As most of the board games I play tend to hover somewhere in the 2+ hour range, I’ve been on the lookout for a game which would be easy to set up and play in about twenty minutes or so. I came across Age of War by accident, and it’s the perfect “filler” game when you want a palette cleanser in-between lengthier and more dense titles.
Age of War, like Elder Sign (and, if you’re not familiar with Elder sign, check out my review of it HERE, along with my review of the Gates of Arkham expansion HERE), is a dice rolling game where you need to match certain symbols on each die with a series of tasks laid out on a selected card. AoW comes with fourteen small square cards representing different castles within certain Japanese clans, with six colors in total – Green, Red, White, Purple, Black, and Yellow – for each of those clans. Each card, or castle, has a number of tasks associated with it which must be completed in any order if you want to capture that castle. The symbols – daimyo, cavalry, archers, and infantry ranging in value from one to three – must be accomplished in a single roll, depending on what you might be trying to attain. For instance, if one of a card/castle’s three tasks is an archer and cavalry, you’ll need to roll at least one of those symbols on two of your seven dice. If you fail, you set one of those die aside, bringing your total to six, and roll again. This continues until you either manage to capture the castle or are unable to do so. The game ends when all castles have been captured and removed from the board.
Cards/castles come with a number of points which count toward your score at the end of the game. If you have a full set of cards from a clan – so all of the red ones, say, or black – you get a bonus number of points as well. Additionally, your opponent cannot steal any of those castles from you if you have a complete color set. Stealing is Age of War’s greatest strength, and an interesting strategy mechanic in an otherwise largely luck-based game. Say you managed to capture one of the yellow castles, and your opponent needs it in order to complete their set. Every castle save one (green, as their clan is smaller, has only a single castle representing their clan) has a red daimyo symbol in the upper left corner. If you have a card your opponent wants, they can attack your castle by rolling their dice just as they always do, covering any completed tasks – of which you can only do one at a time, in any roll – with the appropriate die. In addition to fulfilling all tasks as they normally would, the attacker must also roll an additional daimyo symbol represented by that red task marker. Should they, your opponent can steal the castle from you and place it in front of them.
The longest game of AoW we’ve played came in around thirty minutes, and that was a result of some truly spectacular dice rolls. Spectacularly awful, I should say. Age of War is perfect for wanting to unwind when you don’t want to think too heavily while talking around the table, and if you like mechanics where you can backstab (to a degree). Nothing too strenuous, but the perfect light experience. I think I managed to pick my copy up for fifteen bucks, and it’s totally worth it at that point of entry. Won’t knock your socks off, but recommended for what it is.