Designed by Jolly & Petersen
Published by Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by Mike Siggins
£9 per pack
One pack per players
I only have one issue of The Dragon magazine. It is a very old copy, and features GDW's System 7, a concept I subscribed to at the time, and still do - it was a way of trying Napoleonic miniatures without the painting and cost of figures. Just buy the coloured card counters and play. This suits a lot of people, but not always those who love the miniatures for themselves. I often wonder why the idea has not been repeated (we occasionally see reminders - AH's Napoleon's Battles for instance) but now, in the post-Magic age, we have an interesting hybrid in the shape of DiskWars.
Set in Mannara, the land of 1970's game mechanics we first saw in Battlemist, DiskWars lets you command an army from a range of staple fantasy factions - Orcs, Dwarves, Undead, Elven-type persons and probably men as well. Each army comes as a pack of disks, comprising infantry, mounted troops and specials such as Ogre allies and Dragons (who curiously can fight on the side of the Dwarves - about as likely as George Graham managing Spurs. Er...). There are also sub-factions and alignments, which determine who can fight alongside your treacherous orcs. Each disk has a nice illustration, some easily remembered ratings, and is double sided - not as I'd expected showing a weakened side, but instead duplicating the information. Although I can't see anything in the rules to confirm the mix or rarity, there are 70 different sheets overall, with six in each box, and I understand one of those counter sheets is a random insert. This has already lead to certain units being sought after as 'singles'. You know how that works. Unless I am very much mistaken, you can expect more armies and expansions as soon as they can print 'em.
The disks are not just a pretty face, they are also functional. Movement takes place by flipping the disk forward the specified number of times - so no rulers here. But you do need a ruler for ranged missiles (disappointingly resolved by dropping counters onto an enemy disk) and for some magic effects. Disks may end up lying on top of each other, which gives you a melee and also a combat sequence - working down from the top. Many disks have a special ability - our old mate the dragon has a fireball spell, and is resistant to fire. Logically, some units are better than others, some can fly, and some are downright deadly - shades of Magic attack and defence ratings.
You also get a load of counters and spell chits, while the final sheet has a piece of terrain. In my case this was a rocky crag, and I got all excited about terrain creation systems and worried about having to buy loads of packs to get enough terrain to play with - cruel memories of Middle Earth and Star Trek. But no, this is where the game starts to fall down. Terrain is basically a marker for your side, or perhaps something to place in the middle and charge at. The armies just line up, advance on each other, and it is a free-for-all slugfest with terrain completely ignored. Disappointing, perhaps even unacceptable.
You might guess then that the game can be played anywhere you have a flat surface, either a large table or the floor usually works depending on the number and size of troops you have available. Now the last game we played crawling around the floor was Subbuteo Cricket, which is irrelevant, and the one before that was MB's Battlemasters, which isn't. You may recall the latter came with a huge coloured hex map that resembled one of those rubber sheets you put on your bed. Umm, that you put on children's beds. Onto that were placed large numbers of plastic troops, and the game was huge fun. And DiskWars tries for much the same effect, without the interest of scrapping for the Dark Tower, or attacking a wall defended by halberdiers, and without the neat card driver system. Ironically, at the end of its life, you could buy Battlemasters for less than the price of two packs of DiskWars (and I'd still regard it as better in all respects).
And that is, I'm afraid, that. I can't think it will have anything but very limited appeal for those that have played Battlemasters, or anything similar. The variety offered by mix and match army building and the many different tile effects faces the twin obstacles of boring battle situations due to lack of terrain and a system so basic that it does nothing for replayability. Even the scenarios lamely attached to the end of the rules confirm the fundamental flaw: scenario one is a rush from the board edge to the centre; the second is multi-player, so we all start in a circle and rush into the middle. The third is the same again, except you have to kill some enemy. At that point they ran out of ideas!
DiskWars is still an interesting release and it will doubtless find many new recruits who fall for the novelty of instant armies. Displaying much that is original in the disk system, it is nevertheless (and I apologise in advance for the pun) needlessly re-inventing the wheel. There is little here that has not been done before, and probably better - and again I point to MB's Battlemasters. Where it scores, and I suspect what is keeping the sales buoyant, is that there is an acceptable element of collectibility, that each pack is a self-contained army ready for play and that the simple system works well enough if you like bashing your opponent into submission. Add in point values, battle magic and the notion of army building, and it starts to crossover into miniatures, introductory games and particularly the Warhammer scene. Like System 7 two decades before, DiskWars lets you field attractive armies that you can relate to, that don't require painting, and which can be set up in minutes. If it had terrain it would be much better, but as it stands I can see this core game appealing to many - and they can always add more and more levels of complexity. For me it fits into the 'it was nice to try it' category, and there are some concepts that will stick in my mind. Ultimately though it is slugathon fantasy battles (again), in a quite expensive format, with rather too many negatives for me to consider following it up.
Why wait? Buy it now from FunAgain Games!
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell