Sunday, April 03, 2011


This entry in my journey through my game collection is a game I have conflicted feelings about, Diskwars.  I first encountered this game at the Origins convention in 1999, where I got to play a demo game.  Essentially, the game is a fantasy wargame that takes a lot of cues from miniatures gaming.  However, instead of having hundreds of miniature soldiers that you move around the table, you have a number of disks printed on heavy cardstock.  Each disk represents a different unit or individual.  Each disk has ratings for Attack, Defense, Toughness, and Movement.  Some disks have special abilities, like the ability to take multiple wounds, or the ability to fly, or the ability to fire missile weapons, etc.  Game play is in a "back and forth" style where each side activates and moves three disks, then the other side activates and moves three disks, and so forth until both sides are done.  Then missile fire happens, then melee combat, and then you reset to the next turn.

Overall the rules are quite simple and generally work well.  Movement is handled by "flipping" the disk end over end a number of times equal to its Movement rating.  This can be a little deceptive and take some getting used to, as larger disks (like, for example, an Ent) might have a lower Movement number, but because the disk is twice the size of a unit of skeletons, it moves farther than the skeletons.  To make an attack, you move one of your disks until it overlaps the disk you want to attack.  During the Melee phase, you compare the Attack rating of the attacking disk to the Toughness of the defending disk, and if the Attack is equal or greater to the target's Toughness, then the target takes one wound, which will kill most units.  Simultaneously, you compare the defender's Defense rating to the attacker's Toughness, and if the defender's Defense is equal to or greater than the attacker's Toughness, then the attacker takes a wound.  Thus, it is entirely possible to have a mutual destruction combat where both sides eliminate each other.  You have to pay attention to the ratings of enemy units to ensure that you are entering fights you can win, though sometimes an enemy unit has a special ability so annoying that it is worth sacrificing a unit to get rid of it.

Melee can get a lot more complex that that, though, multiple disks are all piling into the scrum.  In such situations, you start at the "top" of the stack and work down.  Thus, a unit that you were counting on to kill a unit underneath it can itself be killed if enemy units move on top of it.  Because of this, timing of when you activate a unit is very important, and figuring that out seems to me to be a key aspect of the game system.  You can also have one unit attacking multiple defenders at the same time, or multiple attackers all attacking the same defending unit.  So while the basic combat system is simple, it can get complex with multiple layers of attacks.

The other method of combat is missile combat, where units armed with bows, or magicians with fireball or lightning spells, can attack an enemy disk within range.  This is handled by taking the appropriate number of missile counters and putting them on an unused disk.  You then hold that disk 12 inches over the target disk, and you then drop the missile counters.  Wherever they land, that is what unit gets hit.  In my experience, this can get kind of crazy, with you killing off your own units accidentally, or hitting enemy units that you weren't even targeting, as the missile counters can bounce and roll once you drop them.  I have never liked this aspect of the rules, as it just seems both too random and too dependent on manual dexterity in a game that otherwise features neither of those things.

In fact, the main thing that annoys me about this game is that there are no dice to roll.  While this makes the game simpler than other wargames, everytime I play it I feel like adding in some dice rolls would really spice things up.  Or, at least, I want to roll dice for missile fire rather than dropping counters from the sky.  So, while there are things about this game that I like, there are some that I don't, as well.  It seems like every year I think about trading or selling all of my disks, but I never seem to actually do it, because the game is just good enough to keep around, even though I never really play it anymore.

Diskwars was first published in army sets that cost $10 per set.  There were eight different armies in the game, and I ended up buying at least one starter set of each army.  Each set came with eight heavy card sheets that contained unit disks.  These sheets were semi-randomized, such that you always got a few of the same basic units and the rest were random, including units from other armies all together.  Thus, the game had a collectible aspect to it like Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon.  Later the publisher came out with "Legions" starter sets which provided you two pre-built armies to get started with.  There were also a number of different expansions that provided randomized sheets of disks to expand your armies with new units.  The game has been out of print for years, but you can still find people selling their old disks on eBay or other auction sites.

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