Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- War of the Worlds: The New Wave

Game: War of the Worlds: The New Wave

Publisher: Jet Games Studio and Grey Fox Games

Designer: Denis Plastinin

Year: 2019


War of the Worlds: The New Wave is an assymetric 2-player game based on the original "War of the Worlds" story by H.G. Wells. Set in a future, a few years after the original story, it's not only the iconic tripods that are invading Earth, but now they're invading with UFOs too, and your 1940s military technology simply doesn't know how to handle a UFO.

War of the Worlds: The New Wave is a deck-building game where one player represents the people of earth (in this case, the UK) and the other player represents the invading forces. Deck-building is woven into a head-to-head combat and area movement game, in which both players will try to be the first to attack each other with enough force to eliminate the other. This spatial element with pieces on a board map of the UK definitely brings something extra to this deck-builder.



Gameplay

A Game of War of the Worlds: The New Wave begins with a map of Britain that is populated with British civilians-militia over most of it. A single UFO and Tripod are placed in Scotland as the alien players starting forces and then each player is given their faction's starting deck of 10 cards. In addition each player has a faction-specific deck of upgrade cards that they can purchase throughout the game. A market of 5 face up cards is made for each player and then the game is ready to begin.

The victory conditions are simple, the alien player wants to wipe out the population of Britain and therefore wins when there are no civilian tokens left on the board. The human player wishes to do enough damage to the Alien's to force them to retreat, they do this by dealing a total of 30 damage to the alien tripods/buildings over the course of the game.

Each players turn they may play any and all of the cards in their hand for the listed effects. These range from doing damage to enemy forces, moving your forces around, or currency which can be used to buy new cards. Many cards have multiple effects that you can choose from when playing them, often including an extra-powerful version of the card that causes you to trash the card from your deck when you play it. Any new cards you purchase go into your discard. At the end of your turn you draw back to 5 cards, shuffling your discard to form a new deck as necessary.

Combat is simple, but functional. The humans can only attack the alien tripods or buildings (turns out they didn't have the tech to shoot UFOs back then). At the start of the game your only attacking unit is the same civilians you want to protect, but over time you can recruit tanks or navy ships to provide extra firepower. The aliens can destroy all human units, but must do so in a priority order: first they must destroy any present buildings, then any military units and finally they can reach the civilians. Buildings are a key thing in this game as they provide ongoing effects, from increased income, to additional defensive, or even offensive, abilities. Buildings are bought from the market just like any other card, but instead of going into your deck the cards are immediately discarded and the building is built somewhere on the map. The game will continue with players alternating turns until one player has reached their victory condition.



Amy’s Final Thoughts

The inherent asymmetry in War of the Worlds works incredibly well. The humans are incredibly soft and squishy, but with a little work can put up defensive formations to restrict or deter alien movement. The aliens themselves have a large amount of control over movement on the battlefield, with cards that let them prevent humans from running or entering certain spaces. Combine that with their units never being able to be removed from the map and you have a fascinating dichotomy between the two forces. The rate at which the alien player can slaughter grouped up bunches of civilians really drives home that this is a conflict against ridiculously powerful adversaries, where the best strategy is often simply to run and hide. Meanwhile the aliens get to watch their damage meter slowly rise gives the feel of a time limit before this invasion just isn't worth the effort anymore.

I certainly enjoyed War of the Worlds, particularly with it's interesting take on deckbuilding. The ability to buy buildings that gave ongoing effects without being added to your deck was a great twist to the classic formula. These buildings then provided either strongholds to defend your troops, or targets of opportunity for the other player to abuse. The tactical gameplay on the board itself opens up opportunities to win even with an inferior deck by cleverly abusing your opponents weaknesses. For example the aliens may be able to harvest a lot of humans in one place, but if you manage to spread out your forces a little then you can really slow them down. Most of their cards give them the choice between move or attack.

All that being said not everything felt great. Playing as the humans your tanks felt incredibly squishy, resulting in you having to hide your war-machines in bunkers along with your civilians. While every game ended up pretty close, with only a couple of humans (if any) left alive. The alien loss condition didn't feel very fun. Removing the last couple of civilians from Great Britain feels fantastic, but pushing a bar up to 30 feels a little anticlimactic. Especially when the human player can set up traps that force you to take damage to even get to them.Otherwise though the theme really comes through with these unstoppable war machines marching down the breadth of the country slaughtering all foolish enough to try and fight back. Despite a few flaws War of the Worlds: The New Wave is a fantastically unique two-player game with simple rules that make for a quick, combat driven game.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

When Amy initially read the rules to War of the Worlds, she told me it was basically Star Realms. I can see her point - both players essentially have 30 hit points and you need to deck-build to get them down to zero. However, War of the Worlds ultimately played very differently. The obvious stand-out element of War of the Worlds is the board. Everything you're trying to achieve in the game is about moving into position to try and take the best shots at your opponent. The human player has the best opportunities to play an interesting game, setting up defenses and moving their pieces around the board to give the alien player a particularly hard time. The second way that I found War of the Worlds to play differently to most deckbuilders was the scarcity of currency. All new cards cost a minimum of 3 points to buy, and it's actually quite hard to get that much money into hand. Some cards are worth more if you trash them together, so you might upgrade a card worth 1 money into a card worth 2 money, but overall you're improving your deck rather than building it.

Unfortunately, these two unique elements have ended up being the aspects of the game I don't enjoy. My first play had novelty value but the game is just underwhelming me more and more. I want to deck-build, but I often end the game with less than two hands worth of cards - I simply can't make enjoyable turns out of that and every card I buy is a sacrifice. I don't feel like I'm making something good, I'm just scrounging to do the most simple things and mostly playing very basic turns.

Whilst asymmetric games can often be interesting to explore, I really struggle against Amy in this game. To win as the human player you have to be very clever in setting up defenses in the right way. Amy is just better at this kind of game and so when she is the humans, she runs rings around me and when I am the humans, I'm not good enough to succeed. That's not to say that the games don't end with a pretty close finish, but the journey there is always one of frustration for me. War of the Worlds is pushing the limits of being an area control/area movement game with some card play, which is never going to be a style of game for me, whereas a deck-building game, with some aspects of a board game, sounded so promising. War of the Worlds has been a bit of a disappointment for me. I don't think it's a bad game, but I wouldn't want to play again and wouldn't be recommending it as a deck-building game.

You Might Like...
  • There's a lot of deck-building games out there, so it's nice to find a game that does something new with the mechanism, introducing purpose to your deck.
  • The game really does well to capture the theme.
You Might Not Like...
  • The deck-building never really gets going - you're often discarding as many cards as you're gaining and rarely creating combos.
  • Sometimes the area control elements on the board can be very mean and hard to overcome.
  • It can be easy to make a stupid mistake in your early games.

The Verdict
6/10 War of the Worlds: A New Wave adds a new twist to deckbuilding games, adding a some board game aspects that we haven't seen before. Where Clank! incorporated exploration and push your luck, War of the Worlds adds area movement and a tactical combat. For us, it wasn't enough of a deck-builder and the board elements of the game just don't suit our gaming style as a couple. There's a good thematic game here, it just doesn't work for us.



War of the Worlds: The New Wave was a review copy kindly subsidised by Grey Fox Games. All photos are of the Kickstarter exclusive version of the game, which included miniatures.

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