Publisher: Dan Verssen Games
Game Designer: Dan Verssen
Playing Time: 30-90 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $59.99
Squad tactical action
Dan Verssen Games has a varied and established catalog of quality games; unquestionably their most famous are the Field Commander and Leader series. These titles put you in the hot seat of command, from the ancients to the modern era.
A few years ago DVG debuted a new solitaire/cooperative card game called Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game. It placed you at the tip of the spear, on the ground and in the mud with the operators, running tense missions across the globe. The game has received high marks from gamers and reviewers alike and for good reason, it’s damn fun.
DVG has evolved and refined the system with the latest iteration in the series, Warfighter WWII. Just as in the modern title, the US are the protagonists with the Germans in the role of hostiles in the base game. This can be fleshed out further by adding any or all of the eleven expansions, lending more weapons, gear, skills along with troops from the UK, Germany, Russian and Poland. The country expansions give you playable squads, so you can follow history or change it. Don’t feel like being shoehorned into a historical alliance or battle? Have the US and Soviets fight, or the US and UK and see what alternate stories you can create.
Into the breach
It may come as a bit of a shock for those unfamiliar with the series, that all of the action in Warfighter WWII takes place across a simple tableau of cards. At first this may seem a bit odd, leaving you to wonder how this can be considered a tactical game. Can you have true tactical play across a row of cards? Believe it or not, it works quite well. Warfighter is not only tactical but forges a series of compelling narratives with each play. There is drama in every location, each battle creating an overarching tale of selfless sacrifice and heroism in the global struggle for dominance. Be warned, it doesn’t always end happily, more often than not the game will beat you into submission. On the bright side, since it has cooperative play, you won’t wallow alone in defeat.
Before embarking into the great unknown, you determine a mission and objective and then build a team to complete it. From the mission card launch point, you lead a squad through a varied number of location cards that are revealed as you go, before ending at the objective card. That is, if you survive.
A squad is comprised of three types of soldiers; player soldiers, non-player soldiers and squad troops. The number of troops you can field, their skills, weapons and load outs are dictated by the resources allocated on the mission card. Service Records are a new addition in Warfighter WWII, these give any soldier they’re assigned to special abilities and a set number of times they can be used. They come in very handy and add a nice flavor to the overall feel of the game, giving your troops a semblance of identity and history.
At least one player soldier is required but more is better, if you can afford it. Player soldiers supply you with hands of action cards equal to their health and control much of your capabilities in the game.These action cards drive the play, allowing you to place locations, move and fight your squad, and perform a myriad of special actions. As player soldiers take wounds, they lose health equal to the number of wounds received. This in turn cuts down the action cards in your hand, so keeping your player soldiers alive and well is of paramount importance.
Player soldiers can carry any weapon or gear, providing they stay within the load out limits and resources available. You need to balance your resources smartly, keeping enough to spend on NPS and squad soldiers to add more firepower to your team. These troops come preset with weapons, skills and a number of actions per turn. Tinkerers will have a field day loading up on all of the cool toys here.
Make sure to have at least one automatic weapon and or a rocket launcher on your team, these can kill or suppress multiple targets with a successful attack. Of course, machine guns can also run dry of ammo with bad attack rolls, so don’t count on them as some sort of super weapon. Each weapon has a reload number, roll that on an attack and your mag is empty, requiring you to spend an action on the next turn to reload. Unless you have a card that lets you reload for free.
Some cards give free actions, this is where good hand management comes into play. What cards do you burn to pay a locations entry cost and which ones do you hold for their actions? Should you discard and refill your hand? Keep those player soldiers healthy so you have more options to choose from!
Among the action cards that you draw are location cards, these are played to advance your squad towards the objective. Locations have a varied number of hostiles bent on denying your success, from green recruits to elite troops and tanks. One big difference to note in Warfighter WWII versus Modern is that the enemies in each location are less numerous but more deadly. This is a good modeling of the differences between insurgent and proper national military forces. The former being reliant on numbers of poorly trained troops, while the latter are well trained and organized.
The combat mechanics work just as in Modern, where you must roll to defeat cover using a d6 and as many d10’s as your weapon calls for to roll for hits. To inflict a hit, you must successfully roll to defeat cover and the weapons hit number. Failing one but succeeding in the other results in enemy suppression, while failing both means you need more range time soldier!
It’s an elegant and speedy way to abstractly resolve combat and can be enhanced by action cards. Some cards will help defeat cover rolls for example, a major plus when taking on a cover 6 tank. Other cards may add modifiers to your hit rolls, ignore hits from hostiles or even take out a target directly.
Yes, this game can be brutal and unforgiving, but this challenge is what keeps you coming back for more. Oh, and you’re on the clock for all of this, missions have a set number of turns you must complete them in or suffer failure.
Being solely card driven, Warfighter does not require maps but does come with a handy mounted play board. This board keeps the four different card decks (action, hostile, locations and events) organized along with important reference tables. It also keeps hostile cards in their correct location and order because both range and order matter. Hostile targeting of your troops is handled by a random chit pull, meaning one soldier could be targeted by many which can quickly ruin that troopers day.
Ranges are generally 0-1, meaning the same location you are in or one to either side. If in the same location, you can save the ammo and instead engage in hand to hand combat if you feel so inclined. Order is important to pay attention to, it tells you which hostiles are potential targets. Some units must be at the front of the enemy formation, these are usually the bullet sponges sent to protect more valuable assets to the rear such as officers. Officers can call in reinforcements and Inspire their troops, removing one suppress counter from each hostile prior to their attack action. It’s a neat way to imitate an officer keeping his troops in good order and motivated in a fight.
Contrary to initial impressions, your journey is not as linear as a tableau may lead you to believe. The game does not play ‘on rails’, locations will have varying elevation and even weather effects to contend with. Through clever card design, this creates a believable 3-D tactical picture and problem to work through.
Who do you risk by moving forward, which enemies should be targeted first, do you risk dropping someone back to perform a holding action? You’ll find this decision process refreshing and challenging and at times even a bit overwhelming, just as it is in the position of command.
The one negative of the game is the rule book which can be frustrating when starting out. It covers everything in pretty exhaustive detail but is not laid out in easily referenced order. This can make your first forays into the system more challenging than they should be if you’re not patient. After a few games and some mistakes, you will get the hang of it because it’s not a difficult game, however the rule formatting can make it feel so at the start. Be sure to keep the reference card handy and follow the examples of play at the back of the rule book to assist you, they’re invaluable.
DVG does a very good job with components and this one is no exception. The nicely rounded counters are a step up from the Modern version and they’ve smartly pared down the ammo counters to one generic type. Let’s not forget that big beauty footlocker expansion either, this thing is massive! Measuring 16”x9”x8”. This beast gives you plenty of room to house everything in your Warfighter collection, with three separate slots and hard plastic card dividers to organize everything to easy retrieval. If you’re planning on getting all of the expansions, this is a must have for sure, in my opinion.
Ready to go on mission
DVG has done a fantastic job adapting the Warfighter system to World War II and does so with top notch components. The game lays out a stark landscape to fight across, and plugs in harrowing action through every step of the journey. A remarkable feat using just a simple tableau of cards.
Losing is a definite possibility, either through miscalculation, bad luck or even overwhelming odds. This is great at keeping each replay fresh and the outcome uncertain, which hooks you in for more. The dice rolls necessary to prevail are as balanced as those that can spell your doom. Sometimes luck is on your side, many times it will be against you, but that’s combat. These rolls can be mitigated by skills, weapons and action cards that you must decide how best to use. Despite plenty of dice rolling, you as the player still have plenty of agency in how things unfold in Warfighter.
While the rule book can be frustrating at first, a little bit of patience will pay off big dividends. There is a lot of exciting action in this game, so stick with it.
Don’t forget to have some alternate history fun with Warfighter, nothing is keeping you locked into the historical alliances and battles. You can have any country fighting another by simply setting up their friendly and hostile decks and going for it.
If you’re a fan of squad tactical play with blockbuster movie tension and action, Warfighter WWII is one to get on your table now.
Company Website: http://www.dvg.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/danverssengames
Note: A copy of this game was provided to me for this review.