April 18, 2014 by brennon
Earlier this week I took a look at the Templars Vs Undead faction pack for Lords of War and promised you a peek at the other big game changer for Lords of War, Weather & Terrain. Let’s see what you guys think of the seemingly tiny but massive addition to the game…
Over Hill & Under Hill
The first thing we’re going to take a look at are the terrain card that come in the little expansion pack. The rules for each of the pieces is somewhat self explanatory on the cards but in short they give either bonuses or minuses to units interacting with them. For example Mountains just block parts of the board and are impassable, same with Rivers. Hills give extra armour to units atop them and ranged units are gifted extra damage because of their elevated position.
There are also defensible pieces of terrain like Walls and Gates which allow you to stake down a bit of a claim on parts of the battlefield and protect against certain enemies taking advantage of your weaker side when on the board, after all no card has attack arrows in all directions (unless you’re very lucky).
At the beginning of the game you’re going to shuffle up the terrain cards and then deal out three to each player. They will then play them down onto the battlefield alternating each time almost like lying down terrain on a big table for a miniatures game. In this way you’ll be trying to give yourself potential bonuses while robbing the opponent of theirs.
This has an interesting pre-game dynamic as you’ll be hoping to use the terrain to your best advantage determind by the army you have access too. If you pull Open Plains and you’re playing a cavalry heavy army then you’re quids in. Conversely that cavalry heavy army could be counted with the addition of some Marsh Land to bog down and funnel your troops.
I like the way it feels playing terrain onto the table and it certainly strengthens the meta-game aspect of proceedings as you try and second guess what your opponent is going to do. Of course you could just work to try and create the most interesting looking battlefield you can (which I kind of encourage!).
Something that was pointed out to me at Salute 2014 was that this opens the gates for all manner of interesting battles. You could create custom scenarios, sieges, valley fights and all sorts crafting a real narrative on the battlefield. As I’m a lover of story this was a big eye opener for me and it catapults the game into a whole new level of cool in my opinion. It also makes things a whole lot more interesting visually and tactics that you were employing before have suddenly changed dramatically.
One of my ideas was to set up a big wall across the battlefield and the enemy is trying to crack it down and get inside your castle while the defenders struggle to keep them out. Admittedly you’d need to come up with some house rules for where cards could be played but I love the idea of being able to sally forth and attack siege weapons but potentially lose your men in the process. The terrain cards certainly give the game its ‘miniature game lite’ feel which is no bad thing.
When It Rains It Pours
The other new addition to the game are the Weather Cards. If you’ve played Blood Bowl the weather fluctuates just as much as it can in that game so prepare for a bit of madness. Unlike the Terrain Cards the Weather ones are played after the end of each round and will effect both players turns. Alternately the players will pick two cards off the deck and choose one of them to resolve. For example it could be Freezing Rain (All Recruit & Solder Units receive +1 Shield) during the first round but then switch to being Fine (No Effect) the round after.
Essentially what this does is make you think a lot more about the cards you have in your hand the potential hand your opponent could have. If you have a hand full of Berserkers then you might consider making it Night (Players can play two cards from their hand this turn) or Mist (No Units may be recalled and Berserker Units gain +1 Shield). This might mean you lay the smackdown onto a particularly deadly enemy and establish good board control but if the opponent has some good units in his own hand then it might backfire.
You suddenly find yourself set up into a nice extra bit of meta-gaming much like with the Terrain Cards. Do you just make it Fine so that your enemy can’t get any advantage or do you put him or her to the sword and unleash that Gale (Ranged Units can fire one row further and even when engaged) which will pepper his entire line.
Overall it’s a very fun (if a little crazy) addition to the game. How on earth it goes from being a Blizzard to a Sandstorm in the space of a few turns is beyond me but I guess you could just put the blame on Magic and Wizards and leave it at that.
All Sunshine & Roses?
So is this little expansion pack worth the investment? Yes, most definitely. The pack has managed to elevate the game to a whole new level and it feels more complete as a result. Terrain Cards are a great way of making a more dynamic battlefield and the Weather Cards enable you to play a more diverse game based on the cards in your hand. They also make you learn the different card types and play a smarter game. Before this I had had no real reason to learn what a Recruit or Soldier card was but now with the bonuses you can get you’ll be looking at those low level soldiers with a bit more interest.
One of the few faults I find with the game came from the explanation of when and how to play the Weather Cards. At first my friend and I were totally confused as to how they worked and ended up forgetting we’d even done it for a few rounds. You settle into the pattern easily after a while but it was a bit of a shock. We were playing with both Terrain & Weather straight away though and the box does recommend you don’t do that. I think that suggestion is apt and will help solve the muddle we got into.
Another of the little quibbles I have is that while the Terrain Cards enhance the feeling of the narrative the Weather Cards kind of break the illusion a bit. I could see the battlefield before me with the Terrain Cards but when you suddenly find yourself playing in a mountainous region where there is a Sandstorm you do kind of feel the immersion break. I know there are plenty of ways to explain this away in a fantasy world but it does jar somewhat.
Onwards To Victory!
What am I looking forward to next? I’m looking forward to fixing the Terrain and Weather decks and making it a very narrative experience. I like the idea of fighting in the North with plenty of Blizzards and Gales but taking out certain cards to enforce the environment we’re fighting in. I think that could be the great boon for this pack, customisation.
Suddenly you find yourself telling a number of different stories rather than just beating each other up. I already remember my Templars Vs Undead game in a valley flanked by mountains and the riverside battle I fought against some enterprising Lizardmen much more than past games simply by virtue of this pack.
It’s well worth the investment if you can find this little gem. Kickstarter backers should be getting their sets very soon.
Want to learn about how to play the game? Check out my first review for Orcs Vs Dwarves HERE.
What do you think of this expansion?
"How on earth it goes from being a Blizzard to a Sandstorm in the space of a few turns is beyond me but I guess you could just put the blame on Magic and Wizards and leave it at that."