“James, you broke two rules at once” – Altar of War Playtesting Thoughts #1

Yesterday evening Chase and I got an opportunity to finish an entire game of “Altar of War.”  This game is currently being developed by Bryan and Steven of Bryk House Games and we had the privilege of trying out their current prototype on Table-Top Simulator!

Spanning the distance of the East Coast between the four of us, meeting up on this platform was perfect!  After an initial demo a few weeks ago, Chase and I were ready(ish) to roll right into a full game.  At least, one version of play.  Bryk has many ways to change it up and keep this game fresh!

I won’t dive into the details of the game mechanics, but my overall impression of the game was great, and I’d love to play it again!

After setting up on a very unique (albeit, a tad confusing) board, I became master and commander of my Elvish army!  The actions you can take are based on the die you roll, and a very well balanced dice economy.

Chase started out the gate hot as he sent his Orc raised wolf pack to jump me.  I tried to retreat, but holding the line seemed to keep me on pace with my enemy by taking down units and healing up the injured.  The first round fell in Chase’s favor though, and the next thing I knew I had to deal with an “Ascended” unit he had acquired through the “Altar of War” mechanic.  Simply put: if you can beat up on your opponent enough, you can place stronger units on the battlefield.  If you are more passive you could do the same by saving resources.

Luckily I had just the right combination of spell-casters and sharpshooters to take down his Ascended unit before he wreaked too much havoc.  Then it was my turn to bring out the big guns!

After a bit more back and forth, it came down to the wire when Chase had his last shot to win the game, or suffer humiliating defeat (muahahaha).  He couldn’t get his buzzer beater on target, so technically I won the match.  However, a more experienced player would have seen a bold play that would have given him the edge he needed to seal the victory for himself.  Neither of us could see it, despite Bryan letting us know it was there, so I am excited about the depth this game brings for those who love mastering puzzles!

In the end, it was a close match from start to finish that left me feeling satisfied with the decisions I was given, and lessons to apply to another play through.  I can’t wait to see how more play-testing, and a little more art will elevate this game to the next level!

As Bryan enthusiastically egged us on after the game to do so, I want to include my toughest criticism of the game.  Ranged units.  They could only fire in a straight line, and can’t attack at melee range.  I felt like this hampered their ability to be useful in several situations I would have intuitively assumed they could be.  That said, giving them too much power could really unbalance the game.

Chase and I could not come up with a good solution off the cuff, but tried to discuss a few alternatives.  I am not a fan of complaining and not offering a solution, but to be fair I was having a hard time finding much wrong with the game!  Ultimately, it could just be my own preferences getting in the way as Chase didn’t have as much of a problem with ranged units as I did.

I look forward to more playtests, and more conversations with Bryan and Steven (two very nice dudes by the way) as they continue on their journey to create an engaging game.  I believe we can both help each other simultaneously as we continue down that same path.

-James Schoenster
Co-founder of Cerebral Cellar


2 thoughts on ““James, you broke two rules at once” – Altar of War Playtesting Thoughts #1”

  1. Thanks for the review / blog post! Glad you enjoyed it, looking forward to continued testing of each others’ game.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s