Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game

There was a period of time in the early 00s that a group of friends had regular LAN parties.  I was fortunate to be included in these on a regular basis, and one of their most played games was a game called Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.  We played the multiplayer as a cooperative team, entering maps to clear them of hostiles.  It was a refreshing change from many long matches of Unreal Tournament or Quake III.  Speed was not the objective, skill and planning were.  And even though you could play the match with friends being spawned back in on the chance they were killed, I considered it a point of pride if I made it through without being shot at all.

Dan Verssen Games' new title, Warfighter is bringing back all those memories of working together as a team to accomplish an objective while under fire.  With a varied cast of soldiers, locations, guns, and options, lets take a look and see what the game brings to the table.

I backed his recent kickstarter, and was fortunate enough to receive it in the mail recently.  There were some delays due to issues with the plastic components, but it still arrived in a very timely manner and in great condition. The pledge contained the base game and all four expansion packs he has currently designed for it: Reloading!, Stealth, and Support,  and dice.  The first think I found that I really enjoyed about this package were the expansions.  Each box, about the size of large tarot cards, only had two more soldier minis, a deck of cards, and three dice for the game.  There were no added rules, just more variety that built on the base game set.  It was refreshing not to already manage an extra rules supplement and just mix those cards right in.

The cards are typical of other DVG products I own. The art on the cards is very interesting.  Each card actually uses pictures sent in from various members of the Armed Forces, and credits them below the picture.  Smooth and on thick card stock, it is actually hard to waterfall shuffle them.  I had to settle for a loose interleaving of the Action card deck, the largest deck during game play.  The game comes with an optional play mat to organize the mission and various decks that is printed on sturdy paper and folded in a tri-fold pattern.  The dice are a mixed bag.  Solid plastic d6 and d10 dice formed in the shapes of bullets (9mm, .223 respectively.)  The d6 rolls well and is easily readable, but the d10 really needs a box to be rolled into.  The sides are so narrow that it will just keep rolling.  Once it settles it can be hard to tell which side is up, but I found myself getting used to it after awhile.

Setup begins by selecting a mission card. These cards set the tone of the game by telling you how far you have to go to get to the objective as well as how many points you can use to equip your soldiers.  Each player then picks a soldier (represented by a picture of an actual serving member of our military forces), then chooses their weapons, skills, gear according to the points set out by the mission card and how much their soldier can carry. With the Soldiers all set, the objective on the table, and the appropriate Hostile deck shuffled, the team is ready to go in securing the objective.

The main turn revolves around using your hand of Action Cards as well as the two Actions you have on your turn to eliminate hostiles, advance through locations, and complete the primary objective.  As you play locations, you will put hostile cards on them that are then assigned to a player.  Those cards will keep attacking a player as long as he is in range or until he has been medivac'd due to wounds.  Clearing out each location is one way to complete the mission, but it may leave you short on ammo and supplies for when you reach the last card.  Splitting up your team and having some advance and others hold a position in hope of better cards in hand also can be another approach.  The choices I had to make during my solo plays of this title really have me looking forward to playing with other people, just to see the combinations of cards.

The game did come with a campaign mode included, but it just didn't resonate with me in the same way the games from his Leader series do.  I will admit that with the way the game is laid out, it really doesn't lend itself to the same kind of advancement or tracking that the Leader games have.  It makes for a nice single mission game setup.  Considering how well the first three expansions integrated with the base set, I can certainly see a more in depth campaign system coming as a later set of cards.

With only two solo games under my belt, I find that calling the main card deck 'Action Cards' as well as giving each Soldier two Actions to perform left some of the rule book a little hard to sort out until I had run through it on multiple turns.  To be fair, I couldn't immediately tell you what to call them either, just that it made the rules more confusing than they had to be.  This is only a moderately complex game with very good production values.  Did he manage to replicate a board game version of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon?  While I don't think that was specifically his goal, each time I sit down to set up the cards, I find myself approaching it the same way I did with those LAN games, very excited and ready to wade into a zone full of hostiles!

(All images (c) Dan Verssen Games)

Tom Tjarks is a Fort Worth native and avid game player (PC, Console, Board Games) He has previously written for, blogs at his own personal blog, and can be found asking lots of questions about games on Boardgamegeek. He is @tntjarks on twitter, Dreamshadow on Boardgamegeek and other forums. 

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