Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for July, 2011

Defenders of the Realm Review

Posted by sodaklady on July 14, 2011

Defenders of the Realm is a cooperative game unlike any cooperative game you’ve ever played.  O.k., that’s a lie, but it would be too easy to compare it to another well-known game which shall remain nameless. For the sake of this review, let’s pretend that it’s a totally unique and innovative game, and see if it sounds like a fun way to spend a couple of hours with friends.

Defenders of the Realm board

In-game shot of Defenders of the Realm.

Flavor Text:

“In the ancient Citadel of Monarch City, the King calls to arms the finest Heroes to defend against a Darkness that engulfs the land. You and your allies must embark on a journey to defend the countryside, repair the tainted lands, and defeat the four creature factions before any of them enter the City. And they approach from all sides! Fast populating Orcs! Fierce Dragons! Undead that bring Fear! And Demons! All tainting the land in their wake.”

Hero sculpts

The Hero sculpts.

In this game of adventure and heroism, you will be playing one of 8 Heroes, each with their own specialities and abilities appropriate to their character:

The Wizard. He can teleport to anywhere without using a card, throw Fireballs, and has great Wisdom which allows you to discard the first drawn card from the Darkness Spreads deck.

The Paladin. Has, of course, a Noble Steed which allows him to move 2 spaces instead of 1, Bravery which means Undead do not scare him, and an Aura of Righteousness which allows him to ignore one wound.

The Rogue. Being a free spirit has it’s advantages like Hiding in The Shadows so she is not harmed by minions in her space, Thievery which lets her draw an extra Hero card if she ends the turn where there’s a treasure chest, and she’s Crafty which benefits her when she’s trying to pick up rumors at an inn.

The Ranger. Being familiar with the woods, the Ranger gets an advantage when he starts his turn or fights in a green space, and he has a longbow for firing into the next area.

The Eagle Rider. Riding an eagle lets him move 4 spaces without using a card, a Fresh Mount in Monarch City or any blue area means you get an extra action, and he can attack from the air so that the enemy cannot harm him at the end of your turn.

The Cleric. Using a Blessed Attack gives her extra strength against the Undead and Demon minions, she can Turn Undead from the space you end you turn, and she can Sanctify the Land which has been Tainted by the enemy.

The Dwarf. Mountain Lore gives the dwarf an extra action if he starts in a red area, Dragon Slayer lets him re-roll combat dice against Dragonkin, and his Armor & Toughness lets him ignore a wound.

Sorceress. As a Shape Shifter she can disguise herself as any type of evil minion which lets her remain in a space with them without harm and also Ambush them, adding strength to her attacks. Visions gives her an extra die when Healing the Land or for Quest rolls.

All of these strengths and abilities give you a lot of choices as you spend your actions moving around the countryside, battling evil minions, popping into inns to listen for rumors or on a Quest to gain items or help.

Each turn a character will spend his life points, which vary by character from 4 to 6, as actions to try to defeat the evil forces attacking Monarch City from all sides. Your goal is to defeat all four of the Generals before they or their minions reach the city, the land is too Tainted to support humans, or all of the minions have entered the land.

If in your battles you take a wound, the life point is set aside and cannot be used for actions until you Heal yourself.  I like this linking of actions to damage; it was new to me and I think it’s an interesting twist as well as being thematic.

After your actions are spent, you draw 2 Hero cards to add to your hand. These come in the four colors of the evil forces: Red for Demons which Taint the land quicker than other forces, Green for Orcs which multiply quickly, Black for the Undead which do extra harm just from the fright they give you, and Blue for the Dragonkin which are stronger and harder to defeat. There are also special cards that give you extra help in defeating the enemy.

Hero cards

Example of some Hero cards.

The cards are multi-purpose so there is a touch of hand management forcing you to decide how to use them. At the top is an icon which allows you to use the card for movement: a horse to move 2 spaces, an eagle to move 4 spaces, or a magic gate to move between gates or to the space shown in the center of the card. At the bottom of the card is one or two dice which are used to fight the Generals.

Darkness Spreads cards

Examples of the Darkness Spreads cards.

At the end of your turn, Darkness Spreads. One to three cards are drawn, depending on how many Generals you’ve managed to kill, which tell where new minions show up and if a General moves a step closer to Monarch City. If a fourth minion would be placed in an area, it becomes too crowded to sustain, Tainting the Land and overrunning into adjacent areas. If all 12 of the Tainted Land crystals are placed on the board, your country (and the game) are lost.

Generals and Minions

Scuptls for the Generals and Minions

When you and your fellow heroes have gathered what you consider to be enough cards of a particular color, you head off to do battle with that General. I say “what you consider” because you will be rolling dice, and also because a couple of the Generals have abilities that can put a real dent in your plans. The Orc commander will Parry a hit for every “1” you roll. The Demon leader has magic that can corrupt your soul, making you eliminate a card you were going to use against him for every “1” you roll prior to battle. These can seriously destroy your battle plans! In a solo game I played, I had 10 dice to use against the Demon General and rolled eight “1”s before the battle. That left me with only 2 dice to roll for hits. Would you believe I rolled two “1”s? This is when you must tell yourself, “It’s only a game; it’s only a game.”

That’s it; easy rules but difficult to win. This is not simply a puzzle to figure out because there are too many random elements. If you don’t like the luck of the draw; or, like me, the dice laugh at you, this may not be the game for you.  If you want to immerse yourself in a game with a friend or three, cheer your good fortune and curse your bad luck, this game will fill that bill better than many others of its genre, be it adventure, dungeon crawler, fantasy, or cooperative.

Two final comments, the negative one first. The font used in this game is not a favorite of mine; I find it very hard to read at a glance, often mistaking the decorative “t” for a “c”.  My husband keeps calling Bounty Bay Bouncy Bay. Is that where the mermaids hide during all of this fighting?

And finally, the positive. The designer, Richard Launius, is very active on the Geek, answering questions, asking for suggestions, and offering up a constant stream of new content to be downloaded.

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Game Days: June 19 and July 3, 2011

Posted by sodaklady on July 5, 2011

Although I haven’t posted anything for a while, I am still playing and occasionally buying board games. The latest news is that we have another member in our small group: Dave. He’s a local guy that Mike has known for a while and his only day off is Sunday so our game day has moved from Friday to Sunday.

We have been playing a mixed bag of Mike’s games, which generally lean more towards the Ameri-trash end of the spectrum, and mine, which are typically more Eurogame. Our first day together, a couple of weeks ago, we played Survive: Escape From Atlantis, Power Grid, Twilight Emperium and Ra: The Dice Game. We all had a great time and Dave fit into our group very well. He’d never played any of these games but he’s a quick study and, most importantly, he knows that it’s not the winning, it’s the fun that counts.

I had never played Survive before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s an interesting game, very cutthroat but that doesn’t bother me.  I enjoyed it even though I didn’t do very well. Twilight Emperium was also new to me and I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over as the rules explanation began. Dave and I both agreed: just get it going and we’ll see what’s what once we get there. That worked better than an in-depth explanation. It wasn’t necessarily a hit with me although I enjoyed the beginning as you’re growing your civilization.

Next came Power Grid. This has very quickly become a favorite of ours and I was happy to hear that Dave was totally under its spell as well. He did poorly but it was only his first time while Richard, Mike and I all had previous experience with it.  The popularity of Power Grid is well-deserved and actually scared me off of it for… well, until Mike bought it and introduced us to it. I kept thinking it would be a very complicated game if all those geeks made such a fuss over it. I was wrong; the rules and game play are very simple and straight-forward, it’s what you do with them that make this an extraordinary game.

We ended our first game session with a quick game of Ra: The Dice Game. I absolutely love this little filler and could play it over and over again back to back. It’s the perfect way to end a game day.

—————-

This Sunday we started with a new acquisition of mine from a trade: Samarkand: Routes to Riches. This is a tricky stock market game dressed up as a friendly camel game. I have to admit that just reading the rules did not lead me to understand the game totally. The rules are simple, really, and took me only 5 minutes to explain the 2 choices you have during your turn, and their implications. This lead to 10 minutes of questions and clarifications from all four of us! Even as we started to play and see for ourselves how this fits together, we were still having little lightbulb moments. By the end of the game we were all quite impressed with how simple but tough this little game is. I would have turned right around and played it again but we must move on…

Samarkand: Routes to Riches

Samarkand, near the end of the game.

Mike had brought 7 Wonders once before when it was only he and I playing and I was not overwhelmed with love for this oh-so-popular game. But I was willing to give it another shot now that we had four players. And I’m very glad I did! I can finally see why people are so enthusiastic about it and I’d join their ranks as owners of the game if it only played as well with 2 as it did with 4. I didn’t win; far from it. But I had a great time and can’t wait to give it another go.

Next up, something familiar and new at the same time: Power Grid but with the map of France. Dave did much better this time and kept right up with everyone else. In the end, though, it was between Mike and myself who would be able to acquire and power the most cities; who could buy the biggest power plant while also being able to afford the materiels to run all their power plants, and still be able to expand their city grid in this last turn. ME!  Yes, I had 19 cities and could power them all.  Happy dance around the table because it’s rare to beat Mike at a tough game.

Power Grid

End game. That's my blue house, on 19! Then Mike, Dave and Richard.

It was almost time for Dave to leave so we played a quick game of Ra dice again. Maybe next time we’ll get out its big brother and show Dave how much fun an auction game can be!

After Dave left, Mike wanted us to try out a new game he got in trade, Gunslinger. This is an old game published in 1982 by Avalon Hill. This is a game where each player pre-programs their moves using their own deck of cards. You can draw and cock your gun, aim, shoot, throw various punches, duck down or get up, etc. and each of these actions take a certain amount of time. When the counter that’s keeping track of time gets to that action, it occurs. In our simple scenario, we were three bad guys who had just robbed a bank and each decided that splitting 3 ways wasn’t as much fun as not splitting it at all!  After the gun smoke had cleared, the plain outside of town was the site of three dead bodies and a pile of money. But my dead body was lying on the pile of money, dadgumit!  This is a fun little game with a lot of thematic flavor and a good story to be told from it. I could see how the more envolved scenarios would be a real good time for everyone.

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