Review – Lords of War – from Black Box Games Publishing
Designers – Nick Street and Martin Vaux
Art – Steve Cox
I’ve actually had some time to play and review a couple of games so I will start here with a little game which had some good word-of-mouth after UK Games Expo in May.
From Black Box Games Publishing, I received review copies of Lords of War, Orcs vs. Dwarves and their most recent release, Lords of War, Elves versus Lizardmen.
From the Black Box Games Publishing website – Lords of War, the new, flagship product from Black Box Games, is an entirely unique dual deck, expandable card game for two-plus players.
It sees fantasy races engage in dynamic, tactical card battles which surge across your table top, taking between 30-45 minutes per game.
Each of our double-deck packs is playable out of the box and contains two complete armies, all of which are ready and eager to engage in gratuitous acts of fantasy mayhem.
Our armies are differentiated by their exclusive cards, which feature distinctive playing styles according to the characteristics and qualities of that particular fantasy race.
Also, all of our cards boast stunning original artwork by award-winning artist Steve Cox.
With the dominance of Magic the Gathering, and so many other fantasy games out there, is there a place for yet another fantasy themed card game in an already crowded market? Let’s see…
the first thing that I noticed is the standard of the art by Steve Cox. it is very good. Each race in the game has a specific look and feel.which makes each deck easy to differentiate from the others.
Ok, I’m a sucker for Fantasy theme from the start so I’m always up for a look. At first pass, you could be easily assume that what we have here is a Summoner Wars clone but no, this is a simpler game and I would venture to say that this could be an entry point for CCGs.
Each pack comes with 2 core decks of 36 cards, each of a different race. The races are completely standard faire in that you have Orcs and Dwarves in one pack and Elves and Lizardmen in the latest pack released.
You also receive a Battle mat on glossy paper which has a grid for placing your cards during the game. The Battle Mat for each pack is only differentiated in terms of the colour. The Orcs/Dwarves Battle Mat appears to represent open ground in a dry climate so it has a tan/brown motif whereas the mat in the Elves/Lizardmen pack has a lush green appearance.
I was disappointed that there were no terrain features at all. A lost opportunity? Perhaps.
The cards themselves have nice, evocative art. Each race has a number of different types of warriors. The Commanders have their own names on their card. Their are also symbols indicating what type of warrior the card represents, warrior class and rank, and other symbols with numbers which represent attack strength and direction and defence strength. Warriors with ranged weapons have a symbol which indicates their range and which space on the grid can be attacked.
By comparison, the art for the warriors is not up to the level of say Magic the Gathering but it is definitely nicer that what you can find in Summoner Wars. The symbols and numbers are nicely laid out, easy to read and don’t detract from the warrior art. The cards are sturdy and should stand up I recommend sleeving them if this becomes a favourite for you. Overall, a nice production job!
As for the rules, they are provided on a double sided glossy page, folded nicely as is the Battle Mat to fit snugly in the box.
I will be right up front and say that this game is highly accessible because of its relative simplicity.
The Set up is easy. The players place their Generals aside, shuffle their deck, draw 5 cards, add their General to the 5 drawn cards to form their hand, place 1 card on their starting space on the Battle Mat and draw a card to refresh your hand up to 6.
Winning the game, is straightforward. The first person to eliminate 20 of their opponent’s cards, or to eliminate 4 of their opponent’s Command cards wins the game.
The structure of each turn is as follows:
Deployment – play a new card to the mat. You generally must place your card adjacent to an enemy card. The object is to align a numbered arrow against a side or corner of the enemy card which may or may not have a numbered arrow.
Elimination- In your turn you are attacking and comparing your attacking numbered arrow to the defence value number of the enemy card. If your attacking number is higher, you defeat the enemy card and take it to add to your pile of defeated enemy.
Note- all attacks are reconciled so if you put your card in a position that engages more than one enemy, you will attack both. The good thing is that if your attack arrow is a lower score than the enemy defence, nothing happens, unless… The enemy card which you ar adjacent to now, has an arrow score pointed at you which is a higher value than your defence value, in which case your card is beaten.
Reinforcement – Draw a new card into your deck or from your played cards which are not engaged by having an enemy numbered arrow facing a numbered arrow on the card you want to put back into your hand. Or, if the card was played in the current turn.
That’s it really… The rules give gameplay examples which are easy to follow coving typical combat situations.
Things to note…
Think Top Trumps or the card game War. Its all about playing the numbers. You want to play cards where you will score more than the defensive value of the enemy card. You do this by playing the card in the right position against the enemy card where your attacking arrow points toward the enemy card which is adjacent and the value of your attacking arrow is higher than the enemy card’s defence value.
You won’t always be able to do this. Which is an interesting variant on the Top Trumps/War mechanic. Sometimes you just need to write off some cards and play them as an acceptable loss. Other times you will find that you will be placing your card in a position to attack a card successfully but the placement of your card also put you in a position to be engaged by an Enemy card already on the mat.
Be careful about your Commanders, as even if you have a great opportunity to play them early, there is a chance you may lose them early.
Ranged cards are handy as you can play them as per normal against enemy cards or you can place them adjacent to a friendly card already on the mat so that it can fire on enemy cards within range.
There will be times when you will need more than one card to defeat an enemy card.
Cavalry can always come back into your hand reflecting their mobile nature but Using an advanced rule, Cavalry cannot do this when engaged by an enemy spear unit.
Did I enjoy Lords of War?
Lords of War absolutely SHINES at what it is trying to be. A lovely entry point into the world of gaming, specifically, CCG’s. I would say that it takes the essence of something like Top Trumps or War, and makes it much more attractive, easily learned and played and most of all, good fun. The simplicity of the math works, and there is a level of strategy in terms of placement of your cards which adds a nice level of thinking but not too much. Its all fast and furious for those looking for a good light game in between heavier games.
The art is very nice and brings you into the fantasy setting. Reading the notes on the website, it sounds like plans are afoot for more packs too.
The design is tight and the restraint shown to keep it simple and fast playing is to be commended. One of the easiest ways to get friends into gaming is to break them in with games you can explain in 5 minutes. And with Lords of War, you pretty much can.
This could easily be a fun game to play during a lunch break or at the pub. Its very portable and the set up is minimal. This is an attraction for me and why I wouldn’t hesitate to have it in my collection.
I would say that given the right marketing and distribution, Lords of War could replace the likes of Top Trumps as a go to game, especially for families and youngsters who are starting to get into the whole genre of CCG’s.
Experienced gamers who are looking for a fun filler would do well to check this game out. They just need to accept the game and enjoy it for what it is. As an experienced gamer I would like to see additional rules for movement and perhaps some special abilities but this make take away from the core simplicity which will be the attraction to the mass market.
I am happy to recommend Lords of War and you can start with either of the packs mentioned or both if you want to create customised decks which is easily done.
For more information, go to the Lords of War Website where the guys have posted to good stuff about the backgrounds for the races as well as the Intermediate and Advanced rules.