Heres a little disclaimer first: This was NOT
written by me but rather one of the leads for Puppet Wars plus I am going to put a few other posts/ideas by others to help people get a feel for the game.
So, what is Puppet Wars? That is a harder question to answer than you may think (hey, it's why I'm writing an entire blog on it). Let's start with what it is not.
A common misconception about Puppet Wars is that it is just 'Malifaux Lite,' a toned down version of Malifaux with more simplistic rules. This is not true. Although the two games take place in the same world, and the characters are inspired thematically by Malifaux Characters (albeit cute puppet versions), Malifaux and Puppet Wars could not be more different from each other in their game mechanics. In fact, I would argue that about the only thing the two systems have in common is that they both use cards for random determination. But the cards are used entirely differently. Arguing that Puppet Wars and Malifaux have similar game mechanics because they both use cards is like saying Warhammer 40k and Warmachine are basically the same game because they both use dice.
(Puppet Pandora wants to be your friend)
Is Puppet Wars a board game? Well, it is played on a board, however it differs from more traditional board games in a number of ways. Puppet wars has more pre-game preparation than almost any other traditional board game. The models need to be assembled and painted. Lists need to be selected and, finally, the board needs to be set up. Although this may seem like more work (who ever felt the urge to paint the thimble in Monopoly?) it also gives us the large level of variation that many of us have come to love in miniatures games. Players are allowed to customize their own armies, both visually through painting/modeling, and by creating and honing their own list. This creates a huge variation in play experience and the feeling that an army is â€œyours.â€
So, is Puppet Wars a miniatures game? Well, it has miniatures. But traditional miniatures games are both heavily defined, and heavily restricted, by theme. They tell a story and advance characters, the rules of the game and, by extension, the options available to the player must adhere to the story line. Why can't I take grots in my Space Marine army? Would it be broken? No. Why can't the Dreamer in Malifaux take Bayou Gremlins? Would it make him any better? No, but it would hurt the game thematically. In Puppet Wars, list building is not strictly limited by theme. You can use any puppet in any list. Certain Puppets are better in certain lists, and various abilities synergize better with others, but you can use any model you want with any other model you want. Where do we see games where list building is not restricted by theme, but instead encouraged through synergy alone? Card games. In Magic, for example, you can have a five color deck, but on average it will have less synergy than a mono color deck because you have to stuff all five colors of mana in there.
(Turn your head and cough)
So, is Puppet Wars a card game? Well, mechanically it is probably more similar to an LCG (Living Card Game like the Game of Thrones card game) than it is a traditional board or miniatures game. But there are no cards (other than a normal 54 card deck) and there are models, and a board. There aren't many LCGs without cards. And there are things, like tactical positioning, that no card game ever has to deal with... so, what the hell is it? Puppet Wars is one of those rare games that truly crosses genres. It is our very first Living Board Game.
Now, this is a pretty difficult torch to cary. Games that cross genres can be hard for people. They risk becoming a strange hermaphrodite that dies at birth because nobody understands it. But, in my opinion, Puppet Wars has taken the best elements from Board, Miniature, and Card games and given life to an entirely new dynamic. You get the fantastic models of a miniatures game, along with the tactical decisions inherent to having pieces to position. However, the game is played on a board, so the measurements are always exact and there is never a question about what has line of sight. Finally, you get the diversity of list building inherent in card games, with just enough restriction to make building the list difficult and fun.
Alright, we know what Puppet Wars is, so on to the second question: why should you play it? Now, this one is, of course, entirely up to you, but here I will explain a bit more of the specifics of game play.
At the start of play, each player selects one master and eight additional Puppets to comprise their Puppet army. During the game Puppets move about the board, around impassable spaces, claiming objectives and attacking each other. If your Master is ever killed or you lose all of your workbenches (objectives distributed on the board before the game) you lose. If you are the last player standing, you win. Pretty simple.
As I stated earlier, Puppet Wars uses a traditional 54 card poker deck (jokers included) for random determination. The only difference is that the suits have been changed. Instead of hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs there are tomes, crows, rams, and masks. This is important because each Puppet, generally, has a suite associated with it. Every time you animate (use during your turn) a Puppet, you will need to discard a card which meets its animation requirement. The animation requirement is comprised of a number and a suit. The higher the number, the better the puppet, but the more difficult it will be to animate. This is how balance is done, no points in this game. The other aspect of the animation requirement, the suit, is important too. Every master reduces the cost of a certain suit. For example, Seamus, the crow master, lets you ignore all crows in your animation requirements, thereby making crow puppets easier to animate. You may think this means players will always pack their army with Puppets who's suits match their master, but not necessarily.
Each suit is associated with different characteristics: puppets with rams in their animation requirement are good at attacking, crows are more resilient, tomes have cool actions and draw cards, and masks have good movement. So, while you may pack Seamus's list entirely with crow puppets which are easier for him to animate, if you wanted to add some movement shenanigans, you would need to add some mask puppets. In this way any puppet may be used with any master, but selecting a list is more than simply taking the best puppets: you will need enough puppets within your master's suit to make animating easy, while including a few out of suit to get everything you need to win. All in all, this makes list building an incredibly fun and engaging aspect of the game. There are even rules for doing drafts.
Another great thing is that Puppet Wars was playtested and designed to work with two, three, and four players. It's not like playing a massive multi player game for most other miniatures games: the game still flows with four players and you will still be able to reasonably finish your game. And, since there are alternating activations as opposed to an 'I go, you go' system, you are never waiting an hour for your turn.
Here is a quick How to Play video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... pu7PQBVbOg
All in all, Puppet Wars retains many of the aspects we love about miniatures games (the tactical positioning and, of course, miniatures) with the fluid list selection of card games and the precision of a board. Eric Johns described Puppet Wars as a miniatures game you can play without all of the hastle, since it requires a smaller space, number of miniatures, and has a shorter game length than most miniatures games. On the whole, I agree with him, but I think that it has broken through a few more barriers as well.
All of the rules for Puppet Wars available at http://www.puppet-wars.com