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Diskwars is a cross between a miniatures wargame and a collectible card game. Its publishers, Fantasy Flight Games, call Diskwars a "collectible disk game." It was created by Tom Jolly (veteran game designer and creator of Wiz-War, an oft-cited influence on Magic) and Christian T. Petersen (president of Fantasy Flight).

Diskwars' central innovation is its playing pieces, which take the form of thin, sturdy cardboard disks, printed with color artwork and game stats, and are meant to be moved by flipping them on an edge in any direction. A circular game piece, that tells you how many times you may flip it for its movement, makes redundant the use of rulers and separate sheets of game statistics, common in other miniatures games.

Tom Jolly's original design submission to Fantasy Flight bore little resemblance to what was eventually released as Diskwars; it was a non-collectible game featuring a fairly small set of pieces, but it did include this concept and movement mechanic. Petersen was the one who recognized the mechanic's usefulness for creating a sort of Warhammer-on-the-cheap. If disks had their stats printed on them, they could also have exception-based special abilities, just like Magic cards. He then made the connection to make some of the punch-out cardboard flats full of disks randomly sorted and differing in rarity, just like Magic cards. Jolly reportedly finds the resulting game, like all collectible games in his opinion, a bit silly and broken, but he gets a nice royalty so he isn't complaining.

So: disks flip and flip and flip, and end up somewhere. Then what? If your disk flips itself so that it partially overlaps an enemy disk, that disk is pinned, and there's going to be a fight. (Disks with the Flying special ability can keep moving if they run into an enemy; all others must stop as soon as they overlap anyone.) All disks have an offensive combat stat, as well as hit points. Some disks can take multiple wounds, meaning you have to do their full amount of hit points in damage more than once to kill them. Disks apply their combat stats to one another - both can die. No luck is involved in resolving combat. Disks can be attacked by multiple disks, and must choose which one to attack in return. It can get surprisingly complicated.

One of the most fun, but unbalancing, aspects of the original Diskwars is the missile fire system, through which disks can fire some sort of ranged weapon, like arrows. The player controlling the firing character first measures to see if the target is in range (yes, you still need a ruler for some things in Diskwars) and then holds a bunch of little missile tokens on a larger disk, 12 inches above the target, and drops them. This is a better simulation of the player's fine-motor skill than of a giant's ability to lob rocks, but it sure is fun to do.

The original Diskwars game has characters belonging to eight factions, and thus, eight different types of starter packs. The factions are Dragonkin, Undead, Knights, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, the vaguely undead-like Uthuk, and the knightlike-but-cooler Acolytes. The first Diskwars expansion set, Moon Over Thelgrim, introduced the Mahkim, who are Morlock-like neutral wild cards in the game world's politics. (All of the races/factions in Diskwars have an alignment: good (green-rimmed disks), evil (red rims), or neutral (blue). Dwarves are neutral, and you can probably guess the rest. Good disks and evil disks can't fight in the same army. There are also gold-rimmed disks, which are special elite commanders - one per army is allowed.)

The first set of Diskwars (original and Revised) and the aforementioned Moon Over Thelgrim expansion were sold exclusively in starters. Starter packs have eight flats, three of them preselected for each different race, four of them randomly selected, and one containing basic counters and some spells. The Wastelands was the first expansion to be sold solely as Reinforcement Packs - sturdy color envelopes full of four random flats, analogous to boosters. Later expansions, Waiqar's Path and Broken Shadows, were sold in abbreviated starters containing two race-centered flats and six random (with no counters).

But wait, it gets interesting again: The mechanic behind Diskwars soon found itself getting spread around - you know how those gaming companies like to spread their IP around to whatever random new format looks interesting. The first was L5R Diskwars, a full game based on the characters and clans from Legend of the Five Rings. L5R Diskwars was the only Diskwars spinoff to be fully compatible and playable with the original. Then there was Star Trek: Red Alert, which introduced (gasp) non-round objects into the Diskwars pantheon. FFG themselves produced Deadlands: Doomtown Range Wars (perhaps the best-playing Diskwars game, based on the popular Deadlands Weird West game world and strongly influenced by the superlative Doomtown CCG) and finally Twilight Imperium: Armada (based on the Twilight Imperium strategy game and RPG).

Given the broad range of genres represented, and the low price point (Diskwars has always had the advantage of being one-tenth the cost of a Warhammer army for similar play, and many outlets now have Diskwars stuff at clearance prices), Diskwars is a great way to check out miniatures gaming. The different scenarios and goals you can choose from (or make up) are a real strength, and show how wargaming can be open-ended rather than regimented. Oh, and dwarves kick ass.

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