In a world of gaming where fighting aliens and shambling hordes of brain-eating zombies is too often the norm, a dose of reality at times is a welcome change of pace.
Even if, as is the case with This War of Mine, the dose of reality is extremely dark, bleak, sad, and just a tad depressing.
By saying all that I am not referring to the game which, as you will read, is quite excellent, but rather the atmosphere in which the game is set is far from a play of sunshine and lollipops.
In This War of Mine, designers Michał Oracz and Jakub Wisniewski, both with Awaken Realms, the original publisher put players into a war-torn city. That is not unusual in the sense several games have players take on characters in elite military groups and head into similar settings. But with This War of Mine, you are a very ordinary citizen with very ordinary skills, trying to survive in a place with little food, little water, little warmth, and little hope of survival.
Therein lies the heart of what makes This War of Mine special. It captures the ‘mood’ of the battle for survival.
This War of Mine is a fully co-operative play experience, allowing one-to-six players an opportunity to play as group of civilians trapped in a city torn by a military conflict. I’ll note here that the ability to solo play this one is a nice bonus, with the mood perhaps even more dramatically felt when you are facing the difficult decisions alone.
The game was originally on www.kickstarter.com for funding, where more than 9,500 backers raised in excess of 60,000 British pounds to get the game into production.
From the Kickstarter page: “To survive, you will need to make tough moral choices, delivered in a role-playing style. You will also scavenge, manage, fight, trade and upgrade your shelter. This tabletop adaptation is based on one of the biggest indie games of recent years. TWOM: TBG offers you an experience that is hard to come by in any other tabletop game. Combined with the highest quality components created by experienced companies, this title will fully engage you with its meaningful story. It is high time for board games to address important topics.”
So the theme is rather dark, and players should be aware of that going in.
The mood is enhanced by the Book of Scripts. The book adds to the game with hundreds of mini adventures that were written to evoke a range of emotions.
“Some of them will have direct influence on the gameplay, some not - but all of them will raise your level of immersion, so that you can feel what a group of civilians would feel being trapped in a in a war-torn city,” detailed the Kickstarter page.
The game has great replay value since players are constantly faced with decisions which, if made differently, would spin the game in a myriad of directions.
Through the rules and storybook, the game adjusts the events you face depending on your current situation, place, and time.
As an example, “at night you will go out and scavenge, searching for food, parts, meds and weapons. During the day you will try to make the best of your resources. Deadly combat, trading, shelter management, tinkering, building and side events - it is all here and you need to learn fast to reach your ultimate goal; survival,” stated the Kickstarter page.
The game is great, although some things within gameplay are frustrating, or annoying. The need to find weapons, when a piece of pipe or 2X4 with a spike in it would be close at hand is frustrating. So, too, are the nightly raids. Players have limited ability to hide supply stashes or deal with intruders. That is frustrating because it happens a tad too often to seem realistic.
But overall, the mood is one of struggle and hopelessness in a generally realistic setting, a combination which sets this game apart and makes it well worth exploring.
Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.