Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An expression of Risk

As I mentioned in my reviews for Seven Card Samurai and Shitenno, we're always on the lookout for a good samurai game, especially one that isn't a Risk clone as many games about feudal Japan tend to be. It may be a bit ironic, then, that I was drawn to Age of War, which started life as Risk Express, a Risk-themed dice game designed by Reiner Knizia and published by Parker Brothers in 2006.

Apparently, Risk Express didn't stay in print for very long, and for whatever reason, Fantasy Flight Games decided to give the game a samurai makeover, complete with new artwork for the proprietary dice and tiles that represent the different provinces of feudal Japan.

Each starts in the center of the table and is printed with one or more rows of symbols representing infantry, cavalry, archers, and generals, that must be rolled on the dice in order to conquer that province. The rows of symbols have to be matched one at a time, so it will take several rolls in order to conquer the province. If a roll fails to produce the symbols needed, the dice can be re-rolled, but each re-roll of a failed roll requires the player to remove one of the dice, until eventually the roll matches all the symbols needed and the province is taken, or the player runs out of dice.

In addition to conquering tiles from the center of the table, players can also attempt to take over their opponent's tiles, although it requires an extra "general" to be rolled. The tiles are matched by color in a group of four, two groups of three, three groups of two, and one single tile. If a player conquers all the tiles in a color group, they are worth more points and safe from attack, so an important element of the game is strategically choosing which tiles to go after, while keeping an eye on your opponents and preventing them from completing their sets.

If this sounds a little familiar, it's because it is very similar to Elder Sign, a Lovecraft-themed dice game also published by Fantasy Flight Games. Elder Sign adds a lot of elements to the game, giving it a more elaborate structure and adding cards that can be played to influence the dice rolls, but the core dice mechanic is the same.

I think that's all right though. Lovecraftian games need to be more complicated in order to fit the theme, and while I like Elder Sign, I also enjoyed the simplicity of Age of War.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) Age of War is far too simple to be really compelling, but it's a nice simple game that can be played in a short amount of time, and the small box makes it a good travel game.

Date played: October 14, 2014

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