Set before Carcassonne, Meeple War sets the ground work as to who established the roads and castles of the Spiel des Jahres, game of the year classic.
It is a two to four-player strategic, area control game where opponents construct buildings, train meeples to their depot and deploy them in front of their gate via activating actions on the structures. The game ends when someone starts their turn with six victory points.
Meeple War - The Game
The rulebook for Meeple War (designed by Max Valembois) recommends beginning the introductory game and this is the set-up I have always chosen with new players. Games after that have been swifter, lending it to not needing rules explanation and players being familiar with the structure's abilities.
Each player has the same 10 buildings - In the intro game, each player has different structures already built (it saves time and starts the actions of the buildings sooner; in the full game nothing is built).
Depending on start player and who is next in order, dictates the start tiles.
As mentioned earlier, the actions can be getting out meeples, others include moving opponents' meeples and the favourite two who be on the catapult. You can fling a missile and destroy all meeples on one territory hex-tile and you gain bravery points (I’ll come back to this) or instead, you can launch one of your guys into an opponent's building. There are defence spaces. When full, the building is destroyed and each meeple scores its opponent one victory point.
To negate this, one structure has a priest in it. Active it and you switch an opponent’s “spy” with your meeple. You will gain a VP if the building is lost.
With 13 meeples each, nobody ran out, but it depletes your resources in battle. Additionally, you place one of your meeples on the mountain (VP with six places, again reducing your workforce). So, if you deploy meeples, you uncover a territory. It may have a bonus and if you have two dudes on it at the start of your turn, you activate it, such as the sacrificial alter - you may remove one of your meeples and remove someone else’s up to two tiles away and gain one bravery point.
Getting seven bravery equals a victory point and more than seven in our go lets you go up the track again.
So, why war? You can amass an army of meeples, and the turn phases are:
Check to see if you’ve won
Move your workers (white cubes) one space, which might activate the building, some buildings need more than one space.
Moving meeples is optional and you could move five of seven into the next territory. The central tile(s) contain victory points, 1 x 2 VP with two or three players and 2 x 1 VP at four players. So, centre might be key.
If three opponents are in a tile you enter, you gain as many bravery as you move in to slay. So, they remove three and you also remove slay. However they gain bravery too, but one for every two meeples.
Final Thoughts on Meeple War
Meeple War is the first game this year I have played 10 times and it was in a week. In the first couple of games it had a lukewarm reception, but I had played Axio, Showtime and other games with them already. However, I brought it out as the first game at the next few events, both lunch and evening. In those instances, people loved it and have already added it to their baskets.
It’s a cube pushing game, you get to see what someone is planning, i.e. they are one away from launching their catapulting missile, spread your units! New buildings take time to build and have a relatively universal back, so others do not know what you are constructing.
Overall, players preferred four players in the game. Meeple War scales evenly on duration, with 15 minutes per player correctly estimated. However, for intro, four players can be anywhere from 70 minutes to 100 minutes.
You must be engaged in what others are doing in Meeple War, I’ve lost multiple times not realising someone had a spy in my building. Player interaction is massive, you can’t attack or control areas if you don’t deploy. One player even called it terrorism, not war. Players enjoyed the components: Meeples, the blue player has the Carcassonne shape meeples. Orange, Black and Green has Mechs, Robots and Vikings. However, the first player token and the gate in front of your building is annoying and unnecessary.
The replay-ability in Meeple War surprised me. Playing it four times a day I was curious on strategy and it is much wider and tactical – constructing over your buildings (which might gift VP) to adjust to other players.