January 26, 2015 by brennon
Lords of War from Black Box Games has been growing over the last few years into a huge game. If you’d like to see how the game plays then you can check out my first review of it right HERE where I looked at the Orcs Versus Dwarves pack. Now however, after a successful Kickstarter, they’re onto Orcs Versus Dwarves II and its Magic & Monsters Expansion!
This new pack comes with a few pretty major changes to the game that, in combination with Weather & Terrain and the other four armies, make it a huge game to bring to the tabletop. We’ll kick things off with the new units themselves that the pack is named after.
The first of these new units are the Monsters. As well as being incredibly damage heavy and with plenty of health these cards also have a new innate ability attached to them. Each of the units has a level of protection against lower damage units out there. For example, the Frenzied Ogre has a Monstrous Value of three meaning that attacks that are lower or equal to that value can’t contribute to the attack; it’s like a fly on an elephant!
Next up are the Magic units that bring a new level of spellcasting to the game. These, like the Dwarf Arcanist and Orc Firestarters bring fire and ice to the tabletop to cause masses of damage in equal level. Unlike normal units these have arrows representing their respective elements and each turn they can do a point of ongoing damage that persists on the enemy. This obviously lowers the defence of a particular unit and makes them easier to kill.
This isn’t the only thing they can do however as Magic units can also be used to boost your own troops. Orcs bestow the ‘Berserk’ quality on the units turning them into rampaging attacks while the Dwarves add Shields to their units giving them extra defence. Interestingly both side can use their spells to remove the effects of the other while also being immune to their own damage types. While this means right now Orcs vs Orcs doesn’t do much when it comes to fire it does mean that with all the other units out there you’ll see more armies grabbing mercenaries to help out.
The last of the new units are Flying ones. The Dwarves call on the help of the Eagles while Crows fight for the Orcs. These creatures are great harassing ones as they can only be targeted by other Flying units or Ranged ones. See an enemy you want pinning down? Send in the crows and keep them flustered.
Of course each army also gets a whole bunch of additional units that fight for them bringing the base deck for Orcs Versus Dwarves up another level. There is some great artwork in the set and some interesting new units including a personal favourite in the Commander Ragnar Icebone for the Dwarves and the Forge Trolls!
In terms of rules there are some that have existed in past expansions like Movement from Templars Versus Undead. This allows units to move around the battlefield as long as they’re not engaged meaning that you get to fight more combats and give yourself a tactical edge. You can set up some interesting combinations with some of the newer units.
I’ll go over some of the older rules as well just as a refresher. Berserker units are low hit points but high damage creatures and when they attack and survive a combat take up the space owned by the eliminated unit. At that point if there’s more stuff to fight they’ll keep on going! As well as them there’s the Cavalry units that have the Recall ability. Unlike most units the Cavalry can be bought back into your hand even if they’re engaged, showing off their lighting quick strikes. Only Spear units can stop them from using their Recall ability.
With the additional number of cards in the game the new hand size has increased from six to seven and the win conditions have changed too. You now must kill thirty Units or eliminate six Commanders (Commanders count towards that thirty unit victory condition).
Last but not least we have the Sidebar which is a new function that comes into effect because of the magical abilities and tokens. When one of your magically attacked characters (so has Fire/Ice damage or Berserk/Shield on them) is to be recalled you simply add them to the area in front of you with the tokens still on them instead of putting them back into your hand. This still counts towards your hand limit but means you can keep track of who has been wounded.
How Does It Play?
The increase in cards and tactics on top of the Weather & Terrain expansion means that this game has become decidedly more of a wargame than it was before. The scale is grander and the tactics are more in-depth meaning you will spend the first couple of games getting used to everything once again. This does also play a part in extending the play time. Instead of games coming in around the 30-40 minute mark you can see yourself playing games that last an hour.
What Magic & Monsters does is layer on complexity and if you like how Lords of War plays then you’ll enjoy this. It’s definitely a fuller and richer game for the addition even if it is more of a time sink. An additional nudge is toward the way in which you might deck build this game.
With so many new options I think you’ll see more chances to drop some of the lesser units in the original game and instead adding in some additional units from Elves, Lizardmen, Templars and Undead. It gives a tactical edge to the game for sure that requires a lot more forethought.
That’s not to say that it’s all perfect. You can find that with a bad draw (simply using the existing pre-made decks combined) that you are totally outmatched within the first few turns and you can quickly fall onto the back foot. You can shuffle as well as you like but there are times where you will just get totally owned by your opponent. This is a symptom of many a card game but with no way to mitigate it through card effects its felt more in Lords of War.
How Does It Look?
The game is, once again, great looking and the artwork from Steve Cox is of a great storybook quality for the game that ties together an overall amazing aesthetic. I never get tired of checking out the new artwork and finding new details worked into the images.
As well as that the new tokens you get with the game are incredibly thick stock and hard wearing, you’re not going to damage them in a hurry. This was another pleasant surprise. Overall the game continues to look great on the tabletop and if you invest in one of their gaming mats then you’ll have an even cooler time of it although the plastic ones supplied in the boxes still do the job.
Once again I reiterate that if you liked the original game then you’re going to like this. It’s more of the same Lords of War experience with some additional units giving it some much needed depth and complexity. You’re now pretty much playing a miniatures game without the miniatures!
It’s not going to be for everyone though and the extended game length may put a few people off. Still, for me I’m looking forward to more games and making up some new and interesting army compositions. I can’t wait to see where they go with the other factions in the future too.
Do you think you’ll give it a go?
"For example, the Frenzied Ogre has a Monstrous Value of three meaning that attacks that are lower or equal to that value can't contribute to the attack; it's like a fly on an elephant!"
"Once again I reiterate that if you liked the original game then you’re going to like this. It’s more of the same Lords of War experience with some additional units giving it some much needed depth and complexity."