Mistborn: House War is a semi-cooperative resource management board game created and developed by Crafty Games and designed by Kevin Wilson, in cooperation with Brandon Sanderson and Dragonsteel Entertainment. It is based on The Final Empire, the first book of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy written by Sanderson.
Mistborn: House War puts the player in command of the Final Empire's Great Houses during the cataclysmic events of Mistborn: The Final Empire.
Together, players must cooperate to solve the myriad of problems faced by the empire, from environmental and social turmoil to political strife and outright rebellion. They'll even face off with Kelsier, Vin, Sazed, and the other heroes of the novels to maintain the delicate balance held in place for the last thousand years. Simultaneously, they’ll compete to become the most powerful House in the land by currying favor from the almighty Lord Ruler. To win, they must build alliances, negotiate deals, and undermine both their enemies and their allies — all at just the right time.
Mistborn: House War plays like some strange lovechild of a basic Eurogame and Munchkin. Each House wants to gather resources, then use those resources to solve various problems that arise in the Empire. By doing so they earn the Lord Ruler’s Favor, which is this game’s version of Victory Points.
However, these problems are expensive and difficult to resolve, and a single player often won’t be able to do it. They'll have to make deals with other players: giving resources, part of the Favors earned if the problem is solved or promises to help during future problems in exchange of their help. Therefore, while mostly a board game, House War also features elements of roleplay during these negociations. If a problem goes unsolved for too long it “erupts”. An erupting problem can have various effects, but all of them are negative for one or all Houses. To help them solve the problems, the players can use Personality Cards that have various positive effects. Some of these cards can also be used to hinder the other players.
Mistborn: House War generally ends when Vin (the leader of the rebels) is flipped off of the problem deck and resolved one way or the other - either she is defeated or she erupts - or, more rarely, if the Unrest meter rises to 8 before she's flipped off. (Note that Vin is worth a great deal of Unrest, so if she erupts it will often - though not necessarily - max out the Unrest meter.)
There are two ways that Mistborn: House War can end. If the Unrest meter remains inferior to 8, either because Vin is defeated or she erupted without bringing enough Unrest, the Final Empire will survive and the player with the most Favor wins. If the Unrest meter rises all the way to 8, the Final Empire will collapse. In that case, the player with the least Favor wins, because he or she is the most distant from the Lord Ruler and least likely to be caught up in the backlash. Gameplay-wise it means that nobody is ever really out. If a player is way behind on points, they can shift their strategy to undermine the others and win by losing, so to speak. Plot-wise, it adds a sense of real weight to the decisions and puts some urgency behind all the squabbling. Fighting for position is the core of the game, but you do need to remember that you’re still part of the Final Empire, and are bound up in its fate - unless, of course, you prefer to stand back and let it fall.
Mistborn: House War provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The game (and its news on its Kickstarter page) provides a few more informations on the Great Houses of Luthadel, especially those that were given nothing more than a few passing mentions in the book.
- House Elariel is the Jack of All Stats of the Great Houses, maintaining diversified assets throughout the Final Empire.
- House Tekiel built its wealth on trade and the canal network of the Empire.
- House Lekal owns massive plantations in the Southern Dominance and is one of the main providers of food in the Empire.
- House Erikeller is from the western portions of the Empire, complete with beards, slightly less fashionable clothing, and a bit more “rustic” tone (much like House Cett of The Well of Ascension). They are a provider of weapons, but their biggest asset is their access to lots and lots of Allomancers. Allomancy is strong in their bloodline and they employ a lot of Mistings and Mistborns in their plans.
- House Erikell is from the eastern parts of the Empire – a region noted for its chaotic society, plagued by poor soil, bandit kings, and wandering packs of koloss. They are the first line of defense against the restive elements on the fringes of the Final Empire and a big provider of weapons to both the other Houses and the imperial army.
- House Haught is from the northern part of the Empire and is a canning and manufacturing powerhouse that owns a big number of factories. Since they are closer to the Terris Dominance than other Houses, they also peddle textiles like rugs, fabrics, and wool from the ancient Terris people to the wealthy in Luthadel.
- The members of House Urbain are mainly bankers and investors, for both money and atium. Their bank interests and real estate grant them great financial power.
- House Buvidas is from the Central Dominance and gets ahead by offering services and a “neutral ground” to larger families, mediating truces and brokering deals from which they could draw a modest percentage – sort of like a Paypal business model!
- The Bad Guy Wins: This is what happens In-Universe if the players manage to prevent the Unrest meter to rise all the way to 8. The Lord Ruler stays in power and the heroes of the book fail to free the skaa from his tyrannical rule.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: While the players are forced to cooperate to solve the problems, they are still rivals and there can only be one winner, so betrayal is part of the game.
- Continuity Nod: Some aspects of the rules mirror the settings of Mistborn: The Final Empire.
- The order in which the players take their turn is determined by the standing of the Great Houses during Mistborn: The Final Empire.
- The resources produced by the Great Houses match their description in the book.
- For instance, House Venture produces atium. In the book, they are in charge of the only atium mine of the Final Empire.
- At one point, House Erikell is mentioned in the book as a provider of weapons for both House Tekiel and House Venture. Warriors are the main resource they produce in the board game.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Most of the Houses only produce two or three different resources, which forces the players to make deals with other Houses to solve the problems. For instance, House Lekal produces food and workers, but lacks atium, prestige, warriors and money. House Venture mostly produces atium (and a little prestige), House Hastings produces warriors and prestige, House Tekiel produces money and a little food and prestige, etc...
- Decadent Court: The board game gives an idea about what the nobility of the Final Empire is. A web of loose alliances and political intrigues, in which the Great Houses only bother to solve the Empire's problems based on the favors it will earn them, and in which you're actively encouraged to threaten, manipulate, double-cross and betray others to achieve victory.
- Enemy Mine: The core of the game is that the Houses are rivals that won't hesitate to backstab each other to be the most powerful, but still have to cooperate to solve problems that may threaten them all.
- Final Boss: Vin is the most expensive problem to solve and the game automatically ends after she erupts or is dealt with.
- Hero Antagonist: The heroes of the book, Vin, Kelsier and their crew, are among the problems that can erupt. So the players may want to prevent them from succeeding. However, In-Universe, they are still trying to bring down an oppressive tyrannical political system.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Smoker personality cards allow to redirect the effect of an erupting problem or of a played personality card on another valid target, sometimes directly at the person who played it.
- Jack of All Stats: House Elariel produces one of each resources except atium and is noted In-Universe to be cautious and maintain diversified assets throughout the Final Empire.
- Opportunistic Bastard: You can play as one, making deals or breaking alliances as soon as an opportunity arises. You may even choose to stop gaining Favors and undermine the attempts to maintain the Final Empire in order to claim dominion over the ruins.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The Houses may decide to solve problems like plagues or famines, sparing skaa lives... because it will bring them Favors or because it may threaten their resources.
- Pyrrhic Victory: This is what happens In-Universe if Vin erupts without bringing enough Unrest to make the Final Empire fall. The Final Empire survives the revolt, but barely.
- Villain Protagonist: The players are in command of the antagonists of the first book, the Steel Ministry and Great Houses that rule over the Final Empire and oppress its population.