Tuesday, July 5, 2016

This War Of Mine Preview


WARNING: This is a preview of This War Of Mine. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change. Also as this is a story-driven game, this preview may contain some SPOILERS although I will try and keep these at a minimum.

This War Of Mine:The Board Game is based off of the hit video game of the same name and revolves around the stories of civilians trapped in a war-torn city who are trying to survive. Although the subject matter of the game is a bit heavy for me I was very interested in checking this one out due to the immense amount of support it received during the Kickstarter campaign.

As mentioned players will take control of several characters trying to survive the final few days of a long drawn out war. These characters work to improve their living conditions, search the city for resources, and fend off other desperate citizens. Let's check out This War Of Mine.

More About This War Of Mine:

Inside the box. There is a lot of
stuff here!
Designer: Michał Oracz and Jakub Wiśniewski
Artist: Michał Oracz
Publisher: Awaken Realms
Year Published: 2016
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 45-120 min

The Kickstarter project for This War of Mine raised £621,811 ($827,235) with 9,627 backers!


Set up and Game Play:

With so many components and so much going on set up may seem a bit daunting, however with the diagrams provided and clear instructions in the journal (a.k.a the rule book) it is a painless experience.

Players begin by laying out the main game mat in the center of play then draw four character cards from the character deck (two from the red border cards and two from the black border cards). These are the beginning characters for the game and the remaining character cards are placed on the Unused Character slot on the mat. Players then find the matching minis for the characters, placing them on the Guard Door space on the mat (unlike what is pictured below).

The four starting characters: Marko, Arica, Anton, and Marin.
From there all the decks are separated by type and placed on their various spaces around the game mat. A few of the decks like Events, Fittings, and Night Raids have to be manipulated before placing them down. After the Location deck is placed draw three Location cards and place them in the three available slots. These locations will be available for the scavenging action that happens later.

Decks are laid out in their slots on the mat. Shelter cards are
typically not laid out during the initial set up.
Once all the decks have been placed resource and state tokens are placed in the box in the correct compartments. Starting resources are then taken from the box and added to the Storage space on the mat.

Resource and state tokens are organized inside box lid.
Starting set up is finished.

Players are now ready to begin. The object of This War Of Mine (TWOM) is to have two or more characters survive for seven or more days when the "Ceasefire" Event card is drawn.

As mentioned above the game is broken out into several rounds, or days, and each day is broken into the following phases:

Morning
The first action players take is drawing an Event card. These cards cause something to happen immediately or can have a lasting effect for the day. This deck also serves as a timer for the game since the "Ceasefire" Event card is the ending trigger.

Players then remove all Wait tokens (such a cool way to handle build and grow times), resolve their effects and add Cold tokens onto the board.

Day
In the Day phase players get to explore the structure they are living in, rest, and build items to help them survive. Each day is broken into three separate phases: Forenoon, Noon, and Afternoon when each character gets to take one of the following actions per phase:
  • Perform an action from a shelter space whether it is from a Shelter card or a Fittings card. Shelter card actions may include digging through rubble, trying to pick a lock on a door, searching furniture and rubble piles, or cutting through bars. Fitting cards are the items the characters build which give new actions to the players.
  • Install a Fittings card into a blank space in the structure.
  • Move an existing Fittings card to an empty space.
It should also be mentioned that there is a space in the structure where characters can rest on the floor.

One really interesting design element in this phase of the game is that characters can only do so much based on their state. The more fatigued, injured, hungry, etc. a character is the less they can help out. 

Next players will draw four Fittings cards from the New Ideas space keeping one and adding it to their existing deck. These are the new ideas the characters have come up with to build like beds, water collectors, stoves, etc.

Finally players will deal with thirst and hunger. This part of the Day phase can be a killer (literally). No water or food means hunger sets in, which could lead to misery, which can lead to worse things.

Dusk
Players now move into the Dusk Phase when they encounter the first NPC characters. First players draw and resolve a card from the Visitors deck. This can be anything from hungry people looking for food to traders looking to make a deal.

Once the Visitor card is resolved players check for new arrivals by rolling the fate die. Depending on the roll players may add a new character to the group for better or worse.

This can be a very interesting choice for the group as more man power means more actions during the various phases and more gear, however it also might mean new problems and concerns to deal with.

Evening
During the Evening phase players will decide once again how to use the characters to preform certain actions which include guarding the door, sleeping (in a bed or on the floor), or scavenging.

Once these choices have been made players must do three checks; Fatigue, Wounds, and Illness. Depending on the characters' current state, supplies in the Storage space, and what action that character will be taking that night the character may get better or worse.

A bed can be a character's best friend, however while sleeping other bad things may happen so choose wisely.

Night
Now that night has come the players will resolve the scavenging action with the characters assigned to this slot. First players must choose a location to send their characters. This choice is made from the three that were drawn earlier during set up. 

Once a location has been chosen players draw the matching Map cards and the number of Exploration cards based on the number next to the chosen location. Map cards represent the rooms that are found in the location while Exploration cards represent encounters and the amount of time to scavenge.

Exploration is a neat mechanic in TWOM. First Exploration cards serve to tell players what the characters are encountering, but they also serve as a timing mechanism with the number of Exploration cards being the amount of time they have to explore the location. Another cool thing here is that each location has a different number of Exploration cards to draw. This represents how well you know your way to the location giving you more or less time to explore.

During exploration players will find items, meet NPC characters, make hard choices all while trying to be quiet. Noise is measured on a track next to the locations and many times throughout the scavenging players will increase their noise level and have to perform checks. Get too loud and you might attract some unhappy residence. This element really added to the suspense of this game.

Once you have finished scavenging you will roll to see if the location you are in gets removed from the game or stays. If it is removed you slide the other locations down and add a new Location card. This is another cool mechanic representing that characters now know the way to the older locations better.

While part of your group is out scavenging the other part is back at the shelter resting or guarding the door. Guarding the door from what you might ask? Night Raids! Or as I like to call it death on the doorstep. These can be anything from Hobos looking for food to Angry Gangs looking to steal all your stuff! Not my favorite phase.

Players draw and resolve the top most Night Raid card which normally will result in wounds to the guards and stolen resources from your Storage space. There are things you can do to protect your structure like boarding up holes and arming your guards, but plan on a rough go at it.

Once a Night Raid card has been resolved it is re-shuffled into the deck along with a new Night Raid card that was set aside during set up. This represents the increased desperateness of the community. 

Dawn
Finally the Night phase is over, hooray! The scavenging party returns with items and resources they have found (and can carry). Players now do a check for Illness and Spirit. Again these checks are influenced by what has happened during the day and each characters' current states.

The last part of the Dawn phase is drawing Narrative cards (draw four keep two). These cards are used the following day to help aid the characters. I love these cards.
Players now turn back to the morning phase in the journal and repeat all phases until the "Ceasefire" card is drawn from the Event deck. Once the "Ceasefire" is drawn if two or more characters have survived the player(s) win the game!

Review:

Artwork and Components:
Generally it is hard to comment on artwork for a prototype as you never know what direction the final work may go, however I am guessing that the artwork in this preview is pretty darn close and man is it stunning!

Close up of main board with minis.

The artwork for This War Of Mine matches the theme and mood perfectly; it is haunting and dark yet beautifully done. Each piece seems well thought out and blends together with the other pieces to paint a vivid and descriptive picture.

The characters are probably the most intriguing pieces of artwork as they are photos of real people. Generally I do not like to see photos in the artwork of a game but it really works here. The designers are trying to get across the point that the characters in the game are everyday people and the photos drive this point home.

The minis are great, beautifully sculpted and really help set the tone, drawing players into this world even further.

Minis!

I am not sure how the final components will come out but the review copy was well done with high quality materials being used.

Components

Rules and Setup:
As mentioned above set up may seem daunting however it really is a breeze when following the directions found in the journal. There are a lot of components to deal with but if you keep them organized between games it shouldn't be a problem.

The journal is very interesting as well, as you are only given the set up rules and objective of the game before you actually start play. Players will learn on the fly as they are guided from phase to phase with more detailed instructions.

One part of the game that I did not get a more finished version of or a good feel for was The Book of Scripts. This book is used during encounters with NPCs to resolve player decisions. I was given a few pages worth but had a hard time figuring out when to use them. This is something players with the final version of the game shouldn't have to worry about.

The only knock on the rules and set up is that some of the finer details of the rules get missed and players are left to make assumptions. I assume most (if not all) of these will be caught before going to final print.

Theme and Mechanics:
As you saw above there are so many unique mechanics in play that serve to narrate the story while moving it along at the same time; it was so well done.

After playing this game a few times I don't think there are other mechanics that would work for a game with this theme. Each mechanic works so well with the others and the transitions in the game are really smooth.

The only reason I don't rate this category higher is--as mentioned before--the theme is a little dark and depressing for my taste.

Game Play:
This War Of Mine plays very well, there are few if any hiccups that slow down play. Each phase of the game is equally engaging and is as important as the others, making me feel that none of the steps were redundant or unnecessary.

The amount of choice players have is through the roof which makes the game even better for me. That being said there wasn't so many choices that game play bogged down. In fact the game plays pretty close to the 45 to 120 minutes stated by the publisher. Although I found that most the games we played were at the higher end of that.

I also agree with the 14 and older recommendation due to the subject matter and scenarios the characters find themselves in.

The Good:
I imagine I could just say that there are too many good points to list them all, however it wouldn't be a good review if I did. The artwork, components, game play, feeling I get when I play, the difficulty of choices, and the way it all works together is so sublime. Michał and Jakub have truly created a unique gaming experience.

With the full Book of Scripts and four expansions already created players will have hours and hours of awesome game play experience.

The Bad:
My boys won't be able to play this for years!!! Man this kills me, having to wait to share this experience with them. I just have to keep telling myself it will be worth the wait.

Final Thoughts:
Rich, engaging, reflective, beautiful, haunting, innovative, and mind blowing are just a few words that express my feelings about This War Of Mine. I was excited to get my hands on this one and am even more excited about it now.

Players Who Like:
Role playing games, immersive story driven games, and co-operative or solo gaming experiences will love This War Of Mine!

I am giving This War Of Mine 9 out of 10 super meeples.

9 10

Pre-order link for This War Of Mine coming soon.
Other great story telling games:

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