Warband: Against the Darkness is a board game for two to five players ages 10 and up by Micah Fuller with art by Joseph Shawcross.
The game, from Dyskami Publishing Co., plays in 60 to 90 minutes and retails for $49.99 but can be found for about $10 less.
In Warband, players take on the roles of fantasy characters trying to protect their land from the hordes of the Darkness.
But that doesn’t mean they’re friends. Their goal is to gain the most glory for themselves along the way.
How it works:
Players can take three actions each turn. They can tax to get money, train to put them on the roster, making troops ready for battle, or to upgrade their skills (which costs money, as well); deploy scouts, which help them avoid injuries in battle and can mean points at the end of the game; and fight.
Each turn, a player can upgrade one ability, which allows him to do those actions with more effect.
Fighting is the heart of the game, but it’s played very differently than a typical wargame. Enemies have cards that show how many troops in each platoon are needed to engage in battle. The roster must have enough troops to fight all three enemies for a player to fight.
The player who decides to fight has to pay the captains on the roster (those with the majority in a platoon). Then the player automatically wins the fight. The platoons take casualties, sending troops back to their players. That can also mean the captaincy changes hands.
There’s a lot more to the game, but that’s the basics.
Why you might buy Warband: Against the Darkness:
This is a really interesting take on a war theme. It’s more about the politics and bureaucracy of war than it is about battle.
The game plays in a European style, collecting victory points, moving cubes, and trying to build a system that will work.
But it adds an American flair by having all characters participate in battles, which means every player is involved on every turn.
The game works really well. It offers lots of choices, and your decisions matter.
There’s a bit of luck in terms of which enemies are available to fight, but luck won’t win or lose the game.
The character art is very good and not at all bloody, despite the theme.
The theme is engaging enough for younger players, but the fighting doesn’t have a dark feel to it. The enemies aren’t even pictures. Their cards just have the information you need to defeat them.
Warband is easy to teach, though it’s less easy to learn from the rulebook.
The length of the game seems just right.
Why you might not buy Warband: Against the Darkness:
The box cover makes this game look like an epic battle. It’s just not.
The rulebook is slightly confusing here and there. It may take a careful reading or two to figure some rules out. That said, all the information is there.
I love this game. It works great with two players, and equally well with more, which is a rarity.
It has complexity, but it’s easy to understand. I love the art and the fact that the game doesn’t ever feel brutal.
Each character has a special ability that makes certain actions a bit easier, but it never feels like the game is forcing you into a particular strategy.
There is always a good choice available to you, but it’s not always easy to see what the best choice is.
I also like that you’re not fighting your opponents, but you are trying to push them out of powerful positions. That makes for interesting — and subtle — tension.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Warband: Against the Darkness from Dyskami Publishing Co. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.