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Posted on Oct 24, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Cylinders are coming down in Japan, the United Kingdom and France!  We must fight a world war against the Martians!!!”  DVG’s “War of the Worlds France, Japan and the United Kingdom” Game Review

“Cylinders are coming down in Japan, the United Kingdom and France! We must fight a world war against the Martians!!!” DVG’s “War of the Worlds France, Japan and the United Kingdom” Game Review

Rick Martin

The War of the Words – France, Japan and the United Kingdom  Board Game Review.  Publisher: DVG   Game Designer: Arnauld Della Siega with Kevin Verssen   Price  $59.99 each

Passed Inspection: easy to learn, fun to play, covers strategic maneuvering plus tactical land and sea battles, can be played in an afternoon, tons of replay value, different editions of the game can be linked for a grand Earth wide campaign

Failed Basic:  Rules need re-organizing and editing, needs an index, clarity issues, not enough plastic stands included in the game, plastic stands can damage counters if not careful, box not deep enough for easy storage of game components.  

In the interest of full disclosure, Richard Martin has designed multiple games for DVG – Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.

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 While the United States battled the Martians in my 2018 review of the War of the Worlds United States East Coast edition, the war has spread to many other countries and DVG Games has released three other War of the Worlds games coving France, the United Kingdom and Japan’s fight against the dreaded Martians.  Since Halloween is almost upon us, the time seems right to look at these other battlefields as humanity takes on the tripods!

Game Boxes

(Some of this review is reprinted from my 2018 review of the United States East Coast version of the game.  I saw no need to reinvent the wheel for this review.)

Dan Verssen Games (DVG) has done something really special with their The War of the Worlds game system.  They have put out four different versions of the game – each one using the same rules but with different event cards and maps reflecting the global battle against the Martians.  For this review, I have played the “Japan” game and will comment on the other games in the series.  Note that all four games can be combined to form a global campaign against the Martian invaders using the “League of Nations” rules included in each edition.

These statements from DVG’s Kickstarter explain the differences between the other editions of the game:

Nation Overview  

England  

This summary uses England as the baseline. All Nations start the game with roughly 20 Production Points (PP).

France  

While France enjoyed quality soldiers and equipment, it suffered from a lack of quality leadership. In the game, French forces are less expensive, but also less skilled. This will make their battles larger than English battles, but they will also suffer more casualties. They have the standard 4 PP cost to build Harbors, but must pay 3 PP instead of 2 PP to move Units during the Production step. Again, reflecting the lack of effective leadership. The Martians receive 4 Tripods in each Wave.  

Japan  

Japan possessed a small but well-trained military at the time. To reflect this, their Units cost a little more, but also have a better chance to carry out their orders. Their smaller geographical area makes for more intense combat with fewer movement options. The Martians have 3 Tripods in each Wave. Japan only pays 3 PP to build Harbors, and only pay 1 PP to move Units during the Production step. Battles in Japan will be close-in, intense, and highly mobile. Overall, the game will have a frantic feel.  

USA – East Coast  

The US fielded a small military force at the time. This results in them having fewer units at the start of the game. However, as seen a few decades earlier during the Civil War, the US is able to rapidly ramp up their production capabilities and quickly expand the size of their army. As the game unfolds, the US receives production bonuses to reflect this. The geographical area represented by the US map is larger than in the other games, as such, each Martian Wave is made up of 5 Tripods, and they tend to move a little less often. To match this, the US must pay 3 production points to move Units during the Production step. The US game gives a more lumbering feel with large forces bashing against each other.  

Nation Summary  

The design goal is to provide each game with its own feel while at the same time maintain almost all the core game rules across all the games. This makes it easy to go from one game to the next and quickly get up and playing.

France Map
Japan Map
UK Map

The War of the Worlds game was originally designed by Arnauld Della Siega (designer of No Man’s Land: Trench Warfare 1914-1918 published by Ludifolie Editions) and the rules were developed by Kevin Verssen.

Seiga’s original vision was a straight adaption of the events as described in Wells’ novel and would have taken place in the United Kingdom then Verssen adapted the rules to accommodate various countries and historical figures.

The collaboration between Seiga and Verssen has resulted in a truly unique and fun game which captures the tension of Wells’ novel.

The game features stunningly visceral but appropriately pulpy artwork by Nicolas Treil.  Each edition has country appropriate art.  

Each edition of the game includes:

24 page Rule Book

Mounted Display Board (22.5 inches by 25 inches)

Land Battle Board

Naval Battle Board

Player Help Sheet

Custom Dice

Counters and Stands

Event Cards

Land Battle Cards and Naval Battle Cards

The rules are written in a narrative/game play style which will be familiar to players of DVG games.  This style of instruction works well for play as you go learning but is a real pain when you have look up a rule as there is no index included in the book.  An index would be a huge help to look up terms and rules.

The rules also tell the player to put both the wave and tripod counters in plastic stands but there are not enough stands included in the game to put all the counters in.  Only about half of the units which need stands can be accommodated.  In addition, the card stock counters can get mutilated by the plastic stands.  I had to use scissors to push the “jaws” of the stands apart and then gently ease the counters in to them.   

There are multiple cards to be shuffled in to three piles.  The first are the Land Battle Cards which give the tripods their orders for land battles.  The second are the Naval Battle Cards which give the tripods their actions when fighting against ships at sea.  The third stack of cards are the Event Cards.  I found the wording in the rules to be confusing as the back of the Event Cards say Battle Events, Production Events, Devastation Events, etc. (named for each phase in a turn).  The rules show creating an Event Deck but only show putting Battle Events in to the deck.  In reality, all the different types of cards (aside for Land Battle and Naval Battle) are put in the deck and then shuffled.  When the face down event matches the phase that you are in, then that card becomes active.  The rules could have explained this in a little more detail. 

Event Card

The game board tracks turns, human and Martian victory points, Martian colonization points, germ points and production points.  The map is broken in to regions or prefectures as they are known in Japan..  Some prefectures are ranked for production/industry.  They have a base point value and then this can fluctuate based upon human casualties, Martian use of toxic black smoke, the region being infected by Red Weed, etc.  You want to keep production up as that is how you purchase your armies and ships plus battle plans to help defeat those fowl mannered tourists from the Red Planet.  Some regions are marked for being mountainous or hilly.  These terrains can work to the humans’ advantage.

 The game controls the Martians and the player controls the humans. It is possible to play cooperatively so more than one player can attempt to save the planet.  The AI which controls the Martians are on the Land and Naval Battle Cards.  It works very well and gives the player a feeling of fighting against an alien intelligence.

Land Battle Card

The event cards add random elements to the pay.  Some of the events can help you while some can hurt you.  The design strikes a dynamic balance and keeps thing moving along at a nice pace.  When an event card is marked on the back with the name of the phase you are in  during a turn, that event card immediately comes in to play.

The turn sequence is as follows:

1) Production Phase – purchase units such as infantry (good for setting traps for the tripods or building fortifications to protect your cannons), cavalry (good for scouting the aliens’ positions or drawing them away from civilians or getting more battle plans), field and siege guns for blasting those tripods in to scrap, activating a harbor to help fleeing refugees get to safety), moving units or building war ships to protect refugee freighters from the tripods.

2) Battle Phase – fighting those Martians on land– when a battle occurs it are played out on land maps. 

3) Devastation Phase – when Martians move, use heat rays and pump out toxic black smoke.  It is also during this phase that Martians can attack centers of production – hurting your ability to build forces to defeat those green marauders and generating waves of refugees who can cause issues in cities and ports

4) Human Action Phase – an extra phase to move your forces, infiltrate Martian landing zones and attacking their space cylinders and setting strategic traps which use explosives  to stop the enemy as they move across the land

5) Escape Phase – you get victory points for helping refugees flee to safety.  This is where ocean battles can occur – you use the ocean maps to try and get the freighters to safety while your warships try and destroy the tripods.    New Martian cylinders can also land during this phase.  When they do, they disgorge a machine to construct more tripods!  Also bear in mind that the Martians get victory points from capturing humans and harvesting their blood!  These guys aren’t nice, folks!

War at Sea

6) Martian Action and Assembly Phase – the Martians may repair damaged tripods, make more tripods, move and attempt to create a fleet of flying machines (as in George Pal’s classic War of the Worlds movie).  If the Martians make a fleet of flying machines, you lose the game!

Building a Flying Machine

Handy charts tell you what to roll and what to do when things begin to happen.

You’ll need to have containers present to drop in counters and then, when prompted, pull out the counters and see what happens.  Containers are needed for land based tripods, ocean adapted tripods and a container for battle plans.  Battle plans can be purchased during battles and they help you fight, create fortifications, etc.  The rules forgot to mention creating a container for battle plans during set up but this is referenced later in the game rules.

The game, itself, is very fun and immersive.  It pulls you in with the horror of the Martians and keeps ratcheting up the tension as the game goes along and the aliens advance across the country.

The Japanese board shows the prefectures in Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa.  Many of the charts you’ll need to play are conveniently reproduced on the board.

Hokkaido Devistated

While playing the Battle for Japan, I noticed that having a strong fleet of battleships was key to keeping the Martians from capturing refugees and scoring victory points for them.  In an area being ravaged by the tripods, a random number of refugees will attempt to get to a port and then flee by cargo vessel.  The Martians will try and capture the refugees for their own nefarious purposes.  Purchase you battleships and then send them towards a threatened prefecture.  Use the battleships to take on the tripods and hopefully allowing the refugees’ cargo ships to escape.  This need for a strong fleet makes sense based upon the “lay of the land” which, since Japan is an island nation, is mostly ocean.  Also when fighting on the land, the naturally hilly islands provide a definite bonus for the humans as they will have initiative much of the time.

Containing the Martian Threat

If the Battle for Japan tends to favor the humans because of the mountainous and hilly terrain, The Battle for France provides for a whole new challenge as the lack of steep mountainous terrain will favor the Martians in land battles.  Meanwhile the Battle for the UK features a nice mix of terrain much like the Battle for the Eastern United States.

Destroying a Tripod

While the Battle for the Eastern US features characters like Tesla and Mark Twain, each of the other editions has characters from their respective countries.  The UK has the characters from Well’s famous book while France has Monet, Proust, Dreyfus and even Dumont and his famous airship!  Japan has Futabatei and Emperor Matsuhito.  These characters come in to the game through event cards and give the humans an edge against the aliens by providing special abilities.

There are many ways to win this game and also many ways to lose it.  The Martians can be defeated by destroying their cylinders, building machines and tripods or as your victory points increase, the germs may kill them as happened in the book and subsequent films.  On the other hand, the Martians can wipe out all the human defenders and harvest the human race or they can so dramatically change our environment by the use of their red weed that humanity can’t survive on the Earth anymore.  It is these variables which add to the replay value of the game.

Each of these editions of War of the Worlds has a different feel.  You’ll have to adjust to the terrain as well as the different characteristics of each country.  Is there a sufficient difference to justify the price?  Yes if you love War of the Worlds like I do.

 I simply love this game series.  It is the perfect game to play during the Halloween haunting season!

So put on Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “The War of the Worlds”, set this game up and save humanity!

And if you can get that germ level high enough, you too can end the game by exclaiming:

“… slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.” ― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Armchair General Rating: 93 %

Solitaire Rating: 5 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Richard also is the author of three published board games – Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.

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