Psychological Warfare is a fast, yet strategic, card game from DPH Games for up to four players. (All of whom will likely require therapy before the game is over.)
The setup begins with each player selecting an Archetype card to play as for game. Maybe you are a fun loving Jester. Perhaps you a Lover, looking for belonging. Or do you want to be a Rebel, searching for your freedom? There are 10 different options to choose from, each with their own unique special ability, and varying Needs. There are four categories of Needs in the game (Freedom, Fun, Belonging, and Power), and the player with the highest score in any given category will receive the victory points for it at the end of the game. The thing is each Archetype weighs those Needs differently, getting a balance 1, 2, 3, or 4 victory points depending on the Need. The result makes for interesting strategies, especially with more players. Do you work towards increasing your score in the Need that will get you 4 points, or try to keep one of your opponents from winning a Need category that may give you fewer points yourself?
The majority of the game will be spent discarding cards from your hand to give yourself Mental Energy, which you can then spend to play the other cards in your hand. Some action cards remain in play as Emotional Baggage, which basically acts like cards still in your hand when you are drawing new cards at the end of your turn.
“How do I get rid of my Emotional Baggage?” you ask yourself. In response you tell yourself, “Self, not only do we have a bunch of Emotional Baggage but we are now having a conversation with our self, maybe we should go into therapy.”
So you choose to “go into therapy” and you remove all your baggage from play, along with any Phobia and Defence Mechanism cards you may have also played. Then you draw back up to your full hand size, refreshed and rejuvenated to face your next turn when it comes around.
Although I really liked the simple design and layout of the main cards and overall design of the Archetype cards, I’m not a big fan of the character art used on the Archetypes. None of the characters felt like they fit the theme of the game, and even taken out of that context they didn’t particularly feel like there was a unified concept between them. That’s not to say the art wasn’t good, just that it felt out of place in this game to the point that one of my players even mentioned it as they were choosing an Archetype to use.
Even though the game works just fine with only two players, when you add a third and fourth player is when it really starts to shine. Since everyone is potentially vying for different victory points in different Needs categories, a player has to make increasingly difficult decisions when there are more people in the game.
All told, this is a really solid game. I was able to play with a few different groups, and every time everyone had a great time with it. Even straight out of the box, the rules aren’t hard to pick up, and the game moves surprisingly quickly once you get rolling. It’s light enough to not stress over, heavy enough to keep your mind engaged while you play, and has just enough screw-your-neighbour moments to really pop when they happen.