Mud covers your boots making them too heavy for running, as a stream of blood drips down forehead. There is no escape, the Germans are closing in. In Wipers Salient you take on the role of the English and French as you try to hold off the Germans during the war to end all wars.
Wipers Salient is a deck-building game in the purest form. You start with a hand of five predetermined cards that act as your front line in the trenches. Each card you start with, or can purchase later, have four basic attributes that you will use to throughout the game.
Resources: You add up the value of all the resource icons in your hand in order to purchase a single card from an open market per turn. Newly acquired cards are immediately placed in your discard for later use.
Morale: This reflects the morale of your troops. You again add up the icons here and you can adjust your moral back up on the tracker. If you ever run out of morale, you lose the game.
Health: Health works in the same way as Morale and is another way you can lose the game. You can heal your troops once per turn based on the total of the health icons on the card in your hand.
Attack: Every card has a potential attack value. You add all of these up to attack one or more enemy cards.
Special Feature: Some cards give you special powers when in your hand like allowing you to draw another card, to place an enemy card back into the enemy deck, to double the attack of any one card, or more.
The turn sequence in Wipers Salient is simple and straightforward. During each round you will execute the following in order.
Draw up to five new card for form your hand. Reshuffle your discard if you do not have enough cards in your draw pile.
Deploy an enemy card. You will draw a new enemy card each round and you will only face a maximum of 4 at once, but you will likely die quickly if you fail to take them out before that happens.
Buy a Card. Next you will spend resources to purchase a card from the market.
Play your cards. During this phase you will heal your health and morale and you may attack your foes. Each enemy has a value to meet or exceed to defeat. If your total attack value is enough to defeat multiple enemies you may, but you must defeat them completely, as you can not injure them.
Enemy Attack!: Now you must look at the sum of all morale and health damage all the visible enemy card deal and adjust your tracker down accordingly. Again, if you run out of either, you are dead and you lose.
You WILL die in the game. I have played it 6 times and have yet to win. When you lose you may add up the value of all the enemies you defeated for a score. My scores ranged from around 25-35.
Wipers Salient is a good design with few flaws. If you like deck-building games and you enjoy solo games, then this is a game you should put on your radar. The variety of the cards in the market is very good, so each game your deck will likely be quite a bit different as the cards in the market will offer you different approaches to the game.
One factor that might hurt long term replay value is that the enemy deck is numbered and you must face the enemies in a particular order every time, with the weakest foes first. This is fairly minor, but is something to consider.
This is where I felt Wipers Salient really shined. Sure this could have another setting and be a fine game, but tackling WWI in the fashion this game does is equally unique and sobering. The art on all the cards that bring the setting to life look cartoony and fun at first glance, almost like propaganda cartoons, but at closer examination they are dark and lacking of the humor you first presumed. They depict life on the front lines. Sometimes there is a good laugh to be had, but often you are seeing sadness, hopelessness, and the stark reality of death.
This adds a layer of depth as you soon connect with these heroes of the trenches and want to see them triumph. Sadly, as I mentioned above, victory is hard to pull off and you are often left to feel the defeat in a more real, and less abstract, way then you do in most games of this kind. The advancing enemy cards cause you to panic and the lowering of health and morale sting in a refreshing way. War is real and Wipers Salient does a great job of connecting the mechanics to the setting in a way that makes for a theme that shines.
Wipers Salient contains just 52 cards, a small booklet, and a tuckbox. Not a lot of components for a deck-building game to say the least. I think it is great buy at just $13.99, especially if you like the theme and the sound of the mechanics. The value is certainly here.
I think replay is modest for this title. The same enemies coming out in the same order every game might help with planning on your part, but it hinders long-term replay value a bit. However, this is a game you can sit down and play 2-3 times in a row and have a great time and then put it away for a few months and take it out then and it should be fresh.
Wipers Salient takes solid mechanical bones and places the skin of a real and emotional theme to it. It reminds me a bit of playing The Grizzled. You cannot help but be invested in the characters in your hand or in fear of the looming threats across the battlefield. Wipers Salient does just about everything right and with so few cards. Kudos to the designer for pulling that off.
Again if the theme appeals to you and you enjoy solo games, I urge you to check this one out.