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War of Supremacy Review

Quick Look: War of Supremacy

Designer: Nathan Everett
Artists: Various
Publisher: Lost Treasure Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 30-60 min.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of War of Supremacy. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: Fantasy themed TCG ice cream, topped with a sweet King of the Hill sauce, sprinkled with just a dash of Press Your Luck and Take That toppings combine in this free-for-all sundae.

Getting to the Game: War of Supremacy feels like an in-the-box, wholly-contained game of pseudo-Magic the Gathering. Getting it set up involves first deciding which four of the game's five factions will be participating. The introductory rules make this decision for you, but from then on, it's up to the table to decide who you will call into battle in each game. After that, each of the game's four card types gets shuffled into their own deck, and each player is dealt 3 spells and 5 creatures. You would then turn over the starting Combat Form and the starting Territory, and you're off and warring.

The rule book is lengthy, but the core game mechanics are pretty simple. For your first game, I recommend getting a handle on what the active player can do on their turn, what the non-active players can do, and that winning a territory requires you to successfully defend it from every other player in the game at least once (twice in a 2-player game). Once you grasp that, everything else in the rulebook is reference, which you can go back to as needed. Actually getting into the game will give you a better sense of it than trying to understand edge cases as laid out in the instructions.

Playing the GameThe main thrust is a game of King of the Hill. Each player is attempting to gain and keep control over the active territory by having more strength (the rulebook uses the terms "power" and "score" interchangeably to describe this value) amongst participating characters than the player currently defending the territory. If they do, they take it over, and must defend it from everyone else. Fail to overcome the defender's strength, and you've missed your chance. Rest up for the next battlefield.

The "how" is what sets War of Supremacy apart from the other free-for-all creature slingers out there. Everyone who's ever played a game with cards will understand the concept of strength. Bigger creatures have more of it, smaller creatures less. In this game, however, each character card has three score values, one assigned to each of the three combat forms. This means that an All-Terrain Sapper might be pretty decent at magic with a score of 2, but its wild score is 0, giving you little help in a round where you're forced into that type. With combat forms likely changing at least every round, if not in the middle of the round due to meddling spell cards, it becomes a delicate dance of trying to make sure your creatures' highest form stays relevant when you need it. 

There's another level of abstraction that's enforced on combat. When you're playing creatures into your attacking group, they only get along if they're of the same type (denoted just below the card art), or belong to the same faction. There are cheats built into some of the character powers that let you get around that to a certain extent, but once you break that cohesion, you generally can't play more creatures into the group. I know I'm using a lot of equivocation so far in this review, and that's mostly (sigh) because for every rule in War of Supremacy, there's a card that lets you break it. Here we find my main issue with the game: it feels just a step too burdensome for its own good. With so many creatures that have powers, spells to be able to change the active combat form for the round, counterspells, removal, buffing/nerfing abilities, and legendary creatures which are limited to one-of in your assault team, our experience was that it was hard to keep track of your options for winning combat. Territories themselves often have an ability that messes with player plans also, which adds on to the stack of things to keep in mind.

Remember that you can't win the territory unless you successfully defend it from every other player in the game. Spell cards are your only option when it's not your active turn, but you can't draw cards until the end of your turn. This leads to some combats dragging on too long until someone can put a legendary and a couple friends down. Deciding when you want to try and take over the territory and when you want to save up your cards for the next one is most of the game, and there are times in when you legitimately can't do anything, can't possibly win the combat, and have to just wait a couple laps until you can re-fill your hand and get back into the game.

Overall, whether or not you're going to like War of Supremacy depends on your affection for its main mechanics. If your group loves edgy back and forth battles, constantly changing ground rules, and monumentally turning the tide of a battle with a single stroke, then I highly recommend this one. There's enough going on at all times to keep everyone interested, especially if you're less into making sure you win and more into messing with everyone else's plans. If your group has low tolerance for anarchy and keeping things straight, there are better games for you.

Artwork and Components: The artwork on each of the cards is outstanding. There are various card artists on display here, and yet they all manage to keep a unified theme. It doesn't feel massively disparate as Magic sometimes can when looking at the table. The territory art feels nicely themed to each faction, and gives a good sense of that particular area's power or feel.

The components sent for preview consisted of helper tokens to denote when a character's score changes, and are nicely colored to each of the combat forms. Decently thick laser-cut cardboard felt perfectly in-theme with the rest of the game and serves as a great player aide when there's lots and lots of changing values. War of Supremacy also makes use of an occasional d6, and I'm excited to see what those will look like in the retail version.

The Good: Thematically, this game works on so many levels. It feels like a huge congregation of warring clans, meeting to ensure that only they remain in charge of the land. The art is really fantastic, and there's enough tactical gameplay here to feel like you could play a dozen games and still not see everything it has to offer.

The Bad: Some groups may be put off by how chaotic the gameplay can become, and if your hand of cards becomes irrelevant based on the combat form or through opponents countering your spells, it can get very frustrating very quickly, with little for the player to do about it.

Score: War of Supremacy has some very satisfying moments, and brings new and cool gameplay to a genre that I personally feel is under-represented right now. The fact that it can do that with only cards makes a nicely portable experience as well. There are drawbacks, but if you can get past them, there's enough here to enjoy. I'm giving War of Supremacy a score of A Perfectly Good Hill to Die On.


On KICKSTARTER between now and March 22, 2018.

About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
War of Supremacy Review War of Supremacy Review Reviewed by The Madjai on February 21, 2018 Rating: 5

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