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No. of Recommendations: 10
I bought the Warcraft board game yesterday and read the rules. I played it tonight. This message will be cross-posted to the Warcraft board:

At first glance, the sheer number of pieces is very intimidating. Actually at first it didn't look like there was that much to it, just a bag of wooden pieces and a deck of cards. But then you lift up the bottom layer and there are twelve large pages of cardboard punch-out pieces. Then I realized that many of the pieces were specific to each of the four players and you have to sort them before the game starts. At this point I'm thinking "Yikes, setup will take longer than playing, and no one will want to play."

I recommend doing what I did and pre-sorting the pieces. Get your own little sandwich bags and put all the race specific goodies into a separate bag.

As in the computer game, there are four races: orcs, humans, night elves, and undead. Each race gets the following goodies:
- A home town
- About 20 cards, to be shuffled and drawn occasionally
- A whole mess of colored wooden pieces, whose abstract shapes represent melee, ranged, and flying units
- 8 "worker" tokens
- 9 "upgrade" cards, indicating how strong each type of unit is. Most types (melee, ranged, flying) can go from levels 1 to 3, but orcs can get level 4 melee and only level 2 fliers, while elves can get level 4 ranged and level 2 melee.
- 8 "building" tiles (for producing units) and two "outpost" tiles.

The wooden pieces, unfortunately, are not customized to each race. Orc melee units look just like human melee units, except that they are red instead of blue. There are pictures of Warcraft units on the upgrade cards, which are easily recognizable -- for instance, human melee cards are militia, footman, and knight. But that's mostly just for show.

The game is played on a hex grid. You have to rearrange various pieces to make different boards, but that doesn't take too long. There is a four player "team" setup and a two player setup, and a few scenarios for advanced players.

Your workers sit on gold mines to collect gold, and forests to collect lumber. Each turn that they sit there, they collect some resources based on a die roll. (Most of the cardboard cutouts are cute little teeny gold and wood pictures.) But there is also a 1 in 6 chance that the resource will start to run out. If you roll a high number twice, that resource spot is mined out and cannot be used for the rest of the game. Therefore, players will tend to start out defending areas near there home, but eventually need to spread out.

Each turn, you collect resources, move pieces, and spend gold on ONE of the following:
1. Make units and workers
2. Build more buildings, to produce more troops faster
3. Upgrade one or more unit types.

Units, workers, and buildings take one turn to build, so if you begin making stuff at the end of one turn, you have to wait until after the movement phase in the next turn to bring them into the game.

When opposing units meet on one hex, they fight. Any units in the immediate surrounding hexes may also join the battle. Shooter units attack first, then flying units, then melee units go last. There are no "hit points"; a successful die roll (based on a unit's upgrade level) will kill an enemy unit outright. So if you have a lot of shooters against a lot of melee, you can effectively cut the opposing army down to size before they even get a chance to roll.

Victory can be achieved in two ways. You can destroy the enemy's home base by having units on it for two turns, or you can acquire 15 victory points. You get victory points for sitting on certain squares, drawing certain cards (random), and by fully upgrading your own units of each type.

That's a summary of the game, now here's my impressions from playing it (the two player version) and discussing it afterwards. I played against a friend who is a game designer, but has only a passing familiarity with the Warcraft computer game.

- Our main complaint is that there are way too many resources, and not enough to spend on. Fifty gold and wood tokens are very cute in the box, but they are awkward to actually play with. Throughout the game, neither of us ever came close to running out. I explained to my friend that in the computer game, you often find yourself with too many resources and so you have to buy new buildings so you can start buying more troops to burn off that extra cash. Maybe we should have done more of that. But as he pointed out, there is a lot of pressure to buy troops and not fall behind. Since you can't buy troops and buildings at the same time, there is pressure to keep accumulating them. Of course, you might say that this is just like the choice between "rushing" and "teching" in the computer game. I'm not sure. But I am sure that there was always enough money to do whatever I wanted.

- Here are the distinctions in combat between the unit types. Ranged unit have the advantage of going first in battles. Air units go second. They can move twice and can fly over certain obstacles that other units cannot. Also, they cannot be hit by melee units. Melee units move last, but they are easy to get (you start with one free melee producing building) and they are cheap (air units cost twice as much). In theory, I suppose there is supposed to be the same sort of rock-paper-scissors dynamic as in the computer game. For example, melee beats range, range beats fliers, fliers beat melee. In practice, though, my friend says ranged units beat everything. He thinks there is no point in getting anything else, because going first is an overwhelming advantage. You can kill most of the enemy before they even get to roll. I pointed out that melee units are cheaper and you can make more of them. He said "big deal" and pointed out, again, that resources are never scarce enough to make him care.

- The turn sequence is a little confusing. Even after I read the rules and was intimately familiar with the original game, I was always forgetting whose turn it was and what phase we were supposed to be in.

- Minor nitpick: there are cards that give you special abilities, either in combat or during other stages. But the cards themselves have only pictures printed on them. In order to find out what they do, you have to consult the rule book. This is inconvenient. Spell effects should definitely be printed on the cards themselves.

- The game doesn't exactly go out of the way to be friendly to people who didn't play the computer version. I kept having to say "this is your melee building" to my friend, and he said "What, this tree thing?" A few times I tried to use language like "Okay, you can build a new ancient of war..." but that just confused the matter more. The types of units and buildings aren't labelled in such a way that you can easily describe them to a non Warcrafter.

On the whole, I'd have to say the jury is out on this one. I'd like to play it again to get a better feel for it. I'd also like to try playing it as a 2 on 2 team. It's not a bad game, but it is expensive ($40) and it has quite a few flaws which might need to be ironed out in future editions.
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