Weather Wars Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the game’s final prototype. The art, game bits, and the rules discussed are all subject to change. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game’s official web site or  visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review!


weatherwars_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Lead your animal forces into war as you attempt to crush your enemies to control the world’s only weather machine!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek mixed!
  • Child Geek mixed!

Overview

The Guzunganator is a technical marvel! With just a twist of a dial, summer can become winter or rain can give way to a sunny day. For the two partners who created it, Nigel the Frozen Zookeeper and Sun Tree Moon the Organic Farmer, the weather machine is the result of years of study, effort, and sacrifice. Now that they have it, there is just one little problem: neither of the two want to share it with the other! There greed and selfishness has now stated a war.

Weather Wars, a self-published game by Doug Murphy and Daniele Bergeron, will reportedly be comprised of 90 cards. Out of these 90 cards, there is 1 Season card (one side represents winter and the other side represents summer), 6 Season Change cards (that flip the Season card when played), 82 Animal cards, and 1 play summary card. As this is a review of a prepublished game, we will not comment on the game’s overall quality. The proposed artwork design is consistent throughout the game and is very humorous at times.

weatherwars_bits

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first find and set aside the play summary card and the Season card. Place the Season card in the center of the playing area and the play summary card to one side for quick reference.

Second, shuffle the remaining cards to create the game’s draw deck. Cut this deck in half and look at the card that is under the top portion of the cut. Flip the Season card to “Summer” if the Animal card shown is a summer animal or to “Winter” if the Animal card shown is a winter animal. If the card shown is a Season Change card, shuffle and recut until an Animal card is shown.

Third, shuffle the deck again and deal 1 card to each player, face-down. All players reveal this card at the same time. The player with the highest numbered card goes first. Collect these cards and put them back in the deck.

Fourth, shuffle the deck one more time and deal out to each player 5 cards, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand.

Fifth, place the deck of cards face-down next to the Season card and leave space for a discard pile.

You are now ready to play! RELEASE THE COWS OF WAR!!!

Animal Warfare

Weather Wars is played in turns. Each turn is comprised of a short number of sequential steps. A player’s turn is summarized here.

Step 1: Play a Card

The player must select one card from their hand to play to the “Field” (also referred to as the “battlefield” in the rules) if they can. Some cards, once played, go immediately to the discard pile. The Field is the table or the playing area, although each player will only control the animals directly in front of them. The only cards that can be played are Animal cards that match the current Season card’s value (summer or winter) or the Change Season card. Additionally, a player can only play a card if the card’s requirements can be met. For example, the “Laser Cow” requires that at least 19 Animal cards be in the Field before it can be played. When counting animals, all the animals in play (not just the animals the player is controlling) are counted.

weatherwars_animal

If the player cannot play a card to the Field during this step, they immediately go to step 3.

Step 2: Resolve Card Effects

Once the card is played, it’s effects are resolved immediately. If the effect cannot be resolved at this time, it’s simply ignored. The effects can be triggered again by using other cards like the “Ninja Pig” and “Ambassador Penguin”. Some Animal cards have effects that are only triggered when certain conditions exist in the game.

Step 3: All Players Calculate Power

A player’s strength is derived from their animal army (yes, including the two humans who are in the game – people are animals) that are played to the Field. However, the overall level of strength is dependent on what season is shown on the Season card. Since the Season card can be flipped during step 2, all players need to quickly review their own animals and complete the following steps.

  1. Add up all the power values on the Animal cards the player currently controls.
  2. Add an additional 25 power to the total if the majority of Animal cards match the season shown on the Season card. Do not add 25 to the total if there are an even number of winter and summer animals.
  3. If the total is 100 or more points, see Endgame. Otherwise, continue to step 4.

Note: It is suggested that the players tip their cards sideways when they shouldn’t be counted for points because of the current season, Animal cards can be arranged in a player’s area by power value (with identical animals stacked together) and done so there is a visible difference between a player’s summer animals and winter animals. This will make it easy to quickly add up an individual player’s power score and an opponent’s power score.

Step 4: Draw Cards

If the player has 2 or fewer cards in their hand, they now discard whatever cards they have remaining and draw 5 cards from the deck. If the draw deck is exhausted, simply shuffle the discard pile to create a new draw deck.

This ends the player’s turn. The next player going clockwise now starts their turn.

Note: If all the players are unable to complete step 1 because they cannot play any cards, all the players discard their hand and are dealt 5 new cards.

Winning the Weather War

If the player has 100 or more power after calculating their total power during step 3, they win the game and the weather machine. If two or more players have 100 or more points during step 3, whichever player has the highest total wins the game. If there is still a tie, the winner is chosen by armwrestling (as suggested by the game rules).

Game Variant

The standard game of Weather Wars is everyone versus everyone. There are also rules provided that allow players to compete in teams. Each team must include 2 players each and the game is played exactly the same except for the following noted changes:

  • Team members do not share control of the Animal cards they play to the Field.
  • Team members can steal and destroy a fellow team member’s Animal card.
  • Team member cards do not count towards their fellow team member’s abilities or card requirements
  • The game ends when the combined power score of a team (counting the power in both the player’s areas and adding them together) is 150 or more.

To learn more about Weather Wars and read the full rules, visit the game’s official web site or  visit the Kickstarter campaign. There is also a print-n-play version of the game available if you’d rather “try before you buy”.

Prediction

PLEASE NOTE!: We were accidentally given down-level rules to play the game prototype that included a nasty rule error. In the rules we were provided, the wordage led us to believe that each player had their own Field (the space directly in front of them) instead of one large shared Field. While I can update the rules (which we have done in the Overview) to reflect the rule change, I cannot travel through time. The following reported prediction and playing experience of Weather Wars is based on the original rule understanding of each player having their own Field. With the update to the most current rules, I would assume that the endorsement level would change and be more positive. Everything you are about to read is based on our initial experience BEFORE we were told about the rule change, however. Which, in some ways, makes all the time we played the game and what we have recorded here completely useless to you. When the game is published,  we’ll replay the game with our groups and update their playing experience accordingly. Until then, what you are about to read (both in the Prediction and the Final Word) is valid but no longer accurate. Make sense? Sure it does. ENJOY!

This is a very simple card game that requires the player to do a bit of logical thinking before and if they can play a card. Timing is the biggest concern for any player in Weather Wars because cards have requirements that must be met before they are played. This strongly suggests that a player need to logically think through the order in which they play their cards. Players must also carefully consider the timing of changing the seasons because it will alter the power scores of all the players. I don’t personally see a lot of strategy in this game and the only tactics that make sense is to play animal cards as often as you can. This should make the game an easy one to teach and to play with Child Geeks, families, and non-gamers. Light hand management is a must, but players are always forced to play at least 1 card per turn, making any hand management a simple exercise of critical thinking about what card would be the best to play.

What does have me concerned is the very real possibility that players might be locked out of play for an unspecified amount of time. If you don’t have a card to play, you must wait until all the players have no playable cards or until a player changes the season. If that is the case, I don’t think those who are forced to simply sit back and watch the game play out in front of them are going to have much fun with Weather Wars. We’ll have to see how often it occurs to determine if my concern is legitimate or not.

Teaching the game is very straight forward. All the Child Geeks we explained the game to quickly grasped the game’s rules and victory condition. None of the players, be they Child, Parent, or Gamer Geek had any questions for us when we taught the game. Everyone pretty much got the gist of it right away. While my oldest little geek shuffled the deck of cards for our first game, I asked him his thoughts on Weather Wars so far.

“An easy sounding game; I shouldn’t have any problems with it. I like the art a lot and think the drawings are pretty funny.” ~ Liam (age 8)

Sounds like he could go either way with Weather Wars. Let’s play it a few times and see if the game is nothing but sunshine and happiness or dark thunderclouds of boredom.

Final Word

The Child Geeks either loved or hated this game based on if they could play cards or not. If the Child Geek was able to play cards, they had a great time. If they were unable to play cards and had to watch their opponent’s gain more and more points while they sat and did nothing, they quickly disliked it. These wild swings of hate and love for the game were somewhat tempered when we put the Child Geeks into teams of 2. Most of the time, when one team member couldn’t play a card, another team member could. This allowed the team as a whole to continue to score points, but they were at a serious disadvantage if both players on the opposite team could play cards. In the end, the Child Geeks were just too mixed to give Weather Wars a solid approved or rejected endorsement. All the Child Geeks played the game as best they could, however, and we didn’t  observe anything to suggest that they were confused by the game rules or what the game’s object was.

My little geek contemplates his next move as his mom quickly dashes away for a moment

My little geek contemplates his next move as his mom quickly dashes away for a moment

The Parent Geeks had the same experience. All the Parent Geeks agreed that Weather Wars was not a game they would play with their peers and would only be brought to the table as a family game. They did not like the fact that a game targeting a family only allowed 4 players, as there were a few families that had 5 to 6 members. They did appreciate that the game did require the player to put some thought into their card plays, and even the non-gamers were able to quickly identify the very real need to observe an opponent’s Field prior to flipping the season. The Parent Geeks greatly disliked being locked out of the game due to insufficient cards, especially when it happened to one of their Child Geeks. This made the game feel somewhat “uncomfortable” at times. “I can’t imagine it’s much fun to watch Mom and Dad play cards when you can’t”, said one Parent Geek. “Then again, the kids seem to really like it when the parents can’t play cards, so maybe it’s fair.” In the end, the Parent Geeks were also very mixed about Weather Wars, had several suggestions on how to improve it, and agreed to disagree on if the game should be approved or not.

The Gamer Geeks didn’t care for Weather Wars at all. I’ll spare you the rather colorful and passionate language they used to describe how much they did not care for it. Suffice to say, Weather Wars is not a game with Gamer Geeks in mind. I’m not totally convinced some of the Gamer Geeks understood this. In this case, Weather Wars is targeting families, and I think young families at that. Gamer Geeks were looking for in-depth strategy, deep game play, and a challenge. They found none of that here. Out of all three of our groups, the Gamer Geeks were the only ones to agree on an endorsement level.

The lack of ability to play cards at times is a huge downer. I went several rounds of play without being able to do anything. Since you cannot discard cards to reduce your hand size to allow you to play a card or draw new cards in the interim, you are stuck. And playing cards is absolutely necessary to compete because you have to play small powered animals to bring out more powerful Animal cards.  For an adult, this is just annoying. For the Child Geeks, this was disastrous.

But we must also consider that Weather Wars is positioning itself as a simple and fast game. It is both of those things and can be a great deal of fun to play. I’m not going to suggest that this game (or any game) is “bad” because that is highly subjective. It is, however, not a game for me. I like my card games to give players an opportunity to always take an action, or choose not to take an action. When a game stops a player from playing, I am always left wondering why I should play the game at all. Clearly, Weather Wars did nothing for me, but my little geeks are really enjoying it. Yes, they get frustrated when they can’t play cards, but the games are so fast that the time spent wallowing in self-pity is short. For my family, it wasn’t a problem, but that was not the case with some of the other families we played it with.

It comes down to this: Weather Wars is one of those games that is either going to resonate with you or will not. The same can be said about FluxxMunchkin or Smash Up. These games tend to be loved and hated with the same level of tenacity. While I doubt Weather Wars will ever cause a player to flip the table, it can feel very “broken” when you can’t play cards for a number of turns. Despite that, the game is most of the time silly, fun, and always fast. Weather Wars would make for a great family card game for those families who play board, dice, and card games very casually or infrequently.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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2 Responses to Weather Wars Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Tim says:

    Wow…the rule change is HUGE! I can’t believe they sent you a crap game. More over, I can’t believe you still agreed to publish the review! Aren’t you pissed off? I would be! Hell, I’d be crazy angry that they wasted my time and start ranting about how bad the game was and how incredibly stupid the game developers were to send you a crap game. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    You are a beter man than I, Cyrus. The developers of this seemingly forgettable card game should be thanking you repeatedly as I think you are being exceedingly charitable with your red text comment. I would have let the game review ride as it was without even mentioning the new game update.

    • Cyrus says:

      Luckily, my ego is not involved in the Father Geek project and anytime I can spend with my friends and family is always worthwhile, even if it is being spent with a game that is not satisfying. I don’t feel that my time has been wasted, but I am disappointed that I did not teach or play the game right.

      But let us also keep in mind, Tim, that we all mistakes. What occurred here was clearly a mistake and nothing more. No one lost a limb, no property was burned to the ground, and the sun will rise tomorrow. Let’s keep this in perspective and acknowledge that we are only human and making mistakes is inevitable, no matter how hard we sometimes try to avoid them.

      For example, Tim, you misspelled “better”. 🙂

      The point of our reviews is to share our experiences with games, which we most certainly have done.

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