I’ve always been in love with all things Japanese so when I saw this dice game advertised in GTM and other game magazines it was a natural automatic buy – more so when it’s being sold from Fantasy Flight Games, one of the better game manufacturers around.
Age of War – the game is small, MUCH smaller than I’d been given to believe when looking at the ads for it. When the hubby brought it home it was tucked in his backpack and I didn’t understand how he managed it at first. The small box retails at less than fifteen dollars, a great deal for those of us not willing to shell out twenty, thirty dollars over a game that we’re not sure of. Sealed in a lovely plastic shell the box contains the cards needed for the game, dice, and two plastic bags for both – which as any dedicated gamer knows, is pure gold.
The gameplay is short and sweet – in a nutshell it reminds me of Elder Sign, another VERY cool game from the same company. In Age of War you are trying to conquer castles by throwing seven dice and then matching symbols on the cards. Once you match all the symbols you take the card to your side. Gather all the cards from the same clan and you turn them over, garnering more points AND making it impossible for your opponents to steal the card/castle from you by matching the same symbols plus an extra daimyo symbol.
It plays much like Elder Sign in that when you fail a roll you subtract a dice from your remaining stack – so you can easily end up running out of dice to complete the card. At first this doesn’t seem like a problem and is actually part of the strategy as you try to complete the lines needed to take the card/castle or to steal it from another player BUT it does get annoying after awhile because there’s no way to avoid just plain old bad rolling. In Elder Sign you have the opportunity to reroll some or all of the dice, store some away for future use and some straight-out changes due to spells and the like.
Age of War has none of that – you roll and you get what you get. This might make the game simpler in that there’s not as much strategy in trying to figure out what to save and what not to save but it gives the game a level of frustration as you roll and reroll five, six dice to get a single symbol and blow it. (Yes, I’ve done it. So has the hubby. A LOT.) Each time you fail a roll you subtract a dice from the pool making it more difficult until you just can’t complete the task and your turn is over.
The colors on the cards to depict the separate clans are a bit more washed out on our copy than on the website, making it difficult to tell which belongs to whom. It’s not a big thing but could be annoying to those keeping track because the more clans you complete the less your opponents have to steal from you – and believe me, without any rerolling mechanic it’s almost impossible to steal castles from other people.
We haven’t played it yet with more than two people but can’t really recommend it for a two-player game. It gets too easy to fall into a “You take this, I’ll take that” mentality which doesn’t really work. It’s not a bad game but really suited for more than two players. And, again, the lack of any rerolls makes it a somewhat frustrating experience if you’re having a bad day. It doesn’t unbalance the game but… well, you get what I’m saying.
If you’re looking for a fast dice game Age of War might be for you. It’s a lovely theme game with nice artwork and beautiful dice. But if you’re looking for more strategy and less frustration I encourage you to look over Elder Sign for a more challenging time.