When this game appeared, it seemed to be a good idea. I read almost everything I found out about it and it didn't seem to be "my kind of game". So I forgot about it. Until earlier this week when I was visiting a gamestore in Stockholm. I had made up my mind that I wanted to buy a boardgame but I didn't know which. Somehow I settled for this one.
I didn't have high expectations about it, as I had already decided not to buy it, then bought it nevertheless. Having low expectations, however, is often a good thing, as I'm often positively surprised. Having now played this once, I was positively surprised.
Kid brother and arch-enemy (sounds better than "steady gaming partner") Jens jumped at the occasion to play the Undead Scourge while I took the Night Elf Sentinels. We set up the standard scenario for two players and started.
We both started by producing workers and moved them out to the nearby mines and forests, sending the melee units forward to protect the workers. Very early in the game I made a mistake that cost me the lead, a lead I though I could never regain. I was careful not to let my workers be threatend, keeping them out of range from the undead armies. I thought I did a decent job at it, until Jens produced a FAST-card, and sent forth a melee unit to slaughter my worker. I was now a step behind, and I thought I was cooked.
I was lucky (well, luckier than my opponent at least) in the harvest rolls, while Jens rapidly depleted his mines and forests and was forced to move forward. I had, however, been building an army and set up a brick wall of muscle effectively stopping everything halfway. They were originally deployed to protect my worker, but they did a fine job at keeping illegal immigrants (undead workers) away from my part of the woods.
Jens was running out of mines and forests, and saw he had only one choice. He upgraded his units and built a large but cheap army of high quality melee units and went to war. My army was smaller but more versatile, having units of all sorts.
Cry havoc - and let slip the dogs of war - and Jens marched his hordes towards my lines. It was to be a massive battle with vast amounts of units participating and cards hitting the table at every turn.
The mighty dice were on my side, and Jens lost heavily. He had the better army. He had the larger army. But after the fantastic battle, he had no army. Smelling his defeat (I practically controlled three quarters of the board, including all undepleted mines and forests, and my remaining army was at least ten times the size of his) I graciously accepted his unconditional surrender - and peace reigned in the lands for eternity. All night elf sentinels lived happily ever after while the undead scourge were forced to serve their new masters as stand-up comedians at sleezy after-hours clubs, and were not allowed to watch anything but government television channels. Good to be kings.
We both enjoyed the game, and agreed that the feel of WarCraft could not have been better implemented into a boardgame. At the beginning of the game Jens did not like the fact that both players had more resources than they could spend, and felt that they should be more difficult to get a hold of. But as mines and forests became depleted the resources were getting sparse, and I heard nothing more of this complaint. It did not disturb me either.
I would have preferred miniatures. I know there has been some discussion here, both for and against. I don't particularly hate these wooden tokens, but I would have preferred nice, plastic minis, and I would have been prepared to pay a bit more for them. I would also have preferred tokens/minis for the workers, instead of the cardboard counters now used. And if minis would be out of the question, a bit better tokens. I have no idea what these are supposed to look like. If you're going to use wooden bits, give us some kind of meeple. The flying units are particularly disappointing. As long as we are complaining, the outposts could have been designed differently also. As they are now it's difficult to see what kind of terrain is underneath them. Component-wise the insert was also a disappointment. Almost Silver Line-quality for a full-price game. You can do better than this, FFG! I know you can - you have before!
On the whole I was very pleased with my purchase, as the game seems to be a good beer-and-pretzels (although I was never quite fond of pretzels to be perfectly honest) game that can be played successfully with both two and more players. Before the game I had a slight fear the game would come down to - all players collect resources as best they can, until they've built up an army and upgraded it fully, after which there would be a huge battle in the middle of the board. It didn't turn out to be that way. Although I suspect the win will go to the player who rolls the better harvest rolls, there are still some very distinct tactical choices to be made.
One also has to be careful not to make mistakes. We both made some shameful beginner boo-boos, like not leaving workers in the home town when you wanted to construct buildings and not moving existing troops away from the home town (or outposts) when there were new units being produced (You can't deploy them if the home town and outposts have their stacking limit filled). I really like the battlesystem. It's very simple, but the fact that all units in the flanks (hexes adjecent to the battlehex) participate in the battle makes all the difference and forces you to really think tactically when deploying your troops for battle.
Very nice balance also between the different units, as no unit as that much better than the other. As their differences are subtle at most, no units are forgotten. If, for example the flyers had been much better than melees, they would either have to be ridiculously expensive, or then the melee units would be unnecessary. The more I think about it, I feel the balance is finely tuned. But keep in mind I have only played once so far.
There's a real gem of a game here. It's a shame they didn't dare (or choose) go for nice plastic miniatures.
I been looking at this game for some time, not knowing if to get it or not.
Your review has made up my mind, I think I'll go to the same gamestore as you went to and buy me a copy,
I'm looking forward to having some real talk with some real folks!
Hi, I'm Matt, A radar technician.
We are actually in the middle of a game here at work.
As much as the basic game is great, the expansion makes this game so much better.
I suggest having both for the best War Craft experience!