Today was a Marvel Dicemasters event at the store and even though I wasn’t playing I was helping run it for Sentry Box. While I was there I asked Bill to come down and introduce me to the Warhammer Diskwars game from Fantasy Flight.
Diskwars is a product that I was intrigued by when it was first announced but I passed it by during its initial releases. The reason was that the promotional material that FFG released made it look very character focused and less about troops and war machines. It wasn’t until the release of the second expansion, adding the Vampire Counts and a smattering of Skaven and Dark Elves, that I was able to see that it was more troop oriented and had a very good range of units and factions.
Elven dragon eviscerates a Night Goblin troop
I knew that Bill had the game and played it on a regular basis so I picked up a copy and we met today to play through a few games. I had been looking at DBA recently as a way to get a tabletop army fix without the need for an actual army in the manner that mass combat games usually require. I don’t have the time, energy or interest in painting 100s of figures. I also don’t really have time for the unruly irregularity of the DBA rules. Diskwars, in its own way, scratches that mass combat itch without requiring me to paint a damned thing and also doesn’t require me to try to try to decipher the DBA rules.
The first game was just a single regiment a side and my Chaos force quickly went down to a regiment of Lizardmen. The second game had me with two regiments of Ork, including a Rock Lobba, against Bill with his High Elves and Wood Elves. The second game was a slaughter as well but quite a lot more fun than the first game since there was a lot more to do, more combats and more strategy.
There are a few things that really make this an interesting game. The first is the initiative system. Players get two Command cards per regiment and these serve several purposes. First they determine which player goes first activation. Each Command card is rated as either Bold, Slow, Steady or Devious. In a “rock-paper-scissors” system each type of card is better than and also worse than one other card. Except for Slow cards that always go last. Each card also has a rating to determine the number of units that you can activate with it. And finally each card has a special ability that have different effects.
So when you go to pick a Command card you have several factors to weigh. Do you want to go first? Do you need to apply an effect to a unit before it gets attacked? Do you need to push units forward to pin enemies?
The scenario rules and objectives are also random. The player who loses initiative gets to pick a scenario rule from one of two cards. Players are then dealt a secret random objective. In our second game I picked a scenario rule that removed a Wound from all heroes. This had little effect one me as my Ork heroes all had two wounds but it left Bill’s heroes very much more susceptible to attack.
Terrain and deployment are also random and players get to alternate picking from four terrain cards and then four deployment cards. Each terrain card has two options and even picking terrain can be strategic as some factions get advantages from certain terrain (Bill’s Wood Elves were better in Rough terrain) and some terrain elements offered players the ability to deploy from them as well. Prior to even putting units on the table players have had to make several choices that will effect the play of the game and there are always trade-offs when determining what terrain and deployment options to take.
The game itself plays quite quickly. Combat is quite deadly and smaller, weaker units can quickly get removed from play if you aren’t careful. Ask my Night Goblins. Each unit has a Toughness value which is the amount of damage it can take in a round without being removed. If it has taken less than its Toughness in damage then at the end of the round that damage is removed. So you are on the look for match-ups between your units and your enemy’s where allow you to remove them without taking as much damage is response. Units have an Attack and a Counterattack value and it is not uncommon for one unit to pin an enemy in an attack and to be attacked in turn (see the photo above for an example). This situation leads players to have to choose between using their Attack value on the unit they initially attacked or their Counterattack value on the unit that pinned them. You can, with very few exceptions, only do one type of attack in a round so again the game presents the player with choices to make.
The photo at the top of this post shows Bill’s Fire Dragon attacking a duo of Night Goblin units. While the Night Goblins would normally not be able to dent the Dragon I had previously attacked it with the Rock Lobba and then used a Command Card to give one of the Night Goblins the Strength of Gork. Sadly the Rock Lobba scattered with one of its attack dice and squashed the other Night Goblin so my clever plan to remove Bill’s Dragon was in shambles.
With the two expansions that are currently available, Legions of Darkness and Hammer and Hold, the game provides a full range of units for Empire, Chaos, High Elves, Orks, Dwarves and Vampire Counts. It also includes a hero and enough units for a regiment of Wood Elves, Dark Elves, Skaven and Lizardmen. The game comes with terrain, dice and a range rules (there are three ranges in the game and no need for a tape measure) so you are really ready to game without needing anything other than a 3′ x 3′ area to play on.
Diskwars is also built for multiplayer and you can add a third or fourth player for potentially insane gameplay. I’ve not tried out a game of this size but Bill has and has said that they are quite enjoyable. I can see how they can quickly devolve to a wonderful chaos and the size of the game area makes sure that everyone will be at each others throats right almost immediately.
The game really fills a need, in my gaming repertoire at least, for a “mass” combat game experience without the miniatures and the time demands. Warhammer Diskwars is plays quickly, provides the player with a lot of strategic choices and has a very wide range of Warhammer Fantasy factions and units to provide the flavour of that game without the cost.
Diskwars is a modern delivery of the DBA game experience with the Fantasy Flight’s usual level of quality and components. If you are looking for a fantasy tabletop experience you should check it out.