Warband from Dyskami Publishing is a game not quite like any other. At the outset, players might take it as a cooperative fantasy war game complete with mythical races and a mysterious enemy. Deeper down, it is about resource-management and action-placement, akin to Euro-style logic games where victory points decide the winner. Designer Micah Fuller brings together two classic genres to make Warband a game all in its own.
The art in Warband is brilliant, going above and beyond to bolster the imagination where other games might just have had squares and numbers. Illustrations by Joseph Shawcross bring the many races of the Five Realms to life, from the monstrous Dragonfolk to the bestial Wolfaen to noble Elves and brave Dwarves. Fantasy cartographer Robert Altbauer lends his skills to enlivening the realms with windmill villages and round towers as touches of finesse. Each race carries its own powers, such as Giants gaining a bonus mercenary token or Halflings gaining extra gold, which will guide players’ strategy.
In play mechanics, Warband is a strategy game where players must skillfully calculate the best possible action given the options they have. As in many Euro-style games, each round comes with different types of phases. Players first manage upgrades to the collective warband, which is the assembled armies of their races, to defeat the ancient evil. In the second phase, each player individually takes actions: Taxing to raise money, Training to improve troops, Scouting to gather valuable Intel cards to aid in battle, and Fight, leading forces against enemies to gather glory.
Unlike in other fantasy games where battles are nail-biting affairs of rolling dice and hoping for the best, in Warband the Fight action is a clear and logical progression. The player who chooses to fight first checks the warband’s strength to ensure victory, then pays gold to the captains (who may be other players), and attempts to defeat the enemy, while taking casualties. It becomes a balancing act: you must get money to pay captains to fight; players gain captainship by having the most numbers in the different categories; they then take the casualties, but in turn grant powerful Redress bonus cards.
The war continues for a set number of rounds until the enemy is at last exhausted and retreats. In the new era of peace, the greatest champion of the war will rise to be the leader, the ultimate goal of Warband. Victory Points are earned through captured Enemy Cards, having war heroes (the highest level of soldier), captains, gold, scouts, intelligence, and more. With so many different ways to gain points, players will be able to follow their own paths of strategy: charging headlong into glorious battle or establishing themselves as chivalrous leaders or gathering useful knowledge or building an enormous reserve of treasure. As players get the feel of the game, they will come to hold favorites among the playable races.
Warband is a semi-cooperative, semi-resource management game for two to four players aged 10 and up. Games are typically relatively long, lasting more than an hour, as there is a great deal of potential action and plotting. Players who love intense mind games will become fast fans of Warband, which is available on Kickstarter with special pre-order bonuses.