WindUp War: Cute Cards, Cataclysmic Combat!
This cute little card game attacks with quick fun, variety, and strategy for all ages!
Windup War is a fun, fast-paced, easy-to-learn card game for both kids and adults, intended for ages 13 and up. You can play Windup War with 3-6 players and a game takes less than half an hour.
The reviewed copy was a prototype, but most elements are well-developed and run smoothly. With only one tricky rule, the other rules are quick and easy to understand and it takes only a few minutes to setup and start playing.
Windup War challenges you to be the last army standing by wisely selecting your unit cards and using your action cards to outlast your opponents. Given functionally identical cards in different factions, each player picks three from a set of six unique toy-themed units (infantry, tank, sapper, etc.), chooses their combat unit order, and they’re ready to go. If everyone has played before, setup only takes a few minutes.
Before each round, each player places 5 actions cards from their deck face down. Each player has the same set of action cards available. One at a time, all players simultaneously flip card #1, resolve the actions, flip card #2, resolve the actions, and so on until all five are revealed and resolved. Action cards allow attacks on players to the left and/or right, block and/or retaliate when attacked, and reload. Basic attack cards allow attacks on adjacent players, or 1 or 2 spaces away; bombs and multi-attack cards allow for attacks on multiple players at once, but could have some unintended side effects. Used cards from each round are discarded, so a reload card must be played to make spent actions available again, but this doesn’t protect from attack. With up to six players and possible attacks coming from every direction, each card flip is an adventure!
When attacked without blocking, your active unit loses hearts. Anytime during or at the end of a round, when your active unit loses its last heart it is removed from the game and the next unit takes its place. Once your last unit dies, you’re eliminated. Play continues until the last army standing wins the game! There also might be no winner because all actions happen simultaneously, but that’s a chance you’ll just have to take!
Strategy and More
While quick to learn, even for kids, this light-hearted game can be played with as much deliberation as you want. The Othello theme (“…lifetime to master”) could apply, but there’s no guarantee “better” strategy will give you better results. To try to get the best outcomes, players need to manage their cards, plan a round or two ahead, reload carefully, and try to figure out their opponents’ tendencies. Playing an attack card when others don’t expect it might put you ahead short-term or even win the game sometimes, but it could lead to long-term destruction if you don’t do the amount of damage or hit the player you expect. Since everyone has all the same cards, the units and cards allow for a lot of variety in each game, and you could try a different combination of the 6 units in combat order each time (120 total possibilities). If every player tried a different combination, the number of game variations would be 120 factorial – virtually limitless.
Another factor giving the game depth and balance is the action cards. Action cards come in five different colors and can only be used by a unit that matches the card color. There are also three general-use cards anyone can use. The unit cards all have different colors and strengths, which allows for great balance by limiting strong units’ capability, and increasing weak units’ flexibility. The mixture of unit strength, card flexibility, and unique/common card functions in different colors and numbers drives each player to use different strategies for each unit and plan for future situations. This is one of the game’s best features.
Another good idea execution is the cards being gum-stick sized, which makes it easy for kids to handle. Kids won’t fumble nearly as much as standard playing cards, making it easier to keep them engaged.
The only tricky rule to deal with is when an invalid card is played; this results in either a protective block or a broken card if no one attacks you. If you have three broken cards at the end of a round, you are eliminated, no matter how many units or life you have remaining. An invalid card is played by a unit that can’t use that color, which can happen unexpectedly. This is a non-intuitive concept, but, at worst, it should only take a few mishaps before it sinks in. Avoiding getting three broken cards can be a tricky proposition, making the end-game much more interesting.
This game is worth playing, and it’s easy to learn, even for kids. Even though the game is listed as being intended for 13+, we have no doubt it can be enjoyed by younger audiences, maybe even down to 8.
It has balanced, well-thought out presentation, with complexity that’s still great for quick or group play. With a few tweaks and some polish as this prototype continues development, I’d definitely improve my rating from a 7 to an 8.
Windup War shares many of its key mechanics with similar “simultaneous adjudication” games like Walk the Plank, another game highly recommended by The Family Gamers.
The Family Gamers were provided a prototype version of Windup War for this review.
Play Time: 10-20 minutes
Age Range: 13+