Age of War takes the concept of a traditional dice game and turns up the volume. With added layers of strategy, fast and easy rules, and beautiful production, it’s a real winner. Set in feudal Japan during the rule of a weak emperor, you’re striving to conquer the many castles across the land and bring the country together under your rule. That would be easy if there weren’t other daimyos trying to do the same thing…
At its heart, Age of War is a basic dice game. Like other dice games, players try to roll specific combinations, in this case called Battle Lines. The game includes seven special dice, fourteen Castle cards, and a rulebook. The target Battle Lines are printed on each Castle card. If a player can roll the dice to match the Battle Lines on its corresponding Castle card, that player gets to claim the card. On a turn, a player rolls all seven dice and then selects which Castle to start conquering by filling one of the Battle Lines on a Castle card. A player may then roll the remaining dice that were not allocated, with the goal of trying to fill another Battle Line on the same card. If a new roll doesn’t fill a Battle Line then the player discards a die from the pool and rolls again. In this way, a player will either fulfill all the Battle Lines on a Castle card or run out of dice. Either way, it’s the end of that player’s turn.
At the start of each turn, players have the choice to go after Castles that other daimyos have already captured. In order to take a Castle that is already claimed, one extra Daimyo Battle Line (also displayed on each card) must be completed. This makes taking a Castle that someone has already claimed just a little bit more difficult. Some Castle cards have easy Battle Lines on them and some have more difficult ones. The Castles with the really difficult Battle Lines are naturally worth more points. In addition, each Castle has a background color that indicates the clan to which it belongs. If a player can collect all the Castles of one clan, bonus points are awarded. In addition, this secures captured Castles from that clan; they’re turned face-down and other players may no longer attempt to take them away.
The game continues until the last Castle is conquered. As soon as that happens, the game immediately ends and all players total up the points of their captured Castles. The player with the most points wins. If the final score is tied, the player with the most Castles wins. Quick and easy.
The game can be played with 2-6 players but the sweet spot appears to be four. Regardless of the number of players, a game usually takes about 15-30 minutes to play. For such a simple rule system, Age of War’s gameplay is very engaging. Every turn you have to weigh your options and choose between what you’d most like to do and what’s more likely to be successful. Sometimes a well-timed gamble to go for the more difficult play pays off and you can swing the game in one turn.
It also must be said that the production on this game is top-notch, which is not a surprise coming from Fantasy Flight. The symbols on the custom dice are Samurai Masks, Cavalry, Bows, and Katanas. The artwork on the cards is gorgeous and the back of each card has that clan’s icon in its own color. If Age of War sounds like your cup of green tea, feel free to come by and ask for a demo. We’d love to play it with you.