Sunday, 28 July 2013

Puppet Wars Unstitched, Part 1: Box Contents

Well we did say we'd have something special to end our long absence, and here it is!  Games & Tea are proud to give you our review of Puppet Wars Unstitched from Wyrd Miniatures.  If ever there was a game in need of a two-part review, this is it!
Puppet Wars Unstitched is effectively a refined re-release of the original Puppet Wars from Wyrd.  Unstitched includes a more streamlined set of rules, and a greater number of puppet models than its predecessor.  The game is for 2 or more players, and follows the plights of puppet gang-leaders as they fight for supremacy over a workshop in the fictional world of Malifaux.
So let's open up the (rather nice) box and see the contents in detail.
As with most board games, the first thing you'll come across upon opening the box is the game board, giving the players a birds-eye view of the workshop in which the battles are fought.  For a specialist board game this board is remarkably simple, consisting only of a grid of hexagonal spaces and an area to keep track of the players' Animation Rounds (to be explained later).  A simple board doesn't necessarily mean a simple game, however, and often signifies that there's a lot to keep track of outside the board area.
Once the board's out of the box we reach the first point which may be a stumbling block for some gamers...
Puppet Wars Unstitched contains 44 puppet miniatures with which to fight your battles, and the back of the box does state that "some cleaning and assembly may be required before play."  There is no way at all that Puppet Wars Unstitched can be played without first assembling these miniatures.  Whilst Wyrd are probably best known for their tabletop miniature game Malifaux (on which this is actually based), Puppet Wars Unstitched is advertised as a board game, and the fact that it isn't playable straight out of the box will probably put off a lot of people.  As a  seasoned tabletop gamer it took me just over 4 hours to construct all of these models (varying from 3 to 9 parts each), and I was fortunate enough to already be in possession of clippers, files and superglue.

The next thing you'll find are two Puppet Decks.  Whilst these do have suits particular to the world of Malifaux (Rams, Tomes, Crows and Masks), they are effectively the same as a deck of regular playing cards.  There are 13 ascending-value cards of each suit, and two jokers; one red and one black.  The artwork on each card is beautifully rendered and the cards are made of plastic, which makes shuffling tricky but prevents wear and tear.  Should misfortune ever befall one of your Puppet Decks however, they can always be replaced with a deck of playing cards or a Malifaux Fate Deck.
The purpose of the Puppet Decks are to take the place of dice.  There is no dice-rolling in Puppet Wars Unstitched, instead players flip cards over from the top of their decks to determine whether or not their actions take effect.
Now we'll take a look at tokens and counters, of which there are three different types in the game:

Exhausted Counters are used to keep track of which puppets have been used each turn.

Workbenches are the strategic points in Puppet Wars Unstitched.  There are grey tokens for neutral (unoccupied) workbenches, and coloured tokens to represent those which have been captured by their respective players.

And there are Impassable Terrain tokens.  The presence of one of these not only prevents movement through the board space, but also blocks line of sight, which is vital in many of the puppets' abilities.  It would have to be described as an oversight by Wyrd that the Impassable Terrain tokens and neutral Workbench tokens are the same colour, and sometimes the Workbenches can be difficult to pick out against the dark background of the board.
Next up, we have the character cards.  The puppets in Puppet Wars Unstitched have different abilities and attributes, and each model has a corresponding card to let the players keep track.  These show you the card value required to use the puppet each turn, the number of rips (wounds) it can take before it's out of the game, as well as its attack/defence powers and movement distance.  It also tells you the models abilities and actions, as well as how many upgrades they can receive (see below).
Whenever a puppet suffers its final rip and 'dies', the model is removed from play and the character card is flipped over to show the upgrade that the puppet leaves behind.  If the puppet had a particularly powerful ability then its resultant upgrade will often allow you to bestow that ability onto another puppet.  This keeps the game very well balances as it allows the players to strengthen their remaining troops even whilst their army is being reduced in number.
Now we've established the box contents it's time to move on to gameplay and final verdict!  Stay tuned for the imminent Part 2!

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