When one thinks of wargames, the words ‘suitable for new gamers’ and ‘plays within an hour’ are not the first that come to mind. But with Farsight that is exactly what you get. It maintains the core staples of the venerated genre and introduces some exciting twists of its own that make for a quick, approachable and strategic game that will neither scare off rookies nor bore veterans.
What immediately grabs with Farsight is its Battleship-like mechanic of hiding specialists – spies, saboteurs, seers and supply lines – somewhere on the map. Every specialist has an ability that can help the fighting units on the board, giving them an advantage over the opponent’s forces.
The abilities are not all-powerful and have to be placed strategically on certain areas of the board (marked on players’ individual maps, so the opponent doesn’t know their location) to affect hostile units. While it is very tempting to use the specialist powers as much as possible, there is a danger that the opponent may guess at their location and send an assassin to eliminate them, removing them from the game completely.
The specialist abilities add excitement to the battlefield. Through their addition the game becomes more than simply positioning units of the right strength to take objectives and eliminate opponents. Sabotaging at the right moment or placing an extra unit through a supply line can easily turn the tide of battle. Yet it also doesn’t feel overpowered or unfair, because the opponent can figure out the secret location of specialists and take them out of play. A well-timed specialist combo feels great but a perfect pinpoint assassination feels even sweeter.
You will need all the strategic advantage you can get. In Farsight the presumed dominance over the battlefield does not necessarily mean a guaranteed victory. There are several paths to victory and while some of them can be achieved with brute force, others may be done through cunning and careful tactical play.
While the combat is still dice-based (there is a dice-free mode for those players who would like to eliminate the element of luck from their gameplay completely), it doesn’t detract from the strategy and thinking that surrounds it. The luck spices up combat, adding a bit of unpredictability, but doesn’t subtract from a well-executed manoeuvre. The sequence of actions can be as, if not more, important than the units that get moved on the board.
Farsight is so much more than big mechs smashing each other on battlefields of different terrains over faceless objectives. It is still generic enough to give a certain detachment from the brutal realities of war and to allow players to think of its combat as an abstract chess-like puzzle. However, its hide-and-seek gameplay element, reminiscent of Battleship but with more substance, adds a lot of excitement and layers to the accessible combat.
PLAY IT? – YES
Farsight is a great starting point for those new to the wargaming genre, while for veterans it still retains enough freshness with its Battleship-like hidden placement mechanics.
Designer: Jamie Jolly
Artist: Brian Coughlan, Sam Denmark, Volkan Kucukemre, Laslo Ludrovan, Lewis Shaw
Time: 50-90 minutes
This review originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.