I think I can do that.... It's suitably Halloween in its theme, and that, I believe, is where we'll start.
Have you ever seen the old holiday shows that deal with toys that come to life to save Christmas for a family, or usually more specifically, a child? Yeah? Good. Stay with me. How about that creepy house on the edge of town that looks like it's right in place in a Hitchcock movie? Still here? Now, imagine a woman that manipulates the fates of thousands, and an entire world. Now, picture this powerful old woman living in a deep swamp, in that creepy house of your childhood. This story isn't about her though... It's about her handicrafts. Dolls come to life. Voodoo Dolls to be exact. They come alive when she leaves the house, much like those toys that are trying to save someone in another story. No longer content to clean up, do good things, or make her life a bit more cheery, they instead now fight, brawl.... one might even say they war with one another.
Still here? Seems a little twisted doesn't it? Welcome to Wyrd Miniatures. Puppet Wars is their first board game, based in the world of Malifaux. I'll be talking a bit (a lot) in future posts about Malifaux, for now I'd like to share just a bit to give context to Puppet Wars. Malifaux is a world that shares a border with one much like our own, of about a hundred years ago, that uses magic. In fact magic fuels their entire economy. Magic is driven by soulstones, which are mined in this other world, the main entrance to which is found next to the old city of Malifaux. There are a few factions fighting for dominance, with rivals to be found both between factions, and often even within them.
The puppets in the hut that is the back drop for our story, and game, are loosely based on these characters. They childishly emulate them, with humorous results for those of that know the original setting. The setting is dark, twisted, funny as hell, and very, very rich. The system does a wonderful job of matching it.
The people that decide to play the game are encouraged to sit down together, each with their deck of cards. Everyone draws a card, with the highest number starting off. That player chooses from the cards for the Masters. He or she then passes the rest of the cards to the next player who repeats the process. This happens until all players have chosen a Master. The last player to have chosen then chooses the first Sidekick or Pawn card, then passes the remaining to the next player in line, and this continues until everyone has made enough selections to fill their Toy Box with the agreed upon number of puppets.
This process could look very different if the players so choose! Be warned, some people might even decide they really want to win, and put together tough teams. It could get vicious, with the stuffing, and cute little button eyes, flying everywhere!
Without delving any farther into its system I'd like to point a couple of things out about the game. I like it. A lot. I'm a fairly regular board, card, and miniatures game player. This actually bridges all three to some extent. It's played on a board, with fairly normal board gaming rules. It uses a card mechanic, both for conflict resolution and for creating lists for your groups of horrible little puppets. It's also a miniatures game. The game pieces are cast pewter, will need to be put together, and many of us decide to paint them as well. The game follows the living system, often used by Fantasy Flight Games in their card systems. What this means is that any time you buy a box of Puppet Wars you will know exactly what it includes, and you can collect multiple boxes in order to create specific lists with multiples of some pieces. Also, there are randomly inserted Teddy miniatures. There is one sculpt with five different cards, one for each faction within the world of Malifaux.
They (these Teddies) are terrible pieces, and if you should find yourself in possession of one I would bear the heavy burden of taking it off of your hands. I would do this for you, my dear reader free of charge. I might even consider paying for shipping in order to protect you from this horrific fate!
I may, or may not, have been over exaggerating something in that last paragraph.
At the time of this typing there is a base set, an expansion pack to take the player count to four, and three boosters sets. Total for all five boxes came to about $200 US. I have considered it well worth it, even on my meager student income. Hanging out playing something as fun as Puppet Wars that I KNOW will see a lot of use within a sometimes picky gaming group is no small treat.
Official Site, if you end up on the forums, say hi. I'm Ciaran there.
Another blog that did a fantastic review, with video!