HEROES vs WARLORDS
HEROES vs WARLORDS is a soon to be Kickstarter game from UGG in Germany. The copy I have been playing is a step or two down from the one that will be on sale but I have seen games on sale in stores that aren't as good in production. In fact, but for the thickness of the tiles, and the substitution for compressed wood flats instead of plastic moulded models, this could be the actual published product. Although there are 6 miniatures and 6 character sheets HEROES vs WARLORDS is for 1-3 players, each player controlling two Heroes from their chosen Tribe or Faction; Amazons, Barbarians or Knights.There are two games - the Basic and the Advanced; UGG have cleverly printed the Advanced Rules on the final 9 pages and using Blue ink.
The Terrain Tiles that create the World Map of Pangea are hexagonal overlaid with 8 movement hexes. Each hex on the main hex is large enough to make it easy to quickly recognise the objects, icons and symbols, and even easier to know where Treasures are to be found as their hexes are outlined in Gold. Although there are no indications on the tiles, each of the unoccupied hexes of interest are guarded by neutral native warriors who are controlled by one of the other players (unless you are playing solo) as and when required.
HEROES vs WARLORDS brings a new dimension to the currently very popular skirmish battle game genre that is almost a war game but in the style of a Euro-game. Along the way to victory - there are many different roads to winning - the Heroes are capturing and conquering Resource Hexes, marking the collected Resources, Wood, Stone, Gold and Crystal on the player's personal City/Camp board. Resources are "automatically" gained and recorded from each Resource hex you control during Turn 4 of the Sequence of Play (as long as you remember to do so). As just mentioned, there is a specific order of play that you must adhere to, this being a 10 point sequence.
Army units are placed on the character sheets in the spaces with army silhouettes using one of the double-sided number counters (1/2, 3/4, 5/6 etc so they can be flipped over and then exchanged as required) to show how many units there are in each stack. When they enter into Ranged combat a D20 is rolled and its result added to the attack value (of the Attacker) at the same time the Defence rolls a D20 but doesn't modify the result; Close Combat is resolved quite similarly. There is a small amount of fiddling around moving counters from their positions on the player's boards to the combat boards when battles commence, but then the actual fighting is not a prolonged affair, the essence of the game being fast combat and strategic fore-thought.
The game board is comprised from at least 12 terrain tiles (you can use all 16 tiles or more if the stretch goal for it is reached) shuffled and placed face down in no particular order, with the exception that the North (N) side of the tiles all face the same way. Tiles are only flipped face up when a Hero explores them for the first time, keeping it in the same orientation (in the Basic game there are no Movement restrictions); North facing. Heroes entering a Resource hex for the first time face 1D6 of native hostility. After a Resource hex has been conquered the conquering Hero places one of their Flag (Shield) counters markers on the specific Resource hex to declare ownership - of course this makes it a target for the opposition and it no longer has the protection of the natives.
Exploration of Pangea is encouraged because there is no player versus player until the whole continent has been explored - all tiles turned over. The Basic game uses only the Arena Combat rules which are used for Ranged and Close combat - Field Battles in open Terrain and Siege combat in Cities and Camps. Army unit counters each have a coloured background (not brightly coloured but just enough colour to ID them apart), an illustrations - Footman, Ranged Weapons and Cavalry; plus the specials Bears and Elephants, have a 4 value ladder on their Right Hand edge. This ladder is in four different colours, each numbered and described: Red is Ranged Attack (Cavalry) or Close Combat (Infantry), Blue is Defence value, Green is Movement value and Yellow is Level/Hits per Unit/EP per unit/Cost per unit; you can buy levels using Gold coins.
In a text conversation with UGG I discovered that the Rules are going to be rewritten so as to make HEROES vs WARLORDS more in line with the popular EuroGame style. Having been through this Beta version of the RulesBook and played the game several times using said Rules my current opinion is that this is a game most definitely of the skirmish/ light wargames genre, it is not truly a "Euro Game" but neither is it complex enough to be classed as a true wargame. It has some very good mechanics, many have already been well tried and tested in other games, such as having one man on the map with all units under its command on the player sheet, though I like the system here where the units on the map are placed in stacks of the same value, and the Arena Combat where targeting a specific character in melee is not allowed, plus it has a superb selection of components including beautifully designed counters and tiles. The use of the silhouette "wooden" flats in place of the plastic miniatures (which will come with the actual game edition on its release) is a clever and inspirational idea - in fact painted up these flats (models) are visually effective, in fact instead of plastic or resin minis if these were a little more refined and polished they would add a certain uniqueness.
Each Hero's character board shows its current Movement points, Attack/Defence values, Experience/Honour points, Initiative value, Military Experience, Trade and Diplomacy levels, each adjusted throughout play; there are also 6 sections for Army units where the troops (counters) currently with the Hero are ranked.
Many games include "Advanced Rules". Sometimes they are written in the margins of the pages and sometimes they are a few brief notes at the end of the rules book. HEROES vs WARLORDS has 9 full pages of Advanced rules that add more than a few short term changes to the game play.
To begin with the symbols on the Terrain tiles now take on a logical meaning and certain types of terrain become impassable or cost extra movement to cross. There are full colour illustrations with Yellow Arrows and Red Crosses that show examples of passable and impassable terrain. There is a rule of thumb that states if at least 50% of the border between hexes (even hexes on the same tile) consists of passable terrain then movement is possible, less than 50% means the hex border is impassable. This is a rule that should be remembered because although the tiles are graphically splendid, there are grey areas where there certainly looks like there should be enough crossable terrain even though it is less than 50%. I understand that lakes and high mountain ranges cannot be crossed but thin strips of water (rivers) should logistically be fordable, but they aren't.
The special buildings in each player's city (ie on their player-board), Blacksmith (Knight), Shaman Tent (Barbarian) and Temple (Amazon), each give their owners specific defensive effects like strengthening or reviving your units. The Advanced Rules turn this into a totally (well almost totally) different game. Even though it is still basically a skirmish battle game it now becomes a tactical, strategic skirmish game. However it is still more of a light war game than a regular Euro-game, not that that's a bad thing, but it would be doing the game and Euro-game players a disservice, in my opinion, to advertise it as anything but what is.
I enjoy that the game is open to various time options as it makes it more amenable to find players. I like historical and fantasy (or simulated) war games but most of them take several hours to play and finding a partner or other opposition on a regular basis is quite difficult. The length of each game of HEROES vs WARLORDS is fixed prior to each session. It is played in Rounds and Turns; each Round Sequence is 10 parts and the game ends naturally if a player reaches the victory conditions or it is the end of the agreed number of Turns.
HEROES vs WARLORDS is kickstarting soon and should be high on your list for checking out. The name of the game, HEROES vs WARLORDS is dynamic, it is one of those game names that intrigues and pulls players along to discover more about it. They will discover a solid battle system around which a good theme involving the exploration and conquering of Pangea. Playable by 1 - 3 players - optimum number being, in our opinion, 2. What I didn't discover was just why it is called HEROES vs WARLORDS, as each player's character is described as a HERO and the natives that need to be cleared from the sites and places of interest are called NEUTRALS. HEROES of PANGEA might possibly be a better title, that's how we thought of it when readying to play, but with the Kickstarter about to begin my assumption is that UGG have determined that it has a formidable title that will draw interest from players of several different game genres.