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Subject: The rough space gem - a review of Warp War rss

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Richard Smith
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I've said that if a game is fun; if it is reasonably simple but has a few rough edges it will generate a tonne of fans who modify and customize the game with new rules. Warp war has this in spades.


BRIEF OVERVIEW OF GAME:
Players build space craft out of simple components. Spending one build point buys one point of shield generator, etc. People can build beams, shields, power (also used for drive / engine), missile launchers, missiles, warp generators and system ship racks. Everything costs one except warp generators which cost 5.

Only ships with warp generators can move on the map. Other ships are system ships and are transported in system ship racks.

Movement is 1 hex per power / drive. However, stars have warp lines that allow you to move several hexes for only one movement.

Combat only occurs on stars. Players pre-plot what each ship will do: pick target, set energy, choose battle tactic and the speed of ship. Special options are to retreat or drop a system ship (which must be done at drive (speed) of zero). Players cross index this information in a little table and you see if you miss, hit or hit with a bonus. You may also retreat if you are a warp ship. This table is well designed and clever. There are no sweet spots, you may have to faster or slower than your enemy depending on tactics. Some careful thought went into its design and forces you into a real guessing game.

Hits do damage which reduces the value of ship components. If you bring a ship home, you can repair damage. Damage is repaired at the ships tech level, so at some point you leave ships to rot rather than putting good build points in at old tech.

If an attacker can't do damage for 3 consecutive combat rounds he or she automatically retreats.

The final element is that each turn is a decade long and as time passes newer ships gain big bonuses as technology improves. So your uber ship gradually becomes dated and you maneuver for match ups against technologically inferior ships.

Each player has 3 home worlds which you can build ships on. The purpose of the game is to capture the enemy home worlds.


WHAT IS FUN:
This is a fun game. There is a real joy in building your ships, and sending them out. There is a real, big, satisfaction in out guessing your enemy and landing a solid hit.

The game has some real nail biting trade offs. The enemy is beating you, threatening a final attack and you NEED to build a new ship. However, it is very, very tempting to wait just another turn or two until the technology increases so your ship will be a couple of turns bigger (more build points saved up) and at a higher technology. When I lose it is usually because I was too greedy and didn't build enough low tech ships - trying to save up for a high tech monster ship.

The rule book is tiny and easy to learn, with lot of examples. The price (only $2.95) was very nice too. I could afford the micro games way back, when full sized war games were beyond my finances.


PROBLEMS:
There is one error in the rule book. It does not describe what happens if you have a system ship loaded in a system ship rack and that rack is assigned damage. Some people have said that the system ship is dropped but this is very poor design. We played it that you can not take damage to a system ship rack, until the system ship inside has been reduced to rubble first.

The game's dice-less combat system is slow. You write down orders. This is not bad for a one on one ship duel, but a big slug fest, on a home world takes a long time. Plotting orders is slower than just rolling some dice.

Also the game is not luckless. Two people trying to outguess each other in a chaotic system (where small changes in starting conditions result in big differences in outcome) is random. (I've written a full essay on the Yahoo Warp War site proving this, if you are curious.) However, if you can predict the opponent, you can do well. You might know that he must drop a system ship, so one of these times he has to drop his speed. Therefore, you can estimate probabilities of what he will do, which is where the coolness of the combat comes in.

One tactic is to build a ship with a huge power drive and jump randomly around at high speed with shields as the defender. Since the enemy must predict your speed fairly precisely to hit, there is a good chance he can't get a hit and you will force a retreat after 3 turns.

Which leads into some of the serious problems with the game. The system works well for small and medium sized ships (say up to 40 build points) but huge ships of 75 or more build points gives the game difficulties. If both sides have such ships, they have a wide range of allowable speeds and trying to hit each other becomes problematic.

Many of the tactical trade offs involve dropping system ships. But a warp ship is only 5 build points more than a system ship and they are infinitely more flexible movement wise. Additionally, warp ships can retreat and take themselves home for repairs. Thus, once people save the points for big ships, we don't tend to build system ships. (Except perhaps for guard ships on the home world.)

Warp lines are not important enough. Yes, I could go out and plant a few system ships on key warp lines to block enemy movement. But once big ships get built, they can just spend the movement to move from hex to hex and avoid warp lines all together. I've had big ships that can run the length of the whole map with out using a warp line.

Our group tends to build very few small ships as long as possible while waiting for tech to improve. Then we can build huge higher tech battleships. This pushes the game into an area where it does not play as well.


IMPROVEMENTS:
Warp war is a clever fun little game where some pretty simple improvements will make it much better. There are a LOT of house rules, many of which are along these lines:

-- Make warp lines more important: Speed of light limits your total number of hexes you can move thru, or hexes cost more than one movement point to enter. (My group plays that it costs 5 movement to move one space hex which makes blocking warp lines a valid tactic against big ships.)

-- Make warp generators cost more for huge ships. This makes system ships more vital and encourages players to build smaller ships, that the game works better with.

-- Scrapping and salvage rules.

-- Add new things to build. Cargo holds, ablative armor, fighters, factories, research labs, etc. Check the warp war websites and there are a lot of cool extra things to build.

-- Rules for campaign games. If the worlds in between you improved your economy, then the person who build early ships and spread out would be rewarded over the person who waits and waits for big ships with better technology. This in my opinion is the biggest thing missing from the basic game.

-- More tactics / expanded combat tables. To make it easier to hit I have added more speed differentials to the table with more hit results. These are things like "HIT -5 damage". If your speed is off by a ways, you can still hit, but at much reduced damage. However, with a super powerful beam and enough tech bonuses, you may still do some damage which makes the game more bloody and lowers the number of inconclusive combats.


CONCLUSION:
Warp war is a game with a high standard deviation. Those who tweak it just a little, can make a flexible, clever war game that is a lot of fun. Those who play it out of the bag, (especially if they save for monster ships) will push the game to places where it is not happy to be.

When I get some time I may post my house rules for improving the game. I hope to make a new game based on Warp War, but faster and more fun.

I am very fond of the game - but I recognize it for what it is: a gem in the rough, that needs a bit of cutting and polishing to make it shine.

Warm regards, Rick.

EDIT: Fixed some typos and I've got a simple set of rules variants posted here...

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/627066/ricks-warp-war-rules
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Richard Diosi
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Nice review for an old game I used play a lot in high school, sold ages ago and recently re-acquired in trade.

Can you please post a couple of links to good Warp War websites? I would love to breath some new live into this old classic.
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Richard Smith
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Yahoo website
The link is already up on the BGG page for warp war. However, the yahoo group I belong to is here to save you tracking it down.

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/WarpWar/

I had seen a personal warp war pages years ago but a search on google didn't turn it up.

Thanks for the kind words.

Warm regards, Rick.
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Matt Irsik
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Richard, I agree that Warp War is a great little game. I've always been surprised that someone hasn't take the system and added a new map, better counters, then a little extra chrome such as bases, abstract ground combat(even if it was the old Imperium style system), etc., and you could have quite the enjoyable little campaign system!
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Richard Smith
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I totally agree Matt. The thing that really surprised me is that Metagaming didn't do more with Warp War other than the one Micro game. It would have been a perfect fit for a Ythri style expanded game with a few maps and campaign rules.

Why do you feel that you would need ground combat? We could say that if you find an enemy base you blow it away and build your own. If the different players were representing different alien species, it is not like you could move in and take over an existing one.

Of course if your model is that we are all humans fighting humans, it makes more sense to capture prisoners and take over enemy facilities.

My main concern is we don't add too many rules or take away focus on the main elements of the game.

Warm regards, Rick
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Shaun Travers
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The WarpWar web pages you were thinking of were probably mine - hosted at Xoom? in the late 90's, it has since gone into the ether (although it is in web archive somewhere).

All is not lost - everything from the web pages can be found at the WarpWar yahoo group in the Files section (WarpWar/warpall.zip)

-shaun
 
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Caleb
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Rick Smith wrote:
The link is already up on the BGG page for warp war. However, the yahoo group I belong to is here to save you tracking it down.

http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/WarpWar/

I had seen a personal warp war pages years ago but a search on google didn't turn it up.

Thanks for the kind words.

Warm regards, Rick.


If it's not linked from the Yahoo group, you can try this site:

http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/usr/gc00/reviews/warpwar.h...

This is a site with rules to a massively expanded WarpWar, lots of new tech.

 
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Davido
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Yep, another 'lunch time gem'. In my group, I was the one who favored "hopped up shields" e.g. lots of shields and power to force the other guy to retreat of his home planet
 
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steve mizuno
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I agree with most of your points. My brother and I broke this out a few times way back when these things were new. We discovered the same weak points of the game (not handling large ships well) the very first game. What I found most disturbing about the game was the length of the game. I wanted a quick little blood bath, and this game produced a rather long, and much too stagnant a style of play. For that reason, we only played the game a few times before moving onto the next game, or returning to Ogre and the Fantasy Trip games.
 
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Richard Smith
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cannoneer wrote:
...
If it's not linked from the Yahoo group, you can try this site:

http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/usr/gc00/reviews/warpwar.h...

This is a site with rules to a massively expanded WarpWar, lots of new tech.



Hi Cannoneer.
Yes, your site was the one I was thinking of. I read thru your rules, very nice. I do have one question tho: why did you change the increasing of tech levels in your game from once every 4 turns to once every 6 turns?
 
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Caleb
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No clue - it's not my site, I just came across it once some time ago.
 
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Richard Smith
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Rick's rules up.
Hi all,
All the thumbs for the review inspired me to sit down and write up my rules. They are at:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/627066/ricks-warp-war-rules

Thanks everyone.

Warm regards, Rick
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Indy Kochte
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A few of us had a PBF (play-by-forum) WW campaign going for a while, but I think it just died due to lack of interest or time. Too bad, as I was enjoying it. You can follow along up through the Turn 15 report and map posting here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/555150/draconis-cluster-warp...
 
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James Horton
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Great review, a lot of the issues you described are addressed in the 1994 second version of the rules. I will putting 3rd edition for the 35 anniversary of WarpWar this year 2012.

Thanks...James
 
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Bob Blanchett
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After exams indy....
 
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