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Subject: A satire, plus an actual game! rss

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Stephen Waits
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Note: This review is after a single play.

The Controversy

The development and marketing of War on Terror has seen no shortage of controversy. It all started with a post saying something like, check out my game, spoofing the (actual) War on Terror, preorder it from my site, etc.. Most people knee jerked with the typical sort of response you'd expect I suppose. Some people actually read the rules and thought it was decent enough to preorder it. I didn't preorder it until the game was uninvited from Essen and the like, which really upset me.

Yes, the marketing has been moderately controversial. It's a controversial theme, and the developers, very wisely, use that to their advantage. The cool part about it is that there's actually a really good game in here.

Overview

The game is played on a map of the world. All players begin as Empires, with the option to "Turn Terrorist" in the future. Empires may also fund terrorism when it's convenient. The players are essentially playing out today's War on Terror, but in an exaggerated, satirical manner.

Components

I was very impressed when I first opened the box. The developers have done an absoloutely fantastic job in putting this together. The card decks are individually bagged, counters all prepunched and individually bagged, and plastic markers for each empire, you guessed it, individually bagged. The thick, sturdy board is mounted with glossy graphics, which are themselves high quality. The cards are a bit thin, but have a nice texture and shuffle very nicely.

Additionally, the art is all the way around cool. From the attention grabbing box, to the fine, often humorous details in the board, and the cards, it's just great.

Specifically, you'll find the following inside the box:

* Board
* Evil Axis spinner
* Empire cards
* Terrorist cards
* Empire markers for 6 players
* Terrorist markers
* Player aid cards
* Evil Balaclava (yes, it's in there)
* Monopoly money (poker chips work fine here)
* Secret Message pad + pencil
* Rule book
* Card listing book (detailed rules for each type of card)

Other game companies would do well to mimic the component quality in this game. It's even more impressive when you consider these guys self published this thing. That's right, it's self-published, and it's as nice or nicer than most games from the giant publishers.

Rules

You can download the rules and read them on your own for details; however, I'll include a brief summary here.

Learning the game is easy enough. Before playing the first time, I suggest at least browsing the rules for about 20 minutes. Then, simply walk through the first few turns slowly on your first playing.

Setup is quite basic. Oil production tokens are distributed, shuffled, face-down in every nation. These tokens are numbered from 2-12 (think Catan). Depending on the number of players in the game, each player gets a specific amount of money, villages, and Empire cards. Villages are distributed in reverse turn order, and then the game begins with the first turn.

Each player's turn has four phases.

1. Roll Special Action Die. This tells you how many developments you may add or upgrade on this turn, but also has a few special action icons.

2. Draw Two Empire Cards. Easy 'nuff.

3. "Play". This is the meat of the game. During this time you can create new (neighboring) developments, upgrade developments, and play any cards in your hand. You may also fund terrorists, either in your training camp (in front of you) or in specific countries.

4. Roll for oil. Roll two dice. Pay on the result to any matching nations. Amount paid is listed on the reference cards.

Outside of your turn you're encouraged to send secret messages, barter, trade, and haggle. It's really pretty open, and players should (and will) let their imaginations run wild here. This really adds to the fun of this game.

Empires that have "Turned Terrorist" work together against remaining Empires.

The winner is either all of the Empires ("World Peace", probably pretty rare), a single Empire, or all of the Terrorists.

Conclusion

This game is dripping with theme. The designers have done an incredible job of translating the icons of today's (actual) War on Terror into a board game.

What many may find surprising is that there's a real game beneath the shiny components and all of that theme. That game happens to be a nice blend of mechanics from other popular games, such as Catan (resources, development), Risk (combat resolution, world map), and Diplomacy (secret treaties, broken promises).

The combination of nice components, a rich theme, and excellent game mechanics makes for a wonderfully fun game which I look forward to playing many times in the future.
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Rob Olsson
United States
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I was impressed by the theme of this game when it first started showing up in the forums and enjoyed going to the web site to see the information there. I would like to get your take on the play of the game from a session report. Is there one of those in the making?

Also, do you feel the game has a lot of replay value or is it a one trick pony? I was reading somewhere on the Geek that some felt that Hammer of the Scots was not very replayable, but I for one have found a lot of playability in it.

I look forward to hearing more and appreciate the time you took to put together the review!
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Stephen Waits
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raolsson wrote:
I would like to get your take on the play of the game from a session report. Is there one of those in the making?
...
Also, do you feel the game has a lot of replay value or is it a one trick pony?

I may add a session report. However, in the mean time, there are several session reports from other users here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewforum...

After my one, very enjoyable, play, I do see plenty of replayability here. I would not say it's a one trick pony because the openness of the game makes it so that each game could unfold very differently. For example, a guy stabs hard in one game won't be able to do that in the next. Or the geopolitical situation in another game creates some new diplomatic dealing previously unthougt of. If players in your group decide to recycle strategies over and over, then you should find new people to liberate play with.

I think that for an Empire to win, a certain amount of sneakiness (funding terrorism when needed, "diplomacy") will usually be needed. For the terrorists to win, they'll have to work together.

Hope that helps!

--Steve
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Andrew Sheerin
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Hi Steve, I didn't want to spoil the objectivity of your review by commenting here but it's really rewarding for us to know that those hours spent pouring over pixels and making mundane bagging decisions weren't spent in vain. This was a real labour of love from start to finish, so I appreciate very much that you've highlighted what we always hoped people would pick up on. Cheers.

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Stephen Waits
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Well, nice job, and thanks for making this game.

--Steve
 
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John Di Ponio
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Warren
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Great Review!!! My copy should be on it's way to me today!!!!!devil
 
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Neil Sorenson
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My copy should be arriving this weekend (oh happy day) and in looking over the posted rules I was wondering how the terrorists are supposed to plot/act together as a team.

What if there are disagreements between the terrorist players about which things to do/buy/etc.? Who breaks the tie? Is there some sort of seniority or pecking order within the terrorists?
 
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Stephen Waits
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kakupacal wrote:
What if there are disagreements between the terrorist players about which things to do/buy/etc.? Who breaks the tie? Is there some sort of seniority or pecking order within the terrorists?


While multiple terrorist players share a single terrorist turn, they all get to play that turn together.

The idea is that they need to work together since they share a common goal. Yes, they may disagree (probably like actual terrorists) on the strategies and tactics needed to achieve that goal, but they'll just have to work it out. I cannot imagine needing to ever go to a tiebreaker in this situation - if so, I'd, personally speaking, look for some new people to play with.

--Steve
 
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Neil Sorenson
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MrSkeletor wrote:
Just blow each other up.


That's how we resolve normal game disagreements already. I was under the impression that there would be a game-specific method for settling things.
 
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Stephen Waits
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kakupacal wrote:
I was under the impression that there would be a game-specific method for settling things.

Nah, none needed.

--Steve
 
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Mark Hansen
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The components in this game rock. Finding out that it was self published is jaw dropping. What you get in the box itself makes this game worth getting.
 
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Ben E
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I got this game and my gf now loves it! I can't stop her wanting to play it, I think she has some secret fetish that involves dropping a nuke on me while acting as though she has done nothing wrong then tries to convince me that hitting her back with a nuke wouldn't be a very nice thing to do. I love this game and can't wait to try it out with5-6 players.
 
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