As board games grow in popularity, there is a trend of converting computer or video games into a board game as well. This War of Mine is one of them. It was a computer game that was very popular when it was released in 2014 by a Polish game company, 11 bit studios. It was a war survival game that was inspired by the 1992-1996 Siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. You don't play combatants fighting in the war. You play a small group of civilians caught in the middle where everyday was a struggle to survive.
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The cooperative board game took the computer game and did a great job of bringing it to your table for 1-6 players. It was designed by Michał Oracz, Jakub Wiśniewski and released on 2017. The board is of a large tenement house the survivors live in. You search your house for supplies or stuff to build things with. You need water and food to survive. You build things like a bed to sleep or a stove to cook what meager food you have. You also go out at night to scavenge locations for supplies and hopefully to trade with others or get some help. There are many decks of cards and components to bring the horrors of living in a war town city to your table. It uses game mechanics of resource management, crafting, worker placement, storytelling, Press your luck, and dice rolling.
In the set up, house rooms are covered in flippable cards that display what you may find. There are decks for the locations you scavenge, characters, storytelling, objectives, what you may find, exploring, progress you make and more. You start off with three randomly selected characters with different attributes, strengths, and weaknesses. Cveta, Marin, and Roman joined my merry group.
There are also components for resources like water, wood, and components to build things. And chits of things like different food, useful tools, medicine, bandages, weapons or weapon parts, items like musical instruments or books, and more you ned to collect and use wisely. And markers for conditions your characters will experience like Misery, Hunger, Illness, Wounds, and Fatigue. Each condition has 4 levels where the fourth level kills your character. But don't worry, there are other ways your characters can die.
The game is different in that you don't control individual characters. Each player controls each of the 7 phases of the day cycle. You have a Journal that walks you through the game and a Book of Scripts which is the storytelling aspect that is used whenever a card will tell you to read an excerpt which requires an action or something worse. Usually it is something worse.
This phase is the start and one player selects the top card off the Events deck which powers the story. This determines the objectives for the 3 chapters. We got such great objectives like having to give soldiers a weapon (which is difficult to find) or they beat us at the end of the chapter. The three characters were caught up in a war they didn't start and were cut off from the outside world. They found their way to a damaged house to take shelter.
Next phase, the next player chooses up to 3 actions for each character. But the number of actions they do depends on their status. Many status like Hunger, Illness, wounds, and more can limit the amount of actions depending how badly it is. But characters can search a Heap or Rubble and flip the Shelter card for supplies, build a fitting from the Ideas deck like a bed, add more ideas to the ideas deck, use something you already built, remove rubble, unlock a locked door.
My characters were just miserable just finding what they need to survive. Roman found some useful wood and components under the heap. Cveta failed to picklock the door. Shoot. And Marin had to use all his actions to dig through the rubble. We did have enough supplies to build a nice bed from the Ideas Deck to sleep our distressed minds on.
Well, people need to drink water and eat. That is what the next player did and there was barely enough for the characters.
The fun part. Next player needs to decide who gets to rest that night, who guards the house, and who needs to go out to scavenge for supplies since it is relatively safer than the day from snipers. Cveta gets to sleep. Good for her. Roman gets to go out since he can carry more in his inventory and can defend himself better than the others. Marin will watch eagerly from the door to guard the house.
There are three locations to travel to which differs in their distance from the shelter. The next player selects a number of cards for the Unknown Deck from the Exploration deck depending on the location. The further away, the smaller the Unknown Deck. Also there is the Noise track which measure how much noise is made which increases the chance of an encounter. We want to avoid that as much as we can. Sometimes our choices we make from the Unknown deck may increase the noise and other times it is just bad luck the card we choose increases it for us. A few times I had to refer to the Book of Scripts when a card from the Unknown Deck indicates it which could be good or bad. But Roman found some warm clothing. Whew. And a few times he lucked out and found loot in a random pile of junk. We can also choose to find water, wood, and components. The scavenging is done when the Unknown deck is depleted or we can choose to end it early since continuing has risks and we have enough loot. Whew, we didn't see anyone that would harm us.
The next player then chooses from the loot which can be brought home. Some loot has weight which limits what Roman can bring home. Water, wood, and components has weight too. But small things like jewelry, books, medicine and the like has no weight and that is good.
This is why having someone guard is important. We get raided. The next player can choose to give the guard a weapon if there is one available. Nope. Marin had to trust his fists. Choosing a card from the Night Raid deck, we see what can happen. We get hobos who stole a large amount of our supplies. Poor Marin couldn't defend with a bad die roll but fortunately the hobos were not violent. But we have less of our meager supplies.
Things get harder in this hell. The next player has to choose which two more difficult cards to add to the Night Raid deck or Residents deck. Since residents are rarely seen, I chose to add 2 more cards to the Residents deck. We meet residents during scavenging and usually they are not very nice.
No rooster to crow here as it was probably eaten by desperate residents. Roman stumbles back tired from his trip with much needed loot to add to our depleted supplies. Then if anyone is wounded or sick, the next player can assign bandages or medicine to them if there is any. Then the player reveals a card from the Fate deck to see what effects happen like if people get sicker from adding cold tokens to the house, if bandages heal wounds or not, and if the characters' weakness come into play or not. Whoopie. Character weaknesses come into play. Roman needs his cigarettes and Marin needs coffee. We have neither. They become more miserable by increasing their Misery marker by one. Fortunately no one is starving badly, so Cveta doesn't suffer from concern for her fellow friends.
Then another player choose two Narrative Action cards and chooses one to keep. Usually this is a good deck. I know, really? This card says we will find a knife on our next scavenging run.
This ends the first day/night cycle of the game. You keep playing the daylight cycle as it progresses the story. You have to complete each of your objectives for each Chapter or it will have severe consequences.
This game isn't about winning. There are no winners here. It is about surviving until the Events deck is depleted. I like this game as it really puts you in the desperate plight of innocent people caught up in a war they didn't start and can't influence its progress. You feel bad for people that were in Sarajevo during he Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War which influenced this game. But it can be any war-torn city like Aleppo, any city in Rwanda, Stalingrad and others. It is not meant to win, but to be immersed in tragedy.