War Chest

Disclaimer: This preview is from a reviewer’s copy of the game that was provided by Alderac Entertainment Group to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.

Game: War Chest
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Designer: Trevor Benjamin & David Thompson (I)
Artist: Brigette Indelicato

Main Game Mechanisms: Area Control, Pool Building, Hand Management, Variable Player Powers
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Game Time: 30 minutes

Description: War Chest is a head to head abstract game where you’re controlling your own army made up of units with differing movement/attack rules and special abilities. Each player begins the game by selecting, drafting, or randomly choosing a number of units based on player count and then placing 2 “coins” (chips) of each of their units, plus their royal coin, into a bag (the Royal Coin is only used for Face-Down Actions, described below). The remaining coins for each unit are placed next to their cards as your supply.

Rounds in War Chest consist of 2 phases: Draw Coins, and Use Coins. Each player draws 3 coins from their bag (adding and shuffling the coins in their discard pile if they can’t draw enough), then players alternate taking actions with their coins until all players’ hands are empty. Then a new round begins and this repeats until the end-game condition is met.

There are 3 ways you can Use Coins each round:

  1. Placement Actions – Play the coin to the board in one of the following ways:
    • Deploy: Place the coin on a deployment space as a unit of that type. This gives you a new unit to control.
    • Bolster: Select a unit of that type already in play and add the coin to the stack. Bolstering effectively gives the unit more health (as attacking takes 1 coin from the target and removes it from the game).
  2. Discarding Face-Down Actions – Discard any coin face-down to perform one of the following options:
    • Claim Initiative: Take initiative for the following round (the player with initiative takes the first action each round). This action can only be taken once per round, and only by the player that didn’t start the round with initiative.
    • Recruit: Take any coin from your supply and add it to your discard pile. The next time your bag is out of coins the new coin will get shuffled in with the rest.
    • Pass: You can pass any action, and it doesn’t take you out for the round, you can follow up a pass with an action with subsequent coins.
  3. Discarding Face-Up Actions – Discard a coin face-up to maneuver a matching unit in one of the following ways:
    • Move: Move the unit to an adjacent, empty space.
    • Control: Use only on the designated location spaces on the board. Remove your opponent’s control marker (if present) and place one of your control markers on the space.
    • Attack: Select an adjacent, enemy unit (from the unit matching the discarded coin) as the target and remove 1 coin in that unit’s stack from the game.
    • Tactic: Use the “TACTIC:” ability of the matching unit (these are various special abilities).

The game ends when a player or team places their last control marker, and that player/team wins!

Review:  I suck at chess. I’ve known how to play since I was a teenager, but I get absolutely schooled in it – the strategy never stuck with me. Because of that, I wasn’t ever sure that I liked abstract games. Then, I played Pagoda, Onitama, the Duke, Tak, and a variety of other abstract games in my adulthood – and I found that I love these. War Chest arrived in the mail, and I was hopeful that I’d feel the same about this one.

Look at these components, won’t you? Like seriously, the components really make this game stand out from the crowd. The minute you open the box (which is one of those fancy magnet boxes), you’re super stoked about what you’re going to find inside. The chips are heavy, high quality poker chips. The colors and art are elegant and it’s definitely meant to be a collector’s piece that you hand down to your kids.

The game is so easy to learn. They give you a setup to start with, and while the abilities are pretty basic, using them well is where the strategy comes into play – just like chess (but so much better). It only took a few minutes for me and Sarah to set up the game and get going. But, once you get in there, you see all of the layers of strategy and start working out how your troops work together to help bring you victory!

One of the coolest parts of this is the variability. Sure, you have a beginning setup that they recommend for your first play, but after you get used to the system, you can randomize and add a whole array of different troops to the mix of what you’re playing. Randomizing the different troops is a big part of the draw to this game.

My only issue is that the box takes up a bit of real estate on the shelf (as it should, it looks great). Part of this is unused space, which comes with an insert that we believe is meant to help with the box integrity. I hope the extra space down there means that there will be expansions with additional troops in the future. I know that there’s a ton that could be done with the system, and I can’t wait to see what they do.

We didn’t get to try it at 4, but I think I would like to do so. It probably is a lot more hectic at 4 players, but I do believe it could be really good at that player count. I’ll need to drag someone in during our 3-player game days with Scott so we can try it at 4 at some point.

This was in my top 5 games of 2018. It’s that good, in my opinion. From the production quality to the style of gameplay, this game is a beautiful abstract that really catches your attention from the minute it hits the table till the last warrior goes down.

Try, Buy, Deny: If you’re someone that is really into abstracts, then you definitely need to go ahead and give War Chest a buy. It’s the perfect addition to any collection of abstracts, and it’s an amazing piece of work that is going to stay around for a long while. If you aren’t sure that you like abstracts, try it out – I think it’s so good and unique that it may just change your mind.

Game On!

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