Border Wars isn’t perfect, but I don’t feel that it has any real problems either. I’d have liked more content, but then it doesn’t cost very much. It is hard to fault a good product that costs £5.
Some basic details, followed by my thoughts.
What You Get With Border Wars
In terms of value, the iBooks page says 55 pages, which sounds about right. Of that, perhaps 10 are “how this works”, 16 are scenarios – including all the ones from the BRB, along with new ones – and the rest is the actual crunch of the campaign system.
There are several picture pages, but these are mostly photographs of the studio armies, without much line art. It looks nice, and has a very professional aspect. For this you pay £5, which seems fairly reasonable to me.
Doubtless in yesteryear this would have been in White Dwarf, but this is an interactive book – so you get pop-up links and whatnot – and includes a campaign tracker. Said tracker isn’t anything that you couldn’t do in Excel, but it looks nice and has a picture of your race’s logo, which I like.
In contrast to Blood in the Badlands, there is absolutely no fluff, nor any bits of narrative about the GW Studio armies or anything like that. So unlike Blood in the Badlands, this is entirely focused on how you run your own campaign, not about telling you how the Studio ran their campaign. This is much more to my taste – I don’t really care about other people having fun, I just want solid rules.
This product is very focused upon its goal: to give a simple and amusing campaign system for two people.
How the Border Wars Campaign Works
The new scenarios are not tournament style mirror-matches, and so have some imbalance by design. In total, there are fifteen scenarios, including the six BRB ones as I noted above, leaving eleven new scenarios. There are a few ambushes, the age-old Last Stand one with the defender having 33% of the attackers points, a couple of skirmish ones, a river crossing battle, and a couple based around taking and holding buildings. No sieges.
The campaign system – the real meat of the product – is quite interesting.
You begin by spending points on three traits to represent your general – Guile, Persuasion and Planning. An optional rule is to get a +1 to one of these from your race – for example, Tomb Kings get +1 Planning, Warriors get +1 Persuasion, Wood Elves get +1 Guile. Before each of the 3 battles, each player selects from a list of five strategies, related to the mission. These are compared, and may result in dice rolls on your general’s stats.
The second mission has an attacker (the “Invader”) and a defender (“Custodian”). If the attacker selects “Pursue” and the defender “Guerrilla War”, the table says the following:
“The custodian must make a Guile test. If passed, fight Surprise Attack with the custodian as the ambusher and the invader as the defender. If failed, fight Heroic Last Stand, but the Heroic Underdog has 50% of the points of the Overwhelming Attacker (see Appendix 3 or Campaign Tracker). The invader is the Overwhelming Attacker and the custodian is the Heroic Underdog.”
Thus you combine a bit of decision-making, and some dice rolls, in order to get your match-ups.
Many of the results will specify that one side or the other gets “stratagems”, which are mostly fun benefits, such as increasing the WS or BS of one unit by +1, or being able to specify that your opponent cannot use a certain magic item.
Overall, this system will give you, on average, 3 games in the “storyline”; it is possible to only have 2 if you pick certain results in the second mission, or to have many more than 3 if you somehow keep getting draws in your games.
Border Wars: The Verdict
I’m quite pleased with my purchase, overall, and look forward to giving this a whirl soon.
It has the benefit of being simple enough that you don’t need to get big maps or spreadsheets out to control it, but still has a lot of story potential for those that want to roleplay it up. I’m confident to say that it represents a better value than Blood in the Badlands (being smaller and more focused), and am quite excited to see what else GW do in this range.
I don’t have the Lustria book – I don’t know any Lizardmen players – but that seems to be different by virtue of having alternative missions and campaign choices, and not being locked into any two races.
Conceivably we could see Games Workshop offering stuff like “High Elves versus Dark Elves” or “Civil War” versions of these campaigns, but this offering is distinctly vanilla and lacking in race-specific trappings to keep it useful for everyone.
I would recommend Border Wars to players who fancy adding a bit of variation and fun to their games versus regular opponents. On the other hand, I don’t see it as useful for people playing against random opponents in a shop, or for a tournament-focused gamer.