Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game from Dyskami Publishing Company. I received a copy of the rules and a prototype version of the game. This is my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!
Warband: Against the Darkness is a game designed by Micah Fuller, published by Dyskami Publishing Company. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players will be controlling one of the Five Realms greatest armies of fantasy creatures, from halflings and elves to elementals and dragonfolk. They will be trying to collect victory points by advancing soldiers, earning gold, scouting and defeating enemies. The player that is best able to manage their army and fight better than all the rest will be declared the winner.
To begin, the 2 game boards are set out side by side on the table and the round tracker token is placed on the countdown track at the bottom of the board. The number that the token is placed on is determined by the number of players. One brown mercenary captain meeple and two brown mercenary unit cubes are placed on each of the 3 light platoons; infantry, cavalry and archery. Each player is given an action track, player aid and 3 gold coins. The remaining coins are placed near the boards. Players will also choose a race and take the race board for that particular race along with 7 captain meeples and 20 unit cubes of a color of their choosing. 12 of their unit cubes are placed on the action track covering the columns for Ranks 2-4. The 3 starting enemy cards are removed from the deck and randomly placed face up on the first 3 battlefield spaces on the board, starting from the left. The cards are separated into 3 decks of enemy intel and redress. Each deck is shuffled separately and placed face down near the boards. The first player is chosen and they will place one of their unit cubes on the map in Kholdrum as a scout. Each remaining player will place a unit cube on the map in a certain location, depending on the number of players. The last 7 unit cubes will be placed next to the player’s action track, in reserve. Play can now begin.
The game lasts a set number of rounds depending on the number of players. Each player will take a turn during that round, starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise. On a player’s turn, they will start by upgrading their action track. The action track has 4 separate actions that we’ll discuss in a moment. The player will select one of these actions and take the left most unit cube and place it with the rest of their cubes in the reserve. This will allow the player to now use a new rank of one of the 4 actions.
Once the action track has been upgraded, the player will then be able to take 3 actions from their action track. As the player’s action track is upgraded each action will get better and better. The 4 actions that a player can choose from are tax, train, scout and fight. The first action that a player can choose from is the tax action. The player takes a set amount of gold as indicated by their rank, ranging from 2 to 8 gold. Gold is used to pay the captain’s wages when taking the fight action.
The next action that can be taken is the train action. The player can train between 1-4 units. To do this the player will move unit cubes of their color a number of spaces up the training ranks. They can transfer units from their reserve onto the board at one of the 3 light platoons. They can promote a unit from light to the associated heavy platoon. A unit can also be promoted from heavy to honour guard. Units can also move sideways into a different type of platoon. Moving a unit up costs one gold, but moving sideways into one of the other platoons does not. If a player has no gold, they can not promote a unit.
The next action that can be taken is the scout action. To do this the player is able to place a number of their reserve units onto the map, from 1-4 units. The better that the action is upgraded the less units will cost to be placed. Only one scout can be placed in any one realm per scout action. In the second to last and the last round of the game, scouting will cost more gold and be more difficult to achieve. Having scouts on the map provide several different benefits. It can help avoid sending reserve units to the Medica when you fight. They can save your platoon from taking casualties by paying a gold per unit. They also give victory points at the end of the game if you have the most in a realm. You can also gain victory points for matching scouting units with intel cards. They also allow you to convert 3 gold for 1 victory point at the end of the game.
The last action that a player can take is the fight action. This is the most complicated action. As it is upgraded it allows for smaller armies to fight and reduces the cost of captain’s wages that must be paid. To use this action, the player follows 10 steps in order. The first step is to check the warband strength. The fight action can not be taken if the right amount and types of units are not present on the board to face the 3 enemies on the battlefield. The player will check the 3 cards and compare the units available to fight and if possible, they may continue.
The second step is to pay the captain’s wages. One gold must be paid to each platoon captain from another player or to the bank for mercenary captains. Having a higher fight rank allows the player to bypass a set number of captains that must be paid.
The third step is to defeat the enemy. The player chooses one of the enemy cards to defeat and removes it from the map, placing it face down next to their action track. They gain any gold placed on the cards and will be awarded victory points at the end of the game as indicated by the card.
The fourth step is to draw intel cards. The player draws the top 2 intel cards, placing one card at the bottom of the deck and the other face down next to their action track. This allows the player to gain victory points if their scouts match up with the intel cards.
The fifth step is to send units to the Medica. If the player defeated an enemy worth 3 victory points or more, they must send 1 or 2 reserve units to the Medica. If the player has scouts in an adjacent realm on the map, they keep 1 less unit from being injured. A player can heal any of their injured units at any time during their turn at a cost of 2 gold per unit. These units are then returned to the player’s reserve. If any of the player’s units are still in the Medica at the end of the game, the player will lose 2 victory points for each one.
The sixth step is to assign casualties. The defeated enemy cards will indicate which type of units will suffer 2 casualties. Those units are then returned to the player’s reserves. Having scouts in the adjacent battlefield will save one specific platoon from being killed at the cost of one gold. Casualties are chosen from the weakest at the bottom rank of the platoon and proceed up to the top rank until all casualties have been assigned.
The seventh step is to draw redress cards. These cards are awarded to players who lose units during combat. Each player that lost units will draw one card from the redress deck.
The eighth step is to salute war heroes. The player that controls the captain of the honour guard at that time, sends one of their honour guard units to the war hero space. Having a unit in this space will award victory points at the end of the game.
The ninth step is to raid and pillage. The remaining 2 undefeated enemy cards will raid and pillage the nearby lands for resources, thus adding one gold to each card from the bank.
The tenth and final step is to draw a new enemy card. To do this, the player draws the top enemy card and places it face up on the battlefield space that was not just emptied due to this current fight action. If all 3 enemy cards show the same requirements for platoon type, then all 3 cards are shuffled together and placed at the bottom of the deck. 3 new enemy cards are then drawn to replace them. Any gold that was placed on cards remains in the same space but are placed on the new replacements. If there are no more enemy cards then no more fight actions may be taken.
At any time during the game, captainship may change and redress cards may be played. Captainship is determined by checking the amount of units in each platoon. If at any time a platoon has more of one particular color’s units, that color is able to place a colored captain meeple to represent that they are the captain of that platoon. Redress cards can be played at the right time to gain gold, train one of the player’s reserve units by paying the gold cost as normal, or to gain an ability written on the redress card.
After each player has taken a turn, that round is over and the token on the countdown track advances one space. Once the last player takes their turn on the final round, the game is over and scoring then takes place. Players will score victory points based on enemy cards defeated, units they have in the war heroes space, captain meeples that they have on the board, amount of gold they have, having the most number of scout units in each realm, and matching intel cards with scouting units on the map. Players lose points for each unit they have in the Medica. Once each player has added up their score, whoever has the most points is the winner.
There are lots of really great looking pieces to this game. The game boards are completely amazing to look at. The map feels like something ripped from the pages of the Lord of the Rings. The roster board has a fantasy army feel to it. Both are superbly designed. The enemy, intel and redress cards are smaller than a normal playing card. They have some really fantastic artwork that lends itself right into the theme of the game. The smaller size of the cards fits well with the game boards and take up less space, which I love. Having a smaller table to play on, I love the use of the smaller cards. The unit cubes and captain meeples are all brightly colored wooden pieces that are the hallmark of any great Euro game. They are your standard issue meeples and cubes. They don’t really detract much from the game as the theme really drags you in anyway. Yes, miniatures or more themed looking meeples would have been nice but these are still really well made and sturdy. The race boards, action tracks, gold coins and round tracker token will all be made of thick sturdy cardboard. In my copy, the race boards and action tracks are the same type of material as the cards and look really great. They are fully functional and really add to the theme. My copies gold coins and round tracker tokens are colored plastic discs. They get the job done and I sorta like the clear colored discs. They are really neat looking. The game will also come with a pad of scoring sheets for adding up the victory points at the end of the game, much like the one used in 7 Wonders. The style looks really great and looks really easy to use. I’m really impressed with how much the theme was integrated into the components and how awesome they all look.
10 out of 10
The rulebook is excellently designed. There’s lots of great art and pictures throughout. There are lots of examples to explain different concepts of the game. There are gameplay tips and a fight action summary table on the back of the book. Everything is really easy to read and understand. The rules are straight forward and easily transition through an actual round of play beautifully. I really like how organized everything is and how easy it is to find what you’re looking for when you need it. All of the major concepts are highlighted in large bold text, so no chance of getting lost in these pages. At 16 pages front to back, there is a bit of reading to be done before the first game can be played. However, this isn’t something that the average player can’t do easily. I really love the beauty of this book and the superb quality of design.
10 out of 10
The game is a really amazing ride through the fantasy battlefields of the Five Realms. It really has a great Tolkien feel in regards to theme. You have a sense of some of the greatest fantasy battles in this game. The game has a bit of a euro style feel to it as well with the upgrading, cubes and meeples. The game takes around an hour or so to play. I really like the customization that can be done with your own army’s upgrades and the uniqueness of each fantasy race through the special abilities. Fighting is a major part of the game and if you don’t fight, you’ll never win. There are lots of different paths to victory but fighting must be at least a small part of that path. There is quite a bit of player interaction that I wouldn’t really expect from a normal euro game. There’s definitely a lot of strategy involved as well. I really enjoy every aspect of this game and really feel like it is a well crafted game.
9 out of 10
Warband: Against the Darkness is a medium weight game of fantasy battles and euro style play. There’s a lot of strategy, player interaction and fun to be had with this game. Fans of the Lord of the Rings and other fantasy realms should really enjoy the theme and feel of this game. The artwork is absolutely amazing. I really love the designs of each fantasy race and their unique special abilities. The design and quality of the game is amazing. It’s as good or better than anything out there right now. Wargamers as well as Euro gamers should really enjoy the strategy and design of the gameplay. This is definitely a new classic that everyone should own. I can’t really say much more than that. Back the game and get a copy for yourself. You’ll love it.
9 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Dyskami Publishing Company at their site.
Also check out the Kickstarter page for Warband: Against the Darkness and back the game.