For the vast majority of human civilization, battles have been fought in familiar patterns. Armies marched on armies, by column and by row. Cavalry, archers, terrain, weather -these things all came into important detail. Sometimes the commanders were at the forefront of the battle, sometimes they watched from afar. But armies marched on armies, and combat ensued until lines were broken, spirits crushed, and one side ultimately emerged the victor. Of course, that all changed in the 1800s, and it has changed several times again in the years since. War has never been grand, or elegant, but as it exists now, it is also far more difficult to follow compared to those of history.
Games, though, do not have the burden of reality, and plenty of notable games like Chess, Stratego, and Battle Line approach combat through more traditional means.
And here comes newcomer Warfields, looking to enlist.
Warfields is aptly named, as the entire premise of the game is played out on a segmented field of battle. In it, two players face off against one another like the kings of old, and the game ends with the death of their King.
Warfields is fairly straightforward. As a card-based game, there are two decks. One is the Gold deck, where players will draw Gold cards from. Gold will fund the recruitment of new units and pay for attacks. The other is the Main deck, where both players will draw units, potions, effects, and equipment from. The game to start is mirrored. Each player’s territory contains three rows: the Kingdom Field, the Ranged Field, and the Melee Field. Each side starts with three cards in play, being the King, a Knight, and a Worker.
The turn structure is also pretty straightforward. First, a player draws two cards from the main deck, adding the cards to their hand. Then, they’ll get to draw a Gold card for each Worker unit they have in play. Next, they get to recruit new units, buy and equip armies, and so on. (Hey, after all, you have to raise an army before you can commit it.) Most units are human and will be summoned to the Kingdom Field. However, animals and undead monsters can also be brought into the fray if you have a Summoner (some kind of cross between a druid and a mage) or a Necromancer. Those units can summon their minions directly to their location, but should the caster die and there isn’t another in your employ, their minions will abandon you, for they pledged no oath to you or your King.
After purchasing, any units on the field (including fresh recruits) are able to move forward or backwards one row, so long as an enemy unit isn’t in it. After that comes afternoon tea, followed by some light killing. Actually, skip the tea.
Yes, in the final stage, you can attack with your units by paying their attack cost. Then, for a chaos of war effect, you roll a d6 for the attack, which could increase or decrease the attack value by one. All units also have two vital stats – Defense, and Health. Any attack to the defending unit first must get through their Defense number. Any remaining amount reduces that unit’s Health. If they reach zero HP, the unit dies and is discarded.
For example, an Archer has a Defense of 2 and a Health of 4. Your opponent’s Knight doesn’t want to let his friends on the field get poked full of holes, so he attacks for 3. The first two points reduce the Archer’s Defense to zero, and it takes one permanent damage to their Health. However, the Archer remains alive, which probably doesn’t bode well for the Knight’s friends come the opponent’s turn.
Once each unit chooses to attack (or not), the player discards down to the maximum hand size, and the next player takes their turn in the same manner. Each player takes turns advancing and retreating along the battlefield until a King is dead.
Warfields does not reinvent the idea of a battlefield combat game, but it does provide a decent challenge for two players to test their mettle. The game is surprisingly tactical in how you choose to progress. Some games can feel like two sides quickly rushing one another, and others can become protracted stalemates. Sometimes getting more units out is advantageous, whereas often other times you want to focus on fewer units and devote your precious Gold to buying them equipment and paying for the all-important attacks on the enemy. Some units rely on brute strength; others prefer finesse. In short, Warfields provides each side with a multitude of choices to make on how they wish to take the field from their opponent, and it’s more engaging than it first appears.
For all its strategy though, Warfields, like real war, can also be a little unpredictable. The d6 modifier to attacks can make the difference between a unit living or dying, and the outcome of a few such encounters can tilt toward one player that much closer to victory – or defeat. What’s more, while the whole “More Workers and selling cards equals more Gold cards” is a nice linear economic model, in actuality Gold cards can range in value from 1 to 3. It is therefore possible due to sheer luck to out-produce your opponent with fewer Workers simply by which Gold cards are drawn. These elements are present, serving as the chance element that is not always present in a lot of tactical games.
Warfields wishes to put players in the position of a battlefield commander, pitting one player’s fantasy-laded kingdom against another’s. The game has a decent amount of tactical options, generally plays in or under an hour, and is quite portable. It has the feel of more complex strategy card games (like some CCGs), but the game is self-contained and requires nothing more than a worthy challenger to face off against. If you seek a game that’s easy to learn, provides a host of decision-making choices every turn, and still has the possibility of anyone being able to win, check out their Kickstarter.