The temptation for a games manufacturer to cash in on a successful title or idea is overwhelming and almost every blockbuster adventure/action film will sooner rather than later have its own game released on the PS2. Sometimes popular board games such as Monopoly or chess get the PC makeover with varying degrees of success. A less common transition is from PC to board game and this is what Fantasy Flight games the makers of Warcraft- The board game have attempted to do with Warcraft originally a real time strategy fantasy game first produced for the PC in the 90s by Blizzard Entertainment.
The challenge is to keep the feel of the game as close as possible to the well-known PC version. Of course the mechanics of the game, the resource gathering and the character battles as simulated on the PC are essentially based on rolling a die in the same way as is done on many other board games. In the PC version the computer does all the complicated bit in the background all the defence and attack bonuses are worked out for you and all you see is an animated resolution of the battle on the screen but in essence the system used is the same so this in principle should not be a problem. The trick is to make the board game a lot less complicated and make the game easy to run by a few human brains rather than an electronic one!
Once again Fantasy Flight games have produced a very high quality product designed by Kevin Wilson a self confessed fan of the PC game.
As in the PC game Warcraft- The board game is set in the mythical world of Azeroth. The world is being plunged into war. The Orc horde have once again risen, the human alliance has formed to counter the Orc menace. The Undead scourge seek to gain advantage from this conflict and the elusive Night Elves seek to protect their own territory of forests against all aggressors.
Each player takes control of one of the four races and seeks to build an army to wage war against the rest. In order to do this they must gather resources of wood and gold and build various types of buildings which will enable the player to create army units of different capabilities (flying, melee or ranged attack). As well as military consideration the gathering of resources requires worker units, which can also be created from within your base.
The board is made up of hexagonal pieces in series of threes or fours that can be put together in various ways to produce different terrain for different scenarios depending on how many players are taking part. Apart from the standard one on one or two on two set up there are three scenarios The Elf Gate, March of the Necromancers, The Captives, and including Nordrassil, The World Tree one where the Undead take on the other three races. The idea was to try and recreate the campaign mode of the game that leads you through the story in the PC version and within the limitations of the board game format I think this goal is achieved. The game play itself is simple enough, the worker units have two moves per turn, the military units have one except the flying units that also have two as well as well as mountainous area of terrain where only they can enter.
The battles take place when two units enter the same space on the board but all units bordering that space are also involved so it can get messy! The various abilities of the units can be modified by special ability card drawn before the conflict of by upgrading using resources. The battle is resolved by dice rolls, each military unit has a strength score (this can be altered as they are upgraded or by special abilities) in combat players roll a number of dice equal to the number of units of a particular type that is in the battle. For a roll that is equal to or lower than the strength number then the unit inflicts 1 casualty on the opponent. A defensive phase with its own set of die rolls now takes place. After each wave of attacks the players must remove defeated units of their choice from the battle and taken off the board. This makes their army weaker, and thus less die are rolled in the next phase. This carries on until only one side occupies the battlefield.
The conditions for victory dont always rely on destroying your opponent or taking over their base but can be achieved by gaining enough victory points. These can be won by taking over specific areas of the board, by upgrading your units or by drawing certain types of cards. This means that players can approach trying to win the game in slightly different ways. The possibility also exists to make up your own scenario. By using a combination of die rolls that control resource availability and experience cards the game provides a lot of variety and some complexity in the way players can achieve their goals.
The game is well made the main combat and non-combat pieces are made out of wood and the board is sturdy so it should last plenty of use. The illustrations are good and follow the graphics seen in the PC game. The manual is extensive and should provide all the guidance you need although the game is obviously easier to pick up if you have played the PC version before. There are a lot of individual pieces from icons, resource tokens to military units and various action cards so some means of keeping these separate during the game and storage bags etc would have been welcome but this absence is a minor complaint.
The game is ideal for players 12 and above but could be played by those younger if they have played the PC game before and have some ideas of the basics concepts of strategy games. An expansion set to this game is now also available.
Judging from the times Ive played this game you soon develop a preference for one of the individual races and their a special abilities (or lack of) for instance the Orcs have the strongest melee units but are weaker when it comes to flying units or ranged units while the Humans are fairly strong in all three areas but dont excel in any. Playing as each of the races will pose different challenges. As in the PC version the player has to balance building up the strength of his units and resources with hoping to strike early militarily and wreck the development of his opponents. The board game is necessarily less complex than the PC game and the development of unit sis limited not only by resources but also by predefined game limits so has not to swamp the board with pieces. Nevertheless the board game does present enough of a challenge for even the most experienced gamer to make it enjoyable and playable again and again.
Published by Fantasy Flight, the game includes 13 board pieces, 40 wooden melee unit markers, 28 wooden ranged unit markers, 16 wooden flying unit markers, 4 town interfaces, 8 outpost markers, 32 building tiles, 32 worker markers, 36 unit tiles, 84 spell cards, 50 gold tokens, 50 wood tokens, 18 depletion tokens, 4 battle dice, 1 resource die, 14 quest tokens, colour rules booklet and is made for 2-4 players of 12years+.
An average two-player game will last between one and one and half hours depending on how new you are to the game, which is reasonable even for those with limited concentration span. Games involving three or four player will take slightly longer.
The usual price listed is around £30 but I picked it up pre Xmas from Play.com for only £19.99 so it is worth looking around.
© Mauri 2007