Well, uncertainty and schedule shuffling led to gaming this Saturday with only three of us. A little hemming and hawing led to us trying an old, little-known game Dave has on loan from his dad: The Warlord Game.

The idea is that each player is a Baron of a fief in a kind of generic European Middle Ages, and you are attempting to conquer further lands until you are crowned King, and can make it stick for a year.

As a late-’70s self-published game, there are numerous difficulties in the rules that show they were probably written without any recourse to blind playtest. However, the production values are pretty good, and it’s not too hard to figure out what to do. All of us found it to be a more interesting and fun game to play than we has suspected.

The map looks like it is meant for four players starting at the corners, but the rules say 2-6 players and to draw randomly for starting fiefs. This caused a problem as Dave and I ended up adjacent on one edge of the board, while Patch was in the center. More important than his relative remoteness was the fact that it allowed him to wall off the middle of the board and then start grabbing the far side of the map in peace.

After the first year’s campaigning, we were starting to come in contact with Patch, and the first battle of the game was where Patch destroyed an army of mine, routing me out of the rich province of Lippstadt near the center and taking it for himself. Dave however, managed to take Soust from him in a quick campaign, while on the opposite flank I found myself slowly driving forward towards Grounau as I tried to turn his flank and get into the backfield areas Patch had not yet claimed. The combat chart is quite chaotic, as I demonstrated when a 1-1 attack wiped out Patch’s defenders in tough terrain.

An interesting facet of the game is that your initial growth is very powerfully powered by taking fiefs. Not only do they help provide you with future income, but you receive money and new troops for each of the first 12 fiefs you take. The new troops are very important, as not only will they make the bulk of your early troops, but you can only hire troop types you already have access to. Want some archers? Sorry, but you have to get eight fiefs to get one. This accentuated Patch’s advantage as he gobbled up territories on the central road network and the size of his army swelled. But it’s a great mechanism to produce forward momentum and punish the tendency of players to ‘turtle’ in this type of game.

Also, your personal unit upgrades as your power expands and your rank goes up from 6-6 (combat-movement) Knight (really, a Baron), to 8-6 Duke (both Dave and I ended the day there) to 10-6 King and 12-6 Emperor (optional to victory). Patch managed to crown himself King with 12 fiefs (out of 17 needed for victory), which comes with a fairly massive royal army which was hurrying down the road towards me. I had a few turns to continue to solidify my position, but it was going to become a problem. We had to call it a day partway into the third year, and figured Patch would have won, though we were giving him a much rougher time than it had seemed we could for a couple turns and the fighting was far from one-sided.

All in all, it’s an interesting game of empire-building (always a good subject), with a few flaws that could be polished off with some effort. As is, it’s a pretty interesting game that we’d like to give a workout with the rest of the gang.