Last year, the game Edition Wars had a successful Kickstarter campaign, which delivered the RPG-themed card game to backers later in 2012. I ran into the designers at Gen Con this year and they gave me a copy of the game to play. I’d heard pretty positive things about the game and I like RPGs, so I figured I would try it out.
Gameplay is like stepping onto the grids of graph paper and stepping over the litter of a rubber eraser — it’s that tied into RPGs. You and two to four other players each play as gamemasters, out to build a game group, either by recruiting (by drawing from the deck) or by stealing from other gamemasters. Each gamemaster has a special ability, one that will help him in stealing or keeping players in his group. Further, some gamer cards assist the gamemaster with special abilities that will keep them in the group … or send them running to the discard pile.
When a gamemaster draws a gamer, the card is immediately placed in front of him. Each turn, a player draws 2 cards from the draw deck, the cards coming from four different types: The gamer cards, which are the core of the game; Battle cards, which have a variety of values and types (Snark, Blog, or Merch) and are used to steal and defend gaming groups; SWAG cards, which provide lasting enhancements and abilities to battles; and Critical Effect cards, which have immediate effects.
Like other strategy card games similar to Edition Wars, play is pretty straightforward and the simple, helpful rules (one sheet, front and back) support the ease of learning this game. New players can be shuffled and playing in a matter of minutes.
On a turn, a gamemaster may play SWAG cards to bolster his defense and, if he’d like, pick another gamemaster’s gamer to battle over. The attacker identifies the gamer he wants and then lays, face down, a number of cards from his hand. The defender then answers with a number of face down cards.
Before revealing, the attacker and defender must identify which type of card they will be using in battle — Snark, Blog, or Merch. This means an attacker can bluff by putting out cards he never intended to play and causing the defender to play more cards than he would have otherwise.
Cards are revealed and modifiers are considered. The hand with the highest value keeps or steals the gamer. Play continues in rounds until one player is able to build a gaming group of six gamers — a challenge that can take between 30 and 60 minutes.
It’s easy enough to learn and play, but what makes Edition Wars special is the humor found in the cards. If you have spent anytime with a bag full of dice, you’ll recognize the gamers and gamemasters, and you’ll find a lot of humor in the SWAG and Critical Effect cards. (Battle cards are uniformly similar, with the exception of the cards’ values.)
Critical Effects like “Peek Behind the GM Screen”, which allows you to inspect another GM’s hand, and “Lost Character Sheets”, which instructs you to gather all hands, shuffle, and redeal, are just good fun. SWAG cards are equally creative. “Full Set of Minis” increases a Merch attack by +1, while also giving a defense bonus, and “The Best Campaign EVAH!!!” allows you to end a battle for any player (including you) and dictate the winner of the battle.
It’s seriously fun and has lots of inside jokes and references that gamers will definitely relate to. Still, some of it will probably be lost on those who don’t play RPGs, but the game can still but enjoyable if a player doesn’t know 4e from a lorry.
It feels and plays a bit like Munchkin, but with a different theme. My only complaint would be that the artwork cheapens the game somewhat, but I am, admittedly, a design snob — so factor that into your assessment. You should also know that there is some language on the cards that some families might find inappropriate, though nothing worse than a PG movie.
Edition Wars was a nominee this year for the Gen Con ENnies Award and last year’s OGGIE Awards. One of the benefits of having been Kickstarted, picking up a copy now includes those stretch rewards, including blank cards that you can personalize to your own gaming group. If you have a gaming group with a sense of humor, take a look at Edition Wars. You’ll enjoy it.