We've got a new writer! Please raise your hands in the air and wave them like you just don't care for Elaine, who's giving us her own take on Lords of War and it's second iteration in the form of Elves vs. Lizardmen. - Efka
"Did I just shuffle in the general? Again?!"
If you don't know this game - and if you don't you should check it out - Lords of War is a strategy card game . What's that I hear you cry? Not another card game? Well, you're in for a treat. Saying it's 'just another card game' is like saying that a chocolate Hobnob is 'just another biscuit' (and if you've not had one of those either, you should. You can thank me later).
Lords of War is a game in which you guide an army into turn-by-turn battle. You play a card, next to one your opponent already has on the table, and attempt to do as much damage to their guy as possible. Each card has a number of arrows indicating in which directions you can attack and for how much damage. Another, shielded number in the bottom left corner shows how much defense your soldier has. To kill an opponent's man, you must do damage greater than (not equal to) this number. Simples. Most cards are melee combat only, but a few will allow a ranged attack too.
Ok, so that's the basic game - what about this set? And who's the general? Patience, young padawan. Firstly, I really enjoyed the previous set, Orcs vs Dwarves, so I was looking forward to seeing what was different with the new armies. However, I did have reservations - how much different could it be? Turns out, I needn't have worried.
The difference comes in the way you can attack your opponent's men - the angles and from which sides your army can shoot, stab or bite. And it's not random. Cleverly, each deck seems to have different strengths whilst remaining balanced and fair. The ranged attacks of the lizardmen, for example, often have a narrower but more interesting shape. For me this meant when I looked at the cards initially I didn't like them as much, but in fact they are more flexible than the elves if played properly. Actually, I found myself changing what I thought about various cards as the games progressed. You see, a game that looks as if it'll be a smash and stab blood fest actually requires a lot of tactical thinking. I'll give you an example. There is a card called an 'Elven Puresoul' which has an attack of 5 but a defence of only 1. I made a mistake in playing it too early, and it died almost instantly. In hindsight I should have kept it back and played it when the 5 damage would have really counted. If you play well and with a bit of luck, you can even lure your opponent into traps or back their men into a corner. Don't be discouraged if, like me, you make a few misplays at first. You'll soon realise that cards that look terrible initially will turn into gems if kept until later.
The theme of the set was something I was a bit unsure of too. I was worried that the creatures might be silly cliches - all elf hunters and idiot lizards. As soon as I saw the artwork though, I was totally sold. You want a bearded green battle tiger? You got it. Or a turtleoid tank? Got that too. Visually, the game is fantastic. In fact, there were points where I was (almost) tempted to allow my opponent a glimpse of my hand to show them an awesome-looking creature. The art is practical too - if a sword is pointing to the right, then you'll be able to attack in that direction.
Pretty pictures aside, don't the names of the creatures just want to make you start playing? Compy Dasher anyone? I loved shouting things like 'Hah! My Narcissus Foxglove's taking out your Skink Darksputter!'
Another great thing about this game is how portable it is. In a box the size of a Walkman you have two decks of cards and a playmat, so you can take it to play anywhere. It's more fun than a seagull with a bag of crisps - and easier to carry too . That's not all though. If you have the first set you can combine the two and pitch your lizards against their orcs - or even have your orcs and lizards against their dwarves. As long as you have your deck and your starting hand of 5 cards, plus the general, you're good to go. The general, by the way, is a card you'll always have in your opening hand. He's going to be your strongest guy - often with the ability to make a strong attack in a wide range of directions. He's the guy you'll want to protect - because losing him gives your opponent an additional turn.
Elves vs Lizardmen, indeed Lords of War, is a really great game and it doesn't matter whether you're a seasoned card shark or totally new to gaming. The mechanics are simple enough to learn it quickly but the strategy is complex enough to make you want to play again and again. I for one can't wait to have another game, and I'm excited about the new 'Templars vs Undead' set coming out in May. Now, where did I put my general?!