Radio Review #75 – Forge War

 

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(2015 – Cephalofair Games)

 

“Many times I’ve gazed along the open road….”

 

As the initial release from first time publisher, Cephalofair Games, and first time designer, Isaac Childres, Forge War saw a massively successful Kickstarter campaign last summer (2014). Built upon the Euro-style assertion of minimized randomness and that players should have to earn their merit of victory, Forge War impressively delivers as a game full of variable, deep strategy, but not one that overwhelms players with an arduous ruleset. On his site, Childres discusses his love for games such as Yinsh, Trajan, and Tzolk’in, and how these games helped to inspire Forge War’s mixture of varying mechanics. Bits and pieces of these titles can be seen scattered amongst the 2-3 hour engine-building, fantasy-driven experience, making it, in my opinion, one of the best Euro-strategy releases in 2015, thus far.

In Forge War, players work as blacksmiths, working to create and arm their adventurers with the latest weapons, then send them out on quests. Gameplay is split into three main mechanics. Players will collect the resources needed to forge their weapons from the Mine by participating in a mini-game, using the abstract mechanics inspired by Yinsh. Players will then move to a worker placement mechanic, taking different actions at the Market in order to learn how to make new weapons, hire new adventurers (as well as leveling up current ones), and purchasing immediate and ongoing bonuses. Finally, players will acquire quests, equip their adventurers with weapons they’ve forged and send them on these quests, as well as manage their progress until they’ve either failed or completed the quests. The game will cover three Acts, in which players will see an improved array of weapons, increasing resource types, and more challenging and demanding quests.

 

 

 

Components:

– Forge War game board

 

– The Mines (board tiles)

 

– Player boards

 

– Quest cards

 

– Start Quest tokens

 

– Quest markers

 

– Market cards (Banner and Booth)

 

– Market Weapon cards

 

– Starting cards (weapons and wealth)

 

– Resource tokens (copper, iron, mithril, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds)

 

– Adventurer markers

 

– Champion attribute & level tokens

 

– Weapon type & +1 Weapon bonus tokens

 

– Round marker & Round bonus tiles

 

– Mine workers (Overseers and Peasant Miner workers) in each player color

 

– Forge tokens in each player color

 

– Player markers in each player color

 

– Coins

 

– 100 & 200 Victory Point markers

 

 

 

 

Setup:

During the game, each player will represent the head blacksmith of their associated guild, attempting to forge the strongest weapons needed to supply their guild’s adventurers with completing various quests for the King. Players must learn how to build these various weapons over time, by learning new design methods and schematics.

All players begin the game with the knowledge of making copper swords and copper daggers (represented by each player’s start weapon cards). They will also receive a personal player board, a set of quest markers, a set of disc-shaped player markers, a set of forge tokens, a set of Overseers, and a set of Peasant Miners (pick-axe tokens).
Players will send adventurers on quests throughout the game, equipped with the forged weapons they are able to create. Each player starts the game with four of these adventurers. Adventurers have the chance to level up through the course of the game, and their current level is indicated by the level token placed inside their adventurer marker. When player’s first receive these four adventurers at the beginning of the game, they all begin at level 1. Once an adventurer has reached level 4, they are considered Champions and are able to receive a bonus attribute token that will replace the level token. I’ll discuss these a bit later during the gameplay section, but for now just note that each player receives a set of these various attribute tokens at the beginning of the game.

 

The main game board houses the Mine, the Market, and the various quests that each player can send their adventurers on. A full game of Forge War consists of three Acts, with each Act consisting of six Rounds (though a shorter, basic game can be played over the course of the 1st Act by itself). At the end of certain Rounds in the game, bonuses are awarded depending on if players have completed certain goals in the game. At the beginning of the game, these bonus tiles are randomly placed over:

– Rounds 4 & 5 of the 1st Act
– Rounds 1 & 2 of the 2nd Act
– Rounds 4 & 5 of the 2nd Act
– Rounds 1 & 2 of the 3rd Act
– Rounds 4 & 5 of the 3rd Act

 

 

At the beginning of the game, the Round marker is placed on the 1st Round space of the Act 1 track. All players will also place one of their player markers on the start space of the Victory Point track.

Players will use their workers in the Mine to obtain the gems and ingots they need to forge weapons. This Mine area is located of the left side of the main game board. The board tiles containing copper, iron, and emeralds are used to construct the Mine at the beginning of the game. The central copper tile is placed in the middle of the mine area, hen six triangular-shaped tiles are randomly placed in a ring around the central tile, all connecting to one another. Finally, the remaining border tiles are placed along the outer ring to complete the Mine. As player’s workers delve deeper and deeper underground in the mine, they’ll eventually come across even more, unique gems and ingots. Therefore, there are different board tiles for the Mine depending on the player’s current Act. During Act 1, mine workers will be able to collect copper, iron, and emeralds. During Act 2, they have dug deeper and will discover mithril and rubies. Finally during Act 3, miners will be able to collect precious diamonds.

 

Once the Mine has been constructed, players will need to place their Overseers in the Mine before the game can start. After determining player order, players will take alternating turns placing one of their Overseers on any empty hex space in the mine until players have placed all three of their Overseers. There’s some strategy in placing these Overseers, which I’ll discuss a bit later in the review. Beside the Mine is a turn order track where players will place a player marker in the space relative to the previously determined order.

To the right of the Mine and turn order track is the Village Market. It is here where players can learn new weapon schematics, hire and train adventurers, gain Round bonuses, amongst various other things. The backs of the Market (and Quest) cards have been color coordinated for easy reference as to when they will be placed in the game:
– Yellow represents the cards that will be used before the start of the game. These include the starting Wealth cards and starting copper weapon cards.

– Green represents the cards that are placed during Act 1

 

– Gray represents the cards that are placed during Act 2

– Red represents the cards that are placed during Act 3

– Finally, Purple represents the cards that are used towards the end of Act 3. This is only relevant to Quest cards, there are no Market cards with a purple backing.

 

Market cards are separated into three types, as represented by the icon on the back of the card. Weapon schematics are shuffled and placed face-down on the Blacksmith forge space located right outside the Village Market. Inside the Village are four other card spaces. The Market Stall cards (represented by a booth icon) are shuffled and split in equal halves. These two decks are placed on the two left spaces of the Village Market. Market Stall cards will award players various ongoing bonuses to use during the game. The Banner cards (represented by a banner icon) are shuffled and placed the same way on the two Village Market spaces on the right side. Unlike the Market Stall cards, these will award single use bonuses that players will resolve immediately when purchased and then discard.

Though each player starts the game with a Copper Sword and Copper Dagger schematic, players will still need to pay to learn other types of copper weapons, including Axes, Spears, and Maces. A schematic for each of these is placed face up below the bottom of the game board at the start of the game, along with a schematic for an Iron Sword. These are available for all players to learn by taking an action at the clerk space in the Village Market, which I’ll cover later.
Finally, the top portion of the game board houses the various quests that adventurers can partake in. As mentioned before, the back of each card represents the Act in which it is used. Players will shuffle the green Act 1 cards into one deck, the gray Act 2 cards into a deck, the red Act 3 cards into a deck, and the purple Act 3 cards into another deck. These decks are then stacked on top of one another in the following order: green, gray, red, and purple, with the green Act 1 cards at the top of the deck. Eight of these Act 1 quest cards are then drawn and placed into the empty Quest spaces.
Players are then dealt the four starting Wealth cards. These cards will determine what resources and coins a player will begin the game with, along with allowing the player to level any of their adventurers. Players will choose to keep two of the four cards they were dealt, then immediately receive the combined “wealth” shown on both cards.
Before the game can begin, players will need to complete some minor maintenance on their personal game boards. A majority of the player board contains summaries and reference sections, such as round order, an iconography legend, champion attribute summary, etc. Each player board also contains a personal merchant, an assistant, in order words, for each blacksmith who will help the player buy and sell certain resources to the market. At the beginning of the game, players will place two of their player markers on the left-most space of their personal merchant area. They will also place their coins on the bottom-left coin purse space, their adventurers on the bottom-right tent space, and their quest markers on the banner space above. All learned weapon schematics are placed tucked underneath the bottom of the player board.

All remaining tokens (coins, gems, ingots, weapons, adventurers, etc) are placed near the board, in reach of all players. At the end of setup, the play area should look something like this:

 

 

 

 

Gameplay:

As mentioned earlier, a game of Forge War consists of three full Acts, with six Rounds in each Act. Each of these Rounds will consists of five phases; the Replenish Phase, the Mine Phase, the Market Phase, the Quest Phase, and the Cleanup Phase. Players will ultimately earn Victory Points by completing quests. Points can even be earned when failing a quest, though only a fraction of what would have been earned had they successfully completed it. In order for adventurers to complete these quests, they’ll need to be equipped with strong and well-crafted weapons. This is where the blacksmith (the player) comes in. Efficiently collecting the right amount/type of ingots and gems will allow the player to learn and forge new weapon designs to send with his adventurers. What’s interesting about Forge War, is that the three main phases of the game (the Mine, the Market, and the Quest) mechanically play quite differently, almost as mini-games on their own. But we’ll cover them as we go. First, let’s take a look at the 1st phase of each Round.

 

I. The Replenish Phase:

At the beginning of each Round, new Market cards are revealed and Quest cards are replenished. During the 1st Round of the game, there are no Quest cards to replenish since all spaces were filled during initial setup. During setup, Market cards will be revealed before players draw Wealth cards and place their Overseers in the Mine, as opposed to the beginning of the Round. This is to assist players with knowledge of what Market cards are available, thus affecting their decisions on how to place their Overseers and which Wealth cards to choose.
When revealing Market cards, any revealed weapon schematics with a sketched background are immediately placed below the board along with the other schematics available for all players. If this is the case, the next weapon Market card is revealed until this action does not take place. At the start of Act 2 (gray) & Act 3 (red), the corresponding Market cards for these Acts are placed on the board and used for those Rounds instead.
As players collect Quests to send their adventurers on, the Quest area will become depleted of cards. There are three sections in the Quest area where cards will be placed. When taking on a Quest, the player is required to pay the cost adjacent to that Quest section (0, 1, or 2). During 1st phase of each Round, all remaining Quest cards will shift to the left amongst the three Quest sections (2 to 1 to 0). In this way, Quests that are initially expensive will become less so from Round to Round if they are not chosen. A new Quest card is then chosen for each empty space remaining and placed behind the others.

 

At the beginning of the 3rd Round of Act 1, we can see that there are three empty Quest space (as seen above). After these Quests have been shifted to the left (as seen below), three new Quest cards will need to be drawn next to fill these remaining spaces (seen below). Since all three of the new Quests would be placed in the bottom section, they will costs 2 gold to obtain. Some of the Quests that were shifted however are now cheaper than in the previous Round.

 

 

 

II. The Mine Phase:

It is essential that players manage their gems and ingots effectively. They’re the monetary core that goes into designing and forging weapons. This all starts with the mini abstract game found in the Mine Phase. On a player’s turn, they are able to move one of their Overseers to another hex space in the mine. An Overseer will always leave a worker (pick axe token) of his color on the space he left from, rewarding the player a resource of that type.
As seen above, if Player A moves his Overseer off of the emerald space and onto any other space, he will leave one of his pick token on the emerald space he left from and collect an emerald gem. Now this is where things get interesting. An Overseer can move in a straight line along any number of empty spaces as long as it is not blocked by another Overseer. It will still only collect from the resource space it left from, but this gives players a lot more decisions to use when moving.

 

The crucial mechanic of this mini-game however, is that an Overseer may move through spaces containing workers (pick axe tokens), whether they are the player’s workers or not, as long as they stop at the first empty space after moving through these workers.

For instance, Player A decides to move from his emerald space in a direct line to the right. He could choose to move to the next space over, which is empty, however he chooses instead to move through that space and through the next three spaces (the first two containing Player C’s yellow-colored workers, and the final one containing his own worker), finally landing on the next adjacent space, as required.

 

 

Actions are then immediately resolved depending on the passed worker’s color:

 

– If the passed worker is that of an opposing color to the Overseer’s color, that worker is then converted to the same color of the Overseer. Because of this, the player who moved the Overseer would replace the current pick axe tokens with ones of his own, then gain a resource for each of these spaces.

– If the passed worker is the same color as the Overseer, that worker has become disgruntled by the extra workload and will convert to another color. The player who currently has the fewest number of workers in the Mine (pick axe tokens only) will replace the Overseer’s worker with one of his own, then gain a resource represented on that Mine space. If there is a tie when determining which opposing player has the fewest workers, the player higher in turn order will get to switch.

Continuing the example above, when moving Player A will receive an emerald for moving off this space. As he passes Player C’s workers, he will replace them and convert them to his own. Finally, by passing his own worker, that worker will convert to Player B’s purple worker, since that player has the least amount of workers in the Mine when this worker was passed.

 

Finally, Player A places his Overseer in the next adjacent space. After his movement is complete, Player A receives an additional Iron and Copper ingot (collected from his newly placed workers on the iron and copper spaces), and Player B receives an Iron ingot (collected from his newly placed worker on the iron space).

It’s important not to leave clustered openings for opposing players to feed off of. Leaving a row of four workers in a straight line could gain another player a wealth of resources on their turn by moving through them. To assist with this, miners are allowed to go on strike if there are ever five workers of the same color directly adjacent to one another. If a player is able to achieve this, he can remove all five of these workers from the Mine, thus keeping their greedy opponent’s Overseers at bay.

 

Each player, in turn order, is allowed to move one of his Overseer’s every Round. At the end of the Mine Phase, the player that is currently 1st will have the option of taking this movement action again. If he does however, he must move his player marker to the bottom of the turn order, thus shifting everyone up a space. So, he’ll get an additional turn in the Mine, but he will go last for the remaining phases of the Round. Whether the 1st player took this additional action or not, the new turn order is then determined by the player’s current number of workers in the Mine. The player with the fewest becomes the new start player, the next fewest 2nd, and so on. If the old start player took the additional Overseer action, he will be last in turn order no matter what.

 

 

 

III. The Market Phase:

Players will use the Village Market to perform a variety of actions. Most of these will revolve around adventurer maintenance and forging weapons. The gameplay present in the Market Phase involves a worker placement mechanic, where players, in turn order, will place their player marker (considered in this phase, the blacksmith himself) on an available action space within the Village Market area. Once placed, the player immediately resolves the action corresponding to that space. Some spaces are available to all blacksmiths, while others only have enough room for one blacksmith at a time. Let’s take a look at each space in the Village and what they can do:

 

 

 

The Forge

At the beginning of each Round, a new Weapon card is revealed at the Forge. When a player chooses to go to this location, he will be able to purchase the new schematic and place it below his player board along with his other learned schematics. Since the player has now learned how to make this weapon, he can forge it for his adventurers by paying its resource cost (located at the bottom of each schematic card). The costs of each schematic is listed in the top left corner of the card within the coin icon (ignore the green valued icon, as this is the amount used in the basic game). Some schematics will earn players Victory Points at the end of the game if they have been learned. This value is listed in the top right corner of the card. There is only enough room for one Blacksmith to visit the Forge each Round.

 

The Bone Biter (seen above) is a weapon schematic appearing in Act II and will cost 8 gold for a blacksmith to learn. It can be equipped by an level 3+ adventurer and requires an Iron ingot, Mithril ingot, Emerald, and Ruby to forge. It is considered an axe weapon and will add 9 strength to the equipped adventurer. At the end of the game, a player that has learned how to make the Bone Biter will earn 5 Victory Points.

 

 

The Clerk Shop

As mentioned earlier, all general weapon schematic cards (weapons with sketched artwork) are placed below the main game board. When a player visits the Clerk, he will be allowed to learn one of these schematics. Since these are always available for all players to learn, these cards are not placed underneath the player’s personal board like the regular weapon schematics are. Instead, when learned, the player will place a Weapon token of their color on the card. This represents that they have learned the schematic and are allowed to forge it when sending adventurers on quests. Much like the regular Weapon schematics, the cost needed to learn these general weapons is listed on the top left corner of the card, however the player will need to pay an extra gold to each player that has previously learned the schematic.
So for instance, if Player B has gone to the Clerk Shop to learn how to make an Iron Mace, he would normally have to pay 3 gold. However, Player A has previously learned this schematic. Therefore, Player B will pay 3 gold to the Clerk (general supply) and the additional gold to Player B. Thematically, you can think of it as a player teaching the other player the ins and outs of forging the particular weapon. The earlier you learn how to make the weapon, the more experienced you are with it, therefore other players must pay extra for your knowledge in forging it. Any number of players can visit the Clerk Shop each Round, there are no limitations.

 

 

 

The Barracks

To the left of the Clerk Shop is the Barracks. One player can visit the Barracks each Round to recruit a new adventurer and/or level up an adventurer. If a player chooses to recruit an adventurer, he will pay the amount of gold listed, depending on the current Act (4 gold in Act I, 5 gold in Act II, 6 gold in Act III). If the player chooses to level up an adventurer, he will pay an amount of gold equal to the current level of the adventurer (going from level 1 to 2 will costs 1 gold, going from level 2 to 3 will cost 2 gold, and so on).

 

 

 

The Bazaar

As mentioned earlier, players will have the opportunity to purchase Market cards during this phase of the game. Some of these Market cards contain ongoing abilities that players will be allowed to use of the rest of the game (booth icon cards) and are placed on the left half of the Bazaar, while others will have one-time use effect that are immediately resolved when the card is purchase (banner icon cards) and are placed on the right half of the Bazaar. In a 3-4 player game, players will have two available spaces for the Bazaar, one allowing the player to purchase one of the two face-up Booth cards (left side), and one allowing the player to purchase one of the two face-up Banner cards (right side). The player will simply place his player marker on the appropriate space and pay the cost of the card to gain it. In a 2-player game, there is only a single available space for the Bazaar.

 

There are two different types of Booth cards in the Bazaar. Market Stalls will allow will allow players to convert one type of resource into another type of resource, once per Round for the rest of the game. Savvy cards will allow players to take additional actions, depending on the type of savvy. As seen above, the Market Stall on the left costs 5 gold and will allow a player to convert a Copper ingot into an Iron ingot, once per Round. This Market Stall also awards 2 Victory Points to its owner at the end of the game. The Savvy card on the left is called a “Trader’s Savvy”, and costs 4 gold. It will allow its owner to perform an additional action with one of his stalls, once per Round for the rest of the game. It is also worth 2 Victory Points at the end of the game.

So, if a player owned both of these cards, he could convert two Copper ingots into two Iron ingots each Round, because the Trader’s Savvy would allow him to use one of his Market Stalls twice in a Round. As the Acts increase over the course of the game, Act II and Act III market cards will be introduced. They will include improved Market Stalls (convert higher end resources) and Savvy cards that will cost less to acquire and provide more Victory Points at the end of the game to their owner.

There are multiple types of Banner cards, though a majority will include Surplus cards. When purchased these will immediately add the listed quantity and type of resource to the player’s board area. As seen in the picture above, by paying 2 gold, a player can purchase a Emerald Surplus card, immediately gaining him 1 Emerald gem. The rest of the Banner cards involve moving the Mine overseers and workers, as well as leveling and acquiring new adventurers. Listed below the surplus card, the Training card costs 1 gold and will allow the player to level up on of his adventurers. This can be a huge advantage in leveling an adventurer from level 3 to level 4, as this action would normally costs a player 3 gold on the Barracks space to complete. Since Banner cards are immediately discarded after use, they do not provide Victory Points at the end of the game. Also, unlike the Booth cards, they will increase in cost from Act to Act. For instance the cost of Training in Act I & II is only 1 gold, while Act III Training card costs 2 gold.

 

 

The Road

Each quest card contains a series of steps that adventurers placed on that quest will have to complete. I’ll cover this in more detail during the explanation of the Quest Phase, but in general, each Round the player will be able to increase the Quest marker one step along each of his current quests during the Quest Phase. By completing these quests, players will earn Victory Points along with other immediate rewards such as gold, new adventurers, or other bonus actions. During the Market Phase, players can choose to place their player marker on the Road, essentially allowing them to increase the quest marker one space on the track on a current quest of their choice. This will allow the player to move his adventurers along this quest twice during the Round since he will be able to move it again during the Quest Phase. Any number of players can use this action space during a Round.

 

 

 

The Bank

If players decide that they don’t want to take any of the other available actions in the Village Market, they can always choose to go to the Bank. Any number of players can go to the Bank in a given Round. Placing the player marker on this space will earn the player 1 gold.

 

 

 

 

IV. The Quest Phase:

While the Mine Phase revolves around collecting resources and the Market Phase revolves around preparing adventurers and forging weapons, the Quest Phase is the culmination of all the planning done in these previous two phases, and ultimately the main stage of the game. Players will select Quests from the game board, equipping and sending their adventurers on these quests, resulting in prestige (or Victory Points). There are three main parts to the Quest Phase; acquiring quests, managing quests, and resolving quests.

 

 

Acquiring Quests

In turn order, players will have the chance to acquire one new quest. There are three sections of quests on the game board (those costing 0 gold, 1 gold, and 2 gold). Once a quest is taken, it is considered active and the player must place a Quest marker on the 1st step of the card. Each quest has a number of steps and legs that an adventurer or set of adventurers must complete. A Quest marker is used to show which step of the quest the assigned adventurers are on. Once they have completed all of the steps in a particular leg, they will then move to the next leg of the quest. Some rewards are immediately gained when completing a leg. Victory Points are earned when the quest has ended, either when failed or successfully completed. When adventurers fail a quest, the player earns the Victory Points listed at the end of the previously completed leg of the quest. If the entire quest is completed, the player will gain the full amount of Victory Points listed at the end of the quest line.

Let’s take a look at the “Explore the Mystic Cave” quest. This quest contains two steps in the 1st leg, two steps in the 2nd leg, and 1 step in the 3rd leg. The player receives no immediate reward for completing the 1st leg of the quest. If the quest is failed after completing the 1st leg, the player will score 2 Victory Points. He will immediately receive 2 gold after completing the 2nd leg of the quest. If the quest is failed after completing the 2nd leg, he will score 7 Victory Points. If he completes the final leg of the quest, he will immediately be allowed to take a Market card for free from the discard pile in the Village Market, and will score a total of 16 Victory Points.

 

 

Quest Management

After players have acquired a quest from the game board, they immediately enter the management portion of the phase, which requires them to equip an adventurer (or multiple adventurers) and send them on the quest. After the management step, the quest is checked to see whether it has passed or failed the initial requirements to continue it. Each quest leg (row of steps on a quest) has a strength requirement listed at the front of that row. This is the amount of cumulative strength his adventures must have in order to pass this part of the quest. Sometimes there are weapon icons listed beside the strength requirement on a quest leg. This means that not only does this leg have a strength number requirement, but it also requires at least one adventurer to hold the listed weapon type. If no adventurer has this weapon type, the strength requirement is increased by +3.

If a player has started a quest but can not equip the adventurers sent with enough strength to continue, the quest will automatically fail and the player will lose 3 Victory Points for what the rulebook calls “severely disappointing the king”. This negative effect only happens when players are checking a quest they just acquired that Round. When failing a quest this Round that was previously acquired from previous Round, the player will not lose these Victory Points, and may even gain some depending on how far along they were on the quest when it was failed. We’ll cover this in just a bit.

Each adventurer can carry one weapon at all times. Adventurers are not equipped until they are sent on a quest, therefore once a character is done with a quest, his equipped weapon is discarded and a new weapon will have to be forged to equip him again when sending him out on his next quest. When equipping an adventurer, the player will choose which weapon to forge for him. Each weapon lists the resources needed to make the weapon and the “level” requirement for an adventurer to carry it.

For instance, the Forest Warden is a level 3 spear weapon that requires an iron ingot and an emerald to make. When equipping this particular item, it will provide the adventurer with 4 strength and a spear icon to the quest. Multiple adventurers can be sent on a quest as long as they are equipped with a weapon and their level matches the requirements for that weapon. Note that players can only forge weapons that they have previously learned how to make.
Enraged Forest Spirit is a quest that will appear in Act II and requires a strength of 3 to begin the quest during the 1st leg. By the 2nd leg, an axe weapon will be required along with a total strength of 8. If he can not equip adventurers with an axe, a strength of 11 will be required instead. After acquiring the quest from the game board, Player A places his quest marker on the first step of the quest. He then immediately enters the management portion of the Quest Phase in which he must send adventurers on this quest.

 

He decides to forge an Mithril Axe with a strength of 5 (by paying 2 Mithril ingots), equipping it to one of his level 2 adventurers (this axe has a level requirement of 2). The resources paid are placed on the adventurer along with an axe token as representation of which weapon he is holding.

 

He then decides to forge the Forest Warden with a strength of 4 (by paying an Iron ingot and an Emerald) and equips it to his level 3 adventurer (this spear has a level requirement of 3). This provides him with a total of 9 strength, including the required axe. This may seem like a bit overkill, but keep in mind that the strength requirements will increase for each leg of the quest, although you are allowed to add adventurers and even upgrade weapons during each management portion of the Quest Phase.

 

 

Resolving Quests

After a player has completed his management steps, his quests are checked to see whether they have passed of failed. If failed, all adventurers are removed from the quest and their weapons (resources) discarded back to the supply. If a leg had previously been completed before failing this step, the Victory Points listed at the end of that previous leg in parentheses is awarded as compensation for at least completing part of the quest.

For instance, taking a look below at the Enraged Forest Spirit quest, if Player A was on the 2nd leg of the quest when he failed, he would still receive 4 Victory Points from already completing the 1st leg.

 

 

If adventurers have enough strength to pass, the quest marker is immediately moved to the next step of the quest. Sometimes this will mean moving it from the end of one leg of the quest to the beginning of the next. When this happens, any rewards other than Victory Points in parentheses listed at the end of that leg are immediately awarded. These can include gold, free market cards, bonus Mine action, etc. In this case, when Player A moved his quest marker from the 2nd space of the 1st leg to the 1st space of the 2nd leg of the Enraged Forest Spirit quest, he would have collected 1 Emerald gem. Note that when a quest marker is moved to a new leg, the requirements for that leg do not have to be met until after the player’s next management step of the following Quest Phase. The only time quests are checked for pass/fail is at the end of that step.

You’ll notice that some quests have numerous legs and some may only have one or two. This is important in that players can level up adventurers based on the number of legs on a quest when fully completing it. For instance, if the Enraged Forest Spirit quest was completed in full, it would reward a maximum of three “level up” bonuses since there were three legs involved with the quest. Each adventurer can only use one of these bonuses at a time, so if there were only two adventurers on the quest when it was completed, each could increase their level by one, the 3rd bonus would be lost. Because of this, sometimes it may be a viable strategy to load adventurers onto a quest you are about to complete, just to level them up. Of course, you’ll have to pay the resources to equip them with a weapon, only to see it discarded as soon as the quest is over.

Each adventurer’s maximum level is 4. The importance behind leveling (other than weapon requirements) is that once an adventurer has reached level 4, he’s considered a champion. The player will immediately be allowed to switch his level token out with a special champion token. Each player has a set of 20 different champion tokens to choose from. They include bonuses that will resolve when the champion adventurer is on a quest, such as extra Victory Points when scoring quests, mace weapons are always considered active, and even one that allows you to skip to the 2nd or 3rd step of a quest when beginning it.

 

 

 

 

V. The Cleanup Phase:

After all players have finished resolving their quests steps, certain maintenance functions will need to be taking care of before moving on, depending on whether it is the beginning of a new Round, a new Act, or even towards the end of the game.

 

 

End of a Round

After all players have resolved their questing steps, the Round ends. Depending on the number of players in the game, a number of Quest cards will be removed from the left-most Quest card spaces on the game board:

– In a 2-player game, the cards from the three leftmost spaces are removed.

– In a 3-player game, the cards from the two leftmost spaces are removed.

– In a 4-player game, the cards from the leftmost space is removed.

Only Quest cards from these spaces are removed at the end of a Round. If they were already removed when player’s acquired Quest cards during the Round, players will not remove additional cards to make up for them. Remember, that at the beginning of every Round, the remaining Quest cards are then shifted to the leftmost vacant spaces before drawing new Quest cards.

 

Before moving the Round marker to the next Round on the track, players will resolve any Round bonuses awarded for the current Round. These are designated by the random tiles that were placed on the board at the beginning of the game. Some of these bonuses many include collecting an extra resource for every three resources of that type they currently hold, gaining an extra adventurer if they have the exact amount of active quests listed on the tile, or immediate gold/victory points bonuses for every active champion adventurer they own.

 

 

End of an Act

As mentioned before, a game of Forge War spans three full Acts (if playing the advanced game) containing six Rounds each. At the end of the 6th Round, a new Act will trigger. Players will need to do a bit of maintenance to the board and play area before beginning the next Act. This includes:

– Removing all Overseers and Mine workers from the Mine area. Then remove all current Act tiles and replacing them with the new Act’s mine tiles. These will include new ingot and gem types not previous seen in the Mine, as players have dug deeper into its depths. Before players begin the 1st Round of the next Act, they will take turns placing their Overseers on the new Mine area, in the same way they did at the beginning of the game.

 

– All Market cards on the game board are removed from the game board, with the exception of any weapon schematic cards not yet revealed from the weapons draw deck, as well as weapon schematic cards already face up below the board. The new Act’s Market cards are then placed in their corresponding draw areas. There are a few Act specific rules for how the weapons card deck is configured for Act II and III. Some of the schematic cards are added to the area below the game board, while some of the regular weapon cards are randomly discarded before the Round begins.

– All Quests still in the Quest area that were part of the previous Act are removed, then eight new Quest cards from the upcoming Act are drawn and placed in the Quest area. These Quest will be harder and more difficult to complete, but contain wealthier rewards and Victory Points.

– After the 5th Round of Act III, all Act III Quests are removed from the board and replaced with the purple Act III quest cards. All of these include one-step Quests that players can grab and immediately complete in the final Round, if able. Some examples of these one-step Act III quests can be seen below:

 

 

End-Game Scoring

After the end of the 6th Round in Act III, the game has ended. While players accrue Victory Points when completing (and even failing) quests during the game, a large amount of Victory Point can be score at the end of the game. Player’s will add the following Victory Points to their overall total:

– All Victory Points from owned Market cards. These include Booth cards purchased during the game as well as any Weapon cards and schematic cards the player learn in the game. All of these cards have a listed Victory Point icon in the top-right corner of the card.

– Each Champion (level 4) adventurer a player has is worth 5 Victory Points. All other adventurer are worth 1 Victory Point per level.

– Players will sell all leftover resources per the merchant price. The player will then total all gold they have and gain 1 Victory Point for every 4 gold.

After totaling these items, the player with the most Victory Points claims victory, and is allowed to scoff at his opposing player’s collective ineptness.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts:

Forge War takes a variety of simplistic mechanics, such as area control, worker placement, progressive engine-building, and resource management (to name a few), and combines them to create a deep and challenging strategy game. While the basic 7-Round game can be completed in under an hour, it is the advanced three Act experience where Forge War really shines.

Players begin with the lowly knowledge of making copper swords and daggers. Certainly nothing to write home about. Players are tasked with multiple engine-building undertakings, from learning new weapons (especially those of different types), collecting the needed resources for forging these weapons, amassing the gold needed for maximizing their action opportunities in the village market, along with managing adventurer’s and their levels, all while balancing the needed requirements for starting, continuing, and completing their collected quests. It can be a bit intimidating at first in trying to figure out the best balance in administering all of these at once. Yet, the mechanics are so simple and intuitive that players can focus more on the errors of their chosen strategy as opposed to worrying about their errors with the ruleset.

With each new Act comes new resource types in the Mine, new more powerful Weapons that can be forged with these resources, and more difficult and challenging Quests. While most of the Quests in Act I are fairly simplistic and manageable, the difficulty in completing these Quests increase from Act to Act. It becomes important to plan efficiently ahead of time for what you’ll need in the upcoming Acts. Poor planning in any one area can set a player back a few Rounds, trying to make up for the items he needs, whether it be more gold, a specific type of weapon, or specific resources. We found in our first play that it is quite easy to run out of gold, and can put one in quite a bind if spent poorly, being that the only main ways to gain gold are the “1 gold” action space in the village market, and by completing steps in a quest. Players can use their merchant, but are limited to selling one resource every Round, and being that resources are not the easiest
thing to collect, it becomes counter-productive to lean on your merchant for consistent income.

I’ve found it is then important to plan in a way that you are able to generate gold consistently from Round to Round. Many of the quests in Act I are short and will reward gold from leg to leg, so I find it important to focus on these types of quests first. Also, jumping on a few of the weapon schematics early on can gain you some income from other players when they need to learn them. Gold is used for almost everything, from gaining Quests, learning Weapon schematics, purchasing Market cards, and training new adventurers. Yet, it may be the hardest commodity to come by in the game. This results some steady and tight strategy from Act to Act.

For those that enjoy Lords of Waterdeep, Forge War can be thought of as its more advanced, scholarly brother with a doctorate. Thought the mechanics don’t necessarily resemble one another (besides the worker-placement aspect), its the feeling of generating adventurers and sending them out on quests that bring the two together in my mind. Forge War is deep, can be quite tough, and when playing the advanced game, fairly lengthy (pushing the 3-hour mark), but it’s one that I’ve felt fully invested in for all 3 hours, attempting to squeeze all the Victory Points I can out of my little raiding party of adventurers, with the shiny, metal laden instruments of destruction that I’ve equipped them with. I could go on and on about all of the different strategies and avenues I’ve found in this game, but for now I’ll just encourage you to give it a go.

 

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One thought on “Radio Review #75 – Forge War

  1. I absolutely loved this review and want to buy this board game NOW. Been looking at it for ages but didn’t know if I would like it. Now I know better!

    Like

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