Warcraft: The Board Game: Expansion Set
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The Warcraft Expansion Set includes a multitude of exciting and flavorful new options for your Warcraft board game experience:
A year ago, I reviewed Warcraft: the Board Game, giving it high praise. I thought that it did a superlative job of emulating the computer game - as well as a board game successfully did. After seeing designer Kevin Wilson’s excellent craft on Doom: the Board Game, I am convinced that he is the man best able to do these computer game conversions. Warcraft the Expansion Set builds on the ideas of the original game, adding in a few interesting changes and a plethora of variety. It’s not needed to make the original game fun - the basic game was a good game in it’s own right - but it does add more options for the seasoned player. Several computer fanatics had been bugging me about the lack of heroes, and the expansion adds them in full, along with several other options. Here are most of the changes of the addition with my comments on each.
1.) Box: The game comes in the exact same sized box as the original Warcraft, and there is a lot of material inside - not quite as much as the base game, but close. Regardless, when I removed the plastic insert and bagged everything, it all fit easily into one of the two boxes, saving me much needed shelf space.
2.) New Tiles: The set adds sixteen new double-sided terrain tiles to the game, many of them single hexagons. These add a lot of variety to board setups - and indeed, five more new setups are included in the rulebook. Many of the spaces are “water” spaces, which can only be crossed by flying units. All in all, more game board variety is always a good thing.
3.) New Experience Cards: I never really thought much about the experience cards and their lack of text; it seemed fairly simple to look up the special abilities on the back of the rulebook. But new decks for each race have been added, and the text printed on the cards makes them extremely easier to use. The players in my groups made a lot of pleased comments about the ease of use of the new decks. The decks have been tailored to make them a bit more race-specific, and mana costs (used with the heroes), but the text is a nice bonus.
4.) Racial Abilities: Each player gets a reference sheet, which gives details on many of the special abilities in the game - such as the abilities of some of the advanced units of each army. Each race also has a special ability printed on the card. The humans can build complete buildings on their turn, utilizing two workers and paying one extra gold and wood, then may immediately build troops in these buildings. This is a useful ability, but one that I used only when I was in dire straights and needed troops post haste. The elves can move their town one space each turn, as well as one of their outposts. This helps the elves effectively move into battle - but is mostly more for the sheer “cool” factor of it. The orcs can use their towns and outposts to attack as a ranged unit. Workers help increase this ability, making orc towns that much more dangerous to attack, and making the orcs’s racial ability my favorite. The undead may use their melee units to get wood and don’t need to assign workers to specific buildings. I actually thought that the Undead power was the weakest, but the hero units more than made up for it. I like the racial abilities; and since they aren’t overly powerful but do help distinguish between the races, I’ll always included them in all future games.
5.) Creeps: Creeps are random monsters that are set up at the beginning of each scenario, according to parameters specified in the rules. Each creep has three statistics: their strength, the number they need to roll to get a hit; their dice, the amount of dice they roll and the amount of hit points they have; their type, ranged or melee or flying; and their special ability icon. Players can move into spaces and attack creeps, where a battle occurs until either the player’s units are wiped out, or the creep loses all their hit points. Each time the player inflicts a hit on the creep, the creep loses one die from their attack; upon losing their last attack die, the creep is killed. Creeps add a bit of natural barriers to the game, and some of them are quite powerful. I would only use them, however, in a game involving heroes, as creeps are the way that heroes level up.
6.) Heroes: Heroes were introduced into the Warcraft universe in the third incarnation of the computer game, and many players immediately became enamored with them. Well, they’ve finally been added to the board game, and make a huge difference in the game. Each player is given a star-shaped wooden piece, which stands for their hero. There are four sets of three hero cards, and players each secretly pick which of the four heroes they’ll use at the beginning of the game, putting the three hero cards associated with that hero in a stack in front of them with the level one hero card on top. A hero building is added to the town interface at game start up, and the hero piece on the town space. Heroes do not count towards stacking limits, have a move of two, and have the rest of their stats printed on their card - just like the creep counters. A pile of tear-shaped blood pieces is used to denote hits on heroes, who are killed if they accumulate enough wounds to kill them. Heroes can level up by killing creeps - every time they kill enough experience points of creeps, the player can increase the hero to the next level - putting the next level card on the top of the hero pile.
Each hero card has one or more special abilities and as the hero levels up, these abilities accumulate. By the time the hero reaches level three, they are a monster fighter of epic proportions. Some of them can summon in creatures to fight for them on their behalf (small cardboard tokens just like the workers). Others can deliver massive attacks, can strike before battle, etc. The hero changes the whole face of the game. Some people are going to love these battle tanks; others won’t like the fact that one unit has this much power. I quite enjoyed the heroes, but probably wouldn’t include them in every game, since they change the whole outlook of the battlefield. When heroes die, they can be regenerated for a small price (depending on their current level), so death isn’t as crushing for a hero as it might first appear. The fact that there are four different heroes for each race also adds a great deal of flexibility, and they all seem fairly balanced.
The thing I most enjoyed about heroes was the fact that their abilities cost “mana” to use. To use each ability, the player must discard cards from their hand with enough mana symbols to pay for that particular ability. Cards have mana symbols on them (one to three) equivalent to how powerful that card is. Thus using them to pay for the hero’s abilities causes the player to miss out on a great card. This causes some real angst for the players and makes the use of these powerhouses more palatable.
7.) Spell Research: Players have the option to pay to get cards, instead of drawing them when they join a battle. I personally despise this option, as money is already in short supply in the game, and I liked how the cards helped encourage players to fight. But if players want a more controlled game, here’s another rule that adds to that.
8.) Resources: There are five and ten resource chips included with the expansion, to help make handling them a little easier. Also, players can play with “hidden” resources, or a different way to drain resources. Both of them are extremely interesting, and some players may enjoy these variants. My gaming groups preferred the original rules; even though they had a bit more uncertainty, we enjoyed the original rules.
The best feature of the expansion, and I’m sure this was in response to criticism, is the fact that the races are certainly very distinct now, with both heroes, racial abilities, and the new card decks. The most obvious and effective change of the expansion is the heroes, but there are a lot of different goodies and variants enclosed. In a way, it reminds me of the Game of Thrones expansion, where there are different optional rules that a player can add or ignore at their leisure. Some of the optional rules (resources and spell research) I could do without, but others (heroes, creeps, and racial abilities) make the expansion worth buying. There are piles of tokens, including more odd-shaped tokens for use in special scenarios, and plenty of goodies in the expansion. It’s not a “patch”, but rather an “add-on”. Not every Warcraft fan is going to want or even need this expansion. But if you seek some more variety in your game, then this will provide it for you in spades.
“Real men play board games.”