I’m probably one of the few people who remembers the “new” War of the Worlds TV series that came out in the 1980s. It was a “sequel” series to the 1950’s movie.
It was campy, but I really did enjoy it. The aliens had been kept in “hibernation” rather than being destroyed, and now radiation has destroyed the infecting bacteria that had originally stopped them. Now they were trying once again to take over the planet, and this time they could somehow inhabit human bodies! (that kept the SFX budget down).
Why do I bring this up?
Not that they have anything to do with each other, as the game, designed by Denis Plastinin with art by Igor Savechenko, is a sequel to the book rather than the movie. It takes place “several years” after the original H.G. Wells story, so probably in the early 1900s.
In the game, the Aliens are back! I’m not sure exactly how they solved that whole “I have a cold, ugh I’m dead!!!!” problem, but somehow they did.
And they’re pissed.
They’re determined to wipe out Great Britain (I guess the British are the ones who gave them the colds?) and they’ve brought the firepower to do it!
The game is a 2-player deckbuilding game where one side plays the evil Aliens trying to wipe out all of humanity (at least on the island) while the other player takes the part of the brave human resistance fighters, pinging away at these monstrosities until they do enough damage that the Aliens just say “you know what? Screw this planet. The weather’s terrible, they have Con Crud, and I’d rather go to the beach on Europa anyway.”
How does it work?
Let’s take a look.
You start with a (very dark) map of (most of) Great Britain. The Aliens have established themselves up north where all the snow is.
The British civilians are scattered all over the country, three per region except in the far south. There are only 30 of them, and you lose if they’re all wiped out.
The Aliens start with a UFO and a Tripod on the board, ready to reap human goodness!
The cool thing about War of the Worlds: The New Wave is that each player has a slightly different victory condition.
The Aliens win by wiping out all of the civilians on the map. They can destroy Human buildings, Armies, Naval Units, and of course the civilians.
The Humans, however, can’t destroy any of the Alien stuff. No buildings, no Tripods, they can’t even hit the UFOs.
Instead, they have to do 30 points of damage to the Aliens. This can be buildings or Tripods (UFOs are immune to everything). There is an Alien Damage Track on the side of the board, and the Humans are just doing a point of damage here, maybe two points of damage there.
I had one human go on a suicide run against the Alien buildings because the Aliens had passed it by. It managed to do 4 points of damage before finally giving its life for the cause. Sadly, his sacrifice was in vain as I lost 2-points short of finishing them off.
Each player has their own starter deck of 10 cards, and then their own Offer deck as well. None of this “shared cards” crap that other deckbuilders have (I say that with love, Tyrants of the Underdark…please don’t be mad at me).
You will have 5 cards in your hand that you can play on your turn, that will let you do a number of things.
They can be action cards that let you do stuff (like the Poisonous Fog above). They could be Unit cards (like the Tripod) that will let you move or attack with a unit. They could just give you energy (or money if you’re Human) that will let you buy more cards from your Offer row.
Building cards (like the Particle Generator) are different, though. When you buy them from the Offer row, they are removed from the game and you get to put that building out on the map. They never go into your deck.
Alien buildings can be attacked just like the Tripods can, adding to the damage total. Human buildings can be destroyed.
The same works for Humans. Their Royal Navy and Army cards will create a new Navy/Army that can be placed on the map. They then go into your deck and can be used to move or attack (or, for the Humans, possibly create another Army/Navy if the earlier one has been destroyed).
The Guerrillas starting card for the humans is how they’ll do a lot of their damage. One civilian in a region with a building or Tripod can do one damage to the Aliens (or you can remove the card from the game to do 2 damage). If you have multiple Guerrillas cards and you have multiple civilians in the same region, they can do a lot of damage (basically, if a civilian has already done damage this turn they can’t again, but another civilian in the same region could).
Also, you can cycle one card out of your offer row each turn, so if a bunch of expensive stuff is sitting there, you’re not stuck with it until you can afford something.
That’s a very important move, especially for the Aliens.
Turns go back and forth, with rains of destruction or little “pew-pews” (Humans get bonus points if they actually make that sound when they use the Guerrillas card…it’s not in the rulebook, but it should be), until either the Human civilians are wiped out or the Aliens have taken 30 points of damage (in which case they pack up their ball and go home).
Is War of the Worlds: The New Wave a triumph of human ingenuity? Or is it a massacre that will go down in the annals of history as an epic failure?
I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this game when I first heard about it. I loved the fact that each side had its own cards to buy so there was no “I have to take that one before my opponent can get it.” But I was a little leery about there only being 25 cards in each Offer deck.
That didn’t seem like much.
In practice, after having played it a few times, it’s not really an issue. You won’t be buying that many cards to begin with, so 25 is perfect. It gives you the chance to see the other unit cards that will put more of your units out onto the map.
Our first game, the Humans got a couple of buildings out and one Army, while the Aliens didn’t see a new Tripod until very late and never did see a new UFO.
Later games saw a bit more variety, which is good and leads to my conclusion that 25 cards is a pretty good total.
The reason for that is, on your turn, you can cycle one of the cards in your Offer row to the bottom of the Offer deck. This lets you get away from the “everything in that row is too expensive!” conundrum that a lot of deckbuilders have.
You can even play a variant where you remove the card from the game instead of to the bottom of the deck. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference as I never did see those cards again anyway.
The card quality is pretty good in this game, though they are a bit thin. I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up to a bunch of playthroughs, but so far they’re holding up pretty good after three. You are doing a lot of shuffling of your deck, though, so be on the lookout for wear.
The Kickstarter upgraded components are really nice, with actual miniatures instead of standees and plastic buildings that you can put the building token in rather than just having the token on the board. As you can see from the picture above, they definitely do add to the table presence.
That being said, they’re not required and the game is perfectly fine without them.
The same goes for the civilians being actual soldier-shaped things rather than brown cubes. This does add to the immersion (“oh no! Two of my brown cubes are gone! What will I do?”) but again isn’t really necessary.
The rulebook is pretty good overall. I learned the game from it and taught from it, and there aren’t really any organizational issues that I have. It’s ok as a reference but there can be a bit of page-turning as you’re trying to figure out where the rule is that you’re looking for.
There are a few translation issues or typos, though, including setup.
Step 6 of the Game Setup: “Place an Alien damage marker on a damage counter to 0 damage.”
Huh? Ok, I get what it means (put the marker on the zero point of the Alien damage track), but seriously…huh?
Even worse is the actual setup of the Aliens, which is still confusing and we had to guess at it from the copy of the rules that came with the game.
The online version available now is better, but still doesn’t quite make sense why they worded it the way they did.
(From the online rulebook)
Step 4 of the Game Setup: “Place 1 Invasion ship building token on a land region with an Invasion ship depicted on it.” (Not “the” region but “a” region? Is there more than one and do we get a choice?)
Step 5 of the Game Setup: “Place 1 Tripod miniature and 1 UFO miniature on a land region with an Invasion ship depicted on it.” (Isn’t that the same region?)
So the rulebook is a bit wonky but otherwise ok.
The gameplay, though, is quite intense and really shines.
In three plays so far, either side could have won leading up the final turn. It seems like the Humans will always be down to just a few civilians, but all you need is one to win the game. I’ve lost all three times (once as Humans as twice as Aliens), so it does seem like player skill (and a bit of luck as well) will win out in the end.
The Aliens are just relentless and it’s tough knowing that you can’t actually destroy anything. It seems bleak for the Humans, but you only need to get to that 30th point of damage and then “Poof!”, they’ll be gone.
What’s really interesting about the game is how many of the cards that you buy actually don’t go into your deck.
None of the building cards do. You buy them, you put the building into a space on the board and the card goes away. Units (Army and Navy), though, get built by buying the card and then you will manipulate the units with the cards (or rebuild them if they end up getting destroyed).
Alien cards are built a lot on Energy production (to buy more cards) and attack, while a lot of the Human cards are about moving their units and/or civilians, a battle of maneuver where the Aliens are trying to play Whack-a-Human all over the board.
The Alien starting deck is full of “Reap” cards that will let them either destroy civilians or move to an adjacent space. They spend a lot of time just sucking up Humans right and left and it seems like it will be a cakewalk.
However, since “Reap” cards only work on unprotected Humans, as soon as there is an Army unit or a building in the region, those cards become useless other than to move. That’s when the damage cards come in.
I love the intricacy of how you have to fight these battles.
The “Poisonous Fog” and “Nerve Agent” cards (cards that do one point of damage in a region) seem like fairly useless cards until you realize that those could be the difference between Reaping and sitting there looking forlorn because the mouse you’re looking for won’t come out of its hidey-hole.
The Aliens will be running roughshod for a while, but if you don’t prepare for that final battle, you will be stuck with one civilian in a region with two Armies and a building and you can’t touch it. Meanwhile, with a couple of Relocate cards and a “Guerillas” card, that civilian can jump to a region, do a point of damage on the Tripod, and then jump back into protection.
Or, heaven forbid, you have your Tripod in that region waiting for the Tripod card to come out so you can do enough damage to kill the building and the Armies. It will just be pinging away like a kid throwing rocks at passing cars.
War of the Worlds: the New Wave can be surprisingly different each time, considering the setup is always the same. This is mainly because of the different cards that may be available at any one time.
While War of the Worlds: the New Wave won’t derail some of my other favourite “deckbuilder with a board” games from my favourites list, it’s a brilliant little 2-player game that takes less than an hour and is packed with tension from the get-go.
What more could you ask for?
Give this one a try.
(This review was written after 3 plays)