Game Review: Warriors of God

I don’t recall exactly how Warriors of God made it onto my BoardGameGeek wishlist a few years ago, but I recently had the opportunity to trade for a copy of it. By “recently”, I mean “more or less around Christmastime of last year”, which was also about the time I acquired a copy of Eclipse, which has ever since then dominated the medium-to-long-duration gaming scene around here. (If you haven’t played Eclipse, don’t bother reading this review and go buy a copy of that first. Come back to Warriors of God in a year or so when you’re tired of Eclipse.) On Sunday, Mystie and I finally sat down to give Warriors of God its just chance at winning our hearts.

It was about four hours later when, midway through turn 5 (of 12) and after Mystie flipped the board over and stormed away1, I realized this was not going to be a big hit.

Actually, I’d realized it wasn’t going to be a big hit approximately three hours earlier, when I was about halfway done with both an initial reading of the rules and my second glass of wine. This game is published by a wargaming company, and although it probably only qualifies as a very light wargame, the rules have a certain wargaming style about them. The first problem you may encounter is that it’s not clear exactly how one wins the game. Once you figure out how to win the game (controlling areas, I think), you have to hunt a bit to figure out exactly how you control areas. All the rules are laid out in a sort of numerical outline, which (from what I’ve seen) is common in wargames. However, I get the impression that wargame rule writers labor under the belief that putting rules into a numbered outline somehow magically organizes them in a fashion that makes sense, and there is where our opinions part ways. I would have liked a brief overview of what I’m trying to accomplish in the game (and how to accomplish it) before diving into the bulleted outline.

If you can make it through the rules with a vague comprehension of what you’re supposed to be doing (take control of areas), and if you also have a solid grasp on how exactly you get those areas (have leaders there and be lucky with dice), then the next thing you may discover is that it’s not at all clear what strategies and tactics will carry you loftily to your goal. Our first few turns of the game, therefore, consisted of putting troops on the baord and moving them in a semi-random fashion. I learned, for instance, that as the French, it is probably not the best opening move to attempt to invade England. (Similarly, this move is not markedly more likely to result in success on turn two, three, or four, though not for want of trying.) In my vain attempts to figure out how combat worked and what was likely to win a battle, I lost nearly every one. However, I somehow still stayed in the game thanks to controlling areas away from the main center of conflict. (Hint: each leader has a home territory, and it’s really easy for a leader to take control of his home territory. No dice involved!)

One of the real problems I have with this game (apart from the fact that it’s simply not very fun) is the fiddliness of the pieces on the board. The game uses square cardboard chits, a unique one for each leader as well as some generic ones shared by both sides to represent troop strength. The troops have to be assigned to a leader at all times, so you stack troop chits under the leader chits. However, troop chits are worth varying values of strength. This means that to figure out how much strength a leader has with him, you have to deconstruct the entire pile of chits and spread them out. This rapidly gets messy in a battle involving five or six leaders.

Another issue that some have complained about is the game’s reliance on dice. You certainly have to be lucky, as there are not a whole lot of die rolls but every one counts and can swing momentum significantly. I didn’t really have a problem with it in our game, but I could understand the complaints from people who do.

Ultimately, we quit after 5 turns when the (paper) board was inadvertently jostled–er, rather, when Mystie flipped the whole thing in a furious rage–and chits shuffled their way out of position. The problem was not the shuffling, which we could have rectified. The problem was we didn’t really want to continue, because the game wasn’t really fun.

Scoring Breakdown: Warriors of God

Score Comments
Aesthetics +1 This is a nice looking game, and it has Henry V quotes smattered all over it for good measure. (I’m pretty sure the Shakespeare was the only reason Mystie agreed to play it in the first place, that and she’s a sucker for anything remotely historical in that era.) My only complaint besides the fiddliness was that on some of the chits they use a font that is dangerously close to Papyrus, which is essentially a mortal design sin.
Components 0 Component quality was fine (though I’m not a fan of the wargame-style paper boards), but the chits were fiddly as all get out.
Rules 0 For all my griping, they weren’t really that bad. However, I really think that they could’ve been streamlined better. A single turn has 11 (eleven!) phases, and the quick-reference cards don’t always have enough information to tell you how to perform each phase.
Fun -1 This felt more like a slog than a game. Perhaps in that regard it’s a more accurate simulation of the 100 Years War than I give it credit for.

Ultimately I’d give this game a pass, and it’ll likely be back on my trade/sale list in the near future.

All this wargame-griping notwithstanding, I have a copy of Combat Commander: Europe in my closet, which is another game acquired (as a gift) at Christmas and which has still not seen the tabletop. (I’m telling you, Eclipse is where it’s at.) I have, however, just managed to make it all the way through CC’s rulebook (which was much more daunting than Warriors of God), so if I can manage to sweet-talk Mystie back to the wargaming table, expect to see another wargame review coming up soon.

  1. Dramatized for effect; actual history may vary

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