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Subject: In Soviet Russia, deck builds you! rss

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Scott Sexton
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World of Tanks

Quick Pitch- World of Tanks is a simple deckbuilder that takes a paper thin thematic veneer (World War 2 era tanks blowing stuff up) and offers up a surprisingly enjoyable and streamlined head to head gaming experience in the same vein as Star Realms.

You've played deck building games before, right? So no need to explain that part, ok?

World of Tanks takes the basic rotating common market ideas from games like Star Realms, Ascension, and the Cerberus Engine and gives it a slight twist, setting up a worthy offering in this gaming genre. Each game of WOT finds you buying tanks and units to power up your deck with the end goal being to score the most VP (Medals) by the end of the game. Each player starts with 3 bases and the game ends when any player has all 3 of their bases destroyed OR if all nine of any of the four countries' medals are claimed. The path to victory is what breaths a bit of fresh air into the game. The game comes with several "achievement" cards which offer up 5 vp (which is a good chunk, but not insurmountable) at the end of the game to the player who best completes the given objective. In each game 3 of the dozen or so achievements are set out for all the players to view and compete for. Functionally, this works just like the variable VP set up for games like Kingdom Builder. From game to game, these achievements will guide you every bit as much as the types of cards that show up in the ever rotating common market players buy cards from. Players also gain VP for destroying enemy bases (3vp per base) and destroying enemy tanks (1 vp per tank destroyed). When you destroy your opponents stuff, you will start to clog your deck with less then useful VP cards (either base cards or medal, medals also give you a tiny bit of resources to buy with). This affords the game some balance and avoids the obvious run away leader problem.

The last interesting twist to the game is that instead of your normal 5 or 6 cards most deck builders allow you to draw each turn, a player is restricted to drawing only 3 cards (unless they get to play cards that allow for more to be drawn). This limitation causes the player to have to make very important purchasing and comboing decisions throughout the game. On the one hand its great because turns will move fast and require very interesting decisions. On the other hand, some players may be turned off because there are going to be turns where you just aren't going to be able to do anything on your turn.

What is fun about this game? World of Tanks works because it offers a different kind of puzzle that most deck builders don't offer. In Dominion you have a goal of getting the most VP and the puzzle is, "how do I build my engine using these cards?" In Ascension/Star Realms the goal again is VP (yes, Star Realms is really a VP game disguised as an HP game) but how you get there is determined by relatively tactical decisions afforded by what is available in the market on your turn. World of Tanks gives you the choices of "what kind of engine do I want to build (buy/fight/combo/etc.), what cards do I buy as the market evolves, what kind of VP strategy am I going to use (achievements?/Bases?/Medals?/some combination?)?" The unique puzzle every game of WOT throws at players is very satisfying. It offers better depth and variety then most deck builders offer. The variable achievements are a nice step forward for deck building design and one I hope more games employ.

Oh yeah, and the art/layout design is gorgeous. The game is based on a mmo IP that has a ton of art assets that are recycled for this game. The art is all consistent and consistently good. The layout design is minimalist with each card using icons and numbers instead of spelled out game text. A simple player aid (provided by the game) is all you need to understand what any card's abilities are. My only beef is that there is a bit of a logic break in how the card displays its cost versus what it produces to buy cards. The card's cost is shown with a coin icon, while the resources it generates are shown with a gas can icon. The natural instinct some players will have is to flip these around (thinking that the coin symbol means that is how much the money the card generates). This is a small quibble in a very tightly designed layout.

What is to love:

A very clean and refined deckbuilding design.

Excellent variability. Games feel similar, without ever feeling that you are just going through the motions again.

Fast moving turns. Turns typically move faster then a turn in Ascension or Star Realms, but only slightly.

Great art with a consistent look.

Clean layout that is easy to read.


What isn't to love:

If you have bad luck or trouble building a deck with good synergy, you will have turns where you do nothing. Veterans of Ascension and Star Realms will know all about this already.

Card variety isn't as deep as some games. The big limitation with the design is that cards were designed to be language independent using icons to replace game text. That means that you have a small pool of abilities (less then a dozen) to draw from in the base game. Most of the game's cards are differentiated using their stats and so as a result, you sometimes start to feel that the cards lack any real individualized identity. I don't feel like I'm playing a Sherman Tank as much as I'm playing a card that gives me 3 resources. This is in truth, a weakness of how theme is implemented in the game. If you take away gorgeous art, the theme is barely present.

This is best balanced as a 2 player game. It isn't quite as problematic with more as Star Realms, but it isn't the most balance multiplayer deck builder I've ever played either. I'll probably only want to play this as a two player game. Any more and I'll crack out something meatier.


Conclusion- I bought this game on clearance for less then $10. It was a steal. Despite my minor quibbles, this is a very solid and incredibly fun game. If you are a fan of deckbuilders, this is a great title to pick up. This is a title that may become tricky to find in stores in the future unless a reprint/reboot comes through (as is rumored). Feel free to give this game some love with confidence.
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Jason Meyers
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Yeah, it's not as deep and varied as other deck-builders - at least until the long-promised expansion emerges. However, very fast-paced, encourages interaction, streamlined, and smart. Very under-rated, IMO. thumbsup
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Scott Sexton
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Spielemitkinder wrote:
Yeah, it's not as deep and varied as other deck-builders - at least until the long-promised expansion emerges. However, very fast-paced, encourages interaction, streamlined, and smart. Very under-rated, IMO. thumbsup

You can get the international version of the expansion on ebay and BGG has a translation of the rules for the new symbols. Easy as pie.

Go Royals!

Edit- If you want depth in a deck builder you need expansions or to have Martin Wallace's name on the box. One could argue that Arctic Scavengers is deep without expansions, but I think that the expansion will show how shallow the base game really is.
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Jason Petty
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Sad and ironic that I have not played this yet...and that I don't even own a copy.
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Piotr Konieczny
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I agree with your comparison to Ascension, which suffers from the same heavy luck factor due to cards availability. Interestingly, in my quite numerous plays of Star Realms I have not seen this to be an issue.
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