This is a first thoughts review of War of Whispers. I played the game on Tabletop Simulator. This is not an in depth review, just my impressions after an initial play. It should not be taken as my final critical verdict on the game. Jamie has bought the game with his own money.
The land is at war. Five factions vie for supremacy. They push against each other as they conquer cities, take forts, and subjugate the populace. However, wars are not won on the battlefield alone. In the courts and palaces, in the corridors of power, the spymasters operate. Behind the crown stand the people with the real power. Stands you.
War of Whispers is designed by Jeremy Stolzfus with art from Tomasz Jedruszek and Dann May, and published by Starling Games. It places you at the centre of a war, in the role of a devious spymaster. You look to manipulate the conflict for your own mysterious ends. When the game begins you’ll shuffle up some tokens to show you which faction you want to come out on top, who should die, and all the preferences you have in between.
Although you will have favourites, you are merely a spy, you don’t own any of these armies. A small phrase, but important. The core of the game is placing agents into the circle of actions that surround the map in the middle (there is something about the circular map of this game I just love). Each faction has 4 spaces to play into, and those are very simple actions for the most part: recruit troops, draw cards, attack. Your actions are open to everyone, there are few surprises there. The wrinkle is that no one knows exactly why you are taking that action.
Sure I can march the green army into blue territory and capture that city. More cities means more points for those loyal to green at the end. But am I loyal to green? Maybe I am stretching their supply lines thin, setting them up for an attack by another faction.
Combat is fast and deterministic, merely trading troops on a 1 for 1 basis, with a slight disadvantage if you are attacking a fort. The thing with the attack action is that you cannot move troops through their own territory. If you have troops stuck deep within a region, they will make for great defenders, lousy attackers. When you attack you must invade another territory giving the game an intensely aggressive feel right from the off.
With only 4 rounds you have to be bold, taking decisions that will affect the lives of all who call this world home. Each action feels momentous, important, historic. Actions are quick to take, but their impact ripples through the world as everyone else looks at you with the ‘why are they doing that’ look on their face.
I really enjoyed my first play of War of Whispers. It puts you in the driving seat of a war and asks you which road to hurtle down. Your actions are open, your motivations secret. Every decision has weight and heft. You’ll stare your opponents down, backstab, betray, and befriend. Just like a good spy should.
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