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London Dread» Forums » Reviews

Subject: London Dread Review: First Impressions rss

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Kristie Schweyer

Florida
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After much anticipation,we finally received our copy of London Dread yesterday and completed our first play of the opening story (The Letter). This means I can't offer any insight on replay value or the many difficulty settings yet, but this is a very cool game and deserves a little insight and support to welcome new players to what I hope will be a successful (and expanded upon!) game.

Upon opening: There were some printing challenges with two separate sets of cards. When you open your box you will need to replace several of the cards and trash the originals. This is an essential step for further game play and took us about five minutes (we were very thorough before throwing anything away).

I can also recommend the free app that goes with it. Although not unnecessary (its a soundscape timer and well-read flavor text), it is neatly done and does help with immersion.

Player beware: There are some deficiencies in the rulebook, most notably a key element of endgame setup that is now covered in the FAQ posted on BoardGame Geek, but entirely missing from the printed rules. It is an easy fix, but it is not possible to progress through the game without this key information.

Additionally, some of the mechanics are a little clunky in the rulebook and will take even experienced board gamers a play through or two to fully understand. The designers are active on BGG though and seem to be responsive to questions which is extremely helpful.


Flavor and setting: 9/10
The map of London game board is lovely and vaguely threatening when the game is first set up with the red-backed cards face down and waiting to be explored. The art is solid and the flavor text and storytelling are top notch. The player "clocks" for planning and executing investigations are my favorite physical element of the game and work as intended. The free app definitely enhances the experience and players who want to accentuate the role-playing and storytelling aspects of the game will want to pick it up. Wish list for app updates: a looping soundscape background to play underneath the story section. As it stands, the sounds only play during the timed planning phase and we had to switch to a "spooky soundracks" Pandora channel to underscore the story phase.

The different character attributes (Guile, Strength, etc) are represented by animal icons (snake, bull, etc). As new players, we wound up referring to checks by the easily-identified animal icon ("I have two snakes and two bulls to contribute here") which took away a bit from the immersion.

Rules explanation: 6/10 This was the weakest part of the game for us. The guide to set up the game is good, but there are 2-3 player adjustments as well as difficulty setting options that are only called out at the back of the book. These would have been more useful as inserts within the flow of the set up guide. Going step-by-step for our first attempt meant that we ultimately had to re-distribute cards (we played as two players with allies and opted to take advantage of the difficulty crutches for our alpha game).

There is the matter of the missing Endgame instructions noted above and a few smaller inconsistencies (e.g. cards illustrated not matching cards referenced) throughout. The most difficult thing for us to sort out was the Endgame, Final Showdown and how the Antagonist card ought to work. Perfectly clear in retrospect, but a bit dense at the beginning looking ahead.

Plot cards and Dread cards look the same, are shuffled together,are encountered during the same phase but have significantly different rules for resolution. Teasing this out could create a little confusion and the rulebook doesn't offer as much support as it could to help make this crystal clear.

Game components: 9/10 Several cards need to be replaced initially, but otherwise the printing, look and feel of all components is excellent. The cardboard bits are very solid and sturdy and there are no moving bits that will breakdown. The clocks are very cool and extremely sturdy.

The investigation markers (the colored magnifying glasses) may require having the color key handy during game play, especially for new players. On top of all of the other challenges during the timed Planning phase, remembering the difference between the red and green ones seems like an unnecessary burden - a reference card would be helpful. We skipped over these during our initial playthrough (unintentionally, it just kind of happened that way), but I can see how they will be useful with more players and more complex stories. Also, the white and cream-colored markers look remarkably similar and may be difficult to distinguish in the heat of the moment (or for the color-challenged) although I'm not sure that will have a significant game play impact, since these are just tools to help with visualization during the planning phase.

With no built in dividers, you will spend a bit of time separating the different types of cards: Plot cards (you only play one story at a time), Dread 1, Dread 2 and Allies all share the same backing, but are seeded and handled differently within game play. The Injury and Unhinged cards don't have any game effect other than bringing your character one step closer to being defeated. At first blush I thought they might be like the Injury and Madness cards from Arkham Horror, but they don't do anything at all. These might have been better as chits instead of mini-cards.

Gameplay: 7/10 This is an initial, one-scenario play through score. I will update when I have more nuanced information available.

The planning timer creates a lot of pressure and certainly forces some rushed and sometimes sub-optimal decision making. As it was, we had to make three or four adjustments as we "checked our work" and realized that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time or accidentally going to an already cleared location. As actual play unfolded, we hit everything in order and triggered the endgame at exactly 4am. If we had been planning in Dread mode (reduced time) we certainly would have failed.

This segment is highly interactive and entirely cooperative. Excellent communication is essential and the timer keeps it very intense. If you like those things, you will love this part. If those first two sentences make you cringe, then London Dread is not for you as this aspect is core to the game.

During the story phase, the pressure is off although there is certainly some unfolding horror as you realize that you made a poor decision during the Planning phase and are less-prepared than you had hoped. There is a random boost (or 1 in 6 penalty) provided by the character deck that ensures that you can't predict exactly how each card will play out. There are decisions to make about spending resources during this phase and you can receive aid from other players if you are in the same place at the same time.

There is enough information and variety here for roleplayers to use game actions to tell an in-depth story although I can't say yet whether that story will replay well.

Once you reach the Endgame, all characters are "together" (unless they drop out) but each one faces each challenge alone in attempt to earn action dice for the final showdown. There is a card called the Antagonist that is a special rules set for this phase, not an enemy to be defeated as the name might imply. This was a little confusing until we got into it. It is easy to see how this section could become quite rough on characters at higher difficulty settings. Your investigation successes will help you here, but if you got brutalized during the Story phase you will likely be very short on resources (not to mention facing a higher Dread total).

The Final Showdown was a bit of an anticlimax compared to how it sounds and how interactive all of the other checks in the game play out. The dice earned during the Endgame are rolled (1/3 chance of success on each) and total successes are compared to the Dread track total (which adjusts throughout the game, including the Endgame phase). A few items offer re-rolls but it is basically, "Roll the dice once and win or lose based on that". We won (rolled 16 dice needing 4 successes), but we definitely played in easy mode.


Overall rating: 8/10
with the potential to increase with more play experience. Beautiful game and very successful implementation of the Victorian horror theme with a really robust Planning phase make this a great game. Some rules clunkiness (possibly solved in later editions of the rulebook or FAQ) and a letdown at the Final Showdown keep it from a higher score. Highly cooperative and likely to take several plays to master nuanced game tactics. Several difficulty additions/subtractions make the game accessible to different gamer skill levels and there is a heavy role play element available for people who love story. The game is fairly unique from other planning/programming games we've tried.

Strong recommend if most of the elements described above sound like your cup of tea.
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Asger Johansen
Denmark
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Thank you for a nuanced review!

We look forward to hearing your thoughts as you progress through the content and the scenarios.

You seem to have grasped everything already, but if you have any questions, please let us know.

Happy gaming!

Snorre and Asger
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Seth Pontiff
United States
Houma
Louisiana
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Any idea when the app will be available on Apple?
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Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Handsome devil huh?
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Nice review. Good job.
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Michael Kirchhoff
United States
Mission Viejo
California
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Schweyers wrote:
The Final Showdown was a bit of an anticlimax compared to how it sounds and how interactive all of the other checks in the game play out. The dice earned during the Endgame are rolled (1/3 chance of success on each) and total successes are compared to the Dread track total (which adjusts throughout the game, including the Endgame phase). A few items offer re-rolls but it is basically, "Roll the dice once and win or lose based on that".


Our group was having great fun with planning our actions, working together to figure out the puzzle, then seeing how everyone's decisions played out in the second phase. We got to the Endgame challenges, and it was like a second game that built on what we had already done. This was all terrific, with great flavor, fast and fun coordinated gameplay, and genuine tension.

Then we get to the final antagonist. "Roll some dice and see if you win." Really? That's how it ends?
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Asger Johansen
Denmark
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Hi Michael,

Thank you for your thoughts.

I am happy to hear you had fun, but obviously less happy that you hated the endgame so much.

If you ever play again - which I understand is unlikely - but IF you do, you can resolve the Final Battle without rolling dice. Simply score 1 success for each 3 dice you bring. Add one success for each item you have that allows a reroll (as well as of course for the items that give you auto successes). Then there will be a tighter correlation between playing well and winning.

Happy gaming!

Asger

EDIT: typos
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Michael Kirchhoff
United States
Mission Viejo
California
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Thanks for the suggestion.

I apologize if I was overly harsh in my evaluation of the game's climax, but I only had that reaction because the rest of the game was so good.
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Asger Johansen
Denmark
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No need to apologize. Passion is a virtue.

Asger
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Martin
Germany
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Hi Asger, I grabbed my copy of London Dread yesterday, the promos were a nice surprise.
It is really cool that you always answer all the questions here at bgg.
I was at your booth and you played 1 match of London Dread with 4 other persons. I just observed the whole match because there was no empty table (I stood next to another member of the staff in front of your table and he told me it was you) and I just wanted to say that it was pretty amusing to watch you explaining the whole rules and guiding the players.

THUMBS UP

PS. Congratulation for the high geek buzz rank, you got my vote.

I can't wait to unbox the game after my vacation.
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Asger Johansen
Denmark
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Thank you, Martin!

I hope you will enjoy the game. Let me know if you have any questions.

Happy gaming!
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Erwin Anciano
Philippines
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I don't understand... Why do I need to trash some of the cards? Feels like Dominion haha.
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