My blog mate Tim and I attended the Origins Game Fair last week on Thursday and Friday, and in that time, were able to play/demo 9 different games, as well as spend hours walking the Exhibit Hall buying games. We had a great time and always enjoy attending as it is much more relaxed and friendly than Gen Con. One of the games that was on both of our lists to play/demo was Spoils of War from Arcane Wonders.
Spoils of War is a new game that just debuted this spring and which I played for the first time at Origins. The theme takes you into the board room of a Viking clan just after a raid, where the weary victors have gathered in their hallowed halls to divide their loot through a little known Viking ritual of rolling dice and bidding on the number of a certain type. It appears to be based on the “common hand” Liar’s Dice games, where each player has a set of dice, all players roll once, and the bids relate to the dice each player can see in their hand plus all the concealed dice in the other players’ hands.
Spoils of War is a game of bidding, luck pushing, and bluffing all done in order to collect piles of treasure cards, which include armor, weapons, and powerful artifacts that provide a benefit to the player in addition to any points listed on the cards. Each round, players roll their dice secretly and then the Chieftain selects someone to start the bidding. The bidding, similar to Liar’s Dice, must include a number of dice as well as one of the die’s pips. For example, you could start the bidding by saying there are six 3’s among all the players hidden dice. The next player in order, must either increase that bid by either adding to the number or by increasing in pips. For example, using the previous example of six 3’s, you might decide to say seven 3’s or four 4’s. In this example, you have increased the number of the stated 3’s (increasing from six to seven) or you increased the dice pip from 3’s to 4’s.
This process goes along until someone decides to challenge the statement by throwing out the Challenge disc. The challenger and the person who made the last bid, also called the declarer, both have to ante up a few gold coins to back their bid. Everyone else at the table now gets to bet on who they think is right. They then place their bid with coins and players then go about revealing their dice to see if the number was guessed correctly. I forgot to mention that gold is equal to your victory points, so you have to be careful about your bets and how much you wager as with each loss you will lose ground in victory points. Also, from amongst those that win, the player who bet the most is given the honor of being the Chieftain and will choose from amongst the treasure horde first allowing them to collect the items that score the most points or that they need in order to finish sets. So it becomes a fairly tricky balance of betting heavy enough to win but not so heavy that a bad bet will ruin your chances of winning in the end.
I really enjoyed that everyone was involved in every round of bidding. This really encouraged all players to get involved and made for some very fun and interesting table talk. In the case where someone has to weigh whether to challenge instead of being forced to jump from 8 or 9 dice, there is a lot of reason to talk and encourage them to take the challenge because you don’t have any of the dice the declarer needs. Of course, as in any such game with hidden information, you can also lie about the fact that you have none. You don’t have to have the most dice, you just must choose wisely and be correct about whether the current declaration is feasible and correct or not. But then again, dice rolling is totally random and there really could be twenty 1’s in the collective pool, right?!?
Aside from just being able to collect items for sets or for the points printed on the cards, you have facedown artifacts that you can choose to select as well. These artifacts not only provide you a certain amount of points, but also give you a few extra abilities, such as allowing you to manipulate dice, to take a look at the other player’s dice, or to roll extra dice. In other words, these artifact actions typically allow the owner to circumvent the general rules of the game and can be great fun. After 9 rounds of doing this, the Viking with the most points, counting up the gold coins in their possession, the values on their cards and points from Partial or Complete Sets, is declared the winner and becomes the most revered and respected Viking in the land.
Spoils of War was great fun and follows in the footsteps of previous releases from Arcane Wonders into the realm of bluffing and lying (Sheriff of Nottingham is also great fun). While I feel like the game took a bit longer than I expected (45-60 minutes for a full game), and slightly overstayed its welcome, it was very fun, interactive and nicely done. I would recommend this game to any group that loves lighthearted bluffing games with auction mechanics.