In war, not everyone is a soldier.
This is the tagline of This War of Mine, the hit mobile and console game from Polish indie developer 11 bit studios. It isn’t your typical war game like Call of Duty. You take control of a small team of civilians and refugees that are just doing their best to survive in a city under siege. In this pseudo-roguelike, you must command the characters under your care to guard their home, brave the streets in search of supplies, and commit less-than-heroic acts to survive the winter. Hey, sometimes you need supplies more than the other guy. Hey, sometimes your life is just worth more than his.
Now it’s a board game. Its Kickstarter campaign is still running, and it funded in just 3 hours of release, so there’s still time to get in on the action! Game designers Michał Oracz and Jakub Wiśniewski and the other designers at Awaken Realms (the studio in charge of the board game) were kind enough to send us a prototype copy of This War of Mine: The Board Game! Check out the Kickstarter page for information on the nuts and bolts—everything from here on out is going to be analysis and opinion.
This game is not a simple one; there are lots of systems and strategies that you will learn during play. Games this complex—with dozens of different types of counters and multiple characters and all sorts of interactions—always scare me a little when I open them, and This War of Mine was no exception. That’s why I was overjoyed to learn that the game does an incredible job of teaching you to play as you go along. In lieu of a traditional rulebook, This War of Mine includes a clever, in-universe journal that allows all players to jump right into the action as soon as the board is set up.
Speaking of the board, it’s gorgeous and looks just like the video game. In fact, a lot about this board game feels just like the video game in the best possible way. The gritty, silhouetted aesthetic of this game is present in all of its materials. There are spaces on the board for playing cards from the game’s seven decks. The most interesting part of the cards are the Reality Impact cards, which can be found in three of decks. These cards ensure that you are constantly in fear of losing everything you’ve worked for, as they appear without warning and have drastic consequences for your characters. War is hell.
The Reality Impacts also ensure that the game will never be the same twice—you will always have to adjust your planning on the fly, and the Aftereffect Mechanics ensure that your choices will always have Butterfly Effect-style consequences. What this writer is most excited about is that This War of Mine is a Co-op Game! There aren’t enough great cooperative board games out there, with Firefly: The Game being a personal favorite. You can also play the game solitaire-style if you want, but maybe you should just play the video game at that point.
Should you back this game on Kickstarter? This War of Mine: The Board Game is complex but manageable and learn-as-you-go. It’s every bit as brutally difficult as the video game, and the soul-crushing anti-war message it communicates might just prove that, yes, board games can be art. If that sounds like an adventure you want to take a couple a friends along for, head on over to the Kickstarter now to see what else is coming with the set.
Have you been affected by the emotional gut-punch that is This War of Mine? Have you had any great experiences with cooperative board games recently? Let us know about it in the comments, or tweet it to us at @GeekandSundry.
Image Credits: Awaken Realms