Legend tells of five mighty quests that must be completed to save the lands of Andor….And or what?…they never tell you with all this cryptic prophesy future prediction lark. I suppose this will be just another whack and bash job…few coins for a few smashed skulls. The humiliation of it. They never pay me to use my brain you know. Never! Just go out, get the girl, kill the bad guys and save the entire planet. Just once it’d be nice to replace this heroic fighting-style tinfoil covered cardboard trilby for my thinking cap…
Legend has it that I have a hefty stash of cash but legends can be woefully misinformed. As was my misconception of skull crushing. I have Gors to face…and Skrals (what ever they are when they are at home) …and trolls ( familiar territory there) …and Wardraks but if I go about caving in heads, I’m going to have to face grave consequences. At last a mental juggling act. Let me don the air-conditioned dear stalker to cool my brain and let’s get to puzzle solving…What ever fancy names you give them, they are all Goblins, Orc and Trolls…and some very scary dog-things. Either way, they are advancing mercilessly on the castle and there is just four of us…well, three of me, to save the kingdom…that doesn’t really seem right. A whole bloody kingdom and just three of us, unaided, to save everyone else. So what’s everyone else up to? Partying and carrying on, I’ve no doubt. Mooching about the countryside looking for herbs and rocks and stuff…I really should have changed out of my bathrobe. The wind gets in at the side, you know!
So What’s All The Fuss About?
Is the fuss about shopping?…there are opportunities to go shopping, so is that it? A fantasy shopping game?
Do not be utterly ludicrous in your assumptions…and nor is this a typical whack n’ bash cash bonanza!
The fuss here is that here liveth a game that requires true cooperation, economic puzzle solving (bigger picture puzzles than a mere jigsaw) with the occasional beastie encountered fisticuff session. Before us is a high fantasy world that calls upon its trusted saviours to save the empire without indiscriminate bloodshed (good job too because sheds are rubbish at keeping in blood…it often leaks out at the sides).
Immersion or Subversion?
At first glance we have what appears to be a run of the mill fantasy game…a little Lord of the Ringsy with wizards and elves Gimli and Boromere and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
But it would be foolhardy to pass this title over on that basis. There are opportunities to buy equipment during the game to strengthen and aid our budding heroes, represented in quite a novel way on the player dashboards ( though a steel helmet looks odd on an elf)
The main driving force of the game relies upon each adventure having its own series of storey cards. The narrate our adventure, help seed the board with unpleasant things to encounter and can be triggered by the game turn track reaching specific points.
Event cards are thrown in to the mix to stir things up a lttle…occasionally good but usually not so good for the hero. These are normally turned once a turn but certain game events can trigger additional cards to be turned over.
Fate cards…a sort of personal goal for each character add to the flavour. Somewhat akin to personal side quests, the overall win condition can be influenced by the failure or success of said cards.
Timing. Actions take time and a hero has a finite number of actions before becoming fatigues, requiring rest. Balancing actions with all heroes, optimising the use of each one’s skiill set is of paramount importance for once everyone has finished and rested, the turn ends and the game turn track advances. Events can cause this to also advance…so can killing beasties so you can see there is a very difficult equilibrium to maintain.
Although not a Bot, the game has a nice way of dealing with opponent figures. All figures have a set movement rate from area to area. The map is broken down into a rather maddening number system with each space linked to adjacent spaces with direction arrows. Enemies move, following these arrows, in a relentless march towards the principalitie’s castle (when overrun the game is lost and we are all doomed) there is a hierarchy of movement both between differing creature types and within same creatures. The numbers on the map help with this. A nice feature is that no two can occupy the same space so jump preceding figures…although we as the live player can see the enemies pre-determined path, taking not of such potential jumps prevents the enemy from premature assault on the castle
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
There is not much to be said here. The artwork is splendid and all components are finished to a high standard. The tokens, meeples and player boards are all made from strong, sturdy cardboard (might be chipboard in the US), the cards are well printed and of a high quality weight and finish…and there are an awful lot of components in this box.
Meeples and Standees:
Game design & Artwork: Michael Menzel
Game Publisher: Kozmos & Fantasy Flight Games
Grapgic Design: Mixhaela Kienle
The game comes with five adventures but there are sooooo many more fan made adventures professionally moulded over on BGG that the game will stay fresh for a long time, even though the very basics remain the same.
The whole use of a series of adventure cards both narrating the adventure and populating the game-board is a very pleasant way of being told how to set up a board as it gives us justification for particular eventualities. Tie this in with the ever advancing turn tracker (soooooo much pressure put on us), any superfluous death to adversaries results in additional increase of the turn tracker, and we have the makings of a very tricky logistic nightmare to contend with. This is such a thinky game that every decision, every allocation of workload that does not optimise resources could spell doom. There are events on top of all this mayhem to shove an oar in the works. Suddenly we have on our hands something that requires supreme cooperation on the part of the protagonists. Fundamentally a cooperative affair, this plays perfectly with a single player. The game’s difficulty is also scaled to become a more difficult challenge the more heroes dive in feet first.For the soloist there is only minimal bookkeeping required. Keeping tally of coins, a Strength cube on its own tracker and a Willpower cube on its own tracker. So even when using all four heroes, there is not an overwhelming task to keep on top of.
Me, Myself and I:
…something I found novel (and I am sure I can speak for me and myself) was a big book…no, I foolishly jest here. It is the gender choices available. Each hero has both male and female sides to the dashboard and male or female standees. There are no changes in stats so either are usable to equal ends but aesthetically it makes a change to have that choice.
There is not a goods train full of plastic miniatures in this game, which may upset some, but they really are not required. The illustrated standees of both heroes and beasties are exceptional and are more than adequately suited for the job. This title is about the game mechanics not about selling wholesale minis, none of which ever get painted. I have enjoyed this many times over and would happily recommend this for any one wishing to delve into a rich, complex decision making engine. There are now numerous expansions adding diversity to adventure and additional rules to accompany new characters, creatures and scenarios.
Yay or Nay?
Obviously this is rubbish…NOOOoOoO This is a brilliant effort and through effective distribution of tasks earns itself a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (7)…I have my eye on some of the expansions which could, potentially raise that further.
…a bloody dragon. Always a soddin’ bloody dragon knocking about somewhere or other. All in a day’s adventuring, I suppose. Mind you it never mentioned anything about bloody dragons on the consent form…bit of a liberty, if you ask me!
So, just tighten my hamstring gusset, flex the old tricep (singular) and forwards I go. It looks a long way to go to get to that single story darkmage tower. Let’s hope this rain doesn’t make the colours run on my new Bakelite pullover before I get there….
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Something For The Weekend Sir?
- Tragic The Blathering plays through
- Rahdo plays through