Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
 Hide
47 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

This War of Mine: The Board Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Emperor's New Clothes rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Immature [+] [View All]
DH
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
(Firstly, huge apologies for the lack of pictures. I took a load and then promptly dropped my phone in the bog. Sorry.)

(Secondly, I know that this will provoke the usual storm of "you didn't play the game," "you just don't get it" etc etc. It's a review, it's my opinion. It's not gospel, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I'd just ask that everyone considers a product for what it actually is, rather than what we'd like it to be - and god knows, I myself am guilty of that at times. Happy gaming everybody!)




"Proof that boardgames can be art"

The above quote is part of the blurb on the box cover, and is one that I will return to at the end of this review. I couldn't initially say why this line annoyed me, but after playing TWOM I understood the fallacy at the heart of it.


For the uninitiated (and surely there can't be many left on this thread) This War Of Mine started life as a video game on the PC, later ported to the PS4 and Xbox One. It tells the story of a group of survivors in a city almost-but-not-quite-like-Sarajevo during a war that is almost-but-not-quite the war in the former Yugoslavia. The game was an unremittingly bleak look at the harsh reality of life in a city under siege, and the moral choices that had to be made in order to ensure survival. Most of the time you lost - that was the nature of the beast. Imagine if the Sims had had an expansion called 'Under Fire' - well, TWOM would have been its older, darker brother.

Thus it was with some surprise that I learned TWOM was being adapted to a boardgame, albeit one that I followed with some interest. I didn't back the KS but bought it as soon as it hit my FLGS.

Initial impressions - positive. The board is roomy and depicts the house in a side-on view. Anyone who's played the videogame will recognise it immediately. In a nice touch the board has two sides, one 'normal' and the other showing a 'harder' difficulty level for more advanced players. The cards are of decent quality stock, the markers and chits are nicely thick and clear in what they show and all the other tokens are meaty, very attractive and easily distinguishable. Figurines depicting each of the protagonists in the game are present and quite easy to distinguish between, although to begin with a close inspection was often necessary. Coloured bases can be slotted onto the character bases to aid this, which I felt was a very nice touch.

The game is designed to be played right out of the box for 1-4 players, with minimal setup time. This is a nice approach and helps get the players right into the swing of things, plus everyone can help in the setup which shouldn't take more than a few minutes. The cards are all placed on various spots around the board, the randomly-selected character models are placed on the entrance spot for the house and the first random event is drawn to represent events on that day of the war/siege. One player is selected to be the Leader for that turn/day and gains the responsibility of placement of the figurines around the house and onto the various tasks and issue selections that await. The leader also takes the Journal and thus has the responsibility of reading aloud the stories and choices that may arise.

And herein lies one of the two enormous problems at the heart of TWOM:TBG. Given that the leader for that turn is the only one allowed to touch tokens and makes all the choices for that turn, player interaction with the game itself is reduced to a functionally solo experience. Sure, other players are encouraged to give their opinions and to dissent on the course of action taken by the leader, but players other than the leader have no agency that turn and are rendered redundant by this game mechanic. There is nothing to stop the leader sending any character of their choice into a suicidal or illogical situation, since the players are not invested into any one character. The group of players is encouraged to play as the group of survivors, rather than as individuals struggling to survive. Whilst I'm no fan of Margaret Thatcher, she was right in the philosophical sense that there is no such thing as society, just men and women making individual choices that accumulate. This game mechanic encourages both redundancy in players who are not presently the leader, and also tends towards Captain Oates-like scenarios on the part of the leader against the best interests of individual characters.


(I had a photo to illustrate this, now lost, of a situation where the leader sent Bruno out scavenging whilst badly wounded and with no weapons, whilst other characters stayed at home with all the guns).


OK, thinks I, I can live with this nonsense if the rest of the game adds up. Sadly the second problem is quickly encountered - the vast, vast majority of the rest of the game occurs in the cards drawn and in entries from the story entries in the journal that arise from the cards. If you're playing with people not prepared to visualise a situation, environment or combat scenario then you're playing the wrong game with the wrong people.

Scavenging occurs on a nightly basis, after the day phase, and involves the leader selecting one or more characters to explore a location in the ruined city. This location is selected from a randomly-chosen building placed at one of three distances from the house. Obviously a supermarket is more likely to contain food than a hospital, but may be further away which decreases the number of exploration cards drawn at the location to represent time lost by travelling. The huge problem is that the exploration cards drawn are essentially random, with a few caveats detailed on the location card to drive certain finds, events or rooms. Players wander blind through a maze of random rooms and random encounters, hoping to find supplies and avoid encounters, which may be fleshed out in a little more detail by the journal.

And that's it. That's the game. Sure, the next day occurs and the leader draws to see if there's been a raid on the house during the night which may cost supplies, lives or both, and a new event card is drawn, but fundamentally that's it. There's no real planning or strategy involved, just a series of random events with random outcomes, chosen and acted upon by a single player in the group. Putting it baldly, with a bad group this could be played as a solo game where the player rotates and the others go for a drink between their turn.

The board part of this boardgame is almost entirely redundant. The action occurs on the cards, not the board and almost the only thing that it is used for is for marking various tracks, which could be easily done with an app or small counting board. The rooms in the house have random cards placed on them, and could just as easily be on a blank table, and the placement of the figurines has no effect whatsoever beyond aesthetics. Ultimately it's a card game that happens to feature a board, rather than a boardgame in the purest sense of the term.

The truly asinine design decisions at the heart of TWOM:TBG defy belief. God alone knows how the designers possibly thought that a single player in rotation choosing the game was a good choice. However, I believe that the designers (and this is not meant to be unkind, it's just a feeling) were all huge fans of the original videogame, had all played it to death, and as such so slavishly imitated the visuals of the game that they were completely constrained by the mechanics that it led to. There is almost no good reason to depict the shelter that the characters hide in during the daytime, and it would probably have been better to attempt to depict the city and the buildings it contains (perhaps some sort of city-building-explore mechanic a la Betrayal at House on the Hill?).

Equally the idea that a fundamentally solo game where the action plays out in cards and the readings of a single player, could be a fun group experience genuinely beggars belief. If played with a group of people who loved - really loved - the videogame, yeah it might work. But if you're playing with people who've not played the videogame or who struggle to visualise abstract situations, then this will turn them off boardgames for life.

It's a dud. A complete fricking dud, hamstrung by slavish devotion to its source material and some incomprehensible design choices that create that very worst of boardgame situations - boredom for inactive players.

--

And yet. And yet. It keeps rumbling around my head. The stories generated by TWOM:TBG - Pavel stabbed to death in an alleyway by tramps. Bruno saving a starving woman, and the resulting feel of goodwill from this kept him from committing suicide and ultimately let him survive the war. Anna taking in a stranger who turned out to be the saviour of the group. These are all vignettes generated in just a couple of games, amongst many others, but they stay in your mind. There is definitely something in this idea of a group of survivors that is worth exploring further - maybe if each player had a single character who also had their own agenda, like in Dead of Winter? Maybe if each character had their own secret set of psychological tics and issues that affected their relations with others? This setting is definitely worth exploring further, perhaps as a roleplay game or sourcebook, but in its current form is a seriously flawed prospect.

I won't write off TWOM:TBG completely, and it'll stay in my collection but only for solo plays. Don't play with people who aren't really into boardgames, and don't play with children or 'those of a sensitive disposition.' Don't play if you want a lively, evolving environment with meaningful choices and planning to be done. Don't play if you don't like downtime. Above all, for Christ's sake, don't play with people who may be dyslexic or struggle with reading, unless they're prewarned.

Do play if you like stories, especially bleak ones. Do play if you want a degree of emotional involvement with a group of survivors. Do play if you were a huge fan of the videogame, but don't expect the same experience.

--

"Proof that boardgames can be art"

Crap. Utter crap. It's only been called that due to the subject matter - no major media outlet has accused Catan or Fury of Dracula of being art, despite involving vastly more player interaction than TWOM:TBG. It's as if only an issue that looks at the dark side of life is worth considering as art, which is a completely fallacious view - by that definition the painting of Myra Hindley in the UK a few years ago is more worthy of being considered art than the Mona Lisa. Art should be provocative and cause the consumer to question whatever is the topic, but just because something is nasty doesn't make it of greater artistic merit. And that's my two pence on why that quote annoyed me.
31 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Judging by what you have said in your review, you actually played the game incorrectly in a major way, no one controls the game for an entire day. That may have had an impact on your opinions.

I find other points of contention with the review, but that one is a huge mechanical error.
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J Mathews
United States
Renton
Washington
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I will agree that this is a game that requires a certain kind of group and isn't something to be pulled out on a whim or for a casual group. That said, everything else is so far away from my experience that it wouldn't do any good to get into it. Each time we've played we've gotten closer to winning, so there's a game in there somewhere because there's something to get better at. And FWIW, I think the game would have been ruined if everyone had their own character for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is that the characters die. A lot. At least mine do.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benjamin Grey
United States
Minnesota
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dontpanic69 wrote:

It's a dud. A complete fricking dud, hamstrung by slavish devotion to its source material and some incomprehensible design choices that create that very worst of boardgame situations - boredom for inactive players.

--


While I really appreciate the game, I respect that you don't enjoy it. The style of gameplay is not for everyone.

As for multiplayer...we've found it one of the most engaging co-op games we've played. It helps that we ignore the "pass the booklet" method of leadership and make all decisions by group consensus, and that the groups I've played with work well as a team. Having everybody playing everybody with no leader means there's literally no downtime for anyone, we all stay focused on what was going on. Too often in other co-ops individual players would get tunnel vision on their own character's situation, tuning out during other players turns...that doesn't happen here. (Made the mistake of being in a 7 player Arkham Horror game once, that was some long downtime.)

Strategy eventually plays a role in the game, but the dirty secret that the developers have hinted at is that your first games aren't supposed to be strategized. Instead of min/maxxing your way through, they hoped that you would do what seems to make sense for a group of scared civilians to do in each situation. As time passes and you've played a couple of times...you get a feel for what can happen, recognise events that are likely to occur, and plan for them. My main complaint is that the event deck is small enough that the majority of the cards will be played in a given game, and it gets a little too easy to plan ahead. (You may not know when the rat swarm will hit, but it's probably coming.
And once it's hit, you probably never have to worry about it happening again.)

In any event, I wish you luck in finding how to enjoy the game...or, failing that, finding someone who will take it off your hands for close to what you paid for it.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dustin Crenshaw
United States
Kentucky
flag msg tools
Thematic Colors of Gaming Blog
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
We just let each player control their own character, massively more enjoyable.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
a a
msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Characters are assigned to players automatically in my house! It's the only way to get more invested in the game and promotes interaction and RP! :)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
DH
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Thanks for your input, I will go back and check the rules but that was the interpretation that my group made of how to play. And I agree, absolutely, that individual assignment of characters makes the game hugely more enjoyable, but we really shouldn't have to be houseruling a brand new game straight out of the box in order to make it playable.

That said, it's just my opinion on it. Opinions are like arseholes: everyone has one but there's not many worth listening to

Happy gaming, and hope you're all having a good Sunday.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Greenaway
United Kingdom
Blackpool
Lancashire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DH, How to explain that you have misunderstood this game in a major way. if you felt it was worth it, start from fresh and possibly you might experience the brilliance within this game. but on a more important note, have a wonderful day yourself. Thank you for taking the time to share how you feel.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Watts
United Kingdom
Southwell
Notts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
There is definitely a place on BGG for negative reviews like yours and I wish more people would contribute these for balance (although IMO phrases like 'complete fricking dud' and 'utter crap' are not my own style). Unfortunately, as you are aware, there is a tendency to just criticise the person rather than address the content of such reviews and people are far more likely to want to give their positive opinions of games rather than negative when writing reviews or session reports.

Now my four pennies worth.

dontpanic69 wrote:
And I agree, absolutely, that individual assignment of characters makes the game hugely more enjoyable, but we really shouldn't have to be houseruling a brand new game straight out of the box in order to make it playable.


I agree with your comment here. A game should be play tested extensively (and this one certainly was) and houseruling shouldn't be necessary straight away. However, when playing with a group of people this game really is enormously improved by having players associate themselves with one of the characters but not necessarily having them being in control of all of their actions. This can be achieved very easily if each player chooses a character or it is randomly assigned to them to introduce to the others.

The second variation mentioned here on BGG which I would whole-heartedly recommend is that the group of players jointly discuss every key decision to be made but if there is a major disagreement then the 'active' player makes a ruling. The active player then moves on to the next person and so on. Everyone can join in reading, moving tokens etc as necessary but turning over the night scavenging phase cards is best done by the active player since even deciding between losing cards or noise rolls can get a bit fraught near to the end of the deck - particularly if you haven't found anything!

Art? Art is personal and subjective so, although I disagree with your opinion about the game, so what? It's like trying to explain why I like Motorhead to a brass band fan (at least a brass band fan who doesn't like Motorhead). But where I do think you are wrong is to say 'Art should be provocative and cause the consumer to question whatever is the topic'. This may be a bit pedantic of me but maybe what you actually mean is 'Art can be provocative...'? I don't think many people would describe Flatford Mill as being 'provocative' unless maybe they had a phobia about water?

By sheer coincidence we finished the base game campaign (with the Heart of the City expansion) yesterday. I thought the 'open the envelope when you finish the campaign' was a very nice touch.


6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
michael dorazio
United States
Tyngsboro
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Fair review. I like the theme, look, and novelty of the game. Mechanics are decent. And by my third play, I fared better. But it IS a pretty random game, as is the nature of the background. And I kinda felt like I got out of it what I wanted after just three plays. Didn't have legs for me.

I only played solo, and I enjoyed the videogame more.

Commendable effort, and I see the appeal. Always happy to see the boundaries extended.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Watts
United Kingdom
Southwell
Notts
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
cradleofmilk wrote:
Fair review. I like the theme, look, and novelty of the game. Mechanics are decent. And by my third play, I fared better. But it IS a pretty random game, as is the nature of the background. And I kinda felt like I got out of it what I wanted after just three plays. Didn't have legs for me.

I only played solo, and I enjoyed the videogame more.

Commendable effort, and I see the appeal. Always happy to see the boundaries extended.



Agreed. It can be extremely random and I would say that luck is definitely needed to complete the campaign (like in real life?). If anyone doesn't like the fact that an appreciable amount of randomness might ruin their carefully constructed plans then, despite the events usually being very relevant and themeatic, this is not going to be your game.

(I love Bios Megafauna so I must admit that i'm used to catastrophic events occurring when cards are randomly turned over)


2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lee Farley
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
I enjoy a good 'negative' review.

This is not one of them.

Full of hyperbole and faulty analogies it not only fallaciously misses the mark in getting the game mechanics communicated correctly but also uses egregious, blanket, absolutist statements that are patently untrue given my own experiences introducing people to this game over the last month.

Non-gamers have been engrossed. My wife was talking about it for days after playing. My daughter wants her friends to play it with her. My brother wanted to research the siege of Sarajevo. None of these individuals knew about, let alone played, the video game.

Each to their own concerning their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and emotions about this game - but to call it a "dud" for groups after getting a fundamental mechanic wrong before going on to insinuate that the designers are foolish and stupid should give this mass of words a shout at the BGG 'Most Ironic Review of 2017' award.

This is a gaming experience that depicts what happens when the social order collapses and social obligations evaporate during war - and it does so in a very special and unique way.
27 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
DH
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Using a lot of long words doesn't make your statements any more authorative, it just makes you sound like the sort of insufferable individual to avoid at games nights.

I freely admit that my group may well have got a portion of the rules wrong. If we got parts wrong, it's a sure bet that others have too. Moreover, kudos to you if you got others to play it and enjoy it. I didn't - start your own review to give us your experiences then; I genuinely would be interested to know why others love it so much, but in a review of why it is so good, not why they want it to be good

This isn't meant to sound as hostile as it does, you'll notice the caveat I included at the start of my review. My.word ain't gospel, don't claim it to be so.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lee Farley
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
dontpanic69 wrote:
Using a lot of long words doesn't make your statements any more authorative, it just makes you sound like the sort of insufferable sort to avoid at games nights.

I freely admit that my group may well have got a portion of the rules wrong. If we got parts wrong, it's a sure bet that others have too. Moreover, kudos to you if you got others to play it and enjoy it. I didn't - start your own review to give us your experiences then; I genuinely would be interested to know why others love it so much, but in a review of why it is so good, not why they want it to be good

This isn't meant to sound as hostile as it does, you'll notice the caveat I included at the start. My.word ain't gospel, don't claim it to be so.


Looks like you've taken my reply as a personal attack on your sense of self rather than an attack on your review. I know it's a tough business working out the differences between my reply to your thread and a belief that it is a reply to your deeply held identity as a person.

If you don't want critiques of your words then don't post reviews - especially poorly conceived ones.

So, what you're basically saying is this:

"You've taken the time to read the words I wrote. If you disagree with them - don't bother replying. If you do reply with a critique then use small words - or else I'm going to make a mental image in my head where you are an insufferable type that is to be avoided at game nights and I won't like you - even though I don't know you. Then, should you dare post any fault with my absolutist statements, my lacklustre mind-reading abilities, my difficulty in reading the rules correctly and my calling the designers idiots - then I'm going to challenge you to write your own review with the added challenge that it has to meet my own very special criteria that covers why the game is good - not why you want it to be good - and only I will be the sole-arbitrator concerning whether this criteria has been met."

Does that about sum it up?

Apologies if I've used any "long words" in my reply to your "non-hostile" reply but maybe getting someone who understands long-words might be of benefit to your game nights - that way your next review might be built upon playing the game correctly.

Juat a thought...
21 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
DH
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Dissenting opinions are fundamental, I absolutely accept that - I've bought games in the past that had no negative reviews that I thought were utterly dreadful. Most new games on here tend to accumulate a cluster of hugely positive reviews that gradually then decline over time, a new product bias. That's totally understandable, but when it's a relatively expensive item it's also helpful to have a range of opinions on a given item that, for a lot of people, might be a month's disposable income.

I've always tried to avoid reporting to ad hominem attacks, as it leads to toxic exchanges of no benefit to anyone. FWIW I've spent the day in an almost comically tedious conference listening to professors of varying degrees of pomposity explain why everything in my given career field is based on falsehoods that only they can resolve. That's been a lot of long words too, so please don't resort to those kinds of snide asides, it just causes BGG to degenerate to become one of those horrible subreddits that are out there.

And in a sense, yeah,I am the sole arbiter of my opinions - to be otherwise would be to flap in the wind of public opinion surely? If the facts change though,I change my opinions, and on the advice of others here I will indeed revisit TWOM with a fresh mind at some point in the next week or two. I've done it before with other games, and if my opinions change I will certainly revisit this review and explain why I was wrong.

Regardless of what you might think of my previous statement, I apologise for any unwitting offence. I'm tired, hungry and in desperate need of a stiff drink at a dreary provincial hotel. I genuinely wish you well with the game and your group, and hope you've had a more interesting Sunday than me
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve S
United States
Morgantown
West Virginia
flag msg tools
Off topic, but...

"Art should be provocative and cause the consumer to question whatever is the topic"

Meh. I think art should look nice.

Steve
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
leedavidfarley wrote:
dontpanic69 wrote:
Using a lot of long words doesn't make your statements any more authorative, it just makes you sound like the sort of insufferable sort to avoid at games nights.

I freely admit that my group may well have got a portion of the rules wrong. If we got parts wrong, it's a sure bet that others have too. Moreover, kudos to you if you got others to play it and enjoy it. I didn't - start your own review to give us your experiences then; I genuinely would be interested to know why others love it so much, but in a review of why it is so good, not why they want it to be good

This isn't meant to sound as hostile as it does, you'll notice the caveat I included at the start. My.word ain't gospel, don't claim it to be so.


Looks like you've taken my reply as a personal attack on your sense of self rather than an attack on your review. I know it's a tough business working out the differences between my reply to your thread and a belief that it is a reply to your deeply held identity as a person.

If you don't want critiques of your words then don't post reviews - especially poorly conceived ones.

So, what you're basically saying is this:

"You've taken the time to read the words I wrote. If you disagree with them - don't bother replying. If you do reply with a critique then use small words - or else I'm going to make a mental image in my head where you are an insufferable type that is to be avoided at game nights and I won't like you - even though I don't know you. Then, should you dare post any fault with my absolutist statements, my lacklustre mind-reading abilities, my difficulty in reading the rules correctly and my calling the designers idiots - then I'm going to challenge you to write your own review with the added challenge that it has to meet my own very special criteria that covers why the game is good - not why you want it to be good - and only I will be the sole-arbitrator concerning whether this criteria has been met."

Does that about sum it up?

Apologies if I've used any "long words" in my reply to your "non-hostile" reply but maybe getting someone who understands long-words might be of benefit to your game nights - that way your next review might be built upon playing the game correctly.

Juat a thought...


I don't think this warrants too intense a back and forth. The OP has extremely harsh and as you said hyperbolic language in it. The critical and commercial success of TWOM puts lie to some of his summations handily. Arguing the point further doesn't reinforce it, it just likely increases the stress levels of all involved ^^
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Allen Weaver
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
So first I will state that I love this game. I've only played it three times but I've liked it more with every replay. However, hyperbole aside I can see the OP points here. From a traditional point of view the game is lacking in some areas. And if you are someone that likes to have a lot a clarity in rules, roles and strategy I can see where this game would seem to be wanting.

It's a completely valid point of view. The issues raised about the rules being misinterpreted are moot. The rules on this game a flexible. I says to in the rules.

I found that when I discovered that the rules are aligned with the theme the game opened up for me. I appreciated the novelty of it. But I like theme. Some can take it or leave it.

But as usual when someone posts a negative review of a game someone else likes some people take offense and go right for the jugular and attack. See some of my negative posts on Terraforming Mars for reference.

I think the OP missed the mark here but that's just my opinion. People look for different things out of the games they play. His review may be perfectly in line with others feelings and experiences.

So lets give the guy a break. He took the time to post his thoughts. And if I was a game designer I'd learn more from the negative reviews critiquing my game than the positive ones fawning over it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Zarzycki
Poland
Poznań
Wielkopolskie
flag msg tools
spiral out
badge
keep going
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Boardgames (maybe) can be art.

But this game surely isn't.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
rattkin wrote:
Boardgames (maybe) can be art.

But this game surely isn't.


Why do you feel that way?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sebastian Zarzycki
Poland
Poznań
Wielkopolskie
flag msg tools
spiral out
badge
keep going
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Art has the capability to move you, to make you feel, think. This poor dud of a coop fails to connect the gameplay with the "message". It's a set of survival workerplacement mechanics with some stories glued to them randomly.

I am under the impression that it is "trendy" to express the "state of being amazed" by TWoM - it usurps that feeling because of the theme, which is, of course dire and hard. But it doesn't automatically make it art. It definitely makes it worth trying and possibly even worth knowing about, one way or the other. But as a game it is barely passable.

So the question is - where does this "art" manifest itself in this box? Is it artwork? There's not that much of it and it's mostly utilitarian. Is it gameplay? We've established it's meh at best. Is it the "message"? War is bad, stop killing people, what else is new? Is it the stories? There are dozens of war reports written (in form of books) by many people, that are more coherent and thought-provoking. So does the art manifest itself in just combining all these elements into boardgame package? If so, isn't that horribly low standard to aspire to?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
rattkin wrote:
Art has the capability to move you, to make you feel, think. This poor dud of a coop fails to connect the gameplay with the "message". It's a set of survival workerplacement mechanics with some stories glued to them randomly.

I am under the impression that it is "trendy" to express the "state of being amazed" by TWoM - it usurps that feeling because of the theme, which is, of course dire and hard. But it doesn't automatically make it art. It definitely makes it worth trying and possibly even worth knowing about, one way or the other. But as a game it is barely passable.

So the question is - where does this "art" manifest itself in this box? Is it artwork? There's not that much of it and it's mostly utilitarian. Is it gameplay? We've established it's meh at best. Is it the "message"? War is bad, stop killing people, what else is new? Is it the stories? There are dozens of war reports written (in form of books) by many people, that are more coherent and thought-provoking. So does the art manifest itself in just combining all these elements into boardgame package? If so, isn't that horribly low standard to aspire to?


How do you explain the testimonial by the survivor who felt it was true to reality and had a serious impact for him?
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
J Mathews
United States
Renton
Washington
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
rattkin wrote:
Art has the capability to move you, to make you feel, think. This poor dud of a coop fails to connect the gameplay with the "message". It's a set of survival workerplacement mechanics with some stories glued to them randomly.

Some games deliver an experience that is more than the sum of its mechanics. Fortress America and Twilight Struggle are two of those games for me. On the other hand, some games that have tight, brilliant mechanics just don't deliver a unique, meaningful, or even desirable experience. Eclipse and Agricola are examples for me of this latter kind of game. It doesn't make the former better games than the latter, but it does make them more likely to stay in my collection

TWoM is one of the former types of that transcends its mechanics to create a unique and meaningful gaming experience despite some clunkiness. Whether or not that qualifies this as art is incredibly subjective, but I don't find that it fails in the way you are saying. While the mechanics are generally uninspiring, the game hasn't failed yet to create an engaging experience for us. Of course, we are a group that can enjoy a casual romp through Tales of the Arabian Nights (is there any other way to play that game though?) so YMMV.

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Keith D
Japan
Iwaki
Fukishima
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
You bring up a lot of points that I was worried about for myself. I believe I will play this a few times with other people before putting the money down. Thanks
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jun Herng Tan
msg tools
dontpanic69 wrote:
(Firstly, huge apologies for the lack of pictures. I took a load and then promptly dropped my phone in the bog. Sorry.)

(Secondly, I know that this will provoke the usual storm of "you didn't play the game," "you just don't get it" etc etc. It's a review, it's my opinion. It's not gospel, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I'd just ask that everyone considers a product for what it actually is, rather than what we'd like it to be - and god knows, I myself am guilty of that at times. Happy gaming everybody!)




"Proof that boardgames can be art"

The above quote is part of the blurb on the box cover, and is one that I will return to at the end of this review. I couldn't initially say why this line annoyed me, but after playing TWOM I understood the fallacy at the heart of it.


For the uninitiated (and surely there can't be many left on this thread) This War Of Mine started life as a video game on the PC, later ported to the PS4 and Xbox One. It tells the story of a group of survivors in a city almost-but-not-quite-like-Sarajevo during a war that is almost-but-not-quite the war in the former Yugoslavia. The game was an unremittingly bleak look at the harsh reality of life in a city under siege, and the moral choices that had to be made in order to ensure survival. Most of the time you lost - that was the nature of the beast. Imagine if the Sims had had an expansion called 'Under Fire' - well, TWOM would have been its older, darker brother.

Thus it was with some surprise that I learned TWOM was being adapted to a boardgame, albeit one that I followed with some interest. I didn't back the KS but bought it as soon as it hit my FLGS.

Initial impressions - positive. The board is roomy and depicts the house in a side-on view. Anyone who's played the videogame will recognise it immediately. In a nice touch the board has two sides, one 'normal' and the other showing a 'harder' difficulty level for more advanced players. The cards are of decent quality stock, the markers and chits are nicely thick and clear in what they show and all the other tokens are meaty, very attractive and easily distinguishable. Figurines depicting each of the protagonists in the game are present and quite easy to distinguish between, although to begin with a close inspection was often necessary. Coloured bases can be slotted onto the character bases to aid this, which I felt was a very nice touch.

The game is designed to be played right out of the box for 1-4 players, with minimal setup time. This is a nice approach and helps get the players right into the swing of things, plus everyone can help in the setup which shouldn't take more than a few minutes. The cards are all placed on various spots around the board, the randomly-selected character models are placed on the entrance spot for the house and the first random event is drawn to represent events on that day of the war/siege. One player is selected to be the Leader for that turn/day and gains the responsibility of placement of the figurines around the house and onto the various tasks and issue selections that await. The leader also takes the Journal and thus has the responsibility of reading aloud the stories and choices that may arise.

And herein lies one of the two enormous problems at the heart of TWOM:TBG. Given that the leader for that turn is the only one allowed to touch tokens and makes all the choices for that turn, player interaction with the game itself is reduced to a functionally solo experience. Sure, other players are encouraged to give their opinions and to dissent on the course of action taken by the leader, but players other than the leader have no agency that turn and are rendered redundant by this game mechanic. There is nothing to stop the leader sending any character of their choice into a suicidal or illogical situation, since the players are not invested into any one character. The group of players is encouraged to play as the group of survivors, rather than as individuals struggling to survive. Whilst I'm no fan of Margaret Thatcher, she was right in the philosophical sense that there is no such thing as society, just men and women making individual choices that accumulate. This game mechanic encourages both redundancy in players who are not presently the leader, and also tends towards Captain Oates-like scenarios on the part of the leader against the best interests of individual characters.


(I had a photo to illustrate this, now lost, of a situation where the leader sent Bruno out scavenging whilst badly wounded and with no weapons, whilst other characters stayed at home with all the guns).


OK, thinks I, I can live with this nonsense if the rest of the game adds up. Sadly the second problem is quickly encountered - the vast, vast majority of the rest of the game occurs in the cards drawn and in entries from the story entries in the journal that arise from the cards. If you're playing with people not prepared to visualise a situation, environment or combat scenario then you're playing the wrong game with the wrong people.

Scavenging occurs on a nightly basis, after the day phase, and involves the leader selecting one or more characters to explore a location in the ruined city. This location is selected from a randomly-chosen building placed at one of three distances from the house. Obviously a supermarket is more likely to contain food than a hospital, but may be further away which decreases the number of exploration cards drawn at the location to represent time lost by travelling. The huge problem is that the exploration cards drawn are essentially random, with a few caveats detailed on the location card to drive certain finds, events or rooms. Players wander blind through a maze of random rooms and random encounters, hoping to find supplies and avoid encounters, which may be fleshed out in a little more detail by the journal.

And that's it. That's the game. Sure, the next day occurs and the leader draws to see if there's been a raid on the house during the night which may cost supplies, lives or both, and a new event card is drawn, but fundamentally that's it. There's no real planning or strategy involved, just a series of random events with random outcomes, chosen and acted upon by a single player in the group. Putting it baldly, with a bad group this could be played as a solo game where the player rotates and the others go for a drink between their turn.

The board part of this boardgame is almost entirely redundant. The action occurs on the cards, not the board and almost the only thing that it is used for is for marking various tracks, which could be easily done with an app or small counting board. The rooms in the house have random cards placed on them, and could just as easily be on a blank table, and the placement of the figurines has no effect whatsoever beyond aesthetics. Ultimately it's a card game that happens to feature a board, rather than a boardgame in the purest sense of the term.

The truly asinine design decisions at the heart of TWOM:TBG defy belief. God alone knows how the designers possibly thought that a single player in rotation choosing the game was a good choice. However, I believe that the designers (and this is not meant to be unkind, it's just a feeling) were all huge fans of the original videogame, had all played it to death, and as such so slavishly imitated the visuals of the game that they were completely constrained by the mechanics that it led to. There is almost no good reason to depict the shelter that the characters hide in during the daytime, and it would probably have been better to attempt to depict the city and the buildings it contains (perhaps some sort of city-building-explore mechanic a la Betrayal at House on the Hill?).

Equally the idea that a fundamentally solo game where the action plays out in cards and the readings of a single player, could be a fun group experience genuinely beggars belief. If played with a group of people who loved - really loved - the videogame, yeah it might work. But if you're playing with people who've not played the videogame or who struggle to visualise abstract situations, then this will turn them off boardgames for life.

It's a dud. A complete fricking dud, hamstrung by slavish devotion to its source material and some incomprehensible design choices that create that very worst of boardgame situations - boredom for inactive players.

--

And yet. And yet. It keeps rumbling around my head. The stories generated by TWOM:TBG - Pavel stabbed to death in an alleyway by tramps. Bruno saving a starving woman, and the resulting feel of goodwill from this kept him from committing suicide and ultimately let him survive the war. Anna taking in a stranger who turned out to be the saviour of the group. These are all vignettes generated in just a couple of games, amongst many others, but they stay in your mind. There is definitely something in this idea of a group of survivors that is worth exploring further - maybe if each player had a single character who also had their own agenda, like in Dead of Winter? Maybe if each character had their own secret set of psychological tics and issues that affected their relations with others? This setting is definitely worth exploring further, perhaps as a roleplay game or sourcebook, but in its current form is a seriously flawed prospect.

I won't write off TWOM:TBG completely, and it'll stay in my collection but only for solo plays. Don't play with people who aren't really into boardgames, and don't play with children or 'those of a sensitive disposition.' Don't play if you want a lively, evolving environment with meaningful choices and planning to be done. Don't play if you don't like downtime. Above all, for Christ's sake, don't play with people who may be dyslexic or struggle with reading, unless they're prewarned.

Do play if you like stories, especially bleak ones. Do play if you want a degree of emotional involvement with a group of survivors. Do play if you were a huge fan of the videogame, but don't expect the same experience.

--

"Proof that boardgames can be art"

Crap. Utter crap. It's only been called that due to the subject matter - no major media outlet has accused Catan or Fury of Dracula of being art, despite involving vastly more player interaction than TWOM:TBG. It's as if only an issue that looks at the dark side of life is worth considering as art, which is a completely fallacious view - by that definition the painting of Myra Hindley in the UK a few years ago is more worthy of being considered art than the Mona Lisa. Art should be provocative and cause the consumer to question whatever is the topic, but just because something is nasty doesn't make it of greater artistic merit. And that's my two pence on why that quote annoyed me.


I think you and your group is playing in wrong way. You better back to your pure euro game. And that's why you can't enjoy the game.

The correct way to play this game is treat it as a movie. Win or lose it doesn't matter. You will find this game is really an art.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.