Quick Look: Reinforcements Card Game
Designers: Jack Collins, Brennan Kahl, Nick Brown
Artist: Jack Collins
Publisher: Peasant Mob
Year Published: Currently on Kickstarter with estimated publishing date in 2022
No. of Players: 2-4
Play Time: 20-60 min
REINFORCEMENTS combines fun and simplicity with elements of strategy and planning. Build up your army to unlock more actions and summon the mythical totems that embody the kingdoms of the realm. Barrage your foes, Fortify your army, or Adapt to the situation at hand. Every move matters as you try to be the last Kingdom standing. Do you have what it takes?
Has this ever happened to you? A friend invites you over for a game of cards, but once you sit down to play, you discover to your horror that the card game they want to play is War! You are now trapped there flipping cards and comparing the numbers for the next four hours. You can’t leave as that would be too awkward so you have to pretend to have fun. The game takes so long that you miss your daughter’s big recital and are forced to go on a heartwarming journey to learn the importance of family (and save Christmas).
Or how about when you’re on a date, but the food is late and the conversion is stalling. You need to do something immediately or face the horror of an awkward silence. You quickly pull out a deck of cards and suggest War. Your date leaves you and blocks your number, never to be seen again.
Those examples aren’t you? Well how about this situation we’ve all been in: Death comes to collect your soul but will let you live if you can beat him in his favorite game. You sit down with Death, but it turns out that his favorite game is War. At least you have a 50% chance of winning, you think, picking up your cards to play. You immediately die of boredom and Death comes to collect your soul but will let you live if you can beat him in his favorite game, but it turns out his favorite card game is War….
If any of those sound familiar, never fear, there’s a solution for you! It’s called REINFORCEMENTS and it’s already changing lives around the world. Yes REINFORCEMENTS takes the tired old “gameplay” of War and updates it with actual decisions and snazzy art. War involves literally 0 strategy and the winner is decided once the cards are dealt, but finding out who that is can take forever. Reinforcements takes all the fun of comparing numbers to see which one is higher and actually makes it fun!
Just listen to these satisfied customers:
“When the only option I had for card games to play were the standard boring options, I had no problem being a productive member of society. Now that I have Reinforcements, there’s nothing else I want to do!” – Larry ‘No-Longer-a-Productive-Member-of-Society’ Davis
“NO I like that game!” – My wife when I told her we have to send the prototype back
“Reinforcements is my new favorite game! My clients are much happier as well.” – Death
“Delicious!” – Some Goat
“I like War better” – John Calvin
As you can see, Reinforcements is a modern card game for the modern card gamer. Try it today and see the difference it can make in your life!
Reinforcements is a light, fast, and most importantly fun card game for 2 – 4 players. Based on the simple card game War, players will be fighting to be the last one standing by building stacks of the same colored cards from the three factions and attacking the stacks of their opponents. It features easy-to-learn gameplay that hides a surprising amount of strategy, colorful eye-catching art, tons of enjoyment, and mobs of unstoppable peasants.
Let me just start off by saying that I love Reinforcements. Especially with two players, the game seems to fly by and the just-one-more-game urge is hard to resist! This is one that almost anyone can enjoy and that will be played again and again. At its core is the card game War, but where that game has literally zero decision making and no strategy, Reinforcements transforms it into something completely unique. The best parts of War are those tense moments where your deck is dwindling and hope is almost lost, but then the right cards miraculously turn it around in a single moment of triumph. This game is simply bursting with those moments, and makes them actually dependent on player actions (although some lucky draws don’t hurt). It’s deceptively simple, but every decision still matters, and the strategic depth is astounding.
Reinforcements consist of a bunch of cards, a rulebook, and a box. There are four player reference cards, four totem cards, and the rest are the main cards used to play the game. These cards each have a color (red, green, and blue) and a number (1-7); the color represents the kingdom the card belongs to and the number represents the power of the card. The higher the number the more powerful and rare the card is, the lower numbers are more common and less powerful.
It’s a scathing commentary on wealth distribution.
To play, the first thing to do is set up the game. Begin this grueling process by taking out the four totem cards and four reference cards, and shuffle the rest. Deal out five cards to each player. Take a break before actually beginning the game, as a rest is well deserved at this point.
Once fully recovered, the players pick three of their cards and lay them face down in front of them to start three stacks. In general, the higher the card value the better, but having different colors to start is also helpful. The players then each pick a card from the two that are left and reveal them at the same time, whoever has the highest goes first. In case of a tie, whoever yells “Reinforcements!” the most enthusiastically goes first. Expect to be yelling this often.
On a turn, the player first draws cards until they have five in hand. They can then make one of three actions: Defend, Attack, or Discard. To Defend, add a card to a stack, placing it facedown above the card already there, but it has to be the same color as the card below it.
Feel free to take a peek at your facedown cards if you’ve forgotten the colors.
Stacks can only have three cards maximum, and something special happens when that third card is added, which will be discussed later.
To Attack, the player takes a card from their hand and chooses an opponent’s stack. That opponent reveals the top card, and if it’s higher, the attacker’s card is discarded. If it’s lower, however, the defender’s card is discarded. The attacker then moves to the next card in the stack with whatever power the attack card has left (which is the original power of the card minus the power of the defending card). So for example, I attack a hidden stack of two cards with a five. The first revealed card is a two, so I defeat that chump easily. I still have three power left (5-2), so that attacks the next card, which is revealed.
What’s this? The revealed card is a three? Then it’s time for REINFORCEMENTS!! Yes, whenever there’s a tie, both players must yell “Reinforcements” enthusiastically. The rules spell out specifically that this cannot be skipped, so don’t try to sneak a game in at a funeral.
After calling for REINFORCEMENTS, both players draw a card from the deck, defender first. They reveal them at the same time, and the highest card wins. If these also tie, then call again for more reinforce… I mean REINFORCEMENTS! until someone wins.
Finally, to Discard, simply just discard as many cards as desired from the hand. This is beneficial if there are only low cards in the hand, as it’ll free up space to draw more (and hopefully better) cards next turn.
Those are the basic three actions, but things get interesting once a stack gets to three cards. After placing the third card in a stack, that stack gets flipped over. These cards are now revealed for all opponents to see which makes it easier to defeat the stack, but having revealed stacks grants bonus actions and abilities. After revealing the stack, draw a card then pick a card from the hand to create a new stack. Now on top of performing one of the three main actions on a turn, that player can perform an additional Kingdom Action and has a passive ability. These depend on the color of the revealed stack, and every revealed stack grants an additional Kingdom Action, so building up stacks and getting them flipped is critical to increase strategic options and combos.
A revealed red stack grants the Barrage action, which means the player can attack with a red card from their hand or from a revealed red stack (weakening the stack). This attack is in addition to whatever main action the player wants to do. Also, this revealed stack grants the passive ability that when attacking with a red card, that card wins ties.
This removes the need to call for Reinforcements, so it’s a critical ability for introverts.
A revealed blue stack grants the Fortify action, which means the player can defend a revealed blue stack by adding a blue card to it from their hand in addition to their main action. The passive ability granted is that blue stacks can now have up to four cards instead of three.
A revealed green stack grants the Adapt action, which means the player can swap a green card in a revealed stack with one from their hand, or can swap the position of two green cards in a stack. The passive ability granted is that the player’s hand size is increased by one for every revealed green stack.
These abilities are critical to win, as they allow players to do more on each turn, giving additional actions for every revealed stack. Players can only have at most five stacks, and once a stack is defeated the corresponding Kingdom Action is lost.
Also, there are some cards that have special abilities: Mages, Assassins, and Peasants. Mages can be used in an attack, and they defeat the top two cards in a stack. Assassins can be used in an attack and can defeat any opponent card.
More relationship destroying than the Uno ‘Draw 4’ could ever hope to be.
Peasants are potentially the most powerful, even though alone they are the worst card. If a player collects five, they can discard all of them and defeat any entire stack. This creates the strategic conundrum of deciding whether to keep peasants in hand to try to get five, limiting the amount of other good cards that could be obtained, or to get rid of them which opens up the hand for more options but loses the ability to remove an entire enemy stack.
Yet more scathing commentary.
Finally, There are also the Totem cards, which can potentially be taken when revealing stacks. If a player has a red stack and reveals a second red stack, they can take the Berserker Wurm totem. The Guardian Elk is taken in the same way but for blue stacks, and the Elusive Chameleon is for green. If a player has revealed one of each color, then they can take the Hero of the People totem. If one player already has the totem, another cannot take it, and if a player loses one of the stacks used to claim the totem, then they have to put it back. These totems can be played for powerful effects, but once used they are put back and another player can then claim them.
The $250 Kickstarter pledge contains minis for these cards, which is a hilarious joke about the unnecessary deluxification of board games that you can go buy right now!
The game goes around with players trying to build up their stacks while trying to defeat those of their opponents. Once a player loses all unrevealed stacks, they are Locked In. Since the only way to get new stacks is to reveal a face down stack, when there are no face down stacks left no more new stacks can be added. This is where the game ramps up, as every stack lost is one that cannot be regained. Peasant mobs are especially deadly at this point, and players have to plan extra carefully to keep their stacks while trying to lock in and defeat the other players as well.
Once a player has no more stacks, they are out of the game, and whoever is the last one standing wins! (or sitting, as that’s my preferred way to play).
Well it may feel like that was a lot I just went over, it’s very simple in practice. The base of the game is just comparing numbers to see which one is bigger and placing cards in stacks of the same color. Despite the simple core concepts, there is a lot to consider while playing. Do you use a higher card to defend your stacks, or use it to attack enemies? Do you attack cards that are face up so you know the outcome, or do you go for an unrevealed stack and try to knock it out before it can be revealed? Do you place the third card to reveal a stack and get the extra action when you don’t have a high card to start a new one? Do you hold on to a Totem that another player may be close to getting, risking losing it yourself and forgoing its powerful ability? These are only a few examples of the choices you’ll have to make while playing the game. And any choice is an improvement over War, since again that game involves literally no decision making.
Now to address some potential downsides to the game. Winning the game is dependent on player elimination, which may not be for everyone. Getting eliminated can be annoying, especially if the game goes on long after being removed from the game. This is also paired with a lot of luck of the draw, which can lead to frustrating moments.
In a four player game, if a player starts the game with a hand of ones and twos (which is very possible as they are the most common cards in the game), they could potentially be eliminated before even taking a turn. They will have no choice but to start their three stacks with low cards, and if they are last in the turn order, the three players before them could attack and remove their three stacks. This would almost never happen, as players generally build some defenses before going on the attack, and there are three other players to attack, but the fact that it is a possibility may turn some off of this game. Another potentially frustrating occurrence with luck of the draw is with the peasants as mentioned above, and those games where the opponents seems to be drawing all the mages and assassins, which can wreck the most carefully laid plans as there’s nothing that can counter them (other than the Hero of the People totem).
For example, I had one game where one of the cards in my starting hand was an assassin, and I used it in my first turn to take out one of my wife’s stacks. In my next turn, I drew a mage card and used it to take out her second stack. Finally on my last turn I drew a peasant card, which gave me the five cards I needed for a peasant mob and I used it to take out her last stack and win the game.
My accommodations that evening.
While this was incredibly lucky on my part, especially with two players things like that can happen and can be incredibly frustrating. On the plus side, the game was over in a couple minutes so there was plenty of time to start a new one.
This kind of luck is a key component of pretty much any card game, and while there may be moments of frustration, there are also many moments of tension and elation when a plan comes together. The player elimination raises the stakes and forces careful strategy; more often than not it leads to fun instead of frustration.
There is one more minor disappointment I have, and that is with calling REINFORCEMENTS! to resolve ties. While we do a fair bit of (rightfully deserved) bashing on War, the best parts of that game are when the cards tie and both players have to lay down three more cards before revealing the next card to try to win, and if those next cards also tie and even more cards have to be placed down, well that’s just even better. In this game, however, ties aren’t nearly as exciting. Yelling “REINFORCEMENTS” adds some fun, but players are just taking another card from the main deck to compare. The stakes aren’t raised and nothing extra is wagered. This certainly isn’t a big problem, since this game excels in all other areas, but since calling for REINFORCEMENTS! is the namesake of the game, it’s odd that it’s the one place where the original War beats this highly improved version.
So anyway, REINFORCEMENTS is fun, simple but with a lot of strategy, generally fast (but with four players it can run longer), tense, and overall just a fun time. The artwork has a nice simplicity and flatness to it that evokes that art in a standard pack of playing cards, but with bright colors and unique characters. The gameplay is simple and easy to understand, but is also tense, thrilling, and strategic. This is all wrapped up in a small box that can be taken anywhere and set up in no time. It’ll almost certainly be a hit whether playing with parents, friends, hardcore gamers, casual gamers, and anyone else. Being based on a game that almost everyone has tried gives it more mass appeal and it can be a great way to introduce those only familiar with basic playing card games into something a bit more unique.
Find out more at BGG.