Tabletop games have always intrigued me. Dragons, mechs, the Matrix, maths – they have it all, yet I’ve never sat down and played a proper campaign. It’s such a hefty commitment, and I never seem to have the time to spare. Fortunately, that’s where digital tabletop experiences like Wartile come in.
At first glance, Wartile looks like a straight-up digital recreation of a fantasy miniatures set. Once it starts moving, though, its faster pace becomes apparent. I spent a little over an hour with the pre-alpha, and it’s already got its hooks in me.
You command a party of statuesque miniatures, sliding them across snowy fields and rocky cliffs in a novel blend of real-time and turn-based action. Similar to Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle system, units move and operate on a per-unit cooldown. Combat begins automatically when units are in range and plays out in rounds real-time RPG style. This allows for units to be shuffled around mid-combat to land a backstab, or retreat when wounded. At its best, it feels like what Grandmaster-level chess looks like, with the board in a near constant state of motion.
In a refreshing departure from most strategy RPGs, the maps in Wartile use hexagonal tiles instead of square ones. This adds an extra dimension to combat, allowing for larger, multifaceted battles with more room for flanking and tactical positioning. I hope developer Playwood Games takes full advantage of this in the final game.
Something else that would benefit with expansion are the maps. The ones available in the pre-alpha are fairly small and linear, with little room for exploration. Quests are similarly straightforward: defeat all enemies, plunder the chest, find the prisoners. My hope is that the full game will include larger areas with branching paths and more hidden treasure. With the promise of loot and leveling systems in the works, it seems Playwood is heading in the right direction.
The pre-alpha I played is still very early – Wartile is scheduled for a late-2016/early-2017 release – but its foundation is promising. My time was brief, and I left wanting more. Save me a seat at the digital tabletop; I’m ready to roll.