It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com, and in light of the recent Warhammer-fest I’ve been having, I thought it high time I learn to play with cardboard discs. I’m sure you agree. It’s time for Diskwars!
This game originally came out towards the end of 2013, and I promptly snapped it up, at the time being a huge fan of FFG and slightly in mourning for the end of Warhammer: Invasion, one of the great LCGs that will no doubt be featured in my blog before very long. Diskwars seemed like a fun game, anyway, but unfortunately its timing seemed to be a bit off. See, that summer, FFG announced two huge new games before GenCon, then proceeded to saturate GenCon with even more hugeness – Diskwars was announced right alongside Battlelore 2nd edition, and Eldritch Horror followed soon after during the GenCon weekend, as well as the epic-scale ships for X-Wing, while huge stuff like the Star Wars RPG Edge of the Empire went on sale. Amid the hugeness, Warhammer Diskwars seemed to get a little lost, and its eventual release wasn’t exactly the event FFG no doubt hoped it would be.
But like I said, I snapped it up, and it has been gathering dust ever since. A couple of times I’ve tried to get to grips with it, but haven’t really gotten very far – but no longer! Let’s take a look!
First thing I remember about this game was being surprised at how the components were just basically sheets of cardboard, with a small deck of cards. But this is a combat game played through cardboard discs – no minis! I suppose Games Workshop don’t want other companies making plastic figures of their stuff anymore. The artwork, so far as I can tell, is entirely derived from the Fantasy RPG and aforementioned Invasion LCG, which is kind-of a good thing, as the artwork in those products is just astounding. There are four armies in the box – Empire, Orcs, High Elves and Chaos – along with a bunch of tokens and a small deck of cards. As well as the discs, there are terrain pieces that can be used to populate the battlefield and interact with the players.
The discs look good, and feel quite sturdy – FFG are of course known for their vast amounts of tokens (and their dials, of course, but there are no dials here!), but these feel different, like they have a smooth coating rather than that linen-feel or whatever it’s called, so it feels like these discs will likely hold up to a lot of playing.
Each disc has all the relevant information on it to be used in the game. Starting at 12, we have the unit’s attack strength in the black circle, and counter strength in the white circle; following round, we have the toughness, then the stamina. At the bottom of the disc is the race and set info, alongside the hero’s recruitment points/unit’s cost. Finally, moving back up the left side is the hero’s command rating, and finally the movement value.
What do all of these mean?
When a disc is activated, it is moved end-over-end a number of times equal to its movement value. Let’s use Archaon the Everchosen from the above picture as an example, because I usually play Chaos in the LCG. When Archaon moves, he is flipped four times – or, until he lands on top of another disc (pinning it), whichever happens first. An activation token is then placed on the disc to show it has been activated, which I feel is a lot handier than it probably sounds!
After movement, discs have the opportunity to use a focus ability, which is something Karl Franz in the above picture possesses. Discs can also make a ranged attack, which is denoted by a “play” symbol and a number of icons representing dice. Ranged attacks are made at one of three ranges – short, medium or long – as determined by the range ruler. Dice are rolled, which determine the results – there are hits, critical hits, scatter and Chaos results possible.
A fourth range, ‘siege’, denotes anything outside of the scope of the range ruler provided with the game. In the above picture, the Hellcannon rolls three attack dice during its attack. If it rolls any hits, these are ignored as the attack was made at siege range; any critical hits rolls will deal damage equal to d6, however. Furthermore, if any Chaos symbols were rolled, it can move the Hellcannon, potentially trapping enemy discs, dealing 5 points of Impact damage as denoted by the keywords. Ouch!
For me, this game seems to be at its most exciting in the melee phase. If Archaon were to land on top of another disc – let’s use Tyrion, as I normally play the LCG against Tony, who is High Elf through-and-through – he deals damage to it equal to his attack strength (the black circle). Something I think is really cool, the defender (pinned disc, this case Tyrion) deals damage equal to his counter strength also, which really reflects that sort of melee chaos of battle.
When dealing damage, tokens are used (of course!) to denote each point – if a unit is dealt damage equal to its toughness, in this case 5 for both Archaon and Tyrion, he is instead given a wound, which ordinarily removes that unit from the battlefield as a casualty. However, some units have a stamina value, which denote how many wounds they can take before being removed. Continuing the Archaon vs Tyrion deathmatch, Archaon deals six points of damage to Tyrion, which is more than his toughness so he takes one wound. Tyrion deals 5 points of counter damage, which equals Archaon’s toughness, so he also takes a wound. Both heroes have stamina values of 1, so the next time they attack, they would be removed as casualties simultaneously.
Something I find pretty hilarious is the possibility for a Scrum to happen, where a disc that is already pinning another disc is then itself pinned by a third disc, becoming both the attacker and defender. Such battles are fought top-down, so you may have thought you’ve successfully pinned your opponent, only to become attacked as well, where you may not survive the combat! It sounds fantastic, anyway!
Returning to the Archaon vs Tyrion situation, however, some important bits of information have thus far been overlooked. Each disc has some keywords and effects that would trigger, changing how that deathmatch would turn out. First of all, Archaon has “Impact 2”, which means he deals two points of damage when he flips onto Tyrion. Furthermore, his effect deals one point of damage to each disc within short range when he engages Tyrion, who is within short range at this time. This wouldn’t have any further effect on the combat, however – while damage persists from round to round, whenever damage equals or exceeds a unit’s toughness, it is all replaced by a wound token, so while Archaon winds up dealing 9 points of damage here, he only needs to deal five to make a wound, and the other 4 points are wasted. Tyrion, however, is a much stronger foe, as he rolls a d6 when he engages, and deals a wound on the roll of a 6. As each unit is considered to engage the other as soon as combat begins, Tyrion can potentially deal 2 wounds to Archaon, which would remove him from the battlefield, leaving Tyrion with just one wound and able to fight again!
Archaon also has the keyword Caster, and both have the keyword Hero. These mean nothing in and of themselves, but interact with the Command cards the player has. Remember the Command value of a hero disc? That determines how many Command cards you have in your hand.
Command cards are resolved during the Activation Phase, which actually comes before the disc movement bits I’ve just been talking about, but I was excited to talk about discs first! These cards determine the course of your actions during that round of battle. To begin, each has a strategy – slow, steady, devious and bold. These are resolved in a specific order – bold before steady, steady before devious, and devious before bold, with slow activating last. The number at the top of the card shows how many discs you can activate that round, so it can sometimes pay to be slow! Finally, the card has an ability that will trigger during the round, from passive abilities that will affect anything to specific abilities that interact with certain keywords. Furthermore, each faction has a specific card that directly interacts on the battlefield, for which a faction token is used to show the ability has been used – such as Fulminating Gaze for the Empire in the above picture.
Command cards are a good way to interact with the game, making it more strategic than just flipping discs and killing your opponent’s guys. There is an even more exciting type of card in the game, however – Scenario cards!
As you may know, I love thematic and scenario play in games. Scenario cards are used in Diskwars during setup to affect the game in some specific way. Players then get one card in secret which provides an objective to achieve, for bonus victory points at the end. It’s an interesting way to add more depth to the game, I feel.
The core set for Warhammer Diskwars features everything you could want to play the game. While there are a lot of discs (62, actually), your actual army won’t necessarily be all that big, due to the recruitment rules. Remember that each hero has a recruitment value at the bottom of the disc? This is the number of points you can use to build a regiment around that hero – other units have a unit cost in the same place. Returning to our old friend Archaon the Everchosen, he has a recruitment value of 33, so you can use up to 33 points of units in his regiment. The Hellcannon shown earlier costs 12 unit points, so takes up a lot of points, whereas something like the Kurgan Marauders only cost 5 points. There are other restrictions, which prevent you from having two Hellcannons with Archaon for instance. You can have more than one regiment within your army, which you decide upon before playing. The number of regiments then determines how the deployment zone is laid out, with deployment cards granting special abilities to units deployed from that zone. Finally, if you have any recruitment points left unspent, these can help you gain the initiative, as players roll a d6 and add any unspent points to determine who goes first. Aside from getting the Ghal Maraz first-player token, going first can have its benefits in that you may be able to pin rather than be pinned!
Of course there are expansions for the game – just two currently, one for the Dwarves and one for the Vampire Counts, though both bolster other races to some extent.
Hammer and Hold brings the Dwarves to the battlefield, as well as providing supplemental discs for the High Elves and Empire, and introducing two more races, the Lizardmen and the Wood Elves, albeit in very small numbers. Legions of Darkness follows a similar path, with a new Vampire Counts faction, alongside Chaos and Orc reinforcements, and Dark Elves and Skaven as support races. Some really cool new keywords also appear – Guard, for instance, acts as the opposite to Impact and deals damage to a unit that flips onto it, while Poison prevents damage from clearing, making it potentially easier to get rid of a unit through other abilities.
Back in January this year, FFG announced they were no longer supporting organised play for the game, which many players felt was a death-knell at large (that, combined with the End Times that was running through Games Workshop, of course). However, at GenCon this year, FFG stated they still felt the Old World was a viable property, and while GW may be going into new realms with the Age of Sigmar, Warhammer Quest adventure card game has shown FFG is committed to this world, so I don’t think we need to worry until they come out and tell us they’re not doing anything else for it. If they stay true to form, that would only happen with a final release, anyway, so if nothing else, there ought to be at least one last hurrah for the game.
Personally, I’d love to see the four subsidiary races fleshed out – Lizardmen above all else – and also maybe some love for the Tomb Kings, even if it’s just one regiment that could complement the Vampire Counts.
Warhammer Diskwars looks like an excellent game. Like I said, I haven’t had the chance to play it yet, but everything I’ve learned in order to write this blog points to it being a whole lot of fun. Sure, there are a lot of rules, and I foresee a lot of consultation with the rulebook during at least the first couple of games, but it should be a real blast, and I look forward to trying it out a lot. Army customisation should also be a lot of fun, as you look at which units to pair with which heroes, and perhaps combining factions into an army to take on your opponent. As with any such game, variety should be the spice, and while the two expansions look excellent, there’s always room for more in any wargame, so hopefully we’ll see something soon. However, overall this looks like a really solid game – when I get round to playing, I’ll be sure to have a write-up to either confirm or deny that, anyway!