Friday, October 30, 2009

Card Game Review - Warlord (4th Edition)

I'm sad.

When I reviewed the Warlord: Learn to Play set, I was hopeful. I enjoyed it a lot, but it was a little limited, and I really wanted to construct my own deck and see what else was in the game. I was all excited to see more, and when I wrote to the guys at Phoenix Entertainment, I really wanted them to send me a bunch more cards so I could really put the game through its paces. And they did, so that's not why I'm sad.

In fact, I'm delighted to say that Warlord is everything I had hoped it would be. It's fast and exciting and deep and just plain fun. Where the Learn-to-Play set had just two factions (and one of them was the mercenaries, so that's not technically a faction anyway), now I have six. Where the Learn-to-Play set had only a limited number of cards, now I have a huge variety, and I can build a deck just the way I want it.

In fact, when you have the whole collection of the 4E cards, you'll have so much versatility, you won't know what to do with them. Will you play The Chosen, and sacrifice your followers to summon demons and dragons? Will you be the Deveranians, and hurl deadly fire spells while calling familiars to protect you? Or maybe you'll try the Elves, raising the dead and attacking from a distance. The options are wide open, and as you flip through the cards, you'll start to see some amazing combinations and strategies.

On top of having six factions with six different play styles, you've also got new abilities and feats. Powerattacking seems to be a favorite of the Dwarf decks, while Defend is big with the Free Kingdoms. The Elves have thieves and assassins who can Sneak behind enemy lines and go on panty raids. These abilities aren't limited to any particular faction, exactly. It's more like there are particular play styles that work better with specific decks, and so you'll see some Marksmanship more often in an Elf deck than you will in the Nothrog.

The game is still just as exciting as the Learn-to-Play set, but now it's far more balanced. For one thing, you can use the pre-built decks, but the option to customize your deck means that if you see a fatal flaw, you can correct it. Every faction has strengths and weaknesses, and you can hone your deck to try to shore up those soft spots and capitalize on your hard hitters, and that means that the play balance is provided as much by the players as it is by the game itself.

If you absolutely hate buying two cases of boosters just to wind up with 37 copies of the same worthless common that you only keep so that you have something to line the bird cage, you're going to love Warlord. In order to have all the cards in 4E, you don't have to buy several cases, set up complicated online trades with guys in Sweden just to find out that your cards in German, or mortgage your house so you can afford singles. You just buy all the sets and you'll have everything. No random boosters. No renting storage units to hold your extra commons. Just buy the cards, and you'll have them. It feels so much more honest than, say, World of Warcraft CCG. I swear that game's distribution scheme was invented by a credit card company.

Another serious high point of having all these cards is that you can start to really see the background and story behind Warlord. The Nothrog are the goblins and trolls and orcs and other ugly bastards that fantasy fiction loves to use as whipping boys and moving targets - but with siege engines and suicide bombers, they're not going to be kicked around for much longer. The Deveranians are wizards, and cast so many fire spells, they have to keep a supply of Bean-O on hand at all times (with all that flame around, they can't risk a poorly-placed methane explosion). The Chosen lead their thralls, who all think they're good leaders and so they'll willingly give up their lives, not knowing that their masters trade their souls like tokens in an Oklahoma casino. The noble Free Kingdoms stand against the bad guys, laying down their lives for truth, justice and hot pirate nookie. The Dwarves weigh in for the heroes, snapping necks and cashing checks, but they're a little preoccupied with the Elf necromancers and undead horrors.

I really love playing Warlord now. I love that the Learn-to-Play deck has different cards that you can't get in these sets, so it doesn't feel like a wasted purchase. Everything I liked about the starter set is in the full game, but it's so much better, it's like comparing Pop-Tarts in your kitchen to fresh pastries in Paris (unless your kitchen is in Paris, in which case I have to wonder why you're bothering with Pop-Tarts in the first place). All the stuff I love is in there, but now it's way more fun.

So I really love Warlord, but I'm still sad. I have a whole lot of cards now, and my wife really likes the game, and I can play just about as often as I want. But the problem is, now that Phoenix Interactive has sent me the first six sets for 4E, there's really no reason for them to send me more. Which means that I'm going to have to buy the cards now, plus any new releases, and since this is my new favorite CCG, I know damned well I will. I'm sad because between Warlord, Warhammer Quest and Legions of Steel, I'm never going to have disposable income again.


No blind purchase
Incredible depth of play
Lots of different styles
Tons of customization
Easy to learn, but not a game for sloppy tweaker kids who can't pay attention to details
If your opponent is good, mistakes will really cost you
Excellent pacing - turns could be over in seconds, but you'll agonize over every one anyway

I'm going to have to buy a lot more cards. My kids are getting socks for Christmas.

If you would like to discover a new addiction, man, do I have the game for you. Go here to get your first fix:


Hanamigi said...

You made me buy Chaos Isle, now this.
My wallet is sad :C

Matt Drake said...

But your head will be happy!

Anonymous said...

But first take care of Head - Sublime

Yep, another wish list addition. I am not that big into the card games, I like them, but with out dice I feel a little out of place, but this one sounds like another must have for me - thanks for sharing as always and great write up.

Maybe ask the company if they will trade more cards for a dice tower?


Hanamigi said...

I tried one game solo, which means me VS me, using the 27-card printable decks.
I must admit that my head is very happy, now I just have to grab some friends and drag them in this very endless circle of paper-based addiction.

Now Magic DOES taste a little bit more Pop-Tartish.