Have you ever pondered what it was like to fight in a battle during the Roman or Spartan Era? To have stood in the front rank of a great empire or dynasty, shoulder to shoulder with fellow soldiers, sweating through exhaustion and fear, staring out over a bloodied battlefield towards an endless throng of screaming warriors descending upon you? Or have you ever looked at wars and battles and thought, nah, not for me, a bit too much stress going on there… In A War of Whispers, you don’t fight on the muddy battlefield; instead you scheme in the shadows, pulling the strings of five empires, sending their armies to war as mere puppets under your control.
A War of Whispers
As the title and introduction suggests, A War of Whispers is about deviancy where each player takes on the role of one of four secret societies; The Cult of the Rat, The Endless Serpent, The Pale Raven or The Supplicant Spider. In each turn they cast out their spies into any of the game's five armies they see fit, manipulating their objectives and shaping their fates.
The ultimate goal is to be the secret society with the most influence throughout the empire at the end of the game. This is done by ensuring the armies that you are backing hold the most cities when the embers of war are extinguished, and the game comes to an end.
None of the other players will know which army you desire to be victorious, unless you choose to reveal two of them, allowing you to swap loyalties at any point during the game's progression. In one turn you may choose to reinforce an army, turning them into a looming presence that towers over all other banners who cower from attacking them, and in the next turn, as the other players shift their alliances to this seemingly powerful force, you then march them repeatedly on suicidal charges, buckling their army into ruin, smiling as you reveal you worked for a different army all along. You get to be two faced to your friends but in the best possible way!
The game itself appears stunningly detailed, both mechanically and visually. Battles are fought over a beautifully illustrated map and each action card has its own picture unique to the army it activates. The only negative I have found so far is that the artwork is repetitive for each army’s cards however, like any other Starling Games board game; they are still illustrated with wonderful detail.
The game's mechanics look unique in the sense that gameplay encapsulates area control and area influence, similar to board games like Risk or Blood Rage, but with added dimensions of betting and shifting alliances. A unique tweak is that every player may control any army on any of their turns and so A War of Whispers makes for a frantic paced, ever shifting, ever twisting game where no two sessions will ever be the same.
There are no dice to roll meaning battles are won or lost simply by who has the most numbers, however there are action cards that truly shift the tides of war to unexpected levels. The most twisted I’ve seen so far reads: “After completing an attack. Kill all banners involved.” Imagine the devastation of watching two armies that you are backing the most, which appear to be winning; then controlled by another player and crippled with the placement of one single card. In this scenario, instead of yelling at friends or loved ones, you could open the freezer and bury your face along with your sorrows into a bag of frozen peas. It would provide a less confrontational way of venting stress whilst cooling off simultaneously.
With Starling Games having smashed their $30,000 Kickstarter goal by over $14,000, I’m beyond excited to play this game. Especially with their track record of constant success through titles such as Alien Frontiers, Black Orchestra, and King’s Forge - just to name a few.
As a huge fan of A Games of Thrones, I cannot wait to play out battles where the tides of war are constantly shifting not only through sword and spear but also through the whispers of shadows lurking in the dark. It’s the closest you’ll get to being Little Finger and as he famously once said; “Chaos is a ladder.” The winner will be the one who manages to cling to some semblance of order amidst the maelstrom that A War of Whispers creates.
If you’re like me and you enjoy area control games; but you suck at the strategic aspects of fighting battles. Try giving lying, betraying and backstabbing a go instead. A War of Whispers is available to pre-order through the Zatu store.