I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
This review originally appeard on www.boardgamenews.com December 15, 2008.
No matter how many good games I see from small publishers or self-publishers, I'm still wary when I'm approached to play one. When you deal with large publishers, you can expect a certain standard of quality because they have access to better designers, better production capabilities, and more capital. While these qualities put them ahead of the small publishers in many ways, that doesn't mean the little guys can't compete in the big leagues. Sometimes, the small guys can surprise you.
Throughout 2008, I've played several high-quality, self-published games which have opened my eyes to the independent game scene. Enter War for Edaðh, the new game from WarriorElite Ltd. This self-published game sounded like something that would be perfect for me. So is War for Edaðh a major league player or a minor league bench warmer?
War for Edaðh uses a modular rule set along the lines of Galaxy Trucker. The basics of game play are outlined in the Art of the Apprentice rulebook, which walks players through the basic actions of one game turn, then shows how to combine three turns to play one Duration. Once you've finished the Art of the Apprentice and the basics of the turn, you can move on to the Art of the Warrior, which fleshes out the rest of the rules to give you the full game experience.
This modular rule set allows players to customize the complexity of the game as well as the length through a ton of options. Do you want to play with preset armies, for example, or will each player customize his own force? Perhaps a draft would work best? If you want to play a quick game, then play a best-of-three match with three separate smaller armies. If it's a full-fledged war you want, play with a massive force, start at a distance from one another on the battlefield, then move in and wage war across a variety of landscapes. There are a lot of different ways to play the game, so each session can be tailored for the people playing and the amount of time you have.
When you first look at this rule set it can be daunting, but the logical layout makes the game easy to learn and understand, so don't be scared by the big rulebooks. The actual game play is much easier than it first looks, even with a lot of the advanced rules. Plus, the modular nature of the rules means that you need to learn only the rules you want to use in your games.
Since War for Edaðh is a card game, the card quality is of the utmost importance. The stock is of a good thickness, and the eggshell coating seems to be thick enough to fight some wear. The cards don't get shuffled much, and you'll be placing and flipping them, which shouldn't produce much wear. Combine that game play with the card quality, and I feel like they'll last a long time.
Aside from the cards, the game comes with several score sheets and a plethora of markers to use on the sheets. You also get both of the above mentioned rulebooks. The box, regrettably, is not conducive to putting the cards back inside along with all of the other components. A different sized box would work much better, but this complaint has nothing to do with game play, so I can overlook it and put the cards in a different box myself.
The game play works around one major card battle. Each player controls an army in which each unit has unique attributes. These units are the key to victory since you can't win without them, yet you're going to lose some throughout the game. You just need to manage them carefully and make sure they do as much work as possible before leaving the field. Depending on the rules you use, you may be able to choose the units your army fields. If you’re starting at the Ballistic level and marching forward, it will be important to choose ranged units. If you’re just going to duke it out in Melee, then choose units that have strong Melee skills. When you factor in different types of terrain, army selection becomes even more critical as certain types of terrain are more conducive to certain types of combat. As a player, you have massive decisions to make before you even begin playing the game.
On each round, both players choose a Mastery card from their hand of six and play them simultaneously. Each card has one value on each end of the card, so your six card hand is actually made up of values 1-12. The two players compare the numbers on their Mastery cards with the higher value being the winner, but some cards switch value based on the card that the opponent played, so game play is not quite as simple as straightforward number comparisons. This phase of each turn is a game of guess and double-guess, a mental battle in which you play your opponent more than the cards, a psychological battle of out-thinking the other player or making a move he doesn't expect.
Aside from outguessing the opponent, you also have to pay attention to his (and your) available resources. Each player starts the game with 50 Mastery points and 0 Damage. Each Mastery card you play reduces your MP level, with more valuable cards having a higher cost. If a player's damage ever exceeds his Mastery points, he loses the game. It's impossible to avoid taking damage during the game, so you'll have to watch how you spend those Mastery points.
While the Mastery card battle is the main conflict each turn, it's not the only choice players make. Each player, starting with the winner of the round, must choose one troop to fight, then if damage is dealt – based on the attack and defense values of the chosen troops – you have to choose which units will be lost to attrition. Once the battle or Duration ends, you need to choose whether to advance, stay at the current distance, or (with the advanced rules) move away to a further distance. Each Duration is comprised of three game turns with each turn being a separate Mastery card battle and troop battle. Once each unit is used, it can’t be used for the rest of the Duration. If the unit survives attrition, it will be able to come back and fight for you next Duration.
The bottom line is that War for Edaðh gives players a constant stream of choices to make throughout the game. While the Mastery battle is the crux of competition and can shape the decisions you make, you still have a plethora of decisions to make afterwards.
As an additional resource to manage, each player also has a Battle Master, Combat Master, and Standard which can be used only once per Duration. For example, players can choose play a secondary Mastery card during the Mastery card battle and the “action” their Combat Master. The Combat Master will then give one of several possible bonuses to the player’s active unit such as increasing the attack or defense of the unit. These cards can have a profound effect on the battle, so you need to make sure to use them at the opportune time in order to maximize their effectiveness.
A game of War for Edaðh can last anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour depending on how big and complex of a game you choose to play. At this point, the game is for two players only, but I can see the game working for more players once more armies are released. Since each turn of the game is taken simultaneously, there is almost no downtime so you won't be stuck waiting for your opponent to take his turn. The game moves along at a fairly brisk pace as well so time really flies when you play this game.
War for Edaðh came to me as a game to review from a small publisher. After a few plays, I'm happy to say that War for Edaðh is a major league player that should put WarriorElite Ltd. squarely on the gaming map. The game offers unique game play with a wonderful modular approach to the complexity of the game. This fresh and inventive game is sure to make waves in the gaming community. If you find yourself looking for a two-player card game with elements of tactical warfare, then this is a great game to consider.
Potential players should know that there is a lot of referencing of number on both players’ cards. The entire game revolves around comparing numbers, and there are a lot of them on the cards. This can seem a little confusing at first, but a few turns of the game will have you accustomed to the layout of the cards. Also, the rules do seem complex when you first read them, but again, a few game turns will clear up any confusion. The total package seems a bit overwhelming at first, but that confusion will melt away once you start playing.
Additionally, some people have complained about the font used on the cards. It’s a light and feathery sort of font which looks nice thematically, but can be slightly difficult to read on the dark backrounds. The overall presentation on the cards is terrific from an aesthetic perspective, but it’s probably not the best choice for ease of reading during gameplay.
In my eyes, a great game is one that is driven by player decisions. In War for Edaðh, everything that happens is driven by the choices the players make. The game is completely luckless which is uncommon for a combat game but it works very well, putting the emphasis on the strategy and tactics of the players. Win or lose, you have nobody to look at but yourself. Its ultimately your decisions that will decide the day and the ultimate outcome in the War for Edaðh.
are you still playing this? Do you fancy a game?
Sounds very interesting. As a game designer myself I'm all for supporting the small publisher. If you bring this game to LOB, I'll buy a copy myself and we can have a few games, plus any other players of this game.