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Lords of War: Templars versus Undead» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Lords of Fun... rss

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Scott Sexton
United States
Silver Lake
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Please note this review covers the first three "base" games for Lords of War and none of the expansions.

Quick Pitch-

Lords of War is a Spatial Reasoning abstract game dressed up as a 1980's Don Bluth fueled fantasy themed acid trip. Each turn a player will play a card to a grid, calculate if any unit cards are killed, and then draw a single card (or retrieve a card from the grid).

Wow that sounds horrible! But wait, LOW is also a fast paced two player tactical card combat game that offers 15-30 minutes of cutthroat fun.

What is there to love?

Lords of War is pretty. Very very pretty, but in a very non-traditional way. The art offers you an early 1980's style of fantasy art that is evocative without pandering to excessive gore or sexuality. The card layout design is clean and minimalistic, while the art is busy and quite colorful without being vibrant.

Lords of War is very fast to learn/teach. Each round of the game is quite simple: Play a card, cards on the battle field die, draw a card. The nuance of the game comes from all the little tweaks to the basic rule structures and the "math" on the cards. Different cards have different battle effects or deployment rules. Each card has unique directions it can attack (any combination of the basic directions: Up, Down, Left, Right, and diagonal in any intermediary direction) and values of damage it deals (typically 1 through 5). Even though you may have 4 copies of a common unit in your deck, each of those units may be slightly different depending on the layout of the attack arrows (telling you what directions the card deals damage).

Lords of War is affordable. There are currently 3 "starter" packs out. You only need to buy one to get a good taste of the game. Each pack runs about $13 on CSI, so the game has a very low entry cost. For those who want to go nuts, you can buy each of the three starters, and the terrain pack (which I have not tried, but don't feel as if it adds anything NECESSARY to the game). There are two upcoming expansion packs (now on Kickstarter) which should run about $10 each on CSI. You can go directly to Black Box Games and also buy playmats and foil cards for your deck to swap out your commanders or to add interesting promos. The game is decidedly LESS affordable for those who get sucked into the game.

Lords of War is a filler sized game that packs one hell of a mental punch. In some ways LOW reminds me a lot of Star Realms in that it is easy to pick up and run through a short and pretty satisfying game with little effort. While Star Realms does a good job with simplifying deckbuilding, Lords of War is offering an streamlined asymmetrical tactical grid combat game.

The gameplay is solid and fun. This isn't exactly a quality that can be quantified, but again I'm reminded of that strangely addictive quality that Star Realms had. I get the feeling that if this game were made widely available at Origins, people would go completely nuts. If Star Realms and Red 7 have taught us nothing, its that cheap price points, plus quick and addictive gameplay can make for a smash sales hit.

What is there to hate?

The art isn't for everyone. The art has a definite hand drawn feel, and fans of vibrant CGI quality art won't be impressed. The Templar art with Kickstarter backers' faces drawn in feels inconsistent with the standard art style used by the game. It is glaringly inconsistent and disappointing to say the least.

The game can inspire AP for those who lack spatial reasoning prowess. My kids struggled trying to rationalize card placement the first three times they played (they now have dozens of games under their belts and regularly destroy me). For adults, there should be less AP because we have far more experience with this sort of thing, but expect kids to struggle a bit when first learning to play.

Stronger players can easily bully weaker players. A stronger player can build up a pretty nasty board state if they can eliminate all of their opponent's characters. The weaker player will be stuck playing a single card, unable to kill any opponent cards, ONLY to have the stronger player come back the next turn and play a card that will capture the weaker player's only card. This creates a lopsided board state that can be very frustrating for the weaker player and drive players away from the game if one isn't careful.

There is some frustrating randomness IF you aren't a fan of card games. You are ultimately dependent on the cards you draw. The board state is in constant flux, so when your turn comes up, you just have to pray you have a card that will be enough to push back against your opponent. I'd guess that roughly 95% of the time this isn't an issue, but in my experience, at least once every game I find myself cursing my luck because I don't have anything I want in my hand or on the board that I can recall to my hand. THIS IS A VERY MINOR GRIPE.

I'm not 100% certain that Cavalry cards with high defense values aren't a bit unbalanced (I'm looking at you Templar Cavalry). If you can pull 2 of the same type of cavalry units into your hand, you can constantly be dropping your cavalry into flanking positions to take out just about any of your opponents cards. The natural counter to this is to pin cavalry in place using spear units. The problem is that when you get 2 cavalry into your hand, you can pick off almost any spear units without risking loss of your cavalry by constantly hitting their undefended flank. Both of my kids have used this brutal technique to the point of making me feel like Glass Joe in the NES classic Punch Out. When high defense Cavalry appear in a game, you MUST make it a priority to take them out. Pray your opponent doesn't have 2 in their hand.

This is an abstract game at heart. I don't care how you dress this game up, the only thing truly thematic here is the artwork. This too is a minor gripe, afterall, how has Dominion's theme hurt its sales? I will concede that Cavalry, Spear, and Ranged Units all have thematic secondary abilities, but this isn't going to hold true for most units.

Conclusion.

Lords of War is probably the best 2 player filler I've purchased since the 2013/2014 smash hit Star Realms. In fact, I would say that LOW travels better then Star Realms and is easier to teach non-gamers. Fun + Cheap + Accessible = Smash Hit Sales. Which begs the question: Why hasn't this game been a huge hit in the US? Lack of stateside distribution is the simple answer. I've never seen this game at any FLGS or any online realtor until just recently. Luckily for you, CSI has some copies available, and you can also check out Black Box Game's current KS for everything you need and more.
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Nick R. Nielsen-Doss
United States
Hudson Falls
New York
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Excellent review!!

Don't quote me on this but I am 90% sure that Black Box have at least 2 distributors in the US, and will have a presence at Gen Con next year.

I personally will be playing Lords of War at this years Gen Con. In what capacity, I don't yet know, but I will be spreading the news in some fashion.

Nick
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Tristan Brunet
Japan
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I can't agree more with the "Kickstarter faces" problem of the Templars. I love the art style of this game, Steve Cox is my new god (ok, I may be exagerating a bit here). But the lame way the faces of the backers are photoshopped in the Templars art completely ruins its cohesiveness and awesome oldschool vibe. Its like looking at Mona Lisa, with the face of some random guy put onto it. I actually can't force me to buy those because of that. Which is terrible, since the undead art just blows my mind. But that's how much it completely ruins the experience for me.
 
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