Stats at a glance
Publisher: Awaken Realms
This War of Mine is one of the most significant video games ever made, so much so that the Polish government is providing free copies to students as educational material.
The realistic portrayal of the hardships of war is something that this game does better than any other, and the TWoM board game expands the setting and plot even further.
If you’re not sure what This War of Mine is about, think of the early seasons of The Walking Dead or The Last of US, without the zombies, but with a stronger focus on human interaction and the collapse of morals in the face of constant life-and-death situations.
Brief Overview of This War of Mine
This War of Mine is a cooperative survival game for 1 to 6 players, but the community recommends playing it with no more than 3 players. Getting to the end of the game can take around 2 hours, but your session can always end prematurely.
This is definitely an adult game, and the topics explored are grimmer than in a classic zombie survival game where violence is usually the focus. I think it’s safe to say that even if you’re an adult, the weight of the theme can be overwhelming.
I would strongly recommend trying out the video game version of the game, which is available on a variety of devices and is very cheap. And if you find the setting appealing, you can then get the board game.
Versions & Expansions
List of Expansions and mini-expansions (modules). I reviewed the two big ones and included one module just to explain what they’re about. Please include Days of Siege & Tales from the Ruined City as they’re the most important.
- This War of Mine: Days of Siege
- This War of Mine: Boardgame Room
- This War of Mine: Tales from the Ruined City
- This War of Mine: Farmers
- This War of Mine: Heart of the City
- This War of Mine: Incidents
- This War of Mine: Memories From the Past
- This War of Mine: Orphans
- This War of Mine: Rubble Die
- This War of Mine: Sewers
- This War of Mine: Tactics
This War of Mine: Tales From the Ruined City
Tales From the Ruined City introduces new faces to the setting, with Emira appearing as the 13th playable character. Desperate measures will strengthen your group whenever you lose a member, making it easier to get by.
Included in the expansion are the Farmers and Sewers modules that include new interactions and scavenging opportunities. With five scenarios, this expansion includes a lot of new content to freshen up the game once you’ve had your fill.
This War of Mine: Days of the Siege
Days of the Siege is the second expansion that tells the story of a long-term siege with no hopes of relief. Inhabitants are now forming groups and tensions are rising as supplies continue to dwindle.
The expansion adds a 3-act war campaign with over 750 scripts, new rules, and a new map to act as a game board. There are also new cards, and the Orphans of War module is also included in the box.
This War of Mine: Sewers
Sewers is a mini-expansion now called a module to differentiate it from the full-sized expansions. Like the others, it introduces a small set of mechanics and rules to enhance the gameplay.
Sewers focuses on scavenging, adding sewers as the new explorable location that can be visited even during the day. However, sewers can be occupied by dangerous scavengers equipped with melee weapons, so you’ll need to take extra care of your characters.
Unboxing This War of Mine
Before we get into the details, let’s look at the table of contents:
- 1 Journal
- 1 Book of Scripts
- 1 Double-Sided Game Board
- 12 Character Miniatures
- 4 Dice
- 4 Color Bases
- 1 Double-Sided Scenario Sheet
- 1 Save Sheet Pad
- 33 Plastic Markers
- 200 Cards
- 186 Cardboard Tokens
This War of Mine doesn’t do anything flashy or innovative in terms of components and instead focuses on the fine details and making everything in line with the theme. However, unlike so many games, This War of Mine doesn’t forget that the components should first and foremost convey gameplay information.
The game board portrays a longitudinal cut of a house with multiple floors and a basement. Each of the rooms is large enough to accommodate one or more cards, which will be placed all over the board. The backside features an alternate house layout, with both being dilapidated and bleak because of the war.
Cards feature just as dark and unsettling designs, but what makes them awesome is the large, easily readable text which easily conveys information, without having to take the card off the board for a closer look. The deep blue, blood red, and white text don’t take away from the excellent designs at all, perfectly mixing style and function.
The box itself has a nice component organizer so you can keep the cards, dice, and tokens nice and tidy. The only thing I can critique is the quality of the cards – I’d say they’re passable, especially for a non-deckbuilding game, but I’d still prefer a stronger design.
How to Play This War of Mine
This War of Mine is meant to be learned as you play, with minimal prep time and set up, so rather than spend the time on that, I’ll give you a general rundown of the mechanics and what to expect.
Regardless of the number of players, the game always starts with 3 characters, randomly selected from the deck, with no more than 4 during the game. This War of Mine isn’t about individual characters and objectives, but a team effort to keep the party alive until the end.
Decks of cards are distributed around the board, and location cards go on the predefined spaces outside the house. The house is filled with shelter cards so that only the type of card is seen, but not its contents (locked, door, heap, rubble).
The states of characters are a mechanic worth mentioning immediately — these tokens are given to characters based on the events of the story: hunger, misery, illness, wounds, and fatigue.
Characters can perform a maximum of three actions, but states reduce the number based on the severity of the ailments. Reaching the 4th rank brings bad notations with it, and you’ll see what happens if/when you encounter it. Characters start the game with certain stats, as described on the character cards.
This War of Mine is a shared cooperative experience — players discuss their next move, but the current party leader is the one to make the final call and interact with game components. Think of it like playing a story-based video game with friends, where only one is holding a controller.
The leader is randomly selected at the start of the game and gets to hold the journal. They’re in control until the journal says “Next Player” at which point the journal and command are passed to the player on the left.
The Passage of Time
This War of Mine does not have rounds as such, but rather the passage of time from the morning until the next dawn, through the following 7 phases:
- Night Raid
During the morning an event card is to determine what challenge or obstacle needs to be overcome. During the day, each character can perform up to three actions, provided they’re not limited by negative effects — the states. The characters can move and explore the house, finding supplies or clearing rubble so they can later build there.
At dusk, characters must drink water or be afflicted by hunger or misery, depending on the dice roll. Characters also need to eat, which will reduce their hunger, but a lack of food will cause hunger to increase. Food and water are crucial resources and must be acquired whenever possible.
When the evening comes, characters get assigned tasks: sleep in a bed, sleep on the floor, guard duty, or scavenging. Scavenging involves visiting one of the available locations, bringing equipment, and exploring the unknown for the chance of gaining resources and equipment.
Night raids can cause damage, reducing resources from the storage or inflicting wounds on the characters. Damage can be minimized by setting guards and equipping them with weapons that will maximize their combat rolls.
Once the dawn comes, the scavenging party returns, meds can be distributed to the injured characters, and a fate and a narrative card are drawn. At this point, the game can be “saved” and stored until you’re ready to continue.
Your First Game of This War of Mine
The only thing you need to bring to your first game of This War of Mine is the right mindset. This game doesn’t play like anything you’ve played before, and you want to approach it from a different angle.
You’ll get a hang of the survival mechanics quickly, and even if an event catches you off-guard, you’ll probably be able to get through it.
What you don’t want to do is powerplay and invalidate the opinions of the group when you’re the party leader. Likewise, you don’t want to push your opinion too hard when it’s not on you to make the call.
Disagreeing about the decisions will come naturally, and that’s an important part of the game, as dilemmas will force players to make impossible choices. Still, you want to respect the decisions and the outcome that others make, just as they should respect yours.
Pros & Cons
- Unique Board Game Experience
- Excellent Artwork & Theme
- Cooperative Gameplay
The parts that make This War of Mine are something you’ve probably seen before, but the sum of those parts makes for a truly unique experience. You’ve never played something like it, and for that reason alone it’s worth considering.
I’ve put the theme into both pros and cons, but let me make it clear — the theme is superb. The portrayal of the setting, day-to-day life, and events are so immersive you can get sucked in a moment.
Gameplay is another strong selling point of This War of Mine. It allows anyone to jump right in as simply reading their part of the journal is enough to understand what to do. As everyone is working together, the team can always help each other figure out the next move.
- Heavy Theme
- Party Dependant
- Diminished Replay Experience
The first two cons are more exclusionary factors rather than negatives of the game. The dark and serious theme of the game is not for everyone, certainly not for those who prefer a lighter and more positive experience when playing board games.
You can always play this game solo, but it’s not something you want to play with just about everyone. The emphasis on decision-making and leadership rotation can make a power struggle and actual arguments among a group of mismatched players.
Like any scenario/story-driven game, This War of Mine gradually loses the feeling of tension and uncertainty as you replay it more and more. Don’t get me wrong, you can play this game a lot of times, it’s just that the tension and dread it’s surrounded by starts to fade at some point.
This War of Mine Review (TL;DR)
If you’re okay with the theme, This War of Mine is guaranteed to be an excellent and memorable experience. Choices you need to make will put you between a rock and a hard place, deciding whether to retain humanity or prioritize survival.
With the right group of friends, these discussions will be a reason you’ll want to go back to This War of Mine time and time again!
Back when This War of Mine video game came out, I decided to actively avoid it — I’ll just say that the theme hits too close to home, and leave it at that. When I saw that the board game adaptation was the next thing to review, I almost decided to pass on it but ended up giving it a chance.
Still, I was not at all surprised by the quality of this board game. My expectations were high and I can happily say they were met in full. Most survival games give out characters to each of the players, but I actually prefer the way This War of Mine handled that.
The shared control of the characters brings with it a completely different way to cooperate, and I found myself engaged with the game constantly, regardless of whether I was controlling the pieces or not.
This War of Mine: The Board Game is not for everyone, but if you read the review up to this point, I’m sure you’ve already formed an opinion. All I can say is that if you find it interesting, you won’t regret purchasing it!
We hope you enjoyed our This War of Mine review! Have you tried this excellent survival, adventure, war-themed board game? Which is your favorite mini-expansion? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
When I first got into the hobby some 10 years ago, my friend circles didn’t know that board games went further than Monopoly and Risk. Now everyone I’m close with is into board gaming and my collection really has something for everyone.
My favorite games are Terraforming Mars and Lords of Waterdeep and I’m a fan of Euro, strategy, and engine-building games in general. I also enjoy the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which pulled me into the miniature painting hobby.