Board Game Review - Warlords of Europe

Last week Jester and I had a very neat opportunity - we got to play a board game with the designer. The game was Warlords of Europe - a territory control game with some really neat mechanics. The game has gotten pretty solid reviews on Board Game Geek and we were excited to give it a shot.

At it's very core the game is a Risk derivative. You have plastic troops on different territories and you try and take over adjacent territories. You roll dice to see if your attackers are successful in killing the defenders, or if they themselves are defeated. I know in some circles comparing a game to Risk is poor form, but this gives us a good base line to build up from in describing the game.

On the first turn your only goal is to take your starting kingdom. You do this by invading territories and defeating the peasants within. By claiming your complete starting kingdom you gain a bonus to your gold each turn, and you also get four free spearmen. So far when we have played everyone has managed to accomplish this - we are pretty sure that if you fail to take your starting kingdom you would have a very uphill battle for the rest of the game.

From here the game is influenced by quite a few different games and has a couple of new interesting mechanics that we are pretty high on. If you are defending, depending on what type of terrain you are in you roll a larger dice - d8 standard, d10 for forests, and d12s for Mountains or castles. There is also a mechanic to where you can increase your die roll for initiative (kind of like bidding for for first turn in Shogun/Samurai Swords.)

The game also uses cards. There are three types of cards available - the Pope card, Merchant Cards, and Conquest Cards. Everyone gets a pope card every turn (unless you make the Pope mad), you get a conquest card for capturing a fief, and you can purchase a merchant card each turn (which you really need to do.)

The cards vary widely in power - some cards you will find useless for your current game, and others are all powerful (it isn't quite that bad but there is a wide range of how much gold each card is 'worth' - many cards produce units so that is how you can kind of figure out how much they are worth.)

The first turn is spent taking your home territory, the next turn you advance out into the contested zone, and then all hell breaks loose as there are no more empty fiefs and you have to start attacking other players. This is the meat of the game and it is a blast. Combat is very bloody to both sides (unless you are attacking a bunch of knights holed up in a castle with a few spearmen - in that case you are boned.)

Attacking and defending in this game is brutal. You can figure the odds by looking at what you have and what your opponent has, but what really throws a wrench into your plans is the cards. The cards can be huge - they can swing an entire battle if you are willing to play enough of them. This is where the meta-strategy comes into play - if you spend all your cards attacking an opponent, they will be able to rock your socks next turn. Also, if two players trade a few territories and spend most of their cards, they will then be easy pickings to a third of fourth player.

All in all this is a very fun game with quite a bit of depth and lots of replayability. It is definitely better than Risk, and is even up there with Axis and Allies and other classic area control games.

For a bit different take on this game you can check out Fulminata's blog where he has a review up.