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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Davidson

War of the Worlds: The New Wave - A Review

"We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races."

On Halloween, 1938, Orson Wells—accompanied by The Mercury Theater on the Air—enacted and performed a realistic, dramatic reenactment of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds (1897). The broadcast caused widespread panic across America. Individuals tuned in to something resembling a news report of attacking ships from the sky and the complete destruction of American cities. The public feared for their lives. As The Mercury Theater on the Air registered as a drama group and had special permissions from CBS Radio, the reenactment continued for an entire hour uninterrupted (which was highly unheard of as every radio program, including the actual news, broke into commercials every few minutes). Not only was the interruption unprecedented, but it strengthened the narrative emersion. The result: American's lost their shit. People got in their cars, attempting to get out of densely populated cities; others shoved their families into a fallout shelter for protection. American's believed that a Martian invasion was devastating major metropolitan areas like New York City.

Naturally, the whole arrangement was a goof. Orson Wells wrote and directed the broadcast as a "Halloween prank." He had no idea the performance would lead to mass hysteria. Two days later, the front page of the New York Times read "Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact." The performance freaked enough people that hundreds of individuals rioted and attacked El Comercio—a local newspaper that participated in the hoax by publishing articles of unidentified flying objects being reported all around the world. During the riot, seven people were killed. That's right, folks. A mere radio performance sent America into such panic that it led to the loss of many lives. The ultimate takeaway from Wells' ambitious radio program? Fake news kills.

War of the Worlds: The New Wave is a 2019 combat game created by Denis Plastinin and published by Gray Fox Games. The game is for two players as it pits one (alien) player against a (human) player. Essentially, War of the Worlds is an asymmetrical competitive deck builder war game—kudos to the designer for conflating mechanisms and themes not typically seen in many games. Let's take a snapshot look at everything this game has to offer.

Asymmetrical—There are two factions: aliens and humans. Each faction plays with its own deck of cards, own miniatures, and win condition. This offers replayability as playing each side provides completely new experiences and strategies.

Competitive—There is no love lost in War of the Worlds. As a two-player-only game, the game places paramount importance on the strategies developed to wield against their opponent.

Deckbuilder—Each faction begins with its own set of ten starter cards along with a supply pool of upgraded cards for purchase.

War Theme—The game centers around destruction and inflicting damage against your opponent. The alien player wins by eliminating all civilians (represented by brown cubes) from the board. The human player wins if they can inflict 30 points of damage to the alien ships.

War of the Worlds: The New Wave appeals to individuals searching for a military game that is easy to learn, easy to play, and takes around 45 minutes to complete a game. While the game is simple, it's still rather enjoyable to play. With a tint of strategy hidden within the gameplay, my friends and I found ourselves playing it repeatedly. War of the Worlds, in my opinion, is quite the hidden gem.

Having said that, let's get to the nitty-gritty, okay?

War of the Worlds: The New Wave fails on multiple levels. First, the card selection is limited—plenty of duplicate cards, making subsequent games vastly less enjoyable to play. Even with having two distinct factions to try out, the card choices and abilities lose their appeal. Second, there is an imbalance in how fast a player can get their "engine built" and the short duration of each game. Every time I play a game, it feels like the moment my deck yields results, the game is one or two turns from being over. This discourages players as you spend the majority of the game working towards a machine that you'll barely get to see run. Third, the combat damage system creates a substantial thematic disconnect. All units—spaceships, tanks, buildings, military ships, and regular civilians all take one damage to destroy:

One damage.

One damage?

One damage?!?

You heard me right. One stroke of damage can zap an individual dead or sink an entire destroyer ship. What was the designer thinking? Perhaps, he wanted the game to be less math-orientated and straightforward, but, come on, man. When it takes a player six turns to build a giant ship, it upsets them that their shiny brand-spanking-new vessel is at the bottom of the Atlantic with one point of damage. To be honest, I don't particularly appreciate how the damage assignment and value are utilized.

However, War of the Worlds: A New Wave is quite an enjoyable experience despite the issues. There's a lot to enjoy with this game. The game knows what it is and doesn't try to be something it's not. This is why I can objectively see tons of entertainment value. With aliens and humans blowing each other up, what's not to love? I recommend War of the World: A New Wave as an excellent fit for teenagers interested in combat games or family members.

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