This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A New War Game
# of Players: 2
Time: 2-8 hours
Game Type: War Game, American
Gamer Type: Military/Hardcore
Complexity: 9 (Hardcore)
I do not review many 8-hour games
I definitely have the patience to stand toe to toe (or brain to brain) staring at a board for two hours. Most people lose interest in the game after a couple of hours and anything over four hours is a challenge. In Next War Korea, this did not seem to be a problem. GMT Games built a great game that captures the spirit and the futility of conventional war in the Korean Peninsula. This game goes well beyond just being an excellent game to play with hardcore friends. It is an excellent teaching tool of strategy, gamesmanship, and that even the best-planned wars have costs we are not built to deal with.
The story of Next War Korea is as complex as the gameplay. The game starts off with the Korean Peninsula 50 years after the Korean War ground to a draw with the armistice. With Korea posturing during the Bush/Obama Era, the world hovered on the brink of war in the area. This was the time of the five-party talks and other efforts to stabilize the region. The story of this game takes a dark turn as one side blinks and the other side moves.
This results in the whole region devolving into war. GMT goes well beyond the US vs. Them mentality used in most games. This game brings in the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and allied forces. There is even the possibility of a nuclear attack or a UN resolution. The depth and complexity of the game give a sense of realism to the game, which results in a score of 9 out of 10 for the story.
Packaging and Gameplay
When you look at the cover of the box and see real military pictures, you sometimes become worried this will just be a photo game. In the case of Next War Korea, that would be a very poor misconception. When you open the box there are over 1,000 tokens that have the game and mission-relevant data on them to move around the board. Additionally, the game board is a tactical map broken into hexes for movement purposes. It is a game that makes you feel like you are in a war room.
I would, however, like a hard-board for the game as the paper maps move around a little. Keeping everything in place can be a challenge with as many pieces as there are on them at any given time. Also, if there were mini’s, or the option to buy minis by faction as an add-on, this would have a perfect score of 10. That being said, there is still a very good score of 8.5 for the purpose of art in this game.
This game has some of the more complex mechanics of any game I have reviewed because of the sheer number of mechanics. The mechanics themselves are well thought out and work well together. The complexity comes in the simulation of the war. Command outposts, different unit stats, and movement progress from staging areas all create a deeply complex game that takes a while to learn. Once you do learn the mechanics, the game runs as seamlessly as can be expected in a war style game. Weather and enemy movements will stymie the best-laid plans adding another realistic dimension. This gives the game a strong score of 7.5 for mechanics.
The strategy is this game’s strong point and it earned a 9.5 out of 10 for strategy. There are so many possible paths to victory I do not have room to discuss them all in this article. While playing through, you will find that you see several different paths, not only to victory, but to in-line objectives. Even if you wanted to play the exact same strategy more than once, the mechanics of the game may force you into another path. You are playing against your opponent, against the weather of the board, and even against yourself at times. This is definitely this game’s strong point.
Finally, we have novelty. With the killer scores that this game is bringing in with art, story, mechanics, and strategy, anything lower will look like a letdown. With a novelty of 6.5, this game is very novel. It enhances several elements of war games, of strategy games, and of American style games. Despite those varieties, it remains true to its storyline. This game is entering into a field of thousands of war games, but it stands head and shoulders above the rest.
A Game For Advanced Gamers
Next War Korea is not a game for everyone. This is a game for advanced gamers willing to take time to study the rulebook and the map. If you are a person who thinks of Catan as the pinnacle of strategy, this may not be the game for you. However, if you are a person who loves war games or is a student of conflict or military history, this game has hours of interesting caveats that you can explore.
Each time you open the box, you find a new surprise and your opponent may be as wily as a dictator or as patriotic as marine, but they may throw you curves that you never expected. This is one of the most highly rated games we have looked at in this publication with a total score of 43 out of 50. If you are a hardcore gamer, this game is a great one-on-one game to test your skill.