Until I received ARMATA STRIGOI and RESURRECTION for review I had never heard the music of POWERWOLF. Naturally I was intrigued to see a game based around a heavy metal band because I like a lot of heavy'ish music. Deep Purple. Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden. Thunder. Whitesnake, and Rainbow to name but a few. So I set to playing as soon as lockdown rules allowed.
What designers Marco Valtriani & Paolo Vallerga have done is create an escape room style combat game where the Band Members are the heroes in the guise of powerful werewolves, many of the cards are named after POWERWOLF songs, and the villains are Strigoi - Vampires, Succubii and the Cobra King. The 'room' from which the Heroes need to escape (after destroying the Strigoi of course) is the ancient fortress in Wallachia (Dracula's old haunt).
Artists Zsofia Dankova (AS and R) and Alan D'Amico (R) should be highly praised for their excellent illustrations. Totally metal! TinuZ joins the creative team of the original authors for the (R) Resurrection expansion.
The board is made up of six randomly placed hexagonal tiles built around a central hex. In ARMATA STRIGOI the surrounding hexes have circular cut-outs into which are placed rotating dials set on mini platforms to allow them to turn easily without disrupting the board. These platforms can be destroyed by hurting the Strigoi.
The central tile has a six-way path set up with a circular path joining them all up. On the floating rotating dials the passages do not always run completely across, walls block the line of sight as well as the pathway itself. With careful planning the players can use these (aptly named) dead-ends to dodge the Creatures of the Night (aka the Strigoi), for all their power the monsters are only human (well, sort of!)
Each Hero character, of which there are five, (one for each Band member) has a personal deck of 6 cards, 4 are similar and a couple are specific to their own abilities.
Vocalist: Karsten Brill is Attila Dorn the Mentor >Pack
Lead Guitar: Benjamin Buss is Matthew Greywolf the Hunter >Movement
Keyboards: Christiam Jost is Falk Maria Schlegel the Preacher > Healing
Bass: David Vogt is Charles Greywolf the Berserker >Fighting
Drums: Roel van Helden is Roel the Blacksmith >Protection
The game revolves around card play and player interaction. Players can make their own decisions but it is best if they discuss plans and work together, sometimes putting themselves in danger to aid the cause. Because they are representing a pack of chaotic werewolves the players are not allowed to talk about the cards they are selecting, so basically what happens is each player secretly selects a card to play - these are then flipped up and play runs in the order of card chosen, by its Initiative value. Unfortunately if one hero's life is exhausted then the game is lost - win or lose as a team. Thus being brave or courageous isn't always the best action.
Powerwolves cards have Movement and Attack values and may also have special abilities. Strigoi move according to the letter on the Hero's card - travelling from one central hex space to the next according to the letter. If the target landing space is occupied or there is a block in the way the Strigoi bounces back the other way if possible, otherwise it doesn't move.
This bouncing movement can be the cause of Hero entry Ladders to be destroyed, thus causing damage to each Hero. The combat takes a little getting used to - it is line of sight or adjacent, but until the Heroes have managed to negotiate enough Blood Points on the Altar (which then allows them to attack) then they are subjected to Strigoi attacks and cannot fight back. They can counter-attack but again only if they have enough Blood on the Altar. The Strigoi's personal ID cards can be flipped over from nasty to nastier. Strigoi can also land on the same central space as a Hero - this is something to avoid if you can.
On the pathways are two types of icon - these cannot be crossed over unless a grate has been placed on them. When a hero lands on one of these spaces they draw an associated counter and either fight it if it's a monster or keep it if its a bonus. There are no miniatures to represent these monsters, they simply a Strength value (and possibly an additional nasty) plus possibly a reward for victory. Once a fight has occurred on one of these spaces a grating tile is positioned there. Tiles can come from the supply, at the beginning of the game, and then from any space on the board that has one, thus opening up the Event space again.
There are Advanced Action cards for the Heroes, though they can only have one of each type. These go into the hand and can be selected as the card for the Hero that round. Cards that are played are discarded until all in the deck have been used or a situation arises that allows the Hero to regain their discards. As you would expect the cards have been designed so that the better abilities are on the same cards, meaning if you use one for combat and later need its other ability (healing for example) you are stuffed. Do you save the card because its other ability may come in useful later or do you use it and be damned?
The Heroes can gain Legendary Action cards by completing various actions in specific situations. These are helpful but we have found they are not worth specifically playing for; they are best accepted if you happen to perform the action during your turn. It might not seem like it at first but there is a lot more to this game than is immediately noticeable.
RESURRECTION is the first expansion for ARMATA STRIGOI (I sure hope Pegasus Spiele publish more).
The photos I have taken of our games include components from both the base game and RESURRECTION. The Fortress of Tismana still holds the Strigoi Master and Apprentice who are played similarly in the expansion to how they are in the original Armata Strigoi.
In RESURRECTION there are new parts to the Ancient Fortress, new secret tunnels, towers and passages, a completely new room - actually there are three new hexagonal room tiles plus this special room - the Ceremonial Ritual Room. This is where the Deus Diabolus Tempter (the Cobra King) begins the game.
Withing the Fortress are three fair maidens awaiting to be rescued. If the Heroes have at least one blood on the Altar then they can try and rescue these girls before the Cobra King completes his ritual and enters the fray. Until he is ready he stays safe in his Ritual Room but once he is free things go from bad to worse. If you haven't saved any of the girls by then things get even more worse, as each girl is transformed into a Succubi; the more Succubi the stronger the Cobra King.
RESURRECTION is about defeating the Strigoi before the Cobra King completes his Ritual and is resurrected. If you can save any of the Maidens you severely weaken him. The expansion adds more than enough similar and different aspects to the game without really changing the basics of play. So powerful is the Cobra King that when he enters the game the Strigoi Master and Apprentice disappear having given of themselves enough so that the Cobra King can live.
The Strigoi move one at a time whereas the Cobra King and his girlfriends all move at the same time. There is one card for each of the Strengths of the Cobra King, one for him alone, one for him with one succubi, one when he has two and one when he has three. Only the necessary one of these cards is used in the game.
Having played ARMATA STRIGOI a couple of times, getting very close to success but not quite - generally one of our heroes died at just the wrong moment - we then added the expansion, RESURRECTION, and have never looked back. The problem for this review is that I never kept the pieces for each box separate and so my photos include components from the game and the expansion all mixed together. We would now never think of separating them as the possible emergence of the Cobra King adds that extra edge to our play. Thoroughly enjoyable, and you don't have to like or know anything about Heavy Metal music to be able to play.
In both games the miniatures are of good quality plastic with moulding that has great detail. If you can paint miniatures you are going to love bringing these to life. The Strigoi are both Orange plastic and the Cobra King and Succubii are of green plastic. The Heroes are grey plastic and represent the members of the band as listed above. I know little about painting but I believe you'll need to spray these white before applying colour. Miniatures are designed/sculpterd by Alan D'Amico - OrcoNero. Check Google and/or Boardgamegeek to see painted representations.
Here are a few POWERWOLF tracks you can hear, and watch the videos, on YouTube
I now often play POWERWOLF songs even when not playing this game. In fact I advise that you don't play and listen to their music at the same time as the sounds need to be loud, and then you can't hear yourself think to play.