Sunday, 14 August 2011

First Play: Wars of the Roses

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the Z-Man Games Wars of the Roses: Lancaster vs York boardgame for my birthday and thought I would report back on my first game.

Wars of the Roses, designed by Peter Hawes, is a 2-4 player game lasting around 3 hours.  The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box.  Not only is it stuffed with components, they are all really nice quality.  There is a large board depicting England divided into six regions each with their own royal castle, large and small towns and port. There are four thick player screens with castle artwork to conceal the players' planning charts each with useful historical and game related information printed on the inside.  There are an assortment of wooden cylinders and cubes in each of the player colours and some black and white cubes (for bribing the nobles).  Then there are the thick tokens and cards representing troops, money, nobles and the like.  Finally there are the cards representing the locations, nobles etc.  The boards, screens, tokens and cards are pretty clearly laid out and very nicely illustrated.

At its core this is an area control game played out over five turns, each representing a number of years.  The objective of the game is to amass victory points through controlling the various regions.  Each turn is broken down into eight phases:
  1. Determine Turn Order
  2. Draw Cards
  3. Collect Income
  4. Planning
  5. Deployment
  6. Bribery
  7. Combat
  8. Parliament
Turn order is determined by reversing the players' positions on the victory point track, thus the player with the least points will go first.  Then a number of cards are drawn and placed face up next to the board,  These represent the castles, towns, ports, bishops, nobles, ship captains and mercenaries.  The players take it in turn to choose a card which will become theirs to control.  Income is determined by totalling up the income generated by the cards that the player controls.  Play then moves on to the planning phase which is the meat of the game.

Players need to determine whether to move their nobles and ships, raise troops, bribe their own nobles to stay loyal or opposing noble to swap sides and spend money to influence the King to make them the Captain of Calais.  Other than movement these actions all cost money!  Once all the players have finished planning then the screens are removed and the remaining phases are played out based on what they have planned to do.

Attacks on castles, towns and ports can only be made when a player has a presence in the relevant region, which is where the nobles become important.  Combat is based on a simple majority approach but does deplete your forces dramatically, which is where player order becomes important as locations can change hands more than once in a turn.  Parliament is dependent on the balance of control in each of the areas influencing which house is in the ascendancy.

I have only had a single two player game so far but really enjoyed it.  I suspect that the addition of further players will only make the game more interesting and I am looking forward to getting this back to the table as soon as I can.