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Posted on Jun 20, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he said.” DVG’s “War of the Worlds” Game Review

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he said.” DVG’s “War of the Worlds” Game Review

By Rick Martin

The War of the Worlds – East Coast of America Board Game Review. Publisher: DVG Game Designer: Arnauld Della Siega with Kevin Verssen Price $59.99

Rick Martin

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. No index in the rule book.

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

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“Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

It was “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses … a walking engine of glittering metal … articulate ropes of steel dangling from it.” – Narrator, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

After the US Army was devastatingly defeated in the Battle of Louisiana, the survivors regrouped. Hearing from the refugees who fled from Texas how the state was overrun by the Martians and their tripods who brought with them heat beams, black gas and the surreal red weeds, the Army decided on a two prong attack. One prong would confront the invaders in Ohio while the other would cut off the Martian reinforcements in Pennsylvania which had landed in Florida and then charged north a few weeks before. This would be the final battle to free half of America from the Martians and their dreaded tripods. Meanwhile, in New York City, Nicolas Tesla worked frantically to understand and adapt a captured tripod in to a weapon that could free the Earth.

So went one of my games of Dan Verssen Games’ “The War of the Worlds – US East Coast”, a new solo game which can also be played co-operatively with the game running the dreaded Martian invaders.

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 reviewed the “East Coast of America” game but other editions include England, France and Japan. DVG states that all four games can be combined to form a global campaign against the Martian invaders!

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.

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.

Della Siega’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 Della Siega 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. I just wish that DVG had included artwork for all the countries in each game.

The East Coast edition 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. This, combined with a lack of clarity in some of the rules, led to some mistakes on the first play through of the game. For example, you’ll see in the pictures that I used the tripods on the map as the aliens advanced across America. But, the book says to use the Wave counters and put them in the plastic stands then put the tripods in the “tripod staging area”. Man, oh man, 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. Two tripods met the fate of being mutilated until I figured that out.

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 Events 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.

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 and within the regions are states. Some states 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.

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 Battle Cards. It works well and gives the player a feeling of fighting against an alien intelligence.

The event cards add random elements such as Nicolas Tesla capturing a tripod and reverse engineering it, Mark Twain rallying morale, etc. 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.

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. (During my play through, we lost four ships full of refuges when the tripods quickly sank two warships and decimated the refugee fleet). 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!

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!

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.

When my review game started, the Martians had a huge number of tripods which had been released in Texas plus some in Florida and one or two in Minnesota. I quickly lost control of Texas as refugees poured from the state. I defeated the aliens pretty quickly in Minnesota and set up a large force to keep them from advancing north from their landing area in Florida. I then sent an army to Louisiana with plans to defeat the aliens who had almost destroyed Texas. Unfortunately, my forces in Louisiana were completely destroyed which forced me to split my armies near Florida in order to avoid a Martian flanking maneuver advancing from Texas and Louisiana. These are the types of decisions that the game forces you to make. You also have to guard your major industrial centers and ports from additional cylinders which may plummet from the sky and land tripods literally anywhere.

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. Or Tesla may help by perfecting his reverse engineered human controlled tripods and blasting the aliens away! 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.

In my review game, I had a military victory. While the germ track was on 4 (out of ten) with the Martian colonization track at 2 (out of 10), I attacked the Florida wave with all my forces and then pivoted my forces to defeat a few tripods in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I wish the designers had included some type of victory point chart which would strengthen the narrative of the game by telling you how well or how badly you did in the game.

Also with all the cards, maps, counters, dice, etc, the game box could stand to be a little deeper for storage purposes.

Don’t let the few issues I wrote about with War of the Worlds keep you from playing this fine, nail biting battle against the Martians and their tripods. War of the Worlds is a fine game system and, with the recent releases of both Nemo’s War and Wings of Glory War of the Worlds, shows the value of adapting classic literature in to exciting gaming experiences.

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.

2 Comments

  1. I have the England version of WOTW. I’m enjoying it so far. I do find the manual is bit awkward, with a lot of flipping back and forth to check the rules.

    I also found that the Flying Machine rule as written (Martians win as soon as they complete it) makes a Martian win too easy. Several folks on boardgamegeeks have advocated changing the rule so that completing the F/M only causes the rate of Martian Colonization to increase by one point per turn.

    • Glad you are enjoying the game. DVG just sent the England, France and Japan editions for review so I’ll have a review posted around September. I like how the folks on BGG are handling the flying machine rules – that sounds like a reasonable fix. Cheers and keep helping to save the Earth from those evil Martians.

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