War on Terror: The evil balaclava beckons, but be prepared to stay for a few hours. (featuring guest author, Samantha Diamond)

Today’s review is a two part feature, lucky you.  Part one is from me, your regular review writer.  Part two is from a guest author, Samantha Diamond, a fellow gamer and friend who participated in play testing this game.  Enjoy!

From the keyboard of your regular author, Victoria Bourne-Nisson.

Any time a game designer tells me that the most replaced piece of this game is a little unique die because it gets so much use the symbols have worn off, I expect a phenomenal game with lots and lots of replay value.  That being said I was slightly disappointed with what I received.

We had already been doing lots of gaming that evening.  Several rounds of Dominion had already been played, and I was showing my good friend Sam the collection of party games.  As we walked past the war games she happened to spot this one in the group.  She squealed, literally.  There was no question about what we were going to play anymore, she decided she had to give War on Terror a try.

War on Terror is a satirical war game combining elements from Risk, Settlers of Catan, and Steve Jackson-like games such as Munchkin and Chez Geek.  Players gain more resources by a roll of the dice, almost identical to the resource production found in SoC, and also are attempting to gain a number of “Liberation Points” that bare a striking resemblance to the victory point system also used by that game.  The game is somewhat Risk-like in it’s board, a global map, and build up of cities at key locations seems important in the overall strategy.  The satire in this game is brought through the use of cards, and just like in Munchkin or Chez Geek, this is the real laugh out loud satire element of the game.

Evil balaclava.  Two words, one really big selling point.  This was really the highlight of the game for me, watching my friends wear the balaclava and dashing for the camera.  Lots of silliness came about due to this nefarious headgear.  The balaclava is worn by the evil empire, which fluctuates throughout the game, or by the terrorists should one of the empires give up and go rogue.  Not only is this a very silly prop, but it also helped a lot in game play.  There are bonuses awarded for sending your troops on a campaign against evil, and by very clearly marking who that is, made it easier to remember to give such rewards.  Kudos for doing something much more unique than just another cardboard token.

My one big complaint about the game?  It’s length.  Especially the length of turns.  I’ll admit, we were newbies.  It’s going to move a bit slower. However, turns took a painfully long time to complete due to having very few limitations on players actions.  The game does have a limit on how many developments you can build (think of this like reinforcing in Risk), however a player can play any number of cards they may have.  Can buy up to two cards on a turn, in addition to the two cards they receive for free.  They can also buy as many terrorists as they can afford.  All of this action made waiting for your turn to come back around somewhat painful.

In the end, we ended up not finishing our game.  It was already approaching the three hour mark and was after midnight, there was no clear winner in sight, and the gag was starting to wear off.  Terrorists were running rampant on the board, and if we had continued playing I probably would have abandoned the cause of freedom to be their evil leader.

It’s an OK game.  I would possibly venture even a good game.  But it was not the phenomenal game I was hoping for based upon all the hype.  On a rainy day with four or five hours to blow, this may be a really good fit.  But on the average evening, it’s just a bit unwieldy.

From the keyboard of guest author, Samantha Diamond.

Important Disclaimer: The author of the following review is not a regular Gamer, but a Gamer Light. She achieves the same great satisfaction from geekery as a regular Gamer, but with only a fraction of the obsessive behavior.

War on Terror, the board game! is like Risk with a ski mask. Actually, the printed game materials refer to it as a Balaclava, but this is easily mispronounced and causes a vague Pavlovian craving for phyllo and honey. Whatever you call it, there is a mask bearing the word “EVIL” in large red letters, it must be worn, and I consider this an important selling point.
The players, as ambitious imperialists, seek to expand their empires across the board by the traditional means (lucky rolls, tricky negotiating, and treacherous backstabbing), but there are also terrorists. Any of the players may manipulate the terrorist forces on the map through the crafty use of cards or a fortuitous flick of the spinner. It is sort of like moving the thief around in Settlers, ‘cept there are a whole mess of ’em, and they have nukes and dirty bombs.

Other than the obvious opportunity for politically incorrect hilarity, WOT carries an important subliminal message. The odds are stacked heavily in favor of the terrorists. In fact, if the players fight amongst themselves, a terrorist victory is almost inevitable. In order to overpower the forces of terrorism, the players must form an alliance- a coalition, if you will.

Do you think you have what it takes to appreciate the subtle nuances of geopolitical satire? Are you willing to just have fun with a game? Try War on Terror. You get to wear a mask!

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at 10:01 am and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Guest Bloggers, War Games . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


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