Age of War is a fast moving, Japanese themed game of castle conquest using a dice pool to assemble your conquering army. Designed by the legendary Reiner Knizia, for 2–6 players, Age of War is a clean, fun game which won’t take much time to finish.
The board is set with 14 castles in the centre of play, each of which is colour coded according to their clan, and with a points value. A player turn consists of rolling an initial set of seven dice and based on that roll selecting a castle to conquer. Later, when castles have been conquered and sit in front of an opponent, they too can be conquered if they have not been scored as part of a clan set, though there is extra challenge in doing so.
Each dice face has a symbol for cavalry, archery, daimyo, or 1–3 infantry denoted by swords. Each castle has one or more battle lines of these symbols, all of which must be completed for the castle to be conquered. A single roll of the dice pool must provide all the symbols required for a single battle line for it to be completed. If a battle line cannot be completed the dice pool can be re-rolled having set one die aside. A turn ends when the castle has been conquered or the dice pool has been exhausted.
When a castle is conquered it is claimed and set in front of the conqueror. If a player manages to conquer all the castles of a single clan then they are flipped over as a stack and are safe from predatory opponents.
When the central pool of castles is empty a tally of castles is taken and the highest point total wins.
This may all sound a little complex but the single sheet of rules with illustrations are very clear. It will take minutes to learn.
How it Plays
Age of War is not a game which should induce any great degree of analysis paralysis. Chuck your initial dice pool, choose a target, and go for it. This initial choice is the sole point of pressing your luck as once you’re locked onto a castle, you must play it through to either capture or failure.
The castles have varying point values that, to a degree, reflect the ease with which they may be conquered. Having not done the math, I suspect the difficulty is not necessarily a linear match between battle line difficulty and points value. Over much play, I imagine certain castles will gain a reputation for being a walk-over whereas others will prove to be army breakers.
The grouping of castles into clan sets adds another choice, offering the opportunity to prevent or enable set completion. The additional daimyo battle line that comes into play when trying to conquer a castle from an opponent provides additional risk of failure, which can lead to difficult choices as the points start racking up.
The cards, with their castle art done in pastel shades, look great laid out on the table. According to a friend, who has been to Japan and visited several of them, the castle names are genuine and authentically represented. The on-card symbols for the battle lines do, however, somewhat obscure this fine art.
The cards themselves are fairly light stock but still good quality. The dice are decently weighted with clear symbols.
Final Thoughts on Age of War
Age of War is a fun, quick game which should not be taken too seriously. It has a good theme and provides much hilarity as an opponent requiring a few measly infantry instead rolls nothing but cavalry, archers and daimyo.