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Subject: Warring Kingdom -- A Preview Review rss

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What is Warring Kingdom?


UPDATE: Nov. 19, 2013

Do you like the pure deck building mechanic of Dominion but find the minimal player interaction disappointingly lacking? Then get ready for Warring Kingdom. This upcoming card game designed by Harry Gao has takes the basic deck building game and adds layer of direct confrontation combat with other players in a 2-4 competitive game while requiring some simple economical management. In short, you build your deck with coins, soldiers, civilians and equipment to support and defend the castle of your city while you plan out the ultimate attack to destroy another player's castle. The first person to do so wins the game. (Maybe the title should be Warring Kingdoms.)

If you want to skip all the details, then jump down to the SUMMARY at the end of the review.

NOTE: This is a review not of the final published game, but a print-and-play prototype version. The cards and rules may differ on the final product.


Reviewer Profile: About Me
No matter how objective I, or any reviewer really, tries to be, gaming experience and unconscious bias is bound to influence how a review perceives a game. Just so you know how I approached this game...I'm a long time computer/video gamer, avid casual Magic the Gathering returnee for about 2 years, and have just started venturing into this new world of designer card/board games for a year. I have played Dominion though not extensively, and I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of Dominion (I can hear *gasps* in the background) or of deck building games, but I understand and appreciate the place Dominion has on revolutionizing the deck building mechanic. I use Dominion for comparison in this review since many people are familiar with Dominion.

Components & the Game Reviewed
Preview components (PnP B+W cards):
Preview components (Color card images):

As of the writing of review, Warring Kingdom is close to being announced on Kickstarter, so for this review I printed out a black-n-white print-and-play version of the cards with detailed artwork. I'm sure the cards will look stunning in color.

The rulebook states that the game will come with:
* 324 cards:
- 60 income cards
- 66 base supply cards
- 186 merchant cards (in 4 merchant categories)
- 6 Castle cards
- 6 reference cards
* 12 d6 dice
* rulebook

The PnP instructions say that only half of the cards are needed for a 2-player game, so I printed out only half of the above compliment of cards.

UPDATE:
The game designer provided color images of the cards and compared to the black+white, the full color artwork looks great. The stats are easy to read aligned one side of the card so they remain fully visible when stacked over equipment.




Rulebook
Rulebook (WIP):

The rulebook at this time, is still very much a work in progress. Combat, the most prominent aspect of the game differentiating it from other deck builders, was so confusing that we couldn't even finish the first game attempt because it left too many questions where we ended up guessing how to play through combat. The last version I downloaded already shows a slightly different card layout than the cards in the PnP pdf so the rulebook is still a work-in-progress.

The game designer has been very responsive in answering questions and receptive to suggestions (see this thread).

Check out the preview cards and rulebook at: http://www.warringkingdom.com/

Basic Gameplay
# of players: 2-4
Setup time: 10 minutes
Game time: 60 minutes

There are 6 phases to each player turn:
1. Act (play card action)
2. Deploy (a unit to your player board)
3. Attack (then can't buy)
4. Pay (upkeep costs for cards on your player board)
5. Buy (a card if you didn't attack)
6. Discard and draw

Deck Building & Setup
Setup:
Deck building mechanic:

For those that don't know, deck building is a game mechanic where you build your player deck in-game by acquiring cards from a common pool and you repeatedly re-use your deck to acquire yet more cards until you can accomplish the objective of the game.

Setup is easy and can be done in less than 10 minutes if you already have your cards sorted. Similar to other deck builders, players start Warring Kingdom with an initial player deck of a small cache of coins and some basic civilian units which you use to start building your deck. The common area, called "The Supply", from where you buy cards, starts similar enough as well with 3 coin denominations and 3 common units all in their own face-up piles.

The next group of cards in the Supply, however, are in 4 face-down piles separated into 4 merchant categories: civilians, soldiers, weapons, and general merchandise. These merchant piles remain face-down until you decide to visit ONE merchant during the Buy phase of your turn, at which point, 3 cards are revealed from that merchant and set beside the 6 face-up common piles from which you can make one purchase.

Aside from the randomness of your player deck card draw inherent to most card games, the face-down merchant decks is the first encounter of randomness you face--you can't just buy whatever merchant cards you want--only whatever is revealed available for purchase. Those who like to plan out exactly what cards they want to acquire will now find themselves at the mercy of luck to draw the right merchant card, but this does add some variability to the game and you have to choose which merchant category you want to visit.

Player Board Area
Player Board Area:

The first major difference from other deck builders is that each player has a player board layout referred to as the player's "City" in front of him/her. When you draw cards in your hand, you can deploy a card from our hand and place it in your City instead of discarding it back into your deck. The advantage to doing this is it brings out your units in preparing for combat in a later turn circumventing some of the randomness of the card draw. The other advantage is that you can play an action from a card on you board at each turn whereas you would have to discard a card action played from your hand.

Because of the complexity of combat when the attacker's and defender's boards engage (discussed below in the Combat section), I think it would really help to have physical player boards or playmats to easily move the board layouts to align for combat. But as the game designer pointed out, doing so would increase production cost and thus to the MRSP of the game. I'm all for keeping costs down, but I think because of how combat works, not having physical boards to move player boards around easily will make combat rather cumbersome especially for new players.

Economic Management
Rating:

What speaks to the balance designed for the game is the unique upkeep cost during the Pay phase--you have to pay up upkeep cost for all the cards on your board at every turn before you can purchase more cards. The basic units have a 0 upkeep costs, but more advanced cards have an upkeep costs which really restricts how many cards you can keep deployed. This simple and unique economic feature of the game requires you to weigh the option of how much income you will have available for your Buy phase vs. what you are willing to pay to keep cards on your player board. Obviously in the early stages of the game, you'll want as much income as possible to buy more cards for your deck. Fortunately, certain card actions provide other ways to acquire cards, and in some cases are a better deal than paying for the full purchase value of a card.

During the later game when you've built your deck with enough viable cards for combat, you will use your income to pay for the deployed cards. This coincides with the Attack phase vs. Buy phase decision in a turn--you can't do both. You'll want to plan your income allocation to match your deployment plan and when you are ready to order an attack.

But this can be a fine line of how many units to deploy (and pay upkeep) vs how much income you have to still buy more cards. You don't want to be so focused on saving all you income (and not have any upkeep cost units) that you leave yourself vulnerable to attack from another player. You have to keep an eye on what other players are doing and anticipate for any sudden threat. After you've become familiar with all the cards, then it becomes easier to track what cards other players might have and if they might be in a position ready to attack. The game designer has taken this possibility into consideration that there's a rule in the Supply setup to remove a certain number of cards from each merchant deck to make card counting more difficult. But this only works the first time you run through a merchant deck, after which all the cards in the deck will have been revealed.


Combat
Combat complexity:

The player board layout consists of deployed units in 2 rows of 5 columns with your Castle in the 3rd column on the 3rd row. The objective to the game is to work your way through your opponent's first 2 rows until you can reach and destroy your opponent's Castle in his 3rd row.

When you decide to attack, the defending player positions his player board opposite of the the attacker's board with the columns on the two boards aligned. As long as a unit exists on a column, unit combat occurs only within its column. For example, if you have a unit in column 1 attacking, it deals damage to the defender's unit in his column 5.

That's why I said above why having physical boards is almost required for combat. We playtested the 2-player game, so our player boards were already directly opposite each other. But in a 3- or 4-player game where the person sitting next to you might have his board layout oriented in the same direction as yours, then you each have to rotate all his cards 90 degrees in opposite directions. If you don't move the cards to position opposite of your opponent, it can get really confusing which units are attacking which columns on your opponent's side. The game designer commented that this shouldn't be a problem for experienced players, but because column #s are numbered from each player's perspective, not physically lining them up can get really confusing.


Random Combat Engagement
Combat Strategy Required (lower rating=higher randomness):

How do you determine which units/columns attack and defend?
Here is the most questionable part of the game that might turn off a lot of players. You can carefully lay out your board for combat, but it's the random roll of five d6 dice that controls which columns attack/defend. The dice face #s 1-5 represents the 1-5 columns of your board. Each die representing one strike from the first unit in the column of that dice roll number. For example, if your dice rolls are: 2,2,3,4,6. Then your first unit in column 2 strikes twice to the defender's column 4, and the first units in columns 3 and 4 each strike once to the defender's columns 3 and 2 respectively. Columns 1 and 5 do not attack.

Any "6" roll represents a critical hit. Normally if a unit receives damage that matches or exceeds your opponent unit's HP, then you discard the wounded unit to the player discard pile. But a critical hit results in returning the unit back to it's corresponding Supply pile--Ouch! That really hurts!

Combat involves both the attacker and defender exchanging attacks using different attack strength and defensive attack strength values on unit cards. That's the difference between the attacker's attack and the defender's attack; there is no actual defense for the defender to protect his units.

The attacker and defender each roll his own set of five dice, so it's very possible a defender's dice rolls will not be attacking the same column units that are attacking him. Combat resolution happens simultaneously, so both the attacker's units apply their attack damage and the defender applies his units' attack denoted by a separate defensive attack strength. Apart from the actions and abilities on some cards, units have no natural defensive capabilities to block an attack. Both sides receive all the damage dealt to them and it's just a matter of having a higher HP value than the damage received. It feels rather helpless when your units can't block attacks, but the straightforward attack damage simplifies and speeds up combat.

If the opponent's column to be attacked is empty, then you have the ability to decide which neighboring column to attack instead, and some deployed cards can have multiple abilities which you can choose from. But other than that, combat resolves automatically as dictated by the dice rolls, which can be frustrating.


Balance
Rating:

Game balance can mean a lot of different things. In Warring Kingdom, you can tell that a lot of thought went into implementing varies check-and-balances to the game. You can't on a particular course of action without taking some kind of sacrifice or consequence.

In your own hand management, you can either play an action immediately and then discard the card to not see it again until it's drawn again from your reshuffled deck, or you can deploy the card so you have the option to play its action at every turn but that means you have to wait until your next turn to play the action and the card might have an upkeep cost.

That requires another careful decision keeping deployed units for which you will have to pay an upkeep cost vs depleting your hand's available income that you can use for card purchase in the Buy phase. Cards seem appropriately costed for their power level and for the presumed amount of income you would have at certain points of the game. If you decide to attack, you cannot Buy more cards that turn. So the need to acquire more cards in the early game means players won't be engaging in combat for at least half way through the game.

An inherent problem with deck builders as you build up your deck with more powerful cards is that you still have low level cards reducing the efficiency of your deck draw. Some games implement a way to remove cards from your deck. There are several ways to do that in Warring Kingdom. When you have substantially built up your deck to start attacking, you forfeit your Buy phase, but the incomes cards you at this don't won't be wasted because you need them to pay the upkeep costs, so coins are never wasted.

Another way to remove low level units from your deck is to deploy them to your City which also helps to keep the upkeep costs down. When you attack, you have the option to "retreat" non-combat units away from the 2 combat rows and deploy advanced units instead. After combat, discard the high costed advanced units and return the low level units to your City.

And another tactic that's left up more to chance is to leave the low level units in combat with the hope that your opponent will critical hit and return that unit to the Supply.

During combat, both attacker and defender can deploy any number of cards for this phase, and both sides deal damage that could possibly destroy the other's castle.
For the attacker, the following Pay phase means you likely have to discard cards to meet the upkeep costs, and skipping your Buy phase is a downside. As a defender, you can't rearrange the placement of your units and you deplete your card hand for deploying, but you have just a likely chance of destroying the attacker's Castle in your defensive attack, and surviving units remain on the defender's board after combat.

EDIT:
I was informed by the game designer after the initial posting of this review that we played this incorrectly--the attacker's Castle is never involved in combat so the defender cannot strike the attacker's Castle which means you can never lose the game when you attack. That definitely changes the game play--there's a lot less risk in choosing to attack and it encourages you to be more aggressive. With this major rule correction, the game has suddenly become more competitive.


There's some trial-and-error in deciding when to attempt an attack. Try attacking too early and you only find out you don't yet have enough powerful cards to reach the Castle, at which point, you return to acquiring more cards. You opponents will face the same situation. But once your deck is equipped enough to take down your opponent's castle, it's all up to the random card draw and dice rolls to determine your success or failure, and this is where balance breaks down.

Just as it doesn't matter if you have purchased the best cards if they are sitting in your deck, and it really doesn't matter if you have the best laid out board for combat, if the dice rolls dictates which units attack and how often. Equally frustrating for the defender, you have no natural defensive capabilities. If the dice rolls don't go your way, you could be dealing defensive attacks on different columns from where the attacks come.

Replayability
Rating:

Unlike other deck building games where you only include a small subset of cards in every game which creates a lot of variety and replayability, in contrast, Warring Kingdom uses all the cards in every game. A 2-player game uses half the number of cards, but you still include the same set of card decks. There is always the initial "newness" excitement when you start a new game, followed by that development stage as you discover advanced strategies on how to improve you gameplay. But a game needs to provide new challenges to keep players engaged enough to want to continue playing.

Some variety is created with the randomness of the card draw, only certain merchant cards revealed for purchase each time, and the totally random combat engagement, but the real challenge depends on the players themselves since this is a competitive game. With a stagnate card pool, you'll eventually want new players to play against and it's hard enough finding a gaming group in the first place.

I don't know if expansions are planned, but the game would definitely need an influx of new cards to keep the game fresh.

Number of Players
Warring Kingdom is listed for 2-4 players and the game designer reports that the game was designed and balanced for 3-4 players. We playtested only 2-player games and the direct confrontation necessitated by the player board columns alignment during combat lends itself very well in a head-to-head competitive game.

I never tried the game with 3 or 4 players, so I can't comment from experience how more players will change the interaction. Certainly with more players, the threat of attack is even greater. You can attack only a player sitting next to you, so you could be attacked twice and have to wait until after your next turn's end phase to draw a new hand. Since you're racing against everyone to be the first person to destroy someone's Castle, I imagine that players will want to attack a weaker player's board. I have a hard time picturing wanting to waste a turn attacking a stronger player as a stall tactic because it possibly means you'll lose units and weaken yourself at the same time, leaving yourself vulnerable to attack.

The full complement of cards to be included in the game is enough for 4 players, but then I wonder why 6 Castle and Reference cards are provided. Extra just in case? Or is a 5-6 player expansion planned?!

And any game would definitely be put on my want list if it included an official solo variant. Considering you're using random dice rolls for combat, it might not be too difficult to create solitaire rules for the AI deck and board layout.

Game pace & length
Rating:

The game can be thought of as being played in 2 distinct stages--first deck building and then later combat--actually, the deck building part consumes about 70% of the game time. Once you get into the deck building and get used to combat, the game pace moves fairly quickly. Even during the down time when it's not your turn, you'll want to keep an eye on what your opponent is buying and be ready for a possible attack.

The game designer reports that game runs 30-40 minutes for an experienced 2-player game, and 60-90 minutes for new players. We played three 2-player games each each ran over 90 minutes with the very first game not even being finished due to the rules confusion. I can see a 2-player running 60 minutes, but you'd be hard pressed to finish in 30 minutes due to the number of things out of your control. And imagine how much longer a 4 player game would take.

While my friend was OK with the game length, but I thought 90 minutes was too long and actually got bored with some of the repetitive plays--I can handle about an hour of gaming session at a time.

Complexity & approachability
Rating:

If you're already familiar with other popular deck builders such as Dominion and Ascension, you'll have no problem with the deck building mechanic of Warring Kingdom with the added feature of income management. It simple enough to grasp and the multiple uses works well in the game so that income cards are still needed even when you aren't buying cards.

Combat is the other half of the game and is much more complex than the combat in Ascension of Thunderstone. This will be the steepest part of the learning curve, but hopefully a revised rulebook will better explain all the steps involved in combat. After understanding the rules and getting used to combat play, combat flows fairly quickly.

Obviously people who like deck builders will be willing to take a look at this game. But unlike the non-confrontational play of ther deck builders, the player combat engagement might turn off some people. Those who find this element missing in other games, will definitely be interested.

Theme
Rating:

The theme is set in a generic medieval/fantasy feudal system setting similar to Dominion. But whereas you can completely ignore Dominion's superficial theme, the flavor is more pronounced in Warring Kingdom. You have your different strengths of the soldier class and the weapons to equip onto them; while civilians and villagers provide the support for your City. There are no flavor text on the cards, but the card names matches their actions and abilities. Archers can attack from afar, and the Thief can steal your opponent's income. Different types of armour increases your unit's HP and you can attach melee weapons to only melee soldiers. And of course the objective of the game is to be the first player to destroy another's castle.

Personal Take
I try to keep reviews objective, but it's always helpful to hear the answer to the two quintessential questions that should be asked of any game.

Did you have fun?
As I said in the beginning, while I appreciate how the deck building mechanic gives all players an equal starting position, I'm not an enamored fan of deck building games in general. With that said, We actually enjoyed the slightly more complex feature deciding how to allocate your income towards deck building for Warring Kingdom.

Combat was a different matter. I have to be honest and say the game was completely bogged down with a very incomplete rulebook. Combat instructions were particularly confusing and we resorted to our own interpretations of what the combat rules were trying to say at first. After the game designer was able to provide some much needed clarification and we gave it another couple of tries were we able to play through combat.

Dice have their place in the right games, but I really hate it when they take control over player decisions and important elements such as dictating which units can attack in this game. It feels like having your hands tied to your back and you just wish for the best possible rolls. Still, there is something satisfying with being able to physically handle components and tossing a handful of dice.

Will you play it again?
The direct player confrontation and competitive combat is what makes this game unique and distinguishes from other popular deck builders which are either cooperative or win by victory points. We've spent enough time trying to learn the game that we understand it well enough that my friend and I are willing to play it a few more times but not more than merely occasionally.

Final Analysis
I'll have to say this isn't my type of game but my friend who does like deck builders does like the game slightly better than I did. But a lot of thought and development went into designing a balanced game where you have to debate over conflicting turn actions--the turn action you take is counter-balanced with a consequence--and I applaud the designers effort in this area.

But if you're looking for a deck building head-to-head competitive game, Warring Kingdom has all those elements and would be worth checking out.


SUMMARY

Preview components (PnP B+W cards):
Preview components (Color card images):
Rulebook (WIP):
Setup:
Deck building mechanic:
Player Board Area:
Economic Management:
Combat complexity:
Combat Strategy Required (lower rating=higher randomness):
Balance:
Replayability:
Game pace & length:
Complexity & approachability:
Theme:


You would likely enjoy Warring Kingdom if:
* You like deck builders
* You like competitive games
* You like direct player confrontation
* You like a balanced game where your actions have consequences
* You don't mind the randomness of dice rolls to control what units attack

You probably wouldn't like Warring Kingdom if:
* You don't like deck builders
* You don't like direct player combat and competitive games
* You want to control every aspect of your game play especially with something as important to the game as combat.
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Ray Smith
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Thank you so much for the preview, secoAce! Well done.
Now, this game is what I'm talking about!!
I'm not a great fan of deck building games, and some I totally avoid. But, from what I've seen from WK so far, this is an automatic must buy for me.

It's multiplayer, interactive, a medieval theme, combat, dice, strategic, constant decisions, and with great art. All winners in my department! As for the misgivings you mention:

1. The randomness of the combat allocation is one of the strong draws for me! This injects a "fog of war" aspect into the game with little effort. No matter how powerful your army is, you never really know how it will perform. As you said, it also adds a fun risk factor -- Do I build up more with better troops (thereby somewhat alleviating the luck of the dice), or take a chance with what I've got?

2. I foresee no problem with not having players directly across from each other. Any confusion of visualizing my number one position attacking your number five position should be minimal, and should become even easier through play.

3. I do agree that there is a probability of becoming a sameness in play without expansions of additional characters, etc. Hopefully this, along with adding a 5th or 6th player, is in the works. (Pleeeeez!!)

If the component quality is up to snuff, and the price isn't outrageous, I'm in whole hog. thumbsup thumbsup
Eagerly awaiting the Kickstarter.


One question though:
In a multiplayer game, if player A attacks and weakens player B, will player B be vulnerable to player C, and give C an easier chance at victory?
 
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Great review, very objective and detailed. Thanks for your hard work! I wholehearted hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll enjoy the final product much more!

rdsmith wrote:

1. The randomness of the combat allocation is one of the strong draws for me! This injects a "fog of war" aspect into the game with little effort. No matter how powerful your army is, you never really know how it will perform. As you said, it also adds a fun risk factor -- Do I build up more with better troops (thereby somewhat alleviating the luck of the dice), or take a chance with what I've got?

2. I foresee no problem with not having players directly across from each other. Any confusion of visualizing my number one position attacking your number five position should be minimal, and should become even easier through play.

3. I do agree that there is a probability of becoming a sameness in play without expansions of additional characters, etc. Hopefully this, along with adding a 5th or 6th player, is in the works. (Pleeeeez!!)

If the component quality is up to snuff, and the price isn't outrageous, I'm in whole hog. thumbsup thumbsup
Eagerly awaiting the Kickstarter.


One question though:
In a multiplayer game, if player A attacks and weakens player B, will player B be vulnerable to player C, and give C an easier chance at victory?

1) Great minds think alike.
2) thumbsup
3) No two game may turn out identically given the randomness in how you build your deck, especially what civilians you have. Hopefully this will increase replayability as players adapt to the opportunities and risks that are different in each game. Given the strong player interaction, it's one of those games where one player slightly changes his strategy, the opponent must respond by changing a lot, and the first player change even more as a result...we'll see what people think after extensive playing!

As for expansions, yes, absolutely in the works However, there would be very limited if any "new cards"; I don't want to do the traditional deck building expansion thing where more and more cards pile on top of the game and nothing else...rather, for the first expansion, there'd be great lords (upgradeable heroes), playmats and 1 alternate victory condition. ninja Can't divulge too much more at this point, and many things may change ninja

Lastly, to answer your question: yes, the 3rd person would be weakened. In a 3P game, there'd be some diplomacy going on; "do you REALLY want to attack me? We'll both become weak and HE is going to win!" is a very valid argument. In 4 player, you are sorta-kinda-not-really on the same team as the person sitting across the table; neither of you can attack each other, (players only attack neighbor players) in fact both of you face the exact same opponents on the battlefield. On the flip side, only one of you can win...

Let the backstabbing begin.
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harrytgao wrote:
As for expansions, yes, absolutely in the works However, there would be very limited if any "new cards"; I don't want to do the traditional deck building expansion thing where more and more cards pile on top of the game and nothing else...rather, for the first expansion, there'd be great lords (upgradeable heroes), playmats and 1 alternate victory condition.
Sounds perfect! bacon

harrytgao wrote:
Lastly, to answer your question: yes, the 3rd person would be weakened. In a 3P game, there'd be some diplomacy going on; "Do you REALLY want to attack me? We'll both become weak and HE is going to win!" is a very valid argument. In 4 player, you are sorta-kinda-not-really on the same team as the person sitting across the table; neither of you can attack each other, (players only attack neighbor players) in fact both of you face the exact same opponents on the battlefield. On the flip side, only one of you can win...
Hmmm. I'll reserve judgement until I see/hear it put into practice. Any other outside reviews planned?

harrytgao wrote:
Let the backstabbing begin.
Well, yeah! arrrh
 
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Other reviewers are in the works.

Because the relative ease of defending (archer and master archer, two cheapest soldiers, have rather deadly stats on defense), I've seen many games where two people were trying to gang up on a third, but after one of the two suffers a painful defeat, he is all of a sudden the new target...until, of course, his archer shoots down the invaders. It'd be interesting to see how well the balance works!
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Great review. The criticism was level-headed and you did a nice job of highlighting what did work well.

I'm intrigued by this game but share your concerns about the way die-rolling is implemented. Bad rolling might mean your powerful cards simply sit there doing nothing at all for several attacks in a row.

How do you think it might work if, instead of rolling 5 dice all at once to determine which of your units attack (which does have the advantage of posing the "which column do I put my guys in, since they're gonna hit their opposite number" choice), you rolled 1 die per unit to determine which defensive column that unit attacks? A 6 would be a critical per the rules and then you'd re-roll to determine which defender would be targeted. Another 6 would mean you choose.

In this way, your powerful units wouldn't just sit inert turn after turn if you rolled poorly. If the defender leaves columns empty and one of those columns is targeted by one of the attacker's cards per its die, she'd get to pick which column she wants that unit to attack (or choose to attack the castle), thus re-injecting the question of target selection.

You'd also need more than one super-unit (or the cash to launch a second attack) to win since each unit would only attack once per attack barring card effects (judging by the game play unit in which the game was won when a single attacker with a strength of 12 had its column rolled twice with no defenders between it and the opponents castle), which would reward deck-building. And you wouldn't need to worry about boards or lining up cards across from other cards, since you'd just announce which column was hit with how much damage. Or would this be just as bad (in your opinion) or unworkable for other reasons? I'd love to hear the designer's thoughts as well.
 
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tobyjason wrote:


How do you think it might work if, instead of rolling 5 dice all at once to determine which of your units attack (which does have the advantage of posing the "which column do I put my guys in, since they're gonna hit their opposite number" choice), you rolled 1 die per unit to determine which defensive column that unit attacks? A 6 would be a critical per the rules and then you'd re-roll to determine which defender would be targeted. Another 6 would mean you choose.


Interesting suggestion. I have gone down similar paths before in earlier stages, but ultimately landed where I am for several reasons:
1) speed. Rolling 5 dice is a lot faster than rolling 1 die at a time. I want battles to be dramatic and sudden.

2) unpredictability. I absolutely understand the concern both you and secoace have about a powerful unit never strikes, but I see this as risk-management for players, which adds to the flavor and strategy. Assuming you can continue to attack once per round (which is the average I have seen), there is a 16% chance a particular unit will not strike. It's not trivial, but not large enough to be a constant threat. Further, let's say you attack back to back for 3 turns, there is only less than 0.5% chance for a unit to stand and watch the whole time. I believe the unpredictability nicely represent that of war.

3) Strategy. Warriors, for example, is in base supply and can be bought whenever (and only 4 coins!) When you have them stand next to each other, their strength increases and can do 6 damages per strike on offense (7 on defense). If you have 5 warriors on your board, you really don't care what you roll--short of something crazy like five 6s--and you will attack in a steadfast manner. In other words, you can choose how risky you want a fight to be; you can put all your eggs in one basket and hire one super soldier, or have a lot of cheap fighters that aggregates a formidable army.

4) Tactics. There are tactical solutions if you want to manipulate your odds. For example, in Civilian deck there is a Strategist, who would allow you to reroll any number of dice. In merchandise there is a book Art of War, which gives you one extra die during combat, which helps immensely. Soldier deck has a Master Warrior who can inspire other units to be stronger, boosting your attack for every roll instead of hoping for any specific ones, and weapon deck...well, nothing expensive in there besides the catapult, and adding the cheapest weapon to the cheapest soldier would make him comparable to an unequipped elite unit, further diversifying and reducing the risk of "bad rolls."

All in all, there are quite a lot of cards built into the game designed to help player mitigate the risk of combat. While it can be highly unpredictable for a beginner as he has not yet learned all the ways to deal with the uncertainty of war, after a couple games players start to refine their strategy, and have a very valid choice between hail-mary and low-variance. I don't see this as a disadvantage for beginners neither; a bit hail-Mary is definitely worthwhile for them!

So here's my biased two cents Please chime in SecoAce, I trust your judgment and opinion!
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toby
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Thanks for the reply.

I believe you're miscalculating the odds that a given unit doesn't strike. I'm pretty sure it's about 40.2% in any given attack.

There's a 5/6 chance that a given unit doesn't strike on a given die, right? 83.3333%? With each successive die you roll you subtract that same 5/6 percentage from whatever chance remained to have not rolled the number thus far. So on 2 dice, there's 83.3(repeating)% of 83.3(repeating)% or 69.444% that a given number doesn't come up at least once on one of the dice. On 5 dice, it gets down to a chance of about 40.19% that any given number will not have been rolled at least once. The chances this might happen over two attacks would be a bit over 16%. Over three attacks, about 6.5%.

In any case I've downloaded the black and white print and play. I'm going to give it a try for myself and see how it goes.
 
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Yup, download and enjoy!

Sorry I wasn't very clear... 16% was assuming you can continue the siege once, meaning you discard two income cards to immediately have a second round of combat during your turn after the first round of combat ends. so 40%^2 = 16%.

I look forward to your thoughts after a couple games! Note that a couple rules were tweaked in the latest version of the rule (which SecoAce helped with, thanks!), so do follow the rules (or ask clarification questions here) instead of always following SecoAce's review, as awesome a job as he did laugh
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Ah, ok. The latest rules are the ones I got with the download I did yesterday, I assume?
 
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tobyjason wrote:
Ah, ok. The latest rules are the ones I got with the download I did yesterday, I assume?

Might not be true. The one you have is likely VERY up to date, (16 pages in all, I assume?) but not the MOST up to date. I fixed a couple wordings late last night. So go online, refresh, and download the rule again if you are a perfectionist
 
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tobyjason wrote:
Ah, ok. The latest rules are the ones I got with the download I did yesterday, I assume?

Hi Toby, tried it yet? Any thoughts?
 
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I've had it printed and cut out for two players for a week or so but haven't had it hit the table. Maybe I'll give it a whirl in the wee hours tonight? I'll definitely post if I play it!
 
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Posted some questions last night in another thread.
 
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tobyjason wrote:
Posted some questions last night in another thread.

And answered. It's great to see that you answered so many of your own questions, and you answered them all perfectly correctly!

 
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OK, very quick first impressions:

The cards need a lot of work to tighten up the text. There's way too much "assuming" going on in the print and play version we played. This honestly smacks of a game that hasn't had adequate blind play-testing.

Thematically, it would make a lot more sense to have most of the individuals represented on the cards be replaced by either military units or analogous social institutions. How can a "Master Archer" with a nice bow conquer a freaking castle with the help of a dude who's good at strategery? OTOH, a whole unit of "Elite Sharpshooters", all equipped with improved equipment? They could be just the tool to implement a master plan. Probably too late to change that, but it'd make hella more sense.

Some stuff is a little curious, like the mechanism whereby one discards 2 coin cards to keep attacking rather than paying a set cost to re-up. And I'm very much up in the air regarding the "you don't know what you're going to get, ever" buying mechanism. I mean, it functions fine, but I'm not sure what the downside would be to having at least 1 pre-exposed buyable card in each category, too (if you want to maintain categories), thus allowing a little more planning. Especially given the Brawl mechanic, this blind buy/gain mechanism can create some pretty goofy early game luck swings, wherein one player's Brawls yield nothing but (3 cost) Archers while the other's yield much better/more expensive cards. It seems like it would be easy to tweak the game to have either one deck of everything (also greatly aiding set-up/breakdown) feeding into a tableau of cards that are buyable/gainable (with "gain" cards gaining you a card of a given type and a given cost or less) or making Brawl and similar cards yield you the first card you reveal from X deck costing Y or less. Don't get me wrong: revealing cards in buying/gaining situations creates some "ha ha!" fun moments, but I wonder if, once you know the game well and have better notions of what you're trying to do, it wouldn't just frustrate players. The dude who keeps flipping super high cost stuff at the beginning when he's looking for cards costing 4-6 isn't really doing anything WRONG, while the guy who keeps getting his "choice" isn't really doing anything right. But, again: I had fun, I just wasn't sure how some of the mechanics would hold up to "serious" play.

All this said, I enjoyed it and think there's definitely something in this. I want to play some more with RAW (or intended, as the case may be) before trying some version of the "everybody attacks, but whom do they hit?" dice mechanic I was spitballing about in the thread above before passing judgment on the dice rules as they stand, as the mechanism definitely didn't feel as immediately flawed as I thought it would on paper.

Thanks for all your help on the rules, Harry!
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Thank you for your thoughts Toby!

As much as it pains me to admit, I think you are right about blind-testing; we playtested a LOT, but only a fraction of the time were devoted to blind testing, and even those are done with less "blindness" than ideal. Some "blind" games had a player who has played the game once before, for example. We are scheduled for many upcoming demos and conventions, and will focus more on true blind testing.

As for whether the mechanism, I think it will feel very different when you take the strategy to the next level: if you go with exactly one strategy in mind (for example, if you only going for a spy-poison combo), you are likely to face difficulties; however, if you see it as a risk management challenge, it's not so much "random" as expected. Of course, please share your opinion more as you play the game a lot more, and I'd recommend trying it to other players, as the high level of player interaction means a game against a different opponent can be a whole new experience. Personally, I think some short term unperdictability might be challenging, but is by no ways undermining the importance of good planning.

Lastly and most importantly, I'm glad you had fun! I hope you now see that dice do introduce randomness (as by design), but does not make this into a push-your-luck type of game. Remember, the vitorious soldiers win first then go to war, while defeated ones go to war first then seek to win.



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