Freedom is your part
If you do as I state
Mortal creature don’t ever thwart
Feel the power and have faith
Build an empire
Form your estate
(from the Warlock rulebook)
What you get for your money:
In the box are five player boards, a Hubba’s bar board, 120 creature cards, 15 reference cards, 15 dragon cards, 14 devastated city cards, a, Elrohir, starting player card, an, Tonar, auctioneer card and the rules.
How do you play the game:
In Warlock you take on the role of a cursed creature from the land of Norkobia and you want to build a great empire. With the help of all kinds of other magical creatures, you will build cities, mine for gold and fight for dominance.
Players start with their own player board with on it, a mine, a dungeon and a castle. Next to this board you will build your empire, a four by four grid of cards. You have three days to build this empire and every day consist of three rounds and every round consist of four phases. First every player gets five creature cards, then players have to put one creature in Hubba’s bar and another in their mine or dungeon. After that, players take three actions, one at a time. Lastly, Elrohir, the starting player card is passed to the next player and a new round begins.
After three rounds, at the end of a day, an auction takes place. Players will bid on the cards that they have placed in Hubba’s bar earlier and the player who had the highest bid can pick a card from the bar and place it into his Empire for free.
But wait, let’s go back to the actions you can take in your turn.
In your turn, you can draw a card or you can play a card from your hand. There are six creature types and every creature type has its own power and skill. But every individual creature can have a different building cost, gold value or point value. There are gnomes, goblins, orcs, humans, giants and wizards. When you play a card from your hand, you put a creature to work. When you put it in your mine, it digs for gold and you can use the creatures gold value in the auction at the end of the day. You can also place it in your dungeon to be used for the construction of a city. A city can be built by placing a card from your hand into your Empire. You do have to pay its building cost. It will cost you certain creature types. For instance, when you want to build a, 5-point, Giant city, you need to grab a wizard, an orc and a gnome from your dungeon. The last action is placing a creature in your castle. When you do that, you must immediately use its power.
Every creature has its own power. Giants can handle dragons. You then take a dragon card and place it in your Empire, they protect other cards from attacks. Orcs raid cities and ruin them. Replace a city from your opponent with a ruined city. Wizards can magically swap one city from your opponent with one of yours. Goblins have the power to recruit creatures from Hubba’s bar. You may place that card in your empire, but you do have pay the cost. With the help of gnomes you can build a, two-point or less, city from hand for free. Finally, when you place a human in your castle, you must take three cards from the discard or draw pile into your hand.
All creature types also have skills that can help you throughout the game. Gnome cities are free to build. Goblin cards have two creatures on them, so you can use both when they are located in your dungeon. When you build a Giant city, you can switch the location of two of your cities. You can use one wizard in your dungeon as a wild-card resource when you build a city. Orc cities are worth a lot of points and humans provide 0.5 or 2 points when you use them in an auctions.
Take a breath, we’re almost there.
The game ends when a player builds his sixteenth city or after the auction on the third day.
Then count all your points and the player with the most points wins Warlock. The curse is lifted.
Get cards, discard some card, do your actions, change the starting player and if it’s the end of a day hold an auction. The basic structure of the game is very simple and easy to learn and teach.
What makes this games interesting, and also more difficult to teach, are the different actions you can do with the creature cards and the different power and skills all these creatures have. You want to use a gnome in your mine, but you also need it to build an Orc city. But wait, maybe I need this Orc to attack my opponents Empire. You can do many things with one card. You want to, but can’t do it all. This is an aspect of the game I really like and it made me think a little of another recent game: Bruges. One card, multiple options.
Every creature has a power and a skill that’s interesting and useful. Except the humans, they seem to be less useful and fun. It’s just a matter of taste. You have to have a lot of humans cluttered together for them to be worth something at the end and their skill is only really useful is specific cases.
Another thing I like are the different ways you can score at the end of the game. You want to have the most cities of a certain type, because you score points when you have a majority, but you also score points by being diverse. Having a lot of the same versus having a little of many different creatures. There are also restrictions at the end. Giants aren’t worth anything in the middle of your Empire, while Wizards are only worth points in the middle and like I already said, Human cities are worth more points when they are connected.
There is some player interaction. Orcs destroy cities, Wizards switch one city with another and there is an auctions at the end of the day. However, not during every game you will attack your enemies. Sometimes you are mainly concerned with your own Empire and your own hand of cards. Then, it’s primarily the fear that something might happen with your Empire that will make you take defensive measures.
I also find that Warlock is one of those game that you definitely cannot judge after one game. During your first play you probably struggle with the powers and skills. But after that first play you start to figure out what benefit every creature has, you start playing strategically and then this game shines.
One minor quibble. I do think the rulebook could have been written a little bit better or at least differently organised.
Although its appearance might suggest otherwise, thematically, the game is not very strong. Some elements make sense, others really don’t. Different cities inhabited by different creatures, do not make sense to me. Specific creatures that are used to build these cities? Why would you ever ask a Gnome to build a Giant city? Just weird.
Some creatures are better in mining cold than others, OK, that’s fine. Recruiting creatures in a bar, sure. Better a drunk creature than no creature, right?
Giants are the only ones that can handle dragons and move cities. Wizards can magically swap cities and change their own appearance. I’m perfectly fine with that, but I don’t get that you can’t have wizards on the outside or can’t have giants on the inside of your Empire.
Good mechanism, but a questionable thematic integration of the theme in these mechanisms.
I’m not fond of the look of this game. It’s a bit old-fashioned. Just not my style.
Some other players said the building cost icons were a bit small and the colours on the cards weren’t distinguishable enough, but, speaking for myself here, I don’t think it was that bad.
Quality of the game parts
You get some cardboard player boards and some square cards and they have a decent quality. There is not much to say about it.
I really like this game. The different options you have, when you play a card from your hand, make this game very interesting. You have to make a lot of choices and choices, the meaningful ones, are fun to make. Difficult sometimes, yes, but fun.
Watching other players. What creatures do they have in their mine? What are they building and what are they planning? Attack? Defend? Those games are interactive. Other games are almost multi-player solitaire, because no one uses the power of Orcs or Wizards. Then you are just creating the best, the most profitable, city configuration. Both game types are a different kind of fun.
I must say that I also really like the two-player variant (you can find it on BGG or the Spellenclub13 site), it works perfectly. On the Spellenclub13 site you can also read a little bit about the design process of Warlock.
Although, the theme could have been implemented better, the mechanism are solid and the gameplay is very enjoyable. Two eerie thumbs up, for Warlock!
Many thanks to Quined Games for providing me a review copy. Visit them at their website.