Tabletop Game Review: A War of Whispers

A War of Whispers by Starling Games
Varies by Edition
2 to 4
~45 minutes
Perfect for:
Groups that enjoy strategy area control and hidden role games that can oscillate between passive and aggressive manipulation.

A War of Whispers is a game of cunning influence! In a war-torn land, five discreet empires battle for dominance. The players however control their own council, external to the fighting. They are the manipulators who operate in the shadows, bending the outcome of the skirmishes to their will. Alliances form and break as the council changes their support as the events unfold.

To begin A War of Whispers, the central map board gets set up. It contains the starting locations of the five armies, including the resources and cities they control. Two to four players retrieve their tokens—the council members who will sway the proceedings. Each player then randomly assigns one of the five armies to varying degrees of loyalty, which help guide the council on who to support. For example, if the player puts the eagle faction in the “best” position, then they will want to ensure that army’s growth. Conversely, for the army with the “worst” loyalty, that player might work towards their demise either externally or internally.

During a round, players first sequentially deploy their council agents, aligning with various factions. Depending on the roles/positions chosen, these council agents will be able to perform actions related to that army such as deploy more troops or send combatants into the battle. They may also procure cards which can be used to perform powerful special actions. This continues for four rounds, with more council agents deployed over time. At the end, players reveal their secret loyalties and calculate victory points by multiplying the value of that alliance times the number of cities the corresponding army controls on the board.

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What works in A War of Whispers is the fantastic area control manipulation mechanic coupled with fast gameplay and enough twists and turns to keep the action highly engaging. At first, the activity feels fairly straightforward: players bolster the armies that should ultimately yield them the most points. But as the events unfold, new strategies can emerge. This is primarily due having the ability to switch loyalty positions if the player is a) willing to publicly acknowledge the new loyalties, and b) lock those positions for the rest of the game. More simply, the faction that a person was rooting to fail could suddenly become their new best friends with a swap. As the narrative gets complicated, players begin to not only manipulate factions to their personal benefit but can thwart the suspected plans of their opponents. The variability to achieve these ends is fantastic.

Players who don’t enjoy games where people can purposely sabotage others, or involve a high degree of decision-making and planning, may not appreciate A War of Whispers. At its core, the game necessitates a certain level of duplicity and sabotage, often to the detriment of others. In addition, while the actions are fairly simple conceptually, individuals prone to analysis paralysis may feel a bit overwhelmed at the avenues at their disposal.

A War of Whispers is an excellent game for those seeking a title with high levels of interaction whilst outwitting enemies. The manipulation element is fabulously crafted and has perfect balancing mechanics to ensure no player gets obliterated. And finally, A War of Whispers has the air of feeling epic without taking all day to play.

Recommended if you like: Game of Thrones, Eclipse,

Final Grade: A+

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