give and take and constant pressure to maximize your resources. Soldiers also accumulate experience from taking out hostiles and they may spend this XP to boost the effects on many cards. The catch is that anyone can cough up the experience, not just the player actually throwing down the card. This is another nod to cooperation and brings about that sense of relying on others to help get the job done.

Despite the fact that this is a proper Coop, Warfighter plays astoundingly well solo. This is accomplished through a clever use of Non-Player Soldiers and Squad soldiers. It can be difficult managing multiple regular Soldiers solo as each has their own hand of cards and you can get overwhelmed quickly if playing with a larger fireteam. To alleviate this you can spend Operation points on NPS or Squaddies when building your team. Non-Player Soldiers function similar to your regular soldiers but come with pre-assigned equipment and don’t possess a hand of Action cards. Squad soldiers are similar but their gear and equipment are abstracted away and they simply possess a set attack value based on their health. Both of these options sound perhaps kind of kludgy but they blend seamlessly into the design and offer more freedom and choice to draw the perfect Warfighter experience for your needs.


The Action cards drive much of the excitement and contribute to the scope of tactical decision points.


The most surprising and unexpectedly satisfying aspect of this design is the unbelievably rich narrative. As you play through a mission and build the path to your location a hearty and enthralling story will arise organically from the experience. Your soldiers will trudge through a muddy river where you’re ambushed by Drug Runners, Giacomelli will suffer a nasty wound and your squad will have to high tail it into the village where they’re vulnerable to ambush and are set upon by an RPG team. As they line up their rocket you’ll hit ‘em with suppressive fire while Rowe sneaks up to their position and tosses a frag grenade taking them out. In just a few minutes with a handful of cards you’re experiencing a very memorable and bright narrative that easily alights your imagination and brings a hearty smile to your face.

Building narrative in a natural and unobtrusive way is quite difficult. There’s a delicate balance between abstraction and detail and many games with strong story prose suffer from being bogged down in overwrought mechanics. Warfighter gets the mix just right as necessary components such as reloading, taking cover, and opening up with full automatic fire are given just enough detail to ignite your imagination but never obtrude on the overall structure or flow. It’s rare that a game nails it quite as sharply as Warfighter has and it’s the single most brilliant aspect of the game.


Jungle hostiles inbound!


One enormous aspect this game has going in its favor is the setting. There’s such a wealth of film covering similar topics that most of us will still have scenes from Blackhawk Down, Hurt Locker, or Generation Kill imprinted in our brain just waiting to be teased out. Warfighter can’t help but lean on these influences hard and to great effect. In addition to the distinct location and hostile choices, we’re given a gentle narrative prod with the clever choice of events that crop up in the hostile deck. While the bulk of obstacles are enemies with AKs and SMGs, you will run into stuff like your team getting lost or getting mired in rough terrain. It’s a small touch, one that many people may overlook but these events are paramount to supporting and fleshing out the story you’re building at the table. All of these elements in unison combine to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts akin to Lion Force Voltron assembling to form their namesake.

This is a game that has snuck its way into 2014 and in a just world would stealth its way onto a bevy of top 10 of the year lists. If you value narrative, tense action, and quick yet satisfying tactical decision points you need this game. Warfighter is cardboard heroin of the most potent variety and you will be hanging your head in shame if you box out the peer pressure on this one.


This review was originally written for 2d6.org. To view other reviews written by Charlie Theel check out this Geeklist.
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Zeddy
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I may have already posted your external review here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1300094/fortress-review-warf...


So here's a gg from that thread (+ a tip for a great review!) cool
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Mike Stevens
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I was lucky enough to get this great game and the first 3 expansions for Christmas and I absolutely love it. I have only played it solo so far and I am anxious to try it with 2 or 3 players.

Fantastic review and I completely agree with everything you wrote about the game. I own and enjoy Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game and The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 but I think Warfighter will move to the top of my solo games. Give this game a try, you wont be disappointed.
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Greg
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Great review Charlie. thumbsup

I totally agree, this is a fantastic game.
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Paul S
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Excellent review Charlie. Agree with all of it. What you say about narrative is spot on - it emerges effortlessly.

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John Di Ponio
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I can't agree more!!! I received the game just before Christmas, watched the GMT video, read the rules and jumped in. What a fantastic game for sure. I have only played solo but have a friend who is interested in playing so I should have a least a 2 player experience very soon.
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Charlie Theel
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Thanks guys. Somehow I missed that thread Zeddy, but thanks.
 
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Roy Morgan
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Thanks, nice review! This is the boardgame of Black Ops!
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Great review. I can't wait to play my copy. I had an issue where mine was missing about 70 cards but I got a reply (to my email to DVG) from Kevin Verssen (Dan's son?)that they will be sending me the missing cards. I hope to be joining the rest of you in spirit real soon.

-zombie
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Marc Conrad
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Another great review! Thanks.
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Joe Browes
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I bought Warfighter based on your review, and am absolutely loving it. Thanks for such a well-written review, you nailed the pleasure of the game perfectly.
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Charlie Theel
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Thanks guys. Very glad you're enjoying it as much as I am Joe.
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Luke Hector
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So how does this compare to Thunderbolt Apache? I've tried that game but it's such a beast to learn, set up and play that even though it's enjoyable, it never grips me yet it's highly rated on BGG over this one. Takes too much effort to get to the table. This one looks a bit more manageable......
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Charlie Theel
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farmergiles wrote:
So how does this compare to Thunderbolt Apache? I've tried that game but it's such a beast to learn, set up and play that even though it's enjoyable, it never grips me yet it's highly rated on BGG over this one. Takes too much effort to get to the table. This one looks a bit more manageable......

Hey Luke, not sure why I missed this reply (maybe a subscription error) so never saw it. Anyway, if you're still interested, TAL is much more of a simulation than warfighter and it feels more like a proper wargame. I say that with caution though as all of the leader games side with playability over simulation in a general sense, as they're easier to play than other typical wargames.

Warfighter though is more like a fast playing card game with narrative touches embedded throughout. There's a reverence for realism in how automatic fire works, armored targets, equipment, etc., but it's not a huge simulation. It plays pretty quickly and hand management is the main mechanic, with dice based combat being the other half.

I make a few surface comparisons early on in the review (Up Front, Space Hulk Death Angel) but really Warfighter is its own thing with a unique identity. It's been over 5 months since I wrote this review and I haven't soured on this game at all. I'm stuck trying to decide where it's at in my top 3 releases of 2014 (competing with Fallen and One Night Ultimate Werewolf). Looking forward to wave 2.
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Lawrence Davis
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"Instead of outfitting face-less Aircraft, you’re fielding soldiers with personality and real-world names. You’re not selecting a generic Mk.II bomb or a Sidewinder Missile but an M4 with underslung M203 grenade launcher, or a Benelli shotgun, even smoke grenades, optics and many other options."- OP

I be damned if I'm going to sit here and listen to some crap criticism of one of the best DVG games on the market -Hornet Leader! "Tonto", "Maverick" aren't just some "face-less Aircraft"! They are unique and colorful pilots mind you! Damn good Pilots who have just as much flavor, detail, and charisma as "SPC Hart" has.....hell even more!!

The whole problem with Warfighter (actually one of it's problems) is that they got away from "placing" the weapons on the cards. Instead, cards are weapons and you end up with all of these cards laid out around the soldier-card. When I load up my F-18 fighter with weapon counters, it actually feels like I'm LOADING up my F-18 fighter with weapons.
When I place all of these cards around my warfighter soldier-card....it feels like I'm placing cards around a card. With Warfighter I don't know if I'm playing a wargame or "playing cards"!
 
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Charlie Theel
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Lawrence, I'm a Hornet Leader and TA Leader fan so don't tkae that too seriously.
 
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Derek H
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charlest wrote:
Warfighter is cardboard heroin of the most potent variety and you will be hanging your head in shame if you box out the peer pressure on this one.
Does anyone know what the phrase "box out the peer pressure" means?
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Charlie Theel
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Boxing out is a basketball term about keeping someone away from the hoop. I'm basically saying, "you'll regret it if you ignore the peer pressure and pass on this one."

My reference to peer pressure was the buzz this game had when it came out.
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Tristan Hall
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Great review Charlie - 3 years later I'm still giving this a 10/10. cool
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Charlie Theel
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Thanks Tristan, I'm still a huge fan as well. Haven't played in a few months but I need to get it back out.
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Tristan Hall
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charlest wrote:
Thanks Tristan, I'm still a huge fan as well. Haven't played in a few months but I need to get it back out.

A while back I finally started tucking into the scenario book missions for a change and really enjoyed them. Tons of mileage in this game, but I'd still be up for backing wave 3!
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flash7713
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Is there any word on Wave 3 coming to Kickstarter? I saw in the DVG newsletter that a whole bunch of stuff was scheduled, but couldn't see any mention of this... hoping they haven't shifted completely over to WW2?
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David in Sydney (now in Coffs)
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I think Wave 3 modern is due March or so..
Schedule may have changed due to delays in printers and deliveries.
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flash7713
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Thanks David.

Fingers crossed!
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