By: Chris Globus
“What’s in the sack? What’s in the sack?” – Shel Silverstein
I like it when media, or games, focus on the lesser known or lesser appreciated characters. Ask me about Star Wars, and I will tell you it’s about the adventures of the best little droid in a galaxy far, far away. Often times, it is those characters who move the thing along.
In Pack Wars, it’s about the Hirelings. When you have epic adventurers, you amass a lot of loot, and not everyone has a bag of holding handy. Sometimes you need a strong back to lug around your winnings.
This is not to say that Hirelings are dumb oxen, beasts of burden you pile on until they break. In Pack Wars, your goal is to make sure the heavier loot ends up in someone else’s bag.
During setup, you create a Loading Area, five lanes wide, three rows high of Item cards. Each Item card has a Weight (a number one through nine) and a Weight Class (Super Light through Extra Heavy, five Classes in all). You will manipulate this Loading Area through the play of Action cards. These cards allow you to slide, remove and replace, swap locations, etc. You start off with a hand of five, and will play two each round, of which there are five total, before you will pack the item which is above your hireling card (Hireling cards are chosen at the beginning of the game. They are exactly the same except for the picture. The player who last helped someone move chooses the lane for their Hireling, and so on around
Players lay out their chosen two cards, and when everyone has done so, they choose one to reveal. The timing of which action card goes off when is determined by a shield icon, that contains a color and a number. The lowest number resolves first, and if there is a tie, red resolves first, followed by yellow, then blue.
There are some Action cards that allow you to pack an item early, which lets you add a light item to your sack before someone can move it away, and you are only allowed to pack one item per round (excepting an Action card that lets you place an item in someone else’s pack).
Once the first Action cards are resolved, you do the same again to the second chosen card. Once the second cards are resolved, you pack the item above your Hireling (or below, if Grog is in charge. There’s an Action card for that). You then slide the cards to refill the bottom row of the Loading Area, refill the top from the Item deck, deal each player two new cards from the Action deck, and the player who packed the
heaviest item chooses what row to place his Hireling under to start the next round.
After five rounds, the Hireling with the lightest pack wins.
It’s there, but it could have been anything. You could reskin this as data packets for a cyberpunk feel, or as commodities for a shipping game. You would just have to rename the cards appropriately. The lack of thematic text or special ability meant that I never felt a connection to my Hireling. The art is satisfactory.
The card stock is serviceable, but if you played it often, could wear down, and the box lacks room for sleeves. There is a fair amount of luck, somewhat mitigated by the hand size, but by the time you get ramped up, the game is over.
This is a Pass. If you are a Munchkin fan, I could see this as filler while you’re waiting for the rest of your group, due to the tangential use of Hirelings, and this game probably would have more life in that universe. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough here.
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