Review – White Star Rising: Nations at war from Lock n Load
Designer – Mark H. Walker
Artwork – Olivier Revenu and Guy Riessen
note – many thanks to the folks at Lock n Load for providing me with a review copy of this game
Back in the day… yes, I am an old time grognard, or war gamer… when I first discovered war games, I came upon the Avalon Hill game company, and in particular, a game called Panzerblitz which was about combat on the eastern front during World War II. Being a military history buff since I was a kid, a game where you got to control tanks and troops to take objectives and defeat the enemy was right up my street. And Panzerblitz had these nice sized cardboard counters with images of tanks!!!!
I remember spending loads of time playing and loving it but I was more interested in the western front in World War II. Then along came Panzer Leader! A western front version of Panzerblitz! What more could I ask? I loved it at first but I did find it to be more complex and time consuming so I gradually lost interest although I did love the tanks.
Fast forward to recent times and the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t played that type of game in a very long time. And since I’d been getting back into war gaming lately, wouldn’t it be fun to try my hand at Panzer Leader again? Well, I don’t know. I didn’t remember it as particularly engaging and fun. Not like Panzerblitz.
What’s a boy to do? Well I have been following Mark H. Walker’s Lock n Load Games for quite a while and I spotted a relatively new release called White Star Rising: Nations at War which was similar in setting and scale to Panzer Leader so I though, why not?
In the box you will find over 300 game pieces with gorgeous art work depicting armor, infantry and support units and weapons. You also get four gorgeous 11″ x 17″ geomorphic map boards which can be re-arranged to make many configurations so you can have lots of opportunity to create western front battles of your own design. Player aids, dice and rules/scenarios and you are all set.
The quality of components are very nice indeed. However I have 2 gripes which are shared by others – namely, the game boards are subject to warping. Not a good thing. I don’t know the production answer to this but it needs to be resolved. Also, as nice as the counters are, there is a lot of information on them and hence the print is rather small – tough on the old eyes. and the colours chosen also makes some of the numbers tough to see.
Edit – I understand now that the board warping is rare and easily resolved through a bit of careful bending. It worked for me Also, the counter printing is NOT a major issue and works well. Probably my aged eyes fading!
These aren’t mere quibbles although certainly not game breakers as this is a brilliant game otherwise.
Not a game for beginners per se, White Star Rising is part of the Nations at War system and can be picked up by those unfamiliar with this type of game with a bit of effort and time. The rules are familiar fare to experienced gamers for sure and it didn’t take me long at all to go through the rules and pick up how to play. The rules and scenarios are clearly laid out and set up with easier scenarios first to help you learn the system.
The process of play is as follows:
– Operations phase – players pull chits representing the military formations involved in the scenario which enables them to activate the units of each formation to move and have combat. What is particularly the best part of the game is that each turn, you never know in which order you will be able to activate your formations. In fact, you may pull a chit which ends the turn and then you have lost your opportunity! So there is considerable pressure on the players to make the most of each turn. A very simple mechanisim, but effective in bringing the uncertainty and fog of war as well as focusing your mind.
– Marker removal phase – this is an administration phase where you remove markers, replace eliminated headquarters, etc.
– Formation impulse – assuming a formation is activated, you check to see if they are within command range of their leader or sub-leader and if so, units are allowed to move or have combat. You also try and rally disrupted units.
– Movement – where you move units subject to terrain restrictions, transport units (mechanized infantry can be on foot or flipped over depicting being transported by armoured trucks).
– Combat – standard fare including ranged and assault combat as well as overrunning units in clear terrain. Interestingly, and very welcomed is that combat is very easy to resolve as it is based on number of dice rolled to determine number of hits you have a chance to make and then the defender rolls to see if any of the attackers hits can be blocked. Results can be misses, disruption and damage. All very easy and fluid. Didn’t take me very long at all.
To me, the mark of a good, well designed war game is directly aligned to the lack of need to keep going back to the rulebook to check understanding, check for exceptions to rules, etc. Mark Walker has done a great job here. I quickly found that I just didn’t have to go back into the rulebook much at all and I could get on and play. With my limited time this is simply a brilliant aspect of the game. Yes, I had to check the rules for a few bits and pieces but all in all, there is little down time away from the action.
This is not a game for the heavy war game fan. You aren’t going to find lots of stats and exceptions to rule 9.1.2b paragraph 2… You can play this game rather than just experience the detail and for me, it works admirably at that level.
Did it work for me?
Fun is the name of the game for me and White Star Rising has it in spades. It hit just enough theme, detail and mechanics for me to enable me to get into it rather quickly, play it and enjoy it with little muss and fuss. It is gorgeous to look at and certainly fulfills my need for a light/medium weight game that is first and foremost FUN!
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8 out of 10
Doubtful, as its really for war game enthusiasts.
For more information about Lock n Load games go to – http://locknloadgame.com/