Dale Yu: Review of War & Write

War & Write

  • Designers: Jay Bernardo, Jerry Lee, Wei-Cheng Cheng
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played with copy provided by Taiwan Boardgame Design

Description from the publisher

War & Write is a light, strategic, “pen & paper”, World War II wargame, simulating not only the European and Pacific theaters but also an alternate-history North and South American theater! 2 to 5 players lead Allied and Axis factions on 6 map configurations including an epic world map, where players play all the theaters at once!

Each of the 6 rounds represents a year in the war. Players secretly write down commands for their faction and then simultaneously reveal their plans. Did they reinforce more units, form diplomatic ties with neural countries, or move to a decisive battleground? While factions can fight over any territory, each game offers players decisive historical battlegrounds where the victor can win not only more units but more influence in the League of Nations.

Key locations have flags (such as Berlin, Tokyo, San Francisco, and London). Control a territory with flags and gain influence in the League of Nations. At the end of each round, the faction with the most influence in the League of Nations can swing victory in their favor.

Can the Allies survive the heavy assault of the Axis, push back hard enough in the last two years, and gain enough influence in the League of Nations to secure a victory for the Allies? Or can the Axis players alter history and lead their forces to global domination?

Advanced play includes unique technologies for each faction to explore. Use your Soviet spy network to assassinate diplomats. Unleash the wrath of V-rockets upon your enemies. Fly your squadron of Spitfires to victory. Or drop the bomb on a territory, wiping out all units and flags from the area.

Choose your tech. Write your orders. Prepare for war.

To start, each player has to choose which scenario to set up and which nation they want to play.  There are 7 different scenarios included in the rulebook, and each tells you how many players can play it, and which countries will be represented in that game (choosing from US, UK, Russia, Japan, Germany).   

Depending on the scenario, players will take the appropriate maps.  These maps are split into 12 spaces: green land, blue sea, and purple mixed.  Some spaces have flags printed on them (home territories) and there are flag markers which can be placed on spaces to denote (temporary) ownership.  The other setup rules, including Action Points per turn and starting pieces will be given to you on the scenario page as well.  Battle cards will be drawn under each board, and they will tell you where and when certain battles will happen.

Each player gets their own player board and an order sheet.  At the top of each year is a League of Nations track.  For the earliest year, circle the starting position – which can be changed to handicap the game.  In each year of the game, things will happen based on the location of the League of Nations, and at the end of the game, the Final position will determine the winner(s) of the game.

The game is played over 6 turns, each representing a year from 1940-1945.  There are 7 phases in each year, which unsurprisingly I will now outline:

1] Write – players simultaneously write their orders on their sheet.  Discussion between teammates is allowed, but it must all be in the open (so that the other side can hear). There are four order types: Reinforce, Diplomacy, Tank movement, Ship movement.  Each costs 1 Action point, and each country should remember their AP limit as given in the scenario setup.  You pretty much write the icon/letter for your actions on the grid spaces on your sheet that match the spaces on the board where you want to do those things.  If you ever write down an order that can’t happen – the order just fizzles and is essentially ignored.

2] Reinforce – If you have chosen to Reinforce, it must be in a space where you have a flag, and for each, you can take a unit from your reserve and add it to the board.

3] Diplomacy – You use diplomacy to take control of neutral units on the board, the side with the most Diplomacy actions in a space will take control of a Neutral unit, marking it with a Nation marker.  If there is a tie for Diplomacy actions, it is broken in favor of the side currently winning on the League of Nations track.

4] Movement – You can move your tanks and ships now (even ones you just started to control in the previous phase).  Tanks only move orthogonally, and only on green and purple spaces.  Ships can move orthogonally and diagonally, only on blue or purple spaces.  If you do not have a piece in a starting space from movement, the action fizzles.

5] Combat – any area which has units from both sides now goes thru Combat, and it is surprisingly simple.  Each side tallies the number of units they have in the space.  If one side has more, they win, and ALL the other side’s units are destroyed.  If there is a tie for units, look at the League of Nations chart.  If it is in favor of the Axis, the Axis wins.  If it is in favor of the Allies, the battle is a stalemate and all units remain on the board.

6] Battle Cards – check to see if any of the battle cards dealt out in setup resolve this turn.  If so, see who has control of the space shown on the card.  Each side has a specific set of rewards they get for controlling the space.  If the space is currently in a stalemate, the battle will rage on for another year, and the Battle card will be resolved again in the next turn.

7] League of Nations – Each flag visible on the board counts as one point of influence, and it is scored by whichever side actually controls the space on the board where the flag is!  The difference in influence points determines which way and how far the League of Nations moves for the next turn.  I.e. if the Axis has 7 points of influence and the Allies only have 4, the LoN would move 3 spaces leftward (in the direction of the Axis).  Finally, each space that has a neutral unit printed on it and does NOT have a neutral unit on it will have one replaced there if able.

This repeats for 6 years, and at the end of the sixth turn, see where the League of Nations marker is – that side wins the war!  If you want, flip over one of the order sheets and memorialize your game on the peace treaty found on the backside!

My thoughts on the game

Well, normally, I’m not much for “wargames” – but this is definitely not that sort of game.  Classic wargames tend to be too long for me, with complex rulesets that are super-unappealing, and many of them are two-player only.  For any or all of those reasons, I never got into that sort of game.  As a kid, I did dabble with Axis and Allies, and it was decent, though still a little long.  I tried to play Diplomacy, and the backstabbing and planning was a bit too much for me.

War & Write gives a lot of the feel of Axis and Allies and Diplomacy, but rolls it into a short 6-turn game which really shouldn’t last more than an hour.  For me, this is a combination now worth trying!  The scenarios vary in complexity – using anywhere from one to three theatres of war (boards).  It’s definitely a lot spicier to have to divide your attention and Action Points between all three boards!  

The game can be further modified with at least 6 variant rules that can be added in piecemeal.  Additionally, there are Tech cards used in the Advanced rules which further give asymmetrical powers to the different countries.   I’ve not yet played with any of them, so all I can say is that they exist.

In many ways, the game is the simplest sort of WW2 simulation.  The world is represented by only 36 spaces, and there are only two types of units: ships on the sea and tanks on the ground.  Additionally, each unit has the same combat value, and the entire combat sequence is about at easy as possible.  All in all, a decent system to introduce someone to wargaming.  Sure, it’s not a great realistic simulation; but you can learn how to play in 5 minutes, and that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

War & Write is a solid entry level wargame, and I really like that about it.  The game itself is streamlined, and while plenty of things are simplified (possibly over-simplified), there is still a lot to think about on each of your six turns.  It’s challenging to allocate your Action Points efficiently each turn, and the game offers plenty of ways to increase the size/scope as well as the complexity with additional rules and cards.  As a result, the game can appeal to a wide range of gamers and situations, and I’d recommend giving it a try.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale 
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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