13 September 2022
Infect your friends
Not so long ago, we all suffered through a global pandemic. Life filled with quarantines, discussions of Infection Level and news reports of moronic governments flailing to buy PPE. Immunowars is a game of biowarfare, partly inspired by that increased medical prevalence in our world.
The game pits players against each other’s immune systems; infecting one other with viruses and bacteria whilst trying to survive attacks themselves. A trigger warning may be warranted – there’s plenty of healthcare related tragedy here. The game toes the line between scientific accuracy and comedy. Infect someone with Ebola, for example, only to see them desperately drinking bleach, curing their infection but causing a huge loss of HP at the same time.
The foundation of Immunowars is simple; each player has a HP health track – if it reaches 0 they die – and an ATP energy tracker, the cell energy source used to activate attacks. Most disease cards have two attacks, one costing more ATP to use than the other, and doing more damage, or lasting longer than the cheaper one. The constant battle between regenerating ATP and spending it on the more interesting attacks is part of the challenge.
Where the game really adds thematic nuance is the idea of contagiousness; each disease has a star rating for how infectious it is. On attacking a player with current infections, you then roll for each of their active cards to see if you catch the disease too. This is a great catch-up mechanic; you soon become wary of picking on the player already suffering from multiple maladies. Event cards impact everyone, alongside gas leaks, traps and other table-wide calamities.
Immunowars is full of interesting mechanics; vaccine cards are played face-down, so you don’t know what a player is immune to until you attempt to play a pathogen on them. The card is revealed, then placed face down again, so everyone has to memorise immunity around the table. Vaccine cards aren’t so common as to make this a contest for best memory; just an occasional pitfall. The ability to fuse diseases with Action cards means a mild head cold can become life-threatening, and that the diseases around the table can mutate even after they’ve been played.
Building up your own defences is important: Immunocards add extra mitochondria and boost your energy production; white cells help your immune system fight certain diseases; equipment like gas masks and latex gloves act like armour, giving additional disposable HP.
The rules are clearly laid out and well written; even if the tongue-in-cheek humour might not work for everyone. That said, this is definitely a game for people who think that attempting to fight off anthrax with ginger tea is a silly bit of fun. There is no expectation for scientific prowess amongst players; in my games, the real life doctors round the table performed no better than the PhD-less 11 year old. At the same time, there are interesting informational snippets on most cards, and the Immunowars website even provides a bibliography for those wishing to turn inquisitively into education.
The game plays well at all counts; the short turn length and high level of player interaction means waiting for your turn doesn’t take long, and other players actions are entertaining to watch. Unlike many 2-6 games, the two player mode is still fun; although slightly less exciting without the potential of the entire table suffering events. The huge stack of cards provides plenty of replay variety – although for family game groups, be warned that some of the language is not child friendly. The STD expansion pack is stronger still – and appropriately comes with an 18+ label – it also contains some of the funniest cards in the game.
PLAY IT? YES
Immunowars is a strong proposition; it provides plenty of silly 'take that' fun between friends, with just enough of a tactical element to keep competitive players satisfied.
Try this if you liked Fluxx
Equally zany and fun, Immunowars will make players laugh at its absurdity, but it manages to be less luck-based than Fluxx, so if your group is put off by pure randomness, give Immunowars a try instead.
Designer: Mr Black & Mr White
Time: 30-60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 140 Cards
- 6 Player boards
- 24 Timer tokens in 6 colours
- 24 HP tokens
- 12 ATP tokens
- 2 Dice
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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