Clash of Armies: Medieval - Review

Designer: Pablo Guevara

Artist: Pabloe Guevara, Luis Rodriguez Llopis, Emmanuel Bou Roldan, Walter Bou

Publisher: Poncho Games Argentina

Year Published: KS 2020

No. of Players: 2-4

Ages: 10+

Playing Time: 20-50 minutes

Clash of Armies: Medieval is a deck-building game where you have to raise an army in order to defeat your opponent. Starting with a basic deck of resources and just a few soldiers, you must build up your offensive and defensive powers, acquiring better cards from the common market. With mechanics based on historical medieval concepts, COA will transport you to an era where you will never forget the medieval clashes of armies. - from Poncho Games

DISCLAIMER: I played the game on Tabletop Simulator for the purposes of this review. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, but rather to go through a general overview, how it plays and my reaction to it. If you’re interested in the game, be sure to sign up to be notified of their launch on Kickstarter happening in November 2020.

How To Play Clash of Armies

Follow setup rules from the rulebook. Generally, you’ll have set up a varied marketplace and start off with 10 cards per player. 

There are three phases per round:

  • Military: attack your opponent, garrison military units in a fortification or camp.
  • Economic: purchase as many cards as you want from the market. Cards in the market are not replenished until the end of that turn.
  • Wrap-Up: discard all activated cards, declare value of the Total Defense, draw 5 cards in preparation of the next turn, and replenish any empty spaces in the market.

To achieve victory, you must deal more damage to your opponent than you take from them. The end of the game is triggered once one of the players has at least 55 Damage Points. If the player who started the game triggers the end of the game, the other player has one more turn to play. In the end, the player with the least total damage wins.

The Good

Firstly, the game makes great use of various aspects of the theme. Crossbowmen provide minimal attack, but are stronger in larger numbers. Fortifications (created through buildings like Watchtowers and Castles) and Medieval Events made the game more immersive and true to the theme. 

Probably the absolute best thing about Clash of Armies is that each turn you’re faced with a lot of strategic decisions. Since your hand can be used either offensively or defensively each round, I always felt that I was being pulled back and forth in this ongoing decision between attacking or defending. If you don’t attack your opponent right away, you’ll garrison your units in the camp or fortification, but also expose your army to a potential attack. Choices, huh?

The tradeoff between taking a direct hit or using your deployed army to absorb the attack also makes for interesting strategic decisions each round: should I absorb the attack and kill off my garrisoned army units or take the hit this round since next turn I will be able to deploy the army to hit back harder?

Something that I never really liked about DBGs is the relatively large decks you end up with as the game progresses. Especially if it’s filled with subpar cards that don’t do much to move the game forward. Clash of Armies builds in ample opportunity to keep your deck small and efficient by providing multiple ways to scrap cards right from the beginning (throw away this 1 coin to get an extra 1 coin for your purchase phase this turn). 

What I especially enjoyed about Clash of Armies is the addition of factions. The base game includes 6 different factions, each with their own characters and unique special powers. For example, one faction Monarch allows you to “call up” the powers of a faction card in your discard pile, which is quite neat. Other faction Monarchs offer different unique powers. This adds a lot of variety and replayability as each game only requires the inclusion of 3 random factions. 

Another really interesting feature to Clash of Armies is the small, yet varied marketplace of cards. There’s a combination of cards to purchase - resources, factions, soldiers, fortifications, general cards, vassals. The limited options and ample opportunity to scrap or buy makes the market an interesting central piece of the gameplay where new and exciting decisions can arise. Clash of Armies TTS

The Other

I only had the opportunity to play the game on TTS, so didn’t get a feel of the box or cards. I also learned this game directly from the creator so can’t properly provide a review of the rulebook and its explanation of the game. 

One curious thing is that the Medieval Event cards are shuffled in at the beginning of the game. If Medieval Events are drawn right at the beginning during setup, they have no effect and are immediately discarded. In the off chance that 3 of 5 Medieval Events are drawn during setup, the deck will have discarded many of those interesting features. An alternative to this would be leaving those Medieval Event cards out until after dealing the general cards to the marketplace, then shuffling them all in (a la Water Rising cards in Forbidden Island). 

At the end of each turn, you’re supposed to announce the amount of armor you have defending your army. This allows your opponent to determine their offensive strength so they can decide whether to attack you this turn or hunker down with fortifications to grow their army some more. For one, it was a little difficult to keep track of announcing this at the end of each turn after the cleanup phase. Moreover, since there is so much chaining that happens between cards, it can get a little mind boggling to track how strong your armor is.

The game builds up to its end relatively quickly as you purchase stronger units and reap more benefits through chaining different special powers (for example, multiple bowmen together can really make an impact). You could be dealing 5 or 10 hit points to your opponent one turn then 25 hit points the next. The game lasted about 9 rounds, which felt immensely too short considering all the options at play in each one of the cards available. 

Final Thoughts

I’m still up in the air on how quickly this game ends, especially because of the depth the publisher has baked into the gameplay. With that said, if you’re looking for a quick, immersive DBG with a lot of strategic thinking at every turn, then this is the game for you. Also, if you’re a fan of DBGs like Dominion or Star Realms, you’ll love having this in your collection.

Overall, from what I’ve experienced, I can’t wait to play another round and am excited to get my hands on a copy of Clash of Armies. It’s coming to Kickstarter on October 28, so be sure to sign up to be notified of their launch