It seems that everyone and their dog are attempting to muscle in on the card game market at the moment. Personally, I applaud this – I’ve said many times that the amount of card based games out there that do things in different ways is impressive, plus it’s an inexpensive way of getting into the industry. No need to produce limited runs of pricey miniatures or custom dice, just print up a bunch of cards and you’re away.
The latest game to join the fray is Warfields, launching later this month on Kickstarter. A two player battle to the death (well, the death of your opponent’s King), it’s a quick playing affair that I’ve come to enjoy despite some initial minor worries. Those will be covered later, but first up: a quick overview of the gameplay.
With no board, you’ll have to use your imagination a little. Each player has three virtual rows (called Fields) before them, with the Kingdom Field closest, followed by the Ranged and Melee Fields. Starting with a mere three cards in play, a King, Knight and Worker, you’re looking to build up an army that will wipe out enemy forces and eventually topple their King. You have a hand limit of seven cards that depict other characters that will get involved in the battle as well as useful items and special effects, all of which require gold to be brought into play.
Gold drives the game, so much so that it has its own stack of cards. At the start of each turn you’ll draw a couple of cards from the game deck, then take one gold card for each Worker you have in play. Of course, the more Workers you have at your disposal, the more gold that can be produced, making your options a lot more open. It’s a neat little mechanic – far from innovative, of course, as it’s been seen in countless Eurogames, but interesting to see it applied to a card game.
Next step is to introduce characters into the game by paying said gold and adding them to one of your three Fields. Any of these rows with an enemy character in them is off-limits, but you’ll generally have plenty of space to play with – you are, however, limited to seven characters per Field. Movement is next, with your brave fighters moving forwards or backwards one Field only. After that comes the meatiest part of Warfields… combat!
As you’ve probably worked out, astute gamer that you are, there are two different ways to fight – melee and ranged. Location is vital when it comes to combat with melee attacks only affecting adjacent Fields and ranged hitting two Fields away. With only a single action per character each turn, making the right decisions in the optimal order is what you’re looking to do, maximising the strength of your forces to clear out as many enemies as possible, allowing you to move forward on your next turn and get ever closer to that opposing King.
Attacks – like everything else in the game – cost gold to perform, so don’t go spending everything early in your turns. It’s a lesson I learnt the hard way, bringing loads of characters into play then not actually being able to do anything with them… that was a short game, I tell you. When resolving attacks, you and your opposite number will be wiping out a character’s defence value first, then working on their health. If a turn ends, the character’s defence is is reset but their health remains at whatever number it was knocked down to. Essentially, if you’re trying to destroy someone, concentrated attacks from multiple characters are the order of the day – as long as you can afford it!
There are a few extra elements in the game of note. Initially you may only bring out Human characters to the Fields, but by introducing Summoners and Necromancers you’re allowed to play with Beasts and the Undead too. However, should your Summoner or Necromancer be removed from play with no backups, all of those subservient to them are removed from the board as well. There’s little more satisfying in Warfields than seeing three or four cards taken out in one fell swoop because your opponent missed an opening on their card…
The previously mentioned effects are the usual things you might expect from a fantasy based game, giving your the chance to curse or poison characters, render them immobile or even paralysed while boosting your own abilities in battle. While in early games I found I wasn’t using them that often, relying instead on getting people on the Fields and going for a Strength In Numbers approach, the subtleties behind screwing over your opponent made for a more thoughful and interesting game. You’re also able to sell one card per turn in order to bring in a little more gold – particularly useful if you’ve got a heavily wounded character who you know is going to die next turn!
Now, I mentioned earlier that I had some initial worries regarding Warfields – and that’s all down to the rulebook. Perhaps I’m being picky but despite reading it a few times before attempting to play, the game didn’t really click into place until I’d actually played a few rounds. A well written rulebook should be able to conjure up every aspect of the game in your mind without having to have everything out there before you, but that’s nothing that a rewrite wouldn’t fix. Once you’ve actually got a good hold on it, Warfields proves itself to be an entertaining little game that requires a surprising amount of thought. Where so many self-published games often struggle with elements such as balance, this one manages to get through those issues and deserves to do well. Now, I wonder if there’s any plans for an expansion?
Warfields was designed by Chris Green and will be appearing on Kickstarter later this month through Menaveth Games. It’s strictly for two players with games taking around 30-40 minutes. Thanks to Chris for providing a well in advance prototype copy! I look forward to checking out the final version!