When I think of board game adaptations, I put them into two camps: those which retain a near-exact replica of the game that inspired them, and those which simply take the IP and produce a completely different sort of game. Wartile, which isn’t based on any existing board game directly, is actually a cooldown-based board game that takes place in real-time. Erm, OK.
Whist the premise seemed unusual and perhaps a bit forced to me, the visuals and theme soon piqued my interest. Wartile uses a very detailed set of visual assets build around three dimensional, hex-based maps with mostly static, photo-realistic models of Vikings, monsters and other characters as the pieces.
The camera can pan and zoom freely, and I always felt that the maps offered lots to explore. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to lose your sense of direction on them because the size of your party relative to the map is minuscule, and the camera stays locked quite close to the action. An early example is a mission that has the player catching frogs — which it just so happens are very hard to see unless at maximum zoom.
The gameplay itself is without doubt more intriguing than I was expecting, and generally quite well done. The player controls a Warband of between two and what looks like five units (I’m only a handful of missions into the game) at once and can issue move either individually or collectively, with units then attacking on their own or taking specific actions with the use of the X, LB and RB buttons.
Moving your entire troop in the same direction is achieved by pressing and holding Y, then choosing the location you want to move to. Units can only move within a certain range, and you can’t set waypoints and have them move automatically. Group move works well to get from A to B, but it lacks the finesse of the individual movement, which uses A to drag and drop a specific miniature to a specific location.
Positioning is important, because a large part of Wartile is about controlling high ground, positioning spearmen (who can attack up to spaces away) behind shieldbearers and berserkers and using skills wisely. Trying to create situations where you outnumber an opponent and can beat them down quickly seem useful based on my early game experience, whereas fair or even fights should be avoided.
In addition to the board game style movement and combat, players also have access to specific character cards and a deck of shared cards. For the former, the player will select a character then press RB to access their ability or the one additional item that they might have picked up during the level, for example, an oil bomb. Special abilities do things like pin or taunt enemies, bestowing statuses, buffs or debuffs as appropriate.
The shared deck is a bit different, and a player will usually be able to see four cards from their deck at a time. These cards can be played in exchange for their battle cost, which is earned during the mission based on the outcome of combat (and some other aspects). These cards include healing effects, traps, barriers and other features that can be unlocked and added to the deck as the game goes on, effectively allowing the player to build their party in a unique way.
Also on that note, each character can be equipped with better weapons and armour, and there are a number of unlockable rune slots that add bonuses to damage, armour, defence, health and so on. Whilst I doubt I’ve seen even a small amount of those on offer, there’s a sense that this upgrade system could lead to some interesting combinations and specialisations later in the game.
So after just a few hours with it, my thoughts on Wartile are that it has a fair bit of potential and I’m quite excited to see what comes later. The dark, Viking theme (centred on Ragnarok, as usual) feels authentic and looks fantastic, whilst the gameplay is quite unique. I wasn’t always in love with how units moved, but the idea of having a near real-time experience underpinned by board game logic is certainly worth more of my time.