War Chest, by designers Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson (AEG, 2018) has become a favorite in the RockyMountainNavy winter quarters. With the youngest RMN boy off at college, RMN T and myself have started our own winter campaign of head-to-head plays. We both enjoy the game so much that I “somehow” found the expansion War Chest: Siege (AEG, 2020) under the Christmas tree.
Small Box + Small Changes = Big Impact
War Chest: Siege is a small expansion that introduces Fortifications and four new units. Fortifications are perhaps best thought of as terrain features; at setup one of six Fortification cards are drawn which show which four objective spaces are “fortified.” A Fortification is neutral but, if occupied, “protects” the unit “inside” and must be destroyed first. In effect, any unit inside a fortified space requires an extra hit to destroy.
To balance out Fortifications in War Chest: Siege there are four special “siege” units introduced. These four units each have a special Siege Tactic that can be activated provided the unit is Bolstered; that is, has been reinforced. Several of the units have a Siege Tactic taht can affect multiple hexes or at range, while another (War Wagon) can “push” units away or absorb a hit for an adjacent unit.
Four units. One terrain feature. Doesn’t sound too exciting, eh?
Using Fortifications from War Chest: Siege immediately challenges each General to look at the layout of the board that much more closely. Where are the Fortifications? Can you grab them before your opponent does? Which ones will your opponent grab and force you to besiege? Do you always favor a “student body right” strategy? Is that way blocked by Fortifications? One new feature, many more options.
What about those new units in War Chest: Siege? While all can work against Fortifications, and the Sapper can even build new ones, those new siege units are also useful against regular units. As noted before, some conduct multiple attacks or can attack over other units and attack at range. That is, if you have Bolstered them. That takes an Action. That takes a Coin. That coin has to be drawn from your bag. That requires a plan. That requires reinforcement. That requires time. As any player of War Chest will surely tell you, your plan must be flexible and you don’t always have time.
A note on learning War Chest: Siege. The “new” rules in this expansion are few and easy to learn; they are more “additions” than “exceptions.” That difference, which I fear is too often lost on game designers, is very important. War Chest: Siege has almost no learning curve and can be quickly added to any game. They are well balanced and add depth and decision with little-to-no additional playing time required.
The Art of the Box
One last point about War Chest: Siege. Let’s talk about the box for a moment. All too often we look at a game box as simply a storage solution. Some worry if it will fit their Kallax shelves (or if it will require the purchase of more). Some fixate on the cover art.
Alderac does things a bit different. The box for War Chest is quite literally a “chest” with a “hinged” lid that is magnetically fastened. When you play a game of War Chest you literally pull a chest down from your game shelf and open it to play. Just like the little story within. It’s a powerful bit of symbolism that instantly helps players immerse themselves into the game.
War Chest: Siege is a small expansion. The components are designed to be moved into the main “chest.” The expansion box can be cast aside. Which is a shame. The box for War Chest: Siege is another hinged and magnetically fastened lid, but this time designed to look like a book. Literally a book. War Chest: Siege figuratively opens a new chapter of play for the base War Chest, but figurative is not enough. Players literally perform the act.
War Chest: Siege would not look out of place on your bookshelf. What am I supposed to do with the box? It looks so good I’ll almost certainly keep it and just as certainly use it for the small expansion. Who could throw this great art away?
Feature image courtesy Santa RMN