02 December 2010

Battles of Westeros part 2: Components [Boardgame review]

Battles of Westeros is a game with tons of components, this is the game in my collection that has as much counters, markers, dice and cards as Arkham Horror. This may create a sense of despair in some people who want their games consist of 2 dice,one board and 4 colored markers.

However you do not use all the components at the same time, they are in the box to provide variaty and keep the game fresh and give it a high replay value. This 2nd part of my review will take a look at the components in general and then I'll show you how the most common components work with each other to actually show that it is not all that confusing or steep of a learning curve that you might believe at first glance.

If I would have to breakdown the game components they fall into 4 categories. Tiles/Markers. Dice/Cards/counters.

Let's start with the board itself - our battlefield. The board is  6fold and double sided. One side has 11x15 hexes, the other side has 10x15 hexes. The dimension of the entire board is 82x57cm / 32"x22".
So it does not take up a huge amount of space and should fit most tabletops you have at home.

You get a load of single and triple hex tiles, these tiles are printed with different terrain features on back and front side, the same goes for all the smaller tiles like the river crossings which have palisades on their back. These are used with your board to create new maps and location for each mission you will find in the Mission Book or along with the "skirmish mode" that the alternate rules provide.

The remaining components are a mix of counters, cards and dice - all work together in harmony in a surprisingly smooth fashion. Our two houses have one deck of cards each. These decks are divided into "generic order cards" (10 in total) and "Commander orders cards" (5 per commander, 25 in total). When you play a mission you will always have a deck of the 10 generic order cards and mix in all the commander cards from the commander(s) currently taking part of your battle. You then mix all these cards together into one single deck.

We also have 8 sided dice with various symbols on them, blue/green/red shield, Fist and Flag. These dice are used to generate order tokens as well as used for combat between units.

Don't worry I will show you the first scenario of the game and how it all fits together shortly!

There are also cards depicting all units and commanders, listing their skills, combat values and other characteristics so you don't have to flip around in the rulebook to find their traits.

The miniatures representing you army are formed into units of 3-4 depending whether they are infantry or cavalry. Heroes that are part of one unit replace one generic model of that unit. One model of the unit will act as "bannerman" and will have a little banner showing the household allegiance, rank (green/blue/red) and this banner is also used to keep track of what units have been activated this turn.

We have the turn track, as you see every other turn is black and white, this works together with your banners. A unit activated during turn 1 will turn its flag so that the color of the following turn faces the owning players board edge. In turn 2 all black flags count as "inactivated" and when a player activates a unit he flips the flag so that the white side faces his board edge.

The morale track is made out of 3 components, middle section and house Lannister / house Stark attachments. These are joined together and the morale marker is place in the middle. As one house gains the upper hand the morale of the other house will decrease. This marker will move back and forth during a battle. The morale track is divided into sections. The white section has no effect, then we have the green and yellow and finally the red which means automatic game over as the army routs when the morale reaches red.  When units are destroyed the morale of the owning army decrease according to how good that unit was.

Let's take a look at how everything fits together by setting up the most frequently used game components and use the 1st scenario of the mission book as example.

The game comes with two books, one rulebook with everything you need to know, and one mission book. The mission book contains 10 battles from the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, readers will be familiar with battles like "The Whispering Woods" where house Stark is baiting the Lannister army into a trap to capture the Lannister commander Jaime Lannister.

The rulebook is quite well put together, lots of examples and you shouldn't have much trouble getting into the rules. The mission book contains some flavor text and shows what troops, commanders and resources are used in the battle as well as showing the initial deployment for both armies.

The first scenario for this game is called "Clash on the Kingsroad" and is an excellent little scenario with lots of Blue and Green troops and a few basic commanders for players to get the hang of the game. Here we can see the resources and deployment schedule for this scenario.
We place the amount of Command tokens that are given in this scenario to each player on each players household shield to keep track of our resources. House Stark has "Momentum" (the large mace marker) in this scenario which means they will go first. Later on, the player with most unspent Command Tokens in his resource pool will gain momentum over the following turns.

This scenario also allows each player to have a hand of 3 Order Cards in his hand, so we draw 3 cards from the deck we mixed previously.

This scenario also gives each player 4 D8 dice to generate order tokens from, the results rolled are later used to activate and rally your units. To activate units you have to spend order tokens generated by your D8 dice at the start of your turn, the order tokens have to match the banner of the unit you wish to activate. You can also use your Command cards in your hand to activate special abilities or activate multiple units at once. Command cards are used with your commanders and require that you spend Command tokens to pull them off.

Each commander has a limit of how many commands he may issue each turn. In this example I use the Addam Marbrand commander, he wishes to pull off one of his command cards - the cost is 1 Command token. We take one Command token from our resource pool and place it on Marbrands character card to keep track of how many commands he has issued this turn.

A rundown of the different troops types, Green are light troops, Blue are medium and Red are heavy. While Green troops are faster, will activate more often they have poor attack values. During battle each unit roll their attack value (2-4 dice), each dice that matches the enemy banner is considered a hit. If you roll a "Fist" it also counts as a hit, while the Black Flag is a rout marker and will make the enemy unit fall back as many hexes as you have rolled rout markers. As such your fast Green units will drop like flies when they come under pressure from enemy attacks, while your slow heavily armored Red units will be very resilient. This is a very interesting game mechanism which I found worked really well once you start playing.

As such this game is a mix of tactics, strategy and luck. You generate random order tokens at the start of each turn, and replenish your hand of cards each turn. You also receive your starting number of Command tokens each turn. You then have to make all of these 3 components work together to maximize the mobility and attacks of your army while not losing track of the scenario at hand.

And here's a glimpse of the "Skirmish mode" cards, you can see two scenarios and cards generating terrain and troops for both sides.

This concludes my look at the game components. This game has a lot of stuff like the siege tokens, skirmish cards, fire tokens, special archer tokens etc but it would take too long to explain and possibly confuse a new player. What is described above is the most frequently used game components - and I will base part 3 - "How the game plays" upon this descriptions.

Stay tuned for part 3 (which should be up Saturday afternoon) and the actual review and description of how the game plays with pictures from various battles.

You may find the Christmas discount code for this game at the bottom of this post: http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.com/2010/11/gamemaniacs-christmas-discount-codes.html

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