It was almost impossible to go to Salute this year and not notice the guys from TerrorBull Games. Dressed in bright orange jumpsuits and surrounded by quotes that declared their own product “Sick” and “Subversive,” they managed to make a board game the surprise hit of a miniature wargame convention.
Putting aside the issue of political correctness for the moment, War on Terror is a very good game, a kind of Risk, meets Monopoly, meets cartoon terrorism. Played on a map of the world whose geography appears to have been drawn by an eight-year old, 2-6 players take on the roles of Empires. Players build up their empires by collecting oil money to create new towns and cities, and collecting cards to wage war on their enemies.
One of the best mechanics of the game is the means by which oil is collected. At the start of the game, an oil counter is placed in each territory. When an empire occupies a territory, the counter is flipped over to reveal a number. At the end of each player\'s turn they roll the dice and the resultant number is used to determine which territories produce oil that turn. It is a mechanic that should be familiar to anyone who has played Settlers of Catan. This method not only gives the game a nice bit of randomness, but also means that each game is played on a slightly different board as the strategic value of territories change from game to game and is not just based on board position.
Okay, so why does the game come with an Evil Balaclava? At various points in the game, players are instructed to spin the axis of evil which determines which player is currently an “evil empire” and thus gets to wear the evil balaclava. This player also gets to draw terrorism cards on his or her turn. Terrorism is an easier way to wipe-out your enemies, but it is also more random. At any point during the game a player can surrender his empire and become a terrorist. Players whose empires are bankrupt automatically become terrorists. The game then becomes a battle between the empires and terrorists in an attempt to “liberate” the world.
Thus, unlike most empire board games, be they Risk or Monopoly, every player in the game gets to keep playing until the end, either as an empire or terrorist. This is a great idea that makes the game a much better social activity than games of elimination. Here at Osprey, we started a game with five people who had never played the game before, and all five really want to play again!
But what about political correctness? The game has none. It makes light of the horrors of modern terrorism and lets players use suicide bombers to explode dirty bombs on one another\'s cities. Anyone who is easily offended will likely be offended. It is a fact that the guys at TerrorBull Games have turned into a brilliant marketing tool.
For myself, I think it is wonderful. By reducing Osama bin Laden to a bunch of funny cartoon drawings, we are spitting in the eye of terrorism and sending a message that it doesn\'t work. And if you can do that at the same time as you crush your friend\'s empire…well, that\'s a night well spent.