April 16, 2014 by brennon
Over the weekend through the hustle and bustle of Salute 2014 I got to sit down with the folks from Black Box Games to have a game of Lords of War. I was lucky enough to get a game with the new Templars Vs Undead set that has just begun to ship out to Kickstarter backers and also got a glimpse of the Weather & Terrain expansion. The review for that is coming soon but I couldn’t wait to tell you about the new factions coming to this easy to learn but hard to master card game.
Light Vs Dark!
The first thing that should be pretty evident to all is that the pack contains the new units and leaders for both the Templars and the Undead. The Templars are led by the wizened old master Father Nicodemus while the Undead are shuffling back into the mortal realm under the command of Asul the Bygone King.
Each side is packed with awesome looking units, the artwork courtesy of Steve Cox once again. Every single one of the cards is lavishly colourful and it’s an absorbing experience just looking at the different pieces that have been used to make up the army and give it it’s look. If I had to come down on one side or the other I would have to say that the Undead artwork is the better of the two but it isn’t by too big of a margin.
As well as the very nice looking cards you also get yourself a nice new purple play-mat that I’m fairly sure will become our default one to play on. It’s very nice looking and while it isn’t a patch on their other gaming mat featuring the dangerous Asul it serves its purpose.
One of the big things that draws you into a game is the way it all looks. It’s great to have a brilliant mechanic but if that isn’t held together by a tight artistic design then gamers with a penchant for the narrative and background aren’t going to take your game under their wing. This is something that Lords of War does incredibly well. They have made sure that across everything, even the funky inclusion of the makers faces into the artwork, has fitted nicely within the world. I’m still amazed they haven’t looked at doing some kind of graphic novel with the combined effort of Steve Cox to flesh out the world.
But that’s enough about the components, let’s get stuck in!
Stalwart Defenders & Dashing Assassins!
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the rules of the game since that has been covered in the first review I did for the game. You can check that out HERE. Instead with this review I’m going to talk about the two sides and how they match up as well as two new mechanics that have been added into the game.
First up let’s take a look at the Templars. These guys are tough, really, really tough. The army boasts some rather incredible armour values across the board even on it’s smaller infantry units and the focus with them is really one of co-operation I’ve found. You’ll be using your low attack but high armour units to pin others in place and take up spaces on the board before sending in the cavalry (literally) to mop up the enemies or even hosting a bank of archers behind your lines to rain down fire on the enemy.
Two of my top units for the Templars have to be the Longbow and the Lancer. The Longbow has a healthy armour of five making it a tough nut to crack and even offers a generous two points of attack. The main power blow however comes from it’s massive area of effect archery that gives it another three points of damage to contribute. Add to to the deadly Lancer who has six armour and five attack in a given direction and you have a pair of units that can pin down and skewer most enemies. If this is combined with the weight of numbers and defensive line tactic I’ve come to use then you can very easily claim the upper hand.
That’s not to say the Undead don’t have their own tricks up their sleeve. Asul’s horde continues the idea of co-operation but instead relies on their ability to move around the board instead of set up a rigid wall of defences. Their units are not as bulky and armoured as the Templars (but then again why would they be?) but are no less potent with a lot of multi-direction attacking units. Couple this with a range of Zombie Halberds who can move about the battlefield and pin down the likes of the Templar Lancer and you can start to see the swarm mechanic taking effect.
With that said the Undead are not for the faint of heart. The new mechanics in the game do make them a bit harder to learn than other sides and we’ve found that it takes a few games to get used to how they work. It’s still a hell of a lot of fun setting a Banshee amongst the ranks of your enemies though and slicing things to ribbons. But, what are these new mechanics I hear you say?
There are two new additional rules being added into the game through Templars Vs Undead. The first of these is the Movement Rule which allows units with the faded arrow on their card to move before or after combat. This breaks up the mostly static feel of the gaming table and opens up a whole world of options for Templars and the Undead. You’ll soon be seeing new plans opening up before your eyes and that poorly placed Zombie you put down a minute ago might suddenly become useful.
The second rule is the Berserk Rule. Those units with a skull on their card were before just your hard hitting glass cannons but now they must advance when they smash an enemy into the dirt and survive. This is a lot more common with the new Berserk units but it will mean playing with the existing races Berserk units also becomes a very different game. Suddenly they are no longer throw away units but ways of killing and therefore cutting off spaces around the enemy unit. You can set up some very nice chain reaction combats over subsequent turns with this new rule. I like this one a lot and it gives another ounce of character to the units on the tabletop.
Is this all for the better though? I would have to say yes. I don’t think the folks at Black Box Games would be upset to hear me say that the game now has evolved into something a lot more tactical and deep than it was previously. The tactics and thought processes were there before but with the addition of new rules it’s become much much more. The battlefield now feels considerably more alive and the existing problem of getting stuck into a corner no longer is as much of an occurrence.
If you were a fan of Summoner Wars by Plaid Hat Games then I think you’re going to love the additions the guys have made to Lords of War.
Templars Vs Undead is the next logical step for the games design and indeed players of Lords of War. If you liked the game before then you will enjoy it even more now. I’ve certainly had a good dose of fun with it after a handful of games and with the prospect of a bit of deck building ahead of me I can see it getting even more interesting.
I’m trying to think if I have a negative to say about the new pack and apart from saying that the Undead are a bit of a tough learning curve I can’t think of much. This does make it so that if you choose Templars you might end up crunching your friend into the dirt a fair few times at the beginning. I encourage you to swap decks!
The only other thing I could think of is that it would’ve been nice to see the Movement Rule being implemented in the earlier decks. It will be interesting to see if they go back and develop different Dwarf, Orc, Lizardmen and Elf decks to take into account the changes we’ve seen as the game moved into this next stage. Maybe it would even be a possibility that we’ll see smaller card packs that are boosters to the original armies giving them these units rather than re-doing the entire set. I’m always a fan of some new artwork coming out of Steve Cox’s album of awesome.
I’m going to have a lot more to say about the game when I cover the Weather & Terrain Pack in a later review but for now just know that if you liked Lords of War before then this is going to be right up your street. The push for big tournament play is also very much on the cards now (pun intended) and it will be interesting to see how both Templars & Undead stack up.
Pick this up if you can!
"...the Undead are not for the faint of heart"
"...playing with the existing races Berserk units also becomes a very different game"