Designed by Paul Templeman, with art by Kelly Templeman and Victor Torres, Asator is a meld between an abstract strategy war game and Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast), albeit shaved of the role-play element.
Open the box and you'll be impressed with the components: two armies of individually numbered miniatures, a sturdy cloth 60cm x 60cm hex mapboard, and two sets of dry-wipe boards on which to track hit points for each of the units in your army. You'll also find two sets of spell cards for your armies' wizards. There are also 2d6 and 1d20 for each army and a pair of dry-wipe pens. We thought the minis in our early preview prototype were good but they evidently weren't good enough for the perfectionists at Asator Games. Since we took our original 360º photos, they've redesigned all the minis: we especially like the leaping cavalry and the new-look dragons .
Players start this two-player game with equal armies made up of 30 notionally Viking units. These include multiple infantry, archers and cavalry units, and one Dragon, Chieftain, Master and Wizard. To win, you need to kill your opponent's Chieftain, Master and Wizard before your opponent kills yours. Each unit type has its own specific movement, armour class and hit points. To inflict damage on a unit, an attacker has to roll more than that unit's armour class (using a 20-sided die).
On a player's turn they move up to 20 of their units, so there's a lot to keep track of. That's where the dry-wipe boards come into their own. You can use these to help you keep track of which units you've moved but they are particularly intended to track each unit's individual armour and hit points. There's subtlety to play as you use effects to reduce an opposing unit's armour or to buff up your own. Spears are the first choice of weapon for melee attacks (when enemy units share the same hex) but they are deemed to be broken once an attack fails. All this would be a nightmare to keep track of if it weren't for these excellent dry-wipe boards.
Dragons are versatile air and ground units that can remain aloft for up to two turns and which inflict a 2d6 damage fire blast from the air as well as pounce and claw damage on the ground. Wizards meanwhile have spell-casting abilities but players have to make a choice at the start of the game of the five spells they want access to out of their 10 card deck. Spells are each single-use, and if not game-changers they can prove to be game-savers where your Master, Chieftain or Wizard unit is in imminent danger of elimination.
Asator delivers an immersive abstract war game experience in a very manageable time frame (most of our games took about an hour). There's plenty of scope for battlefield tactics, even without the single-use spells, as players throw their forces against each other. Early turns are likely to involve a dance for strategic position, as you hold back from moving your units' full range so as not to come within immediate attack range of your opponent... Tho' each unit type has its own stats, the dry-wipe boards make it easy both to keep track of individual units and to maintain a god-like overview of your forces.
If you're a fan of D&D combat, you're a war gamer or you fancy a Chess-like strategy game, you'll want to check out Asator. It's due to come to Kickstarter on 15 June. Click this link to check out the campaign.