Lords of War Preview

Card game of Lords of War in play

A British game that just hit Kickstarter is called Lords of War.  Specifically, they are Kickstarting the latest faction pack, which is a fully playable game that can be combined with their previously printed packs.

Lords of War is a two-player skirmish game in which each player takes control of a different fantasy army.  Each turn consists of playing a card, removing any destroyed units from the board, and then "reinforcing" your hand back up to six cards.  (You can either draw a new card or sometimes take a card back into your hand from the table.)  With as simple as the rules are, the strategy lies in placing cards.  Each card can attack with different strengths and in different directions.  This is represented by arrows with numbers on them.  A card can attack in anywhere from 0-9 different directions, and I have seen them attack with anywhere from 1-5 power!  (If they can't attack in any direction, they are probably a ranged unit, which has slightly different rules.)  Play alternates in a "survival of the fittest" (aka, your guys keep dying) manner until one player has killed 20 of their opponent's units, or has defeated four of their "command" units - their best units.

Lords of War mid-game picture
Fighting was intense on the rear flank in this game
So, taking from the format of my Dungeon Roll preview, I'm going to try to answer the three main questions that I think you need to know as a potential Kickstarter backer.  First - what does Lords of War do differently?  The first thing that comes to mind that sets Lords of War apart are the placement rules.  In Lords of War, each card that I place must be oriented towards me.  This is important as many of your troops will have one side of the card which they fight best with - some strongly in front, others in back, and some even on one side (or even on one side diagonally).  So, these restrictions force you to think about your strategy a bit differently (and you'll have to resist the urge to turn your cards).  Second, in Lords of War, all of my units have to be placed adjacent to an opponent!  (There is an exception in that "Support" units can be placed adjacent to friendly units.)  This rule forces the combat to be heated, and causes players to immediately be engaging each other - thus preventing the downtime of a more defensive struggle.  Next, I haven't played another game that uses the directional attacks in the same way as Lords of War.  The closest game I can compare this with is Neuroshima Hex (which I haven't reviewed yet), but it still has it's differences.  In Neuroshima Hex, each unit dies (or takes a wound) as soon as it gets hit.  In Lords of War, each unit has its own defense value, and it is not defeated until this value is exceeded.  This forces players to position multiple troops around a stronger unit in order to defeat it.

Lords of War lizardmen cards
Some of the Lizardmen
The second question to address is: who would like this game?  Well, Lords of War is a tactical skirmish game.  Players will find themselves reacting to what their opponent has played (as well as what they have drawn), and trying to make the best decisions accordingly.  Also, Lords of War is not text heavy - each of the units is set apart from the others based on what and where they can attack, not by a block of text that describes different abilities.  This allows Lords of War to be pretty easy to teach, but may not have the same card combinations that other games present.  (I'm thinking of Omen: Reign of War here as a text-heavy opposite.)  So, overall, if you are looking for a light, easy to teach skirmish game where positioning is key, then Lords of War might be for you.

The final question is: who would not like this game?  Well, the obvious route is to point out the opposite of everything in the last paragraph.  If you like games with overarching strategies where the decisions you make in the first turn will affect your abilities in the middle and later turns, then this is one to avoid.  Another group of people that may want to avoid this game are players who prefer the "turtle and defend" strategy.  If you played Starcraft and built 8,000 turrets before attacking your enemies, then you might want to pass on this one, as Lords of War does not allow for that option.  The fighting will be heated from turn two, and you cannot put too much value on any single unit.  The last group that may want to avoid this game are those who are looking for a long, incredibly deep struggle.  Lords of War is on the lighter end of the spectrum (lighter than Summoner Wars in my opinion) and, though I think that the strategy of the game grows so that your third and fourth play are deeper than your first, it will not give you the plethora of options of something like Mage Wars.

Overall, what do I think of the game?  The more I think about it, the more unique it becomes in my mind.  It had the unfortunate privilege of me learning it on the same night as Neuroshima Hex, and so they are linked together in my mind.  Yet, Lords of War provides some different takes on the skirmish genre and, as long as you're looking for a light game, it is a game to consider. If you want to go check out their campaign, you can see it here.

If Lords of War sounds interesting, you might also check out Dungeon Command, Pixel Tactics 2, and Smash Up.

I would like to thank Black Box Games for providing me with a review copy of Lords of War.

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