Wolff Designa's first game, Guards of Atlantis, received a warm critical reception. Reviewers who played it loved the game, although it needs regular plays to get the most out of it. Warpgate is Wolff Designa's second game and takes us into space for an engaging experience that clocks in at an hour or under.
Rather than the 2-9 player count of Guards, here we see a more regular 2-4 players place out modular boards and race to influence the stars.
Warpgate has already had one Kickstarter campaign that was cancelled. A mysterious lack of publicity led to a lack of funding despite fans of the first game flocking to back. Learning from their mistakes they are planning a relaunch with some exciting improvements and partnerships in mid January.
At it's core, Warpgate revolves around the player, action deck and board. Each player gets a deck of 12 cards and a player board with four areas, the first labeled 'x1' all the way up to 'x4'. Each of these represent one of the player's four turns of that round, and they add to the power of your action. For example a build action might say 'Build x ships at your warpgate' and depending on when you play it you will get 1-4 ships built. You must play in order so your first action is always 'x1' which means sometimes you have to take a lower action than you would like to get everything done that you want to do.
Action cards have two potential actions on them and on their turn a player plays one card to the next available area on their player mat and takes one of those actions. Player mats also have a unique faction power that will give players more options.
Players will use this escalating action selection system to move across the modular map, establish trade routes, research new technologies, exert control over territories and earn points for completing missions and being sneaky in battle. All this is done at some speed due to the action selection system and pleasingly tight map. The modular set up means the game scales really well and two - four players will be fighting for air from the first turn onward.
Although not primarily a battle game, the battle system in Warpgate is great too. When one of your fleets makes an aggressive move into another player's fleet location a battle ensues. Usually both players will draw two cards from their identical eight card battle deck and choose one discarding the other. Battle cards display a multiplier and an action.
First the multiplier is times by the number of ships in your attacking or defending fleet and this is compared to the enemies. The losing side is forced back to the nearest friendly or neutral planet. Then both actions take place. The actions can destroy ships, steal VP and much more. This creates an interesting system where you may want to lose, because your action will destroy the enemy.
Other potential actions include moving a scientist standee around to research, giving you access to special improvements like being able to use two actions on a card instead of one, or being immune from attack on turns one & three. You can take control of planets placing outposts on them. Outposts can be upgraded to colonies if you control a whole system. This allows you to take a planet mission card and potentially score more points.
Trade routes can also prove lucrative as they can potentially be activated multiple turns in a round if your opponents don't break them up. Which they should. The small maps actively encourage it!
Even though Warpgate is a prototype that is already being further tweaked I have absolutely loved my time playing it. It is a fast fluid game that is easy to pick up and play. There are multiple paths to victory with none feeling 'too strong'. I've seen victories that spread their points and ones that focus in on one path.
Ultimately whatever you are trying your opponents have the tools and the ability to disrupt it. Points are dished out in 1's, 2's and 3's so if someone jumps to a lead they are never unreachable. The end game conditions can be rushed, but you get another complete round to turn things around.
Warpgate is one of the best Kickstarter prototypes I have played for sheer fun and gameplay. I will be a first day backer in January. Warpgate is a lighter than Guards of Atlantis, but it seems that Wolff Designa have deliberately made an approachable game. My only hope is that more people discover Guards after playing Warpgate.