Before I begin, I was provided a prototype copy of the game, and will receive a copy of the game should it fund, in exchange for an honest preview. This is not a paid preview. If you would like to watch a video of this preview you can check it out below, and learn how to get your own copy here.
So someone let it out into the universe that my opinion on 4x games was “achangin”. Then all of a sudden within the span of a few months I was previewing 3 or 4 of them. I mean this is a genre that I have often stayed away from. Why? A few reasons.
One. I am notoriously horrible at them. Two. They are usually more aggressive than I am happy with. Three. They are usually really complicated, and take (hold on let me do that math…multiply…carry the one…don’t forget that x=8.243) 73.84 billion hours to play through a game at max player count.
However, Uprising, wound up being an absolute delight, I had a good time with Kingsfall (that review may or may not be posted when this one is), and have gotten to play a few others that have been enjoyable as well. Also let us not forget just how much I have enjoyed Theurgy…yes I know that is not a 4x, though to be fair, I often include “Dudes on a map” games into the same category, even though they are not 4x, mostly because of…well see the previous paragraph.
In the world of a game a planet in a distant galaxy has been obliterated by some “warp” event. The planet is in tatters, and most of the races of the planet are now exiled to roam about the planet-scape mad max style. Each player represents an alliance of two different races, as you strive to take control of what remains of the planet. To do this you will be eliminating the roving Mad Max style aliens (hope you don’t run into Charlize Theron out there, or you will be in for a bad day), extracting gold and power from the planet, deploying your troops, and upgrading your buildings. Why? Victory points of course! The game has regularly rotating missions that will award victory points for anything from having a hand full of a certain type of card to bribing your opponents.
Aliens you say? Yep. At the top of the game there will be a draft where players get to select two different races. Each race has two powers associated with it. One of these is a passive power that gives you a bonus or a discount on various actions, and the second is an ability that you pay for using reward cards you collect each time you win a battle. The most important thing to remember about all of these powers is that they all seem overpowered. (Ancient Alien Proverb: The wise man knows that when everything is OP; nothing is OP)
Now you will notice that I am not spending a ton of time talking details. This is simply because this would make my already too long articles, exponentially longer. There is just too much to attempt to cover. However, I will point out two mechanics that I think most people will be particularly interested in: bribery, and following.
Every time you enter combat whether it is against the NPC aliens or an opponent each side gets a change to play a combat card, which will boost your chances of winning. However, before the actions are acually carried out you get a chance to bribe each other to take it back. This is interesting enough, but it becomes more interesting when you take into account that when you fight against NPC aliens another player at the table will get to play a card supporting them. Now you are both getting to mess with your opponent, and then make him/her pay to leave you alone.
The other is following. When a player plays an action card every other player at the table has the option to play the same type of card, of course they have to pay more for it, and for every player that does so, you get a bonus, be it more cards or resources.
The first player to get 9 points triggers the end game. Then each player has 2-3 more turns, then most points wins.
So what do I think?
This game has an incredible amount of replay value. There are a butt-ton of different aliens, which of course get combined into who knows how many different combinations. Then of course there are always two more alien races that have their own variable abilities as the “exiled” races, plus yet another one of the races represents the Warp Guardian (ie the jerk-nozzle responsible for ruining the planet), that has yet more variety given to it by virtue of the fact that it is the guardian.
I also love the following mechanic. One because it does pick the pace up on the game ever so slightly, but also because it adds more interaction when it is not your turn. It keeps you engaged a bit more. The same thing can be said of the bribery part of the game. The fact that you can interact with other players, that you may never battle is great, and the fact that you get to play a bit of a mind game with them by potentially bluffing your combat card play is great.
The final thing that stands out to me is the way terrain effects combat. Ostensibly, each hex is a different elevation, and the lower elevation you attack from the harder it is to kill the enemy. This plays out in a delightful, yet mathy way. Combat is as simple as rolling a die per unit, but then you multiply it by your elevation, suddenly making terrain the most important part of combat. This is combined with the fact that you can “terrashift” the planet and adjust the elevations of various hexes…which is quite cool.
The art looks, good and the game looks nice on the table, though it does take up a lot of space. My only issue with it is that with the miniatures and all, it does start to look a little bit cluttered.
I also have a feeling that at max player count, despite the ability to follow other players, as you get towards the end game there will be quite a bit of downtime in between each turn. Now, I do not know this for certain, as in the Covid era playing a 4-6 player 4x game is not something that I have tried out, but I can imagine.
Two player works. However 3 or more is where this game needs to be played. If you do not have additional players who are not always involved in conflicts, the delightful effects of the bribing mechanic lose some of their potency. In the same vein with more players that allows more players to follow you, which allows you to gain even more resources. This might cause you to take an action that you might not otherwise, in order to try to scrounge up a veritable bounty just buy taking an action lots of players will follow. So, I think for this game to really shine, you need more players.
Authors note: There is a solo mode coming that I am very interested to try, though at this time I have not.
Along with that, as you can expect this is not a short game. It is a game that will take hours to play, and is a space hog.
Bringing it all together
The Warp is in some ways “just another 4x space game.” However, it is in the places that it does something different that makes it a game to keep an eye on. The insane variety of alien races, and their powers, mixed with the action following system, and intense strategic importance of the terrain makes this game feel fresh to me. Yes the game is a long one, but for the most part each individual turn goes by relatively quickly (until later in the game), and again the sheer magnitude of options you have will keep your brain churning. Combat gets an added bonus by allowing players not participating in the fight to muck things up for the participants…but you can always pay them to leave you alone to fight your own battles.
The Warp is going to take up a lot of space, and will take a while to play, and you should really be playing with 3 or more players to get the full effect, but there is a lot to be mined from this one.
Ah, the cataclysm occurred because they were waiting for this article to end
* Everything you expect in a 4x
* Does some very cool stuff with player powers, combat, and basic action taking
* Solid artwork, huge table hog, and really will play best at 3+ players
* Tons of replay value, mathematically it seems very hard to get the same set up more than once
* Turns are generally quick, but there is a risk of downtime in the end game
* The addition of NPC foe to go out and conquer give the game a big boost
* If you like 4x games then this is one that seems to do just enough different to join your others on the shelf