As a kid, I watched Toy Story dozens of times. Now having watched it, and its sequels, a few more dozen times as a parent, I feel like an expert on anthropomorphic toys. However, the toys in Windup War aren’t quick as cute as a Pixar film, as you will battle to destroy each other to take over the toy room.
Windup War is a 2-6 player action programming game. It plays best with 4 or more players and takes just about 20 minutes.
To start, you choose one of the six factions to play. Each faction is their own type of toy, you can play as the Dinosoldiers or the Alien Army, for instance. Other than artwork, each faction contains exactly the same units and action cards.
You choose three of your six units to use in the game and the order in which you will use them. Each unit has a health value, as well as ribbons showing which colors of action cards that unit can use. Once everyone has selected their units for the game, you will each lay out five action cards and lay them out in the order you want them to be performed.
The actions are all fairly straightforward. You can attack the play to the left, or the right, or possibly multiple players. There are also cards which block incoming attacks or retaliate against damage inflicted upon you. Each faction also has 2 charge cards that can be played, essentially scoring you a victory point if you play your charge when no other charge is played. The final type of action card is the reload, which allows you to retrieve all of your previously used action cards so they are available to be used again.
If one of your units is destroyed, the next one immediately steps up to take their place. However, if you have action cards programmed that do not match the ribbon of the active unit, it may malfunction. If you have three malfunctions your army will forfeit at the end of the round and presumably retreat to fix their broken parts.
The game ends when only one faction remains standing or someone has scored three victory points by successfully charging.
Windup War is a very light take on action programming. It can serve as a good introduction to the genre for those that are unfamiliar and can be fairly entertaining with a large group. There aren’t a lot of 20-minute filler games in general that play up to 6 players.
Obviously boiling action programming down to a very light game isn’t without some trade-offs. Since there is no board or obvious goals, choosing which actions to play and when is fairly random. You obviously need to make sure that the unit you are using has the appropriate colored ribbon, but other than that, you are just guessing at what other people will do. It is pretty common to block when people aren’t attacking you. Or to attack someone on your left who just happened to decide to retaliate and kill you.
I highly prefer playing Windup War with 4-6 players. With less players there are just less interesting interactions, especially with the Charge cards. They offer a bit of a risk/reward, if you can play a Charge when no one else does, you may be able to sneak out a win pretty quickly. In a 5-6 player game it is way more difficult to pull that off than it is with a small group.
The theme and the artwork of Windup War really brings out the idea of toys battling each other. I would have really loved to see asymmetric powers between the factions. It could have added another layer to the decisions in the game and increased replay value a bit. As it is, the game is a fun time every now and then, but feels samey after just a few plays.
The short playtime really saves Windup War for me. I have quite a few game nights with 5 or 6 players and often need a quick game to start off the night or maybe wind it to an end.
If you are looking for a game with a lot of strategic decision to make, look elsewhere. Windup War almost feels a bit more like a party game than anything else. It may not have a whole lot of staying power, but it may be worth checking out.
Final Score: 3 Stars – Fine introduction to programming games. Plays fast enough to not wear out its welcome. But it’s incredibly light on decisions.
• Doesn’t play well at the lower player counts.
• What to play and when is mostly just random guesswork