Review: Age of War (Dice Game) – Samurai, Horsemen, and Lucky Rolls
Four months ago, when I started writing on this blog, I reviewed Age of War by Fantasy Flight. It positions itself as “a game of conquest in feudal Japan”, but in reality, it is a push your luck dice game based around Japanese warfare. I don’t feel my old review (which you can read here if you really want to) did the game justice as, playing last night, I had a revelation. Age of War, which we have always been fond of, is actually a better combat simulator than I first gave it credit for.
With that in mind, seeing it in a new light, I thought it was time to revisit the game and re-do the review. For this, I am only going to briefly touch on the rules (I mean, they’re only two sides of A3 really, so how long can my summary be?) before moving onto why it is actually a really quite good combat simulator.
THE PREMISE OF AGE OF WAR (AGAIN…)
Age of War is a push-your-luck dice game set in feudal Japan, with elements of set collecting. Laid out on the table is a series of Japanese castles, worth different numbers of points, ripe for the taking. Capturing the most points is the aim of the game, with points being awarded per castle, as well as points being awarded by completed sets of colours. There are six different sets in total, ranging from one card to four per set.
The castles all have different criteria to match on their cards, comprised of different rows of different dice symbols. There are archers, cavalry, samurai, one sword, two swords, and three swords on each die.
Each turn the player rolls seven dice and, upon seeing the result of a roll, must choose which castle to attack. They must then use the dice to fill one row, ignoring the red space (we will come back to that) but filling in one of the others. So, looking at the cards above, for Kumamoto (the lone green castle) if you roll two samurai and five archers then you may choose to place the two samurai down on the castle. Once you have done this, you pick your remaining dice up and re-roll to fill in another row. You keep going until all the rows are filled.
If you roll your dice and you can’t fill a row in its entirety, then you lose one dice in your dice pool and roll again. You keep going until you have conquered a castle or until you run out of dice.
Once you have claimed a castle, you put it in front of you, and this is where the additional red samurai space comes in. The castle is now owned by you; however, it is not safe until the full-colour set associated with that card has also been collected by you. Before the final colour is collected, any player can try and take that castle from you by rolling one additional samurai along with the criteria to capture the castle. This is where the player vs player action comes in.
It is a simple, yet effective, little game that costs less than £10 on Amazon.
QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF AGE OF WAR
Everything about Age of War screams high quality. The dice are plastic, with interesting engravings on each side that really fit in with the art style of the game. Each castle has beautiful art and the Japanese theme really comes across. Even the box feels nice to hold.
Then again, what do you expect from a Fantasy Flight game? Generally speaking, they create amazing games with really high-quality components. We would expect nothing less from them. They’re an ace company.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING AGE OF WAR
This is the area I really wanted to focus on in this review as, in my last one, I’m not sure I did it justice. Back then I was still working out how to approach reviews (I still am working on it, come to think of it) so I only gave a very brief overview of what the game is like.
Yes, it is a good game. Yes, it can drag on towards the end of the game. Yes, it does rely on a lot of luck. That being said, it is so much more than that.
It wasn’t until last night that I fully realised the simulation side of Age of War. Yes, it is a dice game, but it is also a game about warfare in Feudal Japan and this theme does actually come across when playing. The dice rolls are waves of troops you are sending to attack the castle, if you are unsuccessful at gaining ground then you lose troops (dice). If you are successful then you can send another wave.
This adds drama to an otherwise potentially dull game. It means that, with the help of the imagination, you can really picture the assault on the castles in a Shogun: Total War kind of way.
It is this excitement, and the player vs player warfare to take back castles, that makes Age of War unique. For a game that has only a few components, and even fewer mechanics, it is hugely replayable.
In a strange way, Age of War kind of reminds me of Star Wars: Destiny. Although the play time can vary due to the luck and random elements, the actual core game is relatively fast-paced. It bounces between players, with one player taking a quick turn and then the other. It is because of this that Age of War feels like it is more strategic than it probably is.
VERDICT FOR AGE OF WAR
To be honest, my verdict hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote about it. It is still an awesome game, with a lot of potential. No, it isn’t the most strategic game in the world, but it is fun and it is fast. Sometimes that is all you need.
It always surprises me how many push-your-luck dice games there are out there. What games do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.
I love this game! Perfect little dice filler. I don’t get to play it enough.
Not sure I totally agree with you about the theme, as it is quite pasted on (like most dice games), but it fulfills the purpose very well.
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Love it! We don’t play it enough either, and yet it deserves to be played more.
An interesting observation – I can see why you would say that. I feel the combat side of things (with waves of dice rolls) keeps it feeling “medieval combat-ty”, but yeah, I suppose it could be any medieval combat 🙂 I know what you mean about dice games – they are hard to get the theme right due to the lack of components and reliance on luck.
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This is one of Reiner Knizier’s better “paste on a theme and go” games. With his name on it you know you’ve got a solid game at the core and the theme is a well chosen one. It works. The kids in my high school games club love pushing their luck and it teaches them probability really well.