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For centuries, the kingdoms of earth have been at peace, dominated by the rule of men. But now, powerful Wizards, Dwarves, Elves, Trolls, and Goblins are ready to challenge man's reign. Even the Undead are rising up. Chaos is about to erupt as creatures battle each other and even amongst themselves for control. You must lead your armies (infantry, archers, cavalry, and more) into the fray or be crushed by the assault. It is the age of Warriors.
Warriors is a game with a pedigree similar to San Juan or the Settlers of Catan Card Game. Where each of the other two are derivative of a popular board game (San Juan being the little brother of Puerto Rico), Warriors tackled one of the most popular board games in the world: Risk. For more than 25 years there have been suggestions/rumors that there was to be a Risk card game but it never materialized. In 1997, Richard Borg (Battle Cry, Memoir '44) contracted with Hasbro to design the game (along with the Stratego Card Game which later was released as Hera and Zeus). Apparently designer Alan R. Moon ( Ticket to Ride, Union Pacific, etc.) had been working on the concept also. Eventually the two partnered on the design and the result is Warriors. (Note: These two designers had published a joint effort previously, Wongar; an excellent game with the silliest themes ever devised).
Designing a Risk card game is a difficult task on several levels. Few board games port (translate) well to a card version; there is simply too much lost when changing mediums. In addition to that, Risk being a very popular game of strategy and conflict, has a tremendously loyal following around the world, a very demanding and vocal group; this is a tough group to please. Finally, the growing popularity of the Eurogame market cannot be ignored and Eurogamers are notorious for abhorring any game with dice; Risk without dice is not Risk. Borg and Moon faced a formidable task.
To date there have been six versions of Risk; the familiar classic game, Castle Risk, Risk Napoleon, Risk 2210, Risk Lord of the Rings and Risk Godstorm. Though not a Hasbro publication, this would be the seventh version with the Risk Star Wars falling in eighth place. With the exception of Castle Risk, all of the versions were well received. With this history, the release of Warriors suggests several questions. Is this Risk? Does it have the feel, the strategy, the beer and pretzels howling; did they manage to capture Risk in a card game format? Will the Risk faithful enjoy the game? Does this game offer anything to the growing Eurogame community?
Though I had doubts with the first few plays, I eventually began to appreciate the underlying mechanics and strategies. Warriors succeeds; it is a card version of Risk and is a welcome addition to the Risk family. What is most surprising is that the game succeeds on several levels; it is not only a card version of Risk, it is a great stand alone game. I have addressed the game from two different approaches below; first for the Risk loyalist and then for the non-Risk fan, in particular, the Eurogamers.
Combat is the core of the game and Warriors lifts the combat system intact from the basic game. The battles are over control of Nations of Trolls, Elves, etc. Each of these Nations will score bonus points (similar to controlling a continent in classic Risk) at the end of the game. Of course the Nations are not equal and score varying amounts. The individual territories have been replaced with army cards (infantry, archers and cavalry) with each opponent’s card taken (killed) worth 2 points at the end of the game. It does feel and play like Risk. The only area it fails in is the lack of developing any long term strategy but then this is a card game and that, more than anything, limits the possibility. The expansion (Dragon Hordes) adds additional cards and another Nation, the Dragons. The Dragons play by slightly different rules but are a fine addition. Though the game can be played without the expansion, the expansion enhances the game in many areas especially offering different opportunities for strategic decisions. (The expansion adds to the game in a manner similar to that of the commanders in 2210 - 2210 could be played without commanders but their inclusion improves the game.) The game plays in 20-30 minutes and is all the beer and pretzels, bangs and whistles that a Risk player could ask for in a card game. Note: the base game is for 2-4 players; the expansion adds enough cards for a fifth and sixth player.
Eurogamers et al
Though I am a fan of Risk, I do enjoy Euro games (I realize that some may be surprised that the two are not mutually exclusive). So the real question is: Would Warriors appeal to a Eurogamer? I believe that Borg and Moon have succeeded in developing a game that crosses over, appeals to both groups. Approaching Warriors from the non-Risk point of view, I would compare the game to Knizia’s Blue Moon. (Note: I find Blue Moon to be one of Knizia’s better games and enjoy it more every time I play. For those who haven’t tried it, Blue Moon is to Lost Cities what a computer is to an abacus.) With Blue Moon, two players battle for control of three dragons. It is a game of numbers with all of the associated ‘luck of the draw’ expected in a card game. The interaction of the various races and their associated cards is what makes the game so interesting. Fantasy Flight / Kosmos have released several expansion races that increases the variety and complexity of the game resulting in a fantastic experience.
Warriors offers the same type of experience with two differences. The determination of combat supremacy in Warriors is determined by die rolling rather than the numbers on the cards and the interaction of the various Nations is not as complex as with the races of Blue Moon. In short, it is slightly easier to grasp the strategies. As with the Blue Moon expansion, the Dragon Horde expansion for Warriors increases everything good in the game and expands the options for the players. The advantage to Warriors over Blue Moon is that Warriors will play up to 4 players (6 with the expansion) and is easier to teach. Both games play in equivalent amounts of time. Warriors is lighter, more beer and pretzels than Blue Moon. The price of the Warriors expansion is only slightly more than the cost of a Blue Moon expansion, however the Blue Moon expansions are 30 cards while the Warriors expansion is 65 (card for card a better deal). Both games are good.
Final tally: Warriors succeeds.
Well, it hasn't been released yet, but owing to a couple connections I have in the biz, occasionally I get to play pre-release copies of games, and this is one of those occasions. What suprises me is how little info there is about this game thus far, so a full review is in order. I may be cloudy on one or two points of the game (it was late, and I was tired) but the gist of it is here.
Legend has it that this game system of 'Warriors' was originally designed to be a Risk card game, but Hasbro rejected the idea (the scoundrels!) and it languished for some time. But Larry Whelan at Face 2 Face Games picked it up with a retheme and some mechanical tweaking and will have this game out quite soon. It definitely takes the dice from Risk, but after that becomes it's own little game, and a decent one at that.
For your money, you get a deck of cards and 5 dice (at least, I hope they include the dice -- that's an assumption I am making, since the game isn't out yet). The deck contains attack cards, two types of actions cards (wizards and catapults), and 6 different fantasy themed races (dwarves, elves, barbarians, goblins, and...uh...two others that I...uh...promised that I couldn't, uh, say anything about! -- Yeah, that's it! I am not allowed to tell you the last two races... that come in 3 different types within the races (archers, fighters, calvary). The cards are nicely illustrated and remind me very much of the artwork from Dragon's Gold, but a bit cloudier.
Each player is dealt an initial holding of cards, and groups them together by race face-up in front of him. Obviously, the more of a type of warrior, the larger the army and the stronger you are in that race. There are also wizard cards that can be placed on top of an army in order to prevent them from being attacked, and catapult cards that can be used to preemptively remove one card from the board, either a wizard (so that the army the wizard had protected can now be attcked) or a card from an army.
There are also attack cards with varying numbers on them. Every player chooses an attack card and reveals it simultaneously. Lowest number goes first and will declare an attack. The attack cards have two different types of modifiers: most attack cards only allow you to attack with once race, but some allow you to build a force of your choosing, with a card limit printed on the attack card. The attack cards also conatin extra icons depicting attackers, archers, or calvary, which add to the icons depicted in the force itself. When players attack, they may attack either race to race (goblins to goblins), or race to arch enemy, where every race has one arch-enemy race. The only exception to this is the 'wildcard' armies, which are smaller forces, but who may also attack anyone they choose.
Now the attacking player takes one of his forces and points to the force he wants to attack (race to race, or race to arch-enemy, or wildcard army to anything). Once an attack is announced, players compare icons in the forces. Whomever has the most of each icon gets a bonus, ties get nothing: the most archers will get a bonus +1 added to their highest die roll, the number of swords is how many dice you get (to a maximum of 3 dice offense, 2 dice defense), and most calvary gets a bonus as welll (though for the life of me, I can't recall what it is -- I think they get to remove one card from their opponent before the battle begins.)
Then the battle gets going. Like Risk, the dice are rolled, and compared, highest vs. highest, etc. Whoever has the most archers adds a pip to their highest roll, and ties go to the defender. The casualties are figured out, then cards must be removed, the defender decides which cards to get rid of, and they are given to the opposing player, with each card worth a VP. Now the attacker can decide to keep attacking or withdraw. If he attacks again, the icons are again compared and bonuses given, dice rolled, casualties ascertained, VP given.
Each player gets one attack per round; there are 3 rounds in the game; and bonus VPs are awarded for most LIVING cards of each race still in front of the players, with the values of each race different from one another.
This game plays very quick, and though it says 2-4 players, like Kramer's 'Saga' I just don't think 2 players would be any fun at all. This is a 3-4 player game at heart, and plays in a very respectable 30 minutes. I liked my first playing, and think this would be an especially great game to play with Risk fans to open them up to other German games. Sure, it's only the dice that are really familiar, but the short playing time will appeal to almost anyone, and there aren't a lot of themed dice games that are enjoyable to play, but this is definitely one of them.
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Man’s dominance of earth is in danger. Powerful armies of wizards, dwarves, elves, trolls, goblins and even the undead are assembling to challenge man’s rule. The struggle will ultimately pit race against race in a brutal struggle for power.
Such is the theme of Warriors, a fantasy-themed card game from award-winning designers Alan Moon and Richard Borg. The cards depict the various races vying for power, with attractive artwork and easy to understand icons. Icons indicate the type of unit – infantry, archer or cavalry – as well as the arch-enemy of that race. Additional cards depict “attack” and “mercenary” cards, as well as protective wizards and powerful catapults.
The game begins with each player receiving 11 cards, which they divide into forces by race and type. Catapults are not assigned to any particular race, but may be used to participate in any conflict. Wizards are assigned to a particular group, and offer protection by preventing that group from attacking or being attacked.
The game is played over the course of three rounds. Each round, players are dealt a fresh batch of seven cards, keeping four of those (5 in the final round). These cards are assigned as above, but attack and mercenary cards are set aside face-up. These cards are numbered, and allow players to launch attacks against their opponents. Attacks are conducted in ascending order, based upon the value on the cards. A player may not attack if he does not possess an attack or mercenary card, which can be quite discouraging.
Combat is the central mechanism of Warriors, and it is conducted in a fashion very similar to that found in the classic board game Risk. The active player chooses a force he wishes to use in the attack, and a defender. The defender must be either the same race, or its arch-enemy. Players then roll a number of dice based on the number of infantry they have involved in the conflict. As in Risk, the attacker can roll a maximum of three dice, while the defender’s limit is two dice. The player possessing the most archers in the battle receives a +1 bonus to the highest result he rolls. Individual dice are then compared, and losses are taken. If a force is not completely destroyed, the attacker may continue to press the attack, or withdraw.
An attack card is valid for one battle, unless the player has a surviving cavalry unit in the attacking force. Cavalry allows the player to continue to attack with that force, choosing new defenders for each assault. This can be quite useful when attacking with a large, formidable force.
Mercenary cards act as attack cards, but allow the player to assemble a force with troops from different races. These cards can be quite powerful, as they permit multi-ethnic forces and allow the player to attack whatever opposing force he desires.
After all attack cards have been used, all catapults and wizards are discarded, and seven new cards are dealt to the players. Three rounds are played, and the victor is determined. Cards eliminated in conflict are placed in the conqueror’s victory point stack. At game’s end, each vanquished card is worth two victory points. Finally, points are awarded for the largest surviving army in EACH race, which places an importance on preserving one’s armies. These points range from 5 points for the lowly “undead” army to a whopping 11 points for the powerful barbarians. The player with the greatest number of points has conquered his opponents and rises to be ruler of the earth.
Warriors is clearly not a deep strategy game, and is not without its flaws. Too few cards are available each round, and players have little control over which cards they receive. Also, the ability to launch an attack is dependent upon receiving attack cards, and it is quite possible to not receive any. This is a significant disadvantage. Of course, the heavy emphasis on dice-rolling does substantially increase the luck factor, with the best laid plans easily dashed by the toss of the dice.
Still, deep strategy gamers are clearly NOT the target market for Warriors, which appears to be aimed primarily at younger folks. Fans of Risk and other light, attack-heavy games should find much to like here. Those attracted to fantasy themes should also be intrigued. Another plus is that the game plays in 30 – 40 minutes, so an entire evening is not necessary to satisfy one’s lust for conquest. Viewed with these factors in mind, Warriors certainly fills this niche quite well.