Kick The Box
Warlords & Sellswords Preview
Note* All Cards depicted are prototypes without any finished artwork, and are just shown to represent the game setup and mechanics.
Premise And Theme: At the heart of Warlords & Sellswords is a very balanced card drafting game , where your goal is to impress the king by building your new army to be the biggest, strongest, most bad-ass army in the region. There, of course, are stipulations. The King doesn’t want a weakened army, so he has outlawed any type of direct conflict. BUT, what the king doesn’t know won’t hurt him. You can murder, steal, and sabotage the other armies, while trying to expand your own (and of course, the other warlords will be trying to do the same to you.)
Setup is quick and easy. Shuffle all the cards (Wizards, Soldiers, and Supply Cards) together except for the Conscripts. This creates the Main Deck. Deal five cards to each player from the main deck. Than from right to left, or left to right, lay five cards face down. (We house ruled to place them face up. I’ll go more into detail later.) This creates the Caravan. Each player receives five conscripts and lays them face up in their area in a line. These are your first recruits for your new army.
Gameplay: There are 10 rounds, and within each round is four phases: Draw, Play, Cleanup, and Evaluation.
Draw Phase: This is to be completed by all players before moving onto the Play Phase. Starting with the first player, and moving clockwise, each player draws one of the cards from the Caravan, replaces the removed card with a card from the Main Deck and then draws two more cards from the Main Deck and places it into their hand.
Play Phase: After everyone has drawn their three cards, one from the Caravan, and two from the Main Deck, (Don’t forget to replace the Caravan Card before drawing the last two off the main deck.) The first player has choices of what he/she can do. They can choose to not play any cards and draw two cards from the main deck and end their turn. Or, they can start building their army, using the resources (i.e. Gold, Rations, or Arms) they have in their hand or they can discard two cards to gain one resource of their choice.
Clean Up Phase: This is only relevant if a card has a clean up phase. Resolve it during this phase.
Evaluate Phase: During this phase, The King sends out his adviser to each army and grants a Crown’s Favor to the strongest army. Each person counts the total power of their army, including all supplies, but not any of the previous recommendations. The player with the most power receives the Crown’s favor and a single recommendation. In the event of a tie, the player with the largest army prevails, and if that still is a tie, then the player in turn order closest to The First Player wins that round. The first player token moves clockwise, and you return to the draw phase, and play commences in this order until the end of the tenth phase.
Game’s End: After the tenth round has been completed, you skip the evaluation phase, and count up your power and your recommendations. The player with the the most power and recommendations has the highest influence and wins the game! If there happens to be a tie, all players in the tie win!
We were fortunate enough to play several two and four player versions of the game. Unfortunately, a fifth player eluded us during our play testing time. The wife and I played a couple of games with the Trade Caravan face down. We thought that wasn’t right, especially after drawing and placing the Sage card into our army, which has the ability to “Discard two cards, and Draw One Caravan card”. I referred back to the rules Patrick had sent me and read that face down was correct. We shrugged our shoulders and continued on. I emailed Patrick to reconfirm the ruling to make sure it wasn’t a mistype. He emailed me back and reconfirmed that they were to be placed face down, and the different backs(in this case, the colors of the sleeved backings) would let you know if it was a Wizard, a Supply card, or a Soldier that was in the caravan, but not exactly which one you would be picking up. Fair enough.
While waiting for the email confirmation, Wife and I had played a game with the Caravan cards faced up, and were ecstatic with the difference in gameplay. By this time, some friends we were waiting on showed up and we played two more games. One with the Caravan cards face down, per rules, and one face up. Only a couple of rounds into the second game, we all had agreed that the game play is much more exciting face up. The player interaction is increased ten fold. Usually, with a “You suck. I needed that card!”. And no matter what, you can never replace that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you knowingly screw up someone’s game plan.
With the Caravan cards face up, I found not only myself, but everyone else, working out a strategy and back up plans and more engaged with the game when it wasn’t their turn. (Can’t really do this if you don’t know what exact cards are in the Caravan.) This did increase the ability of the Sage card, but not overpowering by any means, and actually made it one of the more sought after cards in the deck with it’s ability to discard two, for one you can see, as opposed to discarding two in hopes you’ll get what you want.
We all enjoyed the game and the ease of it’s setup and gameplay. I wouldn’t consider it a medium card game, but it isn’t a light card game by any means also. It falls nicely right in the middle of the two.
The style of artwork gives the game a lighter tone, which can be less intimidating to non-gamer friends, especially since Sellswords & Warlords can easily be used as an introductory game to these friends. And with the depth of strategy, it will provide a great filler game for your gamer friends.
All the games we played were close to the end. It never felt like someone was running away with points. This is in part due to the Evaluation Phase, a great check and balance mechanic of the game. In order to gain the Crown’s Favor, everyone counts up their power to see who has the most. Now everyone knows where everyone else stands, and who ever gained this recommendation, is more than likely, going to be the target of the other players for at least the next round.
Even in it’s prototype form, I can see this game hitting the table often, with the only thing replacing it being the final production set.