Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: Take the Initiative With ‘Warcrow Adventures’

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You have have come to Hawthorn Point to search for artifacts from the ancient elven empire of Gae Assail. You will make decisions, investigate the evil that lurks hidden in the Fog and must fight it to survive.

Will you manage to survive the threat, or will you let it engulf you? Will you get any of the magical artifacts and return to your land as a hero, or will you fail in your quest?

What Is Warcrow Adventures?

Warcrow Adventures is a cooperative, app-assisted dungeon crawling campaign-style game for 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about 60-90 minutes to play each scenario. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of €120 (approximately $116 USD) for a copy of the game and stretch goals. A pledge of €180 (approximately $175) will get you the game, the stretch goals, and the Deathclaws of the Dream expansion. This is also the first game in the newly-created Warcrow universe. Corvus Belli is following up Warcrow Adventures with Warcrow, a fantasy miniature wargame that will use the same dice, and some of the same miniatures, as Warcrow Adventures.

Warcrow Adventures was designed by Alberto Abal, Jesús Fuster, Laura Castro Royo, and Marcos Bello Soto, and published by Corvus Belli.

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

All of the demo components (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Warcrow Adventures Components

Note: My review is based on a prototype copy of a demo game and not the full game, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality or total contents.

Here’s what was included in the demo game:

  • 4 Character Miniatures
  • 5 Enemy Miniatures
  • 4 Character Sheets
  • 3 Enemy Cards
  • 11 Equipment Cards
  • 4 Tiles
  • 8 Ability Cards
  • 13 Consumable Item Cards
  • 42 Wound Tokens
  • 15 Stain Tokens
  • 17 State Tokens
  • 9 Marker Tokens
  • 7 Initiative Tokens
  • Initiative Track
  • 11 Energy Cubes
  • 1 Dark Energy Cube
  • 18 Dice

As this is a demo version of the game that only covers one mission, there will be a lot more components in the full core box.

Corvus Belli is probably best known for their tabletop wargame Infinity, and its gorgeous miniatures. That same artistry is put to use here with the Warcrow miniatures. While in the demo these are resin, the actual miniatures for the game will be pre-assembled plastic.

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The demo version of the game only includes 4 single-sided tiles. I’m anticipating a lot more in the full game. The tiles are numbered, and also have letters on them for reference when instructed by the app to place markers or enemies.

The demo game tiles (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

One of the more innovative features of the game is how initiative is handled during combat. The initiative tokens for heroes and enemies alike will be placed on the Initiative Track at the start of a combat based on their initiative values, but placements are fluid and will shift throughout the game. Players will be able to manipulate their positions in the track via abilities and equipment.

The initiative track (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

There are both offensive and defensive dice, with three “levels” of each category. A hero’s character sheet and equipment cards will indicate which particular dice they use, and how many of each. Certain abilities and effects can add dice, upgrade them, or downgrade them.

Defensive dice in the top row, offensive on the bottom row (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Much like any dungeon crawler, there are a variety of tokens included in the game. The larger markers are ones that can be interacted with by players, triggering events. The app instructs where to place them, and when a player decides to interact with them, they will click on them in the app. Markers may require the player to make choices, and/or roll skill tests to determine what happens next.

Markers and tokens (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

How to Play Warcrow Adventures

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to interact with other characters, learn their stories, talk to NPCs, and also explore different scenarios, fight a range of different enemies, and thrive in the development of the story.

The demo setup for the Darach player (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Setup

Note: as this is an app-driven game, you will need to download the Warcrow Adventures app before playing the game.

First, each player chooses a character and takes all of the game components specific to that character.

Place the dice, wound tokens, stain tokens and states tokens on the table in easy reach of all players.

Place the Initiative Track on the table. Launch the app, and choose the scenario you wish to play. The app will then walk you through the additional steps needed to set up for the scenario, such as placing tiles and markers.

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The completed setup for a 4-player demo game (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Gameplay

Scenarios are played in rounds, with each round having three phases:

  1. Start of Round Phase
  2. Activations Phase
  3. End of Round Phase

Start of Round Phase

All effects that take place at the start of the round are applied. In the demo, there are no start of round effects.

If the Initiative Track was not used during the previous round and there are enemies on the game board, then the initiative tokens for all models are placed on the track, enemies first, based on the initiative value of the models as shown on their character cards. Models sharing initiative will end up with initiative tokens stacked.

Activations Phase

This is the main phase. It will play out differently depending on whether there are enemies on the board or not.

If There Are No Enemies Present

Players place their initiative tokens on their on top of their character sheet with the colored side up, to indicate that they have not yet taken a turn. Players then together decide the order that they will activate.

At the start of a character’s activation, the following occurs:

  • Any rotated ability cards are straightened
  • Energy cubes are removed from cards and returned to the energy pool
  • Gain free movement points equal to your character’s movement value

When enemies are not present, you may only move and take one action. Energy cubes may not be used.

At the end of your activation, flip your initiative token to the grey side. Once all players have gone, a new round will begin.

Enemies have taken the field! (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Sometimes, interacting with a marker on the board will spawn enemies. When this occurs, then a new round will begin, and the activations phase will begin as follows:

When Enemies Are Present

The arrow on the Initiative Track will get moved to the “1” position. Any character with an initiative tracker at that position will get activated. If there are none, the arrow then moves to the next space on the initiative tracker. If there are a stack of tokens on one of the spaces, then activate from top to bottom of the stack.

The Initiative Tracker during an enemy encounter (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

Note: If it is an enemy’s activation, the app will tell you what the enemy does, based on its proximity to player characters.

At the start of a character’s activation, the same occurs as when there are no enemies present:

  • Any rotated ability cards are straightened
  • Energy cubes are removed from cards and returned to the energy pool
  • Gain free movement points equal to your character’s movement value

During the character’s activation phase, you can take multiple actions as long as you have energy cubes available. To take an action, you will place a number of your energy cubes onto one of the lines on your character sheet, performing the trigger indicated on each space as you do so. To get an idea of what triggers are, here is Zsoka’s character sheet:

Zsoka’s character sheet (prototype shown). Image by Corvus Belli.

And here’s a description of what the various triggers do when taken:

A guide to Zsoka’s triggers and her main ability (prototype shown). Image by Corvus Belli.

These are the common actions available to take for a character:

  • Run. Gain a number of additional movement points equal to your movement value.
  • Interact. Engage with an interact tile in an adjacent tile. Press on the marker in the app, and follow the instructions.
  • Equip. Exchange consumable cards with adjacent characters.
  • Attack. If you have line of sight to an enemy and are within distance for your weapon, you may declare an attack. Attacks are done via face to face rolls, where a player uses a dice pool of their weapon equipment card and Armour value, and the enemy uses a dice pool of their Defense and Armor values. Hits are nullified by shield symbols, and any remaining hits are applied as wounds to the model.
  • Casting a spell. Similar to an attack, but you roll the value of the magic item used, versus the enemy’s Magic Resistance value. However, the character can potentially be wounded by the enemy during this step, if you receive any hits that you can’t nullify!
  • Recover an Unconscious Character. When a character receives a number of wounds equal to their hit points, they are knocked unconscious. If you are adjacent to an unconscious character, you can take an action to revive them. The character’s model is returned upright, their activation is over for that round, and that model’s player draws a card from the Consequences deck.

Characters will each have some actions available exclusively to them. These are detailed on their character sheets, equipment cards, and/or ability cards.

When a character’s activation ends, you will then advance their initiative token along the track a number of spaces equal to their initiative value. Therefore, a character may be able to go a second or even a third time in a round, depending on whether they still have energy cubes available to spend. Once a character has spent all of their cubes, their activation is over for the round, and they flip their activation token to the grey side to indicate that.

End of Round Phase

After the arrow reaches the “10” space on the track and any character at that initiative space finishes their activation, you will advance to the next round. Any effects indicated by “At the end of the round” will take place. Then press and hold the round marker in the Warcrow app to progress to the next round.

Switches

Some cards and character abilities produce switches. These are a combination of symbols that, when making a roll, can be applied to the switch to produce the desired effect instead of applying to the resolution of the roll. Below, you can see Zsoka’s weapon, which shows first the dice she will roll on attacks, and then the switch, and what effect it has.

Zsoka can essentially turn defense into offense via her weapon’s switch (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

The Tinge

In the world of Warcrow, using magic has consequences, marking the characters physically by an effect known as The Tinge. To represent this, characters that either practice magic or come into contact with magic-related substances can gain Stain, putting Stain tokens on their character sheets. At the end of a scenario, if the stain is not cleansed, it will irreversibly become a Tinge.

Game End

Warcrow Adventures is a campaign-style game, with over 150,000 words of narrative in the core box alone. So to complete the entire campaign, you would have to complete all of the scenarios, finishing the story.

However, an individual scenario is completed once the objectives of a scenario are met. For example, the demo mission is over once either all of the characters are unconscious (and thus the scenario is lost) or the Kipleacht, a boss-type monster, is defeated.

At the end of a scenario, there is also a “Hawthorn Point Phase.” This was missing from the demo, but will be present in the full game. Players return to Hawthorn Point in between missions, a port city where players can pursue all sorts of activities such as:

  • Exchanging ingredients for raw materials
  • Upgrade Character attributes
  • Cleanse the Stain you have acquired during missions
  • Remove consequences

Hawthorn Point is divided into three neighborhoods with various locations you can visit, and NPCs you can interact with.

  • Yew Plaza: The Wild Parsley inn (everyone’s got business here), the Barracks, and the doctor’s house (Osmar, Mounthaven)
  • Harbor: the Temple of Losna (Thibault Archembaut, Feudom), Blacksmith (Anja Meyer, Hegemonía), and the Warehouses
  • Slums: Tattooist (Angsar, “Sleeping Hare”), Alchemist (Layla Ganjavi), and the Ruins

Hawthorn Point will feature narrative encounters that’ll require some decision-making, a roll, or a test.

Additionally, Hawthorn Point will feature an affinity system that’ll change depending on your standing with the different factions operating there.

This means that the decisions you make during the city phase will affect your adventure, since having a good or bad reputation with a faction will give you a different game experience.

Hawthorn Point has four factions: Mounthaven, Hegemony, Feudom, and the Slums.

Affinities will be tracked by the app, and there are four affinity levels (from worst to best standing): Hostile, Neutral, Friendly, and Loyal.

Why You Should Play Warcrow Adventures

A dungeon crawler tends to be a huge, sprawling game, with dozens if not hundreds of hours to complete the campaign. So with only a short demo mission to play, I can’t really give a sense for how the entirety of Warcrow Adventures will play out. But with my limited window into the game, I can say that I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve seen, especially in regards to the unique initiative track and how actions play out.

Most dungeon crawling games feature a fixed initiative system: you set the characters’ and enemies’ initiative at the start of combat, and that’s pretty much how things will stay from round to round. But Warcrow Adventures takes a very dynamic approach to how characters will activate in a round. You could choose to have one big turn, setting off several triggers in the round as you take an action. Or, if you have a fast character like Darach, you could conceivably take actions three separate times before the round is over, but you’d be limited in the bonus effects you would have.

Each character definitely has its own flavor, feeling very much like distinct classes with their own places in the party. You’ve got your ranged damage dealer, a healer, a magic user, and a tank. An Orcish fifth character, Ormuk, is set to debut in the core box, and by the looks of it is a melee damage dealer such as a barbarian. Starting abilities and equipment reinforce their roles, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a lot of options when taking your turns.

An encounter with the big bad of the demo (prototype shown). Image by Paul Benson.

However, at least as far as the demo goes, the differentiation between characters also produced the occasional drawback. When the Kipleacht burst through a door in the demo, most of the characters were right in melee range of the beast. This wasn’t an issue for Zsoka and Ludivine, but Nayra could only cast spells at ranges of 2-5. And did I mention that a special ability of the Kipleacht meant that characters near it couldn’t move? Nayra did have a trigger she could activate to “displace” her target, moving it one space away, but she could only do this once per round. And because of the placement of the monster and the characters, she was unable to contribute in any meaningful way to the battle.

To be fair, as the game progresses Nayra may gain abilities or equipment that would allow her to displace herself, or otherwise negate that ability of the Kipleacht. Also, had she been placed differently, it wouldn’t have been an issue. But in this instance, it was unfortunate and a bit frustrating that during the big battle, the magic user was essentially useless.

Because this was only a demo meant to show off the gameplay, I’m not overly concerned that situations like that are going to occur with any frequency to negatively impact the overall enjoyment of the game. Corvus Belli has a lot planned for the game, and the bones of the game system are strong and dynamic.

I enjoy games where decisions have consequences, and the use of the app means that interactions with NPCs and objects will change the game, depending on both the choices you make, and how well you do on your dice rolls. Much like the app in Mansions of Madness, the app doesn’t replace gameplay, but rather, enhances it, and simplifies some of the tedious tasks such as setting up for a scenario.

The demo has given me a taste for Warcrow Adventures, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead. This is a fantasy realm that feels both familiar and new, and hopefully the designers will plumb the depths of the world and bring an exciting and fun story to the players. This being the first game in a gameplay universe shared with an upcoming miniatures wargame also has me hopeful for a rich universe to explore. I’m looking forward to seeing everything Corvus Belli brings to the table with the world of Warcrow.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Warcrow Adventures Kickstarter page!


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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