Review of War of the Worlds: The New Wave
A 2-player game published by Greyfox Games and designed by Denis Plastinin
What if they came back is the subject of at least one follow up novel (The Massacre of Mankind) and one graphic novel to HG Well’s classic novel “The War of the Worlds”. Now we can add to the literary follow ups with a board game “War of the Worlds: The New Wave”. Also for more background I still have in my possession a video game published by Rage in the 1990’s of “Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds” which also has the same theme.
The game has a large mounted board with a map of Britain divided into areas. The board is somewhat dark in colour but with the theme being as it is perhaps it reflects the dark times it is portraying? My gaming buddy and I had no difficulty in recognising the various areas on the board despite the dark theme of the illustration. The game comes with a set of cards for each side, Martians and Mankind which are well produced and nicely illustrated although from my point of view an odd size (I had to search pretty widely to find card sleeves that would fit). The game pieces are in heavy die cut card with clear plastic bases again nicely illustrated for the human armies and navies with brown cubes for the population. The Martian pieces are similarly on heavy die cut card with clear bases with tripods and flying saucers. These are functional and whilst not the models as produced for those that took part in the kickstarter campaign they are not at all second class. If you really want to you can purchase the models separately from Grey Fox Games. The remaining counters are for buildings and fortifications one set each for the protagonists, these are also nicely done in thick die cut card.
The Martians begin the game the highlands of Scotland with one tripod and a flying saucer whilst the humans have 30 population cubes spread out 3 in each of 10 marked areas and the large blue cube used to mark damage to the Martians is placed on the track at the side of the board on the zero space. The human side do not have any army or navy units on the board to begin with. Both players now separate their cards taking the 10 marked starting cards and shuffling them to make their supply deck then they shuffle the remaining cards to form their offer deck. Both players then deal 5 cards from their supply deck to their hand and then places face up 5 cards from their offer deck in front of them. Both players allocate space for a discard pile and for cards removed from play.
The objectives of the game are subtlety different for each side, the Martian needs to remove the 30 population counters but the humans must deal 30 points of damage to the Martians as recorded on the track on the board. This means that the Martian pieces are never removed from the board but that human pieces are. Please note this game has no die rolling it relies entirely on the cards. Play proceeds with each side playing or discarding the cards from their hand starting with the Martian player. The cards themselves can often be played in one of two ways often conferring a greater benefit if you choose the most effective choice but this will again often lead to a dilemma as the most powerful choice invariably means the removal of that card from the game rather than the card being replaced into the discard pile. This dilemma with the card play gives you real tactical and strategic choices thus heightening the games tension. Do you go for the powerful action on the card thus losing the card from the game or do you play for the lesser effect and keep the card in play till your next turn. Timing is therefore of great importance, do you go for the early big effect in the hope that your opponent will be unable to counter or do you hedge your bets till later in the game.
This deceptively simple game is a triumph, my gaming friend and I loved it. It provided tension and fun throughout the game with the lead swinging back and forth until the denouement when one side or the other has shepherded their hand in such a way as to finish their opponent. In one game the Martians built up what looked like an unassailable lead only to fail to a card combination that the human player managed to garner whilst only having one population cube left. It is the card play which will bring you back to this game again and again. I cannot recommend this game more highly, it is a real keeper on my games shelf.
Review by GGO's Scottish correspondant: Bill Ray