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Warfighter review



Quick Look:


Designer: Dan Verssen
Artist: N/A
Publisher: DVG
Year Published: 2014
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 30-180 min.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek



Review:
In Warfighter, you will build a team, supply them with weapons, support, gear, and skills, and pray you don’t get killed. It’s a tactical, card-based war game with an emphasis on variety and realism. The base game has a staggering amount of options, but there are already nine expansions for this, each with more dice, plus 60 new cards featuring all new stuff, actions, and missions, but no new rules. Just shuffle the new cards into the various decks and play as normal. There are some really nice toys in these boxes.




I’m playing with expansions 2, 3, 5, and 7.
2- (Stealth) focuses on sneaky attacks. Stealth is an attribute that gets around having to roll for cover when you’re attacking.
3- (Support) adds things like drones and snipers.
5- (Speedball) gives you extras of the most popular guns and some really big ones.
7- (Russian Federation) adds things like AK-74s and Russian soldiers.


This plays from one to six players with no change in rules. This is basically a one player game that you can play with others if you want. Simply divvy up the individual soldiers among the players however you like.  

Rules and Setup:
Setup takes at least 20 minutes, but there are a couple ways of looking at it. If you like a game where you simply put stuff in the designated areas and start playing, this is not that. Building your team and equipping them is a major part of this. If your team isn’t cohesive, they die. If they don’t have the tools they need, they die. It’s sort of deck building in the same way Mage Wars is deck building. You have access to all your stuff, but you won’t get anything else once the mission starts.

Once you know what you’re doing it’s a lot faster, but it’s still going to take at least 20 minutes. It’s not super-complicated, but there is a lot to consider when building and equipping your team. You’ll dig through all the cards to find the ones you want and then recalculate the math of what you can afford and who can carry what. 

Full setup for one player looks like this:



The first thing you do is decide if you want to go after the Cartel in the Jungle or head off to the Middle East to fight Insurgents or Military targets. The cartel is the easiest and the Military is the hardest, but both have several Missions and Objectives to choose from, providing a broad spectrum of difficulty and play time. Each enemy has a location deck and a hostiles deck. After picking your enemy, you put the appropriate Hostiles in their spot on the board and shuffle the location cards for the area into the Action Deck. Place the action Deck on the spot designated on the board.

Each game revolves around two cards that make up your campaign. The mission you choose will determine how many resource points you can spend on your team, how many rounds you have to meet the objective, how far away the objective is, and how much you can carry. Sometimes they have other special rules. The Objective card will determine how many hostiles populate at each location and what your end goal is. It’s usually something like, blow up a chopper or rescue somebody. It will tell you what conditions must be met to do it. The cards tell you everything you need to know except for a few key terms that can be found in the glossary. There are also handy charts on the board to remind you of just about everything.

Next comes the “Loadout” art I mentioned before. Each card has a point value on the top right. Say your mission gives you 60 points of resources, you have to decide if you want a couple of Rambos or a whole bunch of weaker guys. There are a lot of soldiers, each with their own powers and cost. On top of that, there are three different types of soldiers (see Mechanics). Once you have your team, you buy your Player Characters the guns, equipment, and skills needed to complete the objective.
All the guns have different stats and amounts of ammo. Put the appropriate number of ammo tokens on all your weapons. If you have any resource points left you can buy extra ammo, but keep in mind that you can’t carry more points of stuff than your Loadout.  

Distribute Soldiers to players however you like.

Put a numbered token on each soldier card and its twin on the Mission card. The Mission is your first location. There are also beige tokens that determine which soldier Hostiles attack during their attack phase. Put the numbers that correspond to all the soldiers on this mission in a cup or bag. They will be drawn randomly as Hostiles spawn.

Give each solder action tokens. The cards will tell you how many.

Draw cards equal to the health of your Player Soldiers (see Mechanics) and see if you have any locations. If you do, you can play it in the slot next to the Mission card and populate Hostiles based on the Objective card’s chart. If you don’t have any locations, you have to discard and draw until you get one to play. You can discard as many as you want, then draw back up to your hand limit, but each time you do it costs one of your two action points. Be sure the deck is shuffled well.

Now, you’re in the proverbial poop. Go get em, soldier. Their kids’ll be better off without them. 

Theme:
Warfighter is supremely thematic. In the first game, I had a team of 6 guys rolling through the Jungle splatting the cartel guys before they could fire on us. Hostiles didn’t even get a shot in. The Military was another story. Everything was chugging along fine, until location three. Ten enemies popped up at once. The entrance cost increased by three. Some of the most powerful ones couldn’t be hit until the riflemen were dead. One guy even popped up behind us. We got lucky, though. Only one guy got wounded, and we were able to patch him up. When we got to our objective, we had two rounds to shoot down the enemy helicopter, and we couldn’t hit it until all eight Hostiles had been killed. It came down to the last shot of the last round, but McGrath put one right through the fuel tank. Mission accomplished. Go us!

The logic behind the card structure is bulletproof. Everything is detailed and well-balanced. For instance, there are three firing modes, semi-automatic (1 die), short bursts (2 dice), and full auto (3 dice). The more dice you roll the more likely you are to hit, but it also increases your chance to have to reload (mostly on a roll of 1-2).

If you have bandages, you can fix a wounded soldier up, but only a little and never good as new. There are no magic potions on the battlefield. Once you’re shot, you’re injured for the rest of the mission.

There are three types of soldiers that seem to represent rank, but they’re called Player Characters, Non-Player Characters, and Squads.

A Player Character does more shot-calling than shot-making. They are the only ones who have action cards. PCs have two action tokens, but their job is mainly to draw and play action cards that help other soldiers move around, avoid damage, or shoot more accurately. You’re constantly having to make tough decisions about what to hold onto and what to use for movement. Player Characters have the highest health (which is also your hand limit, usually 5-6). Equipment/weapons/skills must be bought for them. They have a loadout value that tells you how much they can carry, an unarmed attack value, and sometimes a special ability.



NPC characters are your seasoned vets. They’re cheap to hire and come with specific gear that doesn’t cost extra supply points. They usually start with 2-3 actions but lose actions when they are wounded. Some of them have a movement discount or a special trait like +1 to ranged attack rolls. They don’t have cards but work the same way as your PCs.



Squads are cheap and simple. You can’t equip them with anything, but they also don’t run out of ammo. They generally have 2-3 actions, but all they do is move and shoot. Like NPCs, they lose actions when they are wounded and sometimes have a movement discount.  



I can’t begin to cover all the detail. It must have taken an army to design this game.

The Ammo tokens took it a little too far. Each gun tells you what kind of bullets it uses and how many tokens it gets. There are probably ten to fifteen types of ammo used across about a hundred guns. It would make sense if the Hostiles dropped ammo, but they don’t. Generic Ammo would have saved me a lot of time and itty-bitty baggies. Some appreciate that level of detail, but I’d rather not do all the extra sorting. I just use the same bullets for everything. 

Mechanics:
On the Soldier Turn, each soldier can take as many actions as they have tokens. The order is up to you. 

The actions are:

Attack
Remove a suppress
Move
Play a location that has an action cost (most do not)
Discard and draw
Reload

Attacks generally require you to roll one d6 and one-to-three d10s. Each gun has a chart on the card that tells you what they have to roll on the d10 at each range in order to kill a target. The d6 is the Hostile’s attempt to dodge. Each Hostile has a number that you have to meet or exceed in order to hit. If you succeed on either the d10s or the d6 (but not both) you have suppressed the hostile. Basically, they miss their turn because they had to jump behind something. Regardless of whether you kill or suppress a hostile, guns can run out of ammo on a low roll. If this happens, flip the top ammo token to its empty side. The gun can’t be fired again until an action has been spent to reload. No matter how many dice you roll, you can only ever apply one Kill/suppress/miss result to a hostile. Some cards have multiple hostiles on them.

Remove a suppress. If a Hostile suppresses you on their turn, you have to spend an action to get rid of the suppression before you can fire.

Movement costs one action, and the player controlling them must discard action cards equal to the entrance cost of the location minus the soldier’s movement bonus.

Discard and draw is a much bigger part of this game than you’d expect. Your hand limit is equal to the health of your PCs, but each PC has a separate hand associated with them. As an action, a soldier can discard as many cards as they want then draw up to their hand limit. This gets hairy when your hand limit is 5 and you have to move four guys to a location with an entrance cost of 4.

To Reload, use of one action to remove an Empty Ammo token from the top of your stack.

After the Soldier Turn, there is a Hostile turn. Hostiles do these actions in order:

Reinforce – Draw the top card of the Hostile deck for each location containing a soldier. If its value is the same as the reinforce value of the location, it spawns.
Attack – All non-suppressed Hostiles roll a d6 and a d10 and apply wounds/suppressions as specified on their chart.
Close Range – Hostiles who are not in range to attack move one location closer.
Remove suppress counters – suppressed hostiles remove suppression markers.
Move timer forward

Hostiles are spawned when a new location card is played. The more supplies you start with, the more Hostiles will spawn. Each Hostile has a number in the top right corner. Draw them one at a time until you have met or exceeded the Hostile Value listed on the Objective card chart. There are all kinds of enemies and events in this deck. Example: you can have a Hostile value of four, but then draw a 0, 0, 0, 2, 1, 3 and each card might have multiple units that have to be killed separately. 

Artwork and Components:
War is ugly, and so is this game. They obviously spent a ton of time researching, developing, and play testing this. With this many unique components it would have added significantly to the cost, so I see why they didn’t/couldn’t use higher quality art. The pictures on most of the cards are pretty good, but the soldiers look grainy. The board is covered in generic lines that make me think of sci-fi more than war, but it doesn’t detract from the play. This game is all about function, rather than form.

The components are high quality. The tokens punched easily. The board is heavy duty. Cards are a little thin, but I’d still give them a 7 out of 10. There was no extra room in the box. With four expansions, I have to group the cards in short stacks to get the lid on, even after trashing the insert.

The Good:
The many combinations of mission cards and objectives give players complete control over game length and difficulty. Every combination plays differently. It’s like having a whole series of games in one box.
Great mechanics.
Tons of replay value. The nine expansions ensure you will never run out of options.
There’s an incredible amount of detail.
It’s very thematic.
It’s a deck builder, a tactical war game, and an RPG rolled into one.
It has the feel of a simulation game, but it’s complexity isn’t annoying. The rule book is 27 pages with large print and pictures. There are several play through videos on YouTube if you want to skip it altogether.

Bullet-shaped dice seem to like me better than their polyhedral colleagues. 

The Bad:
Setup time is long.
The rule book could be structured more smoothly. It’s not bad, but it could be better.
It’s not presented well. A little polish could have gone a long way. Take the name. It tells you exactly what you’ll be doing, but it’s a little too on-the-nose.
There is an unnecessary amount of different ammo tokens that add minutes to setup and breakdown if used as prescribed.
The charts on the cards aren’t lined off, so it takes a little while to get used to reading them.

It can be fiddly.

Final Thoughts:
Warfighter seeks to capture the feeling of being a modern American soldier to the same degree This War of Mine does with the experience of civilian life in a war-torn land. Whereas TWOM is a moralistic struggle for survival that will try your soul, Warfighter is a no-nonsense tactical gauntlet. You have your orders. You have a budget that corresponds to the difficulty of the task. Choose a team. Buy equipment. Go to this place. Do the thing. If they shoot at you, you shoot back. Do not get shot. Being shot is bad. I could see Nick Offerman doing a great promo video.

This is an objectively great game that some will love and others will hate. It depends on what you’re looking for in a game. I love deck building and games with tons of options, but I’m not a fan of dice or point to point movement. If I’m rating this based on my taste, it would get a 6. I respect this game, but it didn’t enthrall me. The bones of this thing are adamantium, though. I can see why so many people love it.

Players Who Like:
Beefy but straightforward simulation games. 
Dice rolling
Deck building
War games
Resource management
Push your luck
Dungeon crawls
Guns. 

It doesn’t remind me of anything else I’ve played.

I am giving Warfighter a 7 out of 10 super meeples.


Check out Warfighter on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/149951/warfighter-tactical-special-forces-card-game    https://www.facebook.com/dan.verssen.games/   https://twitter.com/danverssengames?lang=en    https://www.youtube.com/user/DanVerssenGames   https://www.amazon.com/DVG-Warfighter-Tactical-Special-Forces/dp/B00OYF22CG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514019184&sr=8-2&keywords=warfighter

About the Author:



Stephen Gulik is a trans-dimensional cockroach, doomsday prophet, author, and editor at sausage-press.com. When he’s not manipulating energy fields to alter the space-time continuum, he’s playing or designing board games. He has four cats and drinks too much coffee.
Warfighter review Warfighter review Reviewed by S T Gulik on January 11, 2018 Rating: 5

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