Age of War is a simplistic dice game that takes minutes to learn but provides hours of entertainment. Combining dice rolling and set collection mechanics it’s simple enough for my 6 year old to enjoy (ignore the 14+ recommendation on the box) but complex enough to regularly play with adults as well.
In Age of War Players assume the roles of competing daimyos (great lords) trying to conquer castles and unite the clans of feudal Japan. Castles and clans are depicted by cards placed in the centre of the playing area while each player’s army is represented by seven customised dice. Players take turns to roll the dice, trying to capture castles and earn the most points. Once all the castles are captured the game ends and the player with the most points is deemed the winner!
Sounds pretty simple right? Well it IS simple but, like all good games, well- implemented mechanics elevate this simple premise up to a great game. This is most apparent in the way you capture castle cards. Before getting into that though we need to look at the “anatomy” of the castle cards and dice.
Castle cards contain four important pieces of information:
A. The “battle lines” required to conquer.
B. A special Daimyo battle line.
C. The value of the castle.
D. The clan the castle belongs to
While the army dice comprise seven d6 with the following symbols:
To capture a castle card players must fill all of a card’s battle lines (represented by horizontal lines of symbols). Players begin their turn by rolling all seven dice and determining which castle they would like to attack. After selecting a castle card they begin filling one of it’s battle lines by matching the symbols on the dice with the symbols on the battle line. Infantry may be added together to achieve the required total while archery, cavalry, and daimyo dice are resolved individually. This adds a nice variety to gameplay as three of the six symbols on a dice are cumulative allowing players to calculate the risk of each battle line they wish to claim.
Any dice used to fill battle lines are placed on the appropriate spaces on the castle card and cannot be used for the remainder of the player’s turn. The player then rolls their remaining dice to try and fill another line. A player may only complete one battle line per turn (in any order) and, if a player is unable to fill a battle line on their turn, they must discard one dice then reroll the rest. This makes castle card selection very important as players must weigh the potential difficulty against the score they will receive if successful.
Sometimes it pays to take a risk however as Age of War allows players the option of not only capturing castles in the centre of the table, but from other players as well. To do this a player must complete the special Daimyo battle line in addition to the regular battle lines on a castle card. This adds a targeted competitiveness to the game that can make for some very interesting gameplay. Do you go for that castle card your opponent grabbed last round or try for one of the easier ones still on the table?
Fortunately there is a way to protect what you have conquered. Each castle card is affiliated with a particular clan – represented by the card’s colour, an icon in the bottom right and the clan name printed in the bottom left corner. If a players manages to conquer all the castles associated with a clan they stack all the castle cards together and flip them upside down with the card showing points on the top. This indicates to other players that the clan has been conquered and that the individual cards are now unavailable for theft. As an added incentive, clans are worth more points than their individual cards. For example Clan Oda is made up of four castles – Gifu, Azuchi, Odani, and Matsumoto. Individually these cards are worth a total of 7 points however, when the clan is conquered, it is worth 10.
Age of War’s presentation is flawless. The card’s are well designed, showing all pertinent information clearly and in duplicate to assist those who may be colour blind or unable to read. These subtle visual indicators may not seem important at first but they are invaluable in representing the information in the clearest possible way. A perfect example would be the icons on the back of each castle card. In addition to showing the card colour, clan logo and clan score they also display small icons depicting the number of cards that are in that clan. This affords the player a quick and easy way to ascertain how much of a clan they have collected, without having to look around the table and count cards.
As mentioned at the outset Age of War is a very simple game to learn and play. Cleverly implemented mechanics allow for strategic variety which is essential in a game built around the random roll of dice. That said the random nature of rolling and matching symbols makes it a game well suited to younger audiences as well as those who might wish for a more complex (or competitive) experience. Costing around $20 AUD this is a cheap and unique experience that, in my opinion, should be part of everyone’s gaming library! You won’t play it for hours on end but you’re sure to enjoy the 20 or so minutes you spend with it every time you get it out.