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Published on July 9th, 2013 | by Colin


Cardcore Gamer: Unravelling the new edition of Puppet Wars!


Back in 2011, Wyrd Miniatures created an appealing little wargame-but-on-a-board entitled Puppet Wars, but after an initial flurry of mini-expansions, the puppets were left in their toybox and forgotten about…until now

My initial interest in Puppet Wars was piqued by the promise of a fast, fun and tactically satisfying miniatures-based board game, but it fell between two stools. Too complex for board gamers, yet too similar to Wyrd’s main game Malifaux to draw the existing wargames crowd, Puppet Wars didn’t find much of an audience and failed to wrench my wallet open. Wyrd took their misfit monster back to their lab and gave it a thorough dissection and now the leaner, more focused Puppet Wars: Unstitched is unleashed upon the world!

Oh just look at that smiling face!

Oh just look at that smiling face!

In this article I want to delve into the Pandora’s toybox of Puppet Wars: Unstitched and show you what lovely things lie within. Let’s see…crank the handle and a tinny little tune plays, then SPROING! off comes the box lid and good grief, what is that smell? This is not that faintly librarian, fresh-paper-new-game-smell, but a violently plastic assault on the nostrils; it’s best to open this one in an airy room.

The box itself feels very solid and sturdy, the card is thick and glossy; it feels like you could use it as a coffee table (don’t). Underneath the lid (and smell) lies the game board, which just feels quality. The edges are taped, the hinge moves freely and it doesn’t multi-fold like some demented origami puzzle, but collapses simply in half. It’s the sort of board you get in old-fashioned games and looks like it’s going to last a very long time.

Behold! The filthy floor of a witch's shack!

Behold! The filthy floor of a witch’s shack!

Digging a little deeper there’s the mysteriously widescreen rulebook and a vastly oversized sheet of assembly instructions. The latter is most welcome, given that you’ll be assembling forty-four of those little puppet buggers.

Puppet Wars rule bookThere is also this cereal-box-thickness sheet of tokens, which are pretty feeble, but at least the printing is dead centred.

I'd have preferred a cut-out-and-keep mask...

I’d have preferred a cut-out-and-keep mask…

Crammed up in one end of the box there are two puppet decks – one per player – which hide the miniature bases, stat cards and more tokens – plastic this time and very nicely engraved.

That last deck of cards is a bit pessimistic.

That last deck of cards is a bit pessimistic.

Ok, ok, we’re getting to the part everyone wants to see, so here we go: The plastic sprues! No, really, look at how those have been designed to stack up so nothing breaks in the box; that is really, really smart. These sprues are honestly some of the best I’ve ever seen, you can tell that they’ve thought about where the attachment points are, so that no details are going to be messed up when you clip the miniatures free.

A little engineering is all it takes.

A little engineering is all it takes.

The original Puppet Wars came with metal miniatures which I wasn’t too keen on; they were small and cramped and fiddly, so it’s great to see that the replacement plastics are not only bigger, but completely resculpted and oh, sweet mother of petrochemical products, do they look grand.

Look at all those wonderful toys.

Look at all those wonderful toys.

The moulding on these miniatures is pin-sharp and they’ve been sculpted just right; enough detail to add character, but not so much as to make them too busy. The puppets are a Tim Burton-esque genre-bent nightmare of undead, knife-appendaged cuteness. Assembling them is very tricky in places, ranging from simple two-piece constructions to, well, this:

There are three of this one to assemble. His badge is about 3mm across. Yep.

There are three of this one to assemble. His badge is about 3mm across. Yep.

It’s safe to say that this is not a board game for the inexperienced gamer and certainly requires a few hours of clipping and gluing before you can play, but once you’re done you’ll have a formidable puppet army and probably some hobby knife injuries to show for your hard work

Come out to pla-aay!

Come out to pla-aay!

They’re all unique little personalities and easy to identify when on the board, which is quite an achievement for unpainted plastics. This little bruiser is my favourite.

The years of isolation have not been kind to Edward...

The years of isolation have not been kind to Edward…

At first glance, Puppet Wars: Unstitched looks and feels like a very high-quality game with few aberrant cheap components. The miniatures are clearly the stars of this puppet show, but the board, cards and even the box are excellent. The oddly-sized box is clearly a compromise to give a better game board and the aforementioned stackable sprues and cleverly moulded attachment points show that much thought and care has been poured into this game’s production.

It’s worth mentioning that Unstitched may find itself facing down a bit of an angry mob. As I understand it, Wyrd Miniatures aren’t offering owners of the original Puppet Wars a downloadable .pdf of the rules, nor the updated stat cards from Unstitched. Essentially, this means that the people who sank money into the game originally would have to buy an entire new copy to play with the new rules and many are seeing this as a bit of a kick in the teeth. If the risk of alienating existing players wasn’t enough, Wyrd seem to have put little effort into publicising Puppet Wars‘ return; a cursory Google of the title brings up precious little information and even the official site does little to show off the gameplay, or even the beautiful miniatures, very Wyrd indeed.

Next time I’ll be digging into the rules of Puppet Wars: Unstitched and learning how to pull the strings. PULL THE STRING!


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