Scavenging is also where you’ll find the meat of the
narrative half of the game. The ‘Book of Scripts’ provides nearly 2,000
separate paragraphs detailing your encounters in the world of This War
of Mine, many of which have multiple choice options, or scenarios that
you can only explore if you meet a certain requirement, just as having
enough items to trade or enough weapons to intimidate people. The
outcomes of these events can be anything from gaining an item, to
getting shot, to finding a new character.
the end of the night, you’ll pick a narrative action card – the only
guaranteed beneficial element of the entire game which will give you one
off abilities such as being able to avoid a fight or complete day
actions at night. You also draw a fate card, which will usually progress
illness and wounds for any characters that don’t have bandages and
medicine, along with another negative outcome if the temperature has
dropped below a specific level.
Making Hard Choices
War of Mine is one of the most brutal co-operative gaming experiences
I’ve played. Games can and will end quickly as your team gets wiped out
and there is very little room for mistakes. There’s always so much you
need to do to keep your group in good shape, and no time to do it in.
The games are also long, and even the luckiest and best runs will see
you wearing down what limited items and mental states your characters
I’ll use the games healing to demonstrate how painful a
single mistake or dice roll can be for your run. In a lot of other
co-operative games healing is normally a character action, using no more
resources than simply replacing an action you may have otherwise spent
on something else. Not so here.
Say one of your characters gets
stabbed by a thug while out searching an abandoned school. They manage
to escape, but they now 2 wounds. You don’t have a bandage available to
stop the bleeding that night, so you draw a Fate card which instructs
you to increase all wounds by one. So now you have a character that
can’t perform any actions during the day at all. You do have the
resources in the house to make bandages, but your other character needs
to use their entire day actions just to create one. The following night
during a raid, a group of hobos break in and steal most valuable items,
including your one bandage, and the character dies.
sound like a string of very bad luck, but these are the challenges
you’ll face every day in This War of Mine’s reality. Thematically it’s a
perfect system – if you get stabbed without access to proper medical
care in the middle of a warzone, you’re probably not going to survive,
right? But a game isn’t just about service to a theme. There will be
times where the game can flip on a dice roll or a card, and it can feel
like there’s nothing you can do to turn things back around. There’s
plenty of decisions to make, plenty of agency, but very little warning
signs of exactly which of the countless horrible things that could
happen are going to happen today.