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The Wheel of Time Collectible Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: 3 out of 10. Not recommended at all. rss

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Ian K
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I love the Wheel Of Time books. 12 years ago when this game first came out, The Path Of Daggers had come out and we were all eagerly waiting for the next installment. And then this game was announced and it caused great interest and excitement among my friends and I.
We were already all players and fans of games such as Decipher's Star Wars CCG, or I.C.E.'s Middle-Earth CCG and even of the Babylon 5 CCG produced by the same company as had just announced this Wheel Of Time game!
We bought starters and boosters in good faith and maybe it was inevitabe that we would be disappointed. After all, we were excited and maybe we were just finding the game didn't live up to what we'd hoped but was still good? So in that good faith, we stayed with it. We bought the expansions when they came out and tried to like this game, we really did.
I mention all this so that when I say this is a bad game, you know I do not do so lightly.
After all, I gave this game every chance ... I really did.
But ...

Synopsis
The idea of the game is to take control of either the Shadow or the Dragon forces from Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series of novels, and to then win either through killing your opponent's starting character or by winning The Last Battle.
You start with one character in play (usually either one of the Forsaken or Rand al'Thor, although multiplayer can change things and the last product ever released for this game was 4 different starting characters) and from there you must build up your forces to battle your opponent throughout the game, hoping to either kill your opponent's starting character or to have enough control over the game so that when The Last Battle starts, you will win it. And immediately, there are problems in the game design.

Gameplay
To bring out new characters and troops, you have to roll dice for resource generation. If you fail to roll what you need on your opening turn, you do nothing but sit there. And quite often the same will happen on your next turn, too. It is not uncommon for one player to not get out ANY other cards until the fourth or fifth turn of the game purely because of bad luck on the dice. By which time, if the other player has had steady (not even necessarily good) luck then they will have taken cotrol of the game so strongly that the first player has no chance of ever amounting an effective challenge. Game over in all but name.
But the dice have an even bigger role to play. For not only is resource generation covered by dice rolling, but so is "combat" and the main player v player interactions (known as Challenges). Whether or not you ever manage to generate any support for your side in a Challenge is entirely down to the dice. Again, it is not uncommon for one player to go into a Challenge with 5 characters and lose to their opponent who has 2 characters, purely because of the dice rolls.
When everything you do is goverened by the roll of the dice, when it's pure luck and nothing at all to do with player skill as to whether or not you stand a good chance of winning, this stops being a card game and becomes a dice game with a few variable cards added in.

But it is even worse than that.
One of the rules of the game allows you to pick your starting hand. You can have three cards of three different types and this is, in theory, to allow for a wide variety of starting strategies that would have no basis in luck. Except that almost as soon as the game came out, someone figured out an opening hand configuration that allowed the Shadow player to kill their opponent's Rand al'Thor on the first turn.
Game over. A bad oversight on the part of the game developers. So they made errata and rules changes to prevent that combo and prevent something like it happening again.
And then someone figured out how the Shadow could make the Dragon player discard his opening hand before having a chance to use it. Suddenly the Dragon player's opening strategy - and more often than not, that would mean his entire deck - was now crippled. Even before the Dragon player could do anything.
Effectively, game over. A bad oversight on the part of the game developers. So they made errata and rules changes to prevent that combo and prevent something like it happening again.
And now let's turn our attention to a character from the first set who had two allegiances - Dark One and Children Of The Light. According to the rules of the game as they then stood, characters with the Dark One allegiance may never co-operate with characters with the Children Of The Light allegiance. Which meant this character could do nothing. It was a Rare card and it was useless. Not just "very very bad" but it was genuinelly useless - it wasn't allowed to do anything.
A bad oversight on the part of the game developers. So they made errata and rules changes to prevent that combo and prevent something like it happening again.
But these are not isolated examples. I could go on. This game was so badly designed, they paid so little attention to what they were doing while making it, that the game could end on the first turn and rare cards were effectively all but useless. Things like the examples above are not hard to spot, it shouldn't require the players to point out that one of the Rare cards of the set can't do anything. Didn't they playtest that card at all? It's not a case of things slipping through the net, it's a case of the game designers not bothering to pay attention to what they doing. And that lack of care, that lack of attention, runs throughout every aspect of the game.

Presentation
As with any game with multiple artists, the artwork varies in style and quality and beautiful looking pictures sit uneasily next to bad art. It also doesn't help that often the artwork for the characters bore little to no relation to the descriptions in the books. Thom Merrillin, for example, is supposed to have white hair. They couldn't evne get that right.
But still, the artwork is always secondary to the gameplay. I mention it in my reviews merely because some like to know.
But even if Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh had worked together on the artwork, it would still be a bad game

Summary
The Wheel Of Time CCG is, for me, the perfect example of an attempt to cash in on a succesful franchise without caring about the quality of said cash in.
It is worth repeating the point that the gameplay is not that of a CCG, it is a dice game. Everything you do is governed by dice. And if you have out four powerful characters from the source material who are evil personified, they can still all lose to "Mercenary Captain" purely because your dice don't give you the results you need.
There's no skill here, no tactics. Just luck.

The only reason I am giving this game a 3 is because, occasionally, just occasionally, if you are a fan of the source material it can be mildly fun to play. After all, there is no other Wheel Of Time game out there. So if you want to play a game with Rand and Perrin and Min and Egwene, this is your only option. And for those fans, yes it can be quite fun to replace Perrin with a card called Young Bull.
But if those names mean absolutely nothing to you, take one and a half points off the score and avoid this game.

3 out of 10. One and a half of those three points are purely because of the source material. Not recommended at all.
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Chevee Dodd
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Wow. You dug this out of the wayback machine.

I remember collecting an entire playset of the first set because I was such a fan of the series. I gave up after the first set. I might have bought a single box of the first expansion, but for whatever reason, we stopped.

I remember the game being bad, but I also remember having fun playing it.
 
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Ian K
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Random_Person wrote:
Wow. You dug this out of the wayback machine.


Two reasons for that. Firstly, I've only just started posting reviews here on BGG and up until this one had pnly posted positive reviews so I wanted to post a negative one for balance. And secondly, I found all my old cards for this game just the other day - so it was on my mind. So when I reached around for a negative game to review, there it was ...



Random_Person wrote:
I remember collecting an entire playset of the first set because I was such a fan of the series. I gave up after the first set. I might have bought a single box of the first expansion, but for whatever reason, we stopped.

I remember the game being bad, but I also remember having fun playing it.


That does sound like what most people that I know went through with this game. They wanted to like it because of the Wheel Of Time connection and therefore stuck with it longer than they otherwise would have, getting most of their enjoyment from it purely because of the source material.

I remember chatting with people from three different play test groups in the months after this game came out and they ALL said that their group had reported back to the makers of the game that there was too much dice rolling. But either the chief designer didn't care or was too pig-headed to listen.
 
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Gumsch
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It's been quite a while since I last played this game - but I did play it a lot and everyone in my group really enjoyed it (although, of course, we were already fans of the book). I'm a bit rusty on the details ... yet I'm puzzled by some of these complaints. Admittedly, the game wasn't perfect - and there were a few errata, although that is not exactly unheard of in CCGs.

Killing the Dragon Reborn in one turn or discarding his entire hand immediately? We were certainly not exactly professional tournament players ... but we did play it intensely - and at least one of our group LOVED to find little holes in the rules to exploit. I can't remember anything like that EVER happening in our plays. And I'm not sure if we played with more than one errata concerning an otherwise overpowered dragon card. I'm not saying that such combos are absolutely impossible - I'm just a bit sceptical.

Directly damaging another character outside of combat and discarding cards is generally not that easy in the game. Even if such a killer-combo exists it would clearly be an exploit and could easily be banned at the table.

Luck does play a role, however - that's hard to deny. At the time though, we found it to be less luck-based than Magic the Gathering, our only other CCG experience. The starting hand DOES help here considerably as you can make sure that - even with abysmal rolls - a few cards will get played.
In urgent cases you can use one of your valuable pattern tokens to help out. The more cards you have, the more dice you can roll to ensure that you get ressources. By the way, the shadow player can use his children of the light character here. Or he could send him to a less important quest. It's not ideal, but such a character is not really useless (Which rare children of the light card was included in a starter set, anyway? Are you sure it was not in one of the boosters that came with the set?).

Granted, the balance was not always perfect - and the art could be less than stellar (though there were very beautiful cards). The o.p. is certainly right, on some cards they couldn't even be bothered to research the most basic descriptions of the depicted characters. Furthermore, some of the stuff felt laughably inappropriate to the spirit of the books (e.g. a few of the Aes Sedai were clearly portrayed as generic fantasy sorceresses - with a slighltly inappropriate dress code for the White Tower). In any case, this is certainly one game that I would happily play again. In fact - my group is planning to do just that soon.


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Ian K
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Gumsch wrote:
Killing the Dragon Reborn in one turn ... I'm not saying that such combos are absolutely impossible - I'm just a bit sceptical.


Put The Ruby Dagger on Rahvin ...

Trust me, I wouldn't have made included all these criticisms if I weren't sure they were true.


Edit: Actually, I should clarify; Rahvin + The Ruby Dagger is a second turn kill by themselves - you need 5 One Power dice to pull it off and Rahvin only rolls four, so you need to wait for the second turn. Unless you can find some way of getitng out the Ruby Dagger at reduced cost or activating Rahvin's text for reduced cost ... And even if you can't find that, Gray Man + The Ruby Dagger is a first turn kill.
 
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Mike Haverty
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I sure don't remember any broken openings, but we only played among ourselves, about 4 or 5 of us. I also don't recall being as screwed by the dice as you suggest. Sure, there were lucky and unlucky rolls, sometimes, but generally the odds played out as expected. But, that's why they call them "odds" and not "guarantees" heh.

Hopefully, I'll get to revisit this game in the near future. A friend and I have both found our old decks, so we'll see if I just have rosy colored glasses.
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Albert Jr. Cukingnan
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Thanks for posting this.

Wheel of Time is one of the dead CCGs that I've picked up solely for theme alone. I still haven't been able to ship my copy overseas, and though I'm disappointed that the game needs work, I'm also quite glad that people still have an interest in it, if slight.
 
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Gumsch
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To Stenun:

Hmm ... those are certainly diabolical little combinations for the ruby dagger. ninja

In my opinion it's more a gamble than a broken mechanic, though. For it to be deadly, the damaged character must not be healed. It's pretty trivial to heal a single point of damage from a Ta'veren - you just have to use a pattern - and, as far as I know, each player starts with two. Meanwhile you need to make a pretty costly investment in valuable one power points to pull this off at all. Additionally you run the risk of hurting your OWN starting character. That's not a thing to be taken lightly, especially at the start of the game where he should help to build up your force / win pattern challenges.

Yes ... you could try to put it on a gray man. But while this does not endanger your main character and may be cheaper, it's also considerably less reliable. Grey Men have the nasty habit of getting killed when attacking strong characters that can fight back. Ta'veren usually qualify. And grey men have only two dice to fight with. Now I don't want to smear them. They are great, especially for targetting wounded characters or kamikaze attacks, but they are not 100% reliable and fragile.
Plus even if the enemy character does not kill them - the ruby dagger eventually will. And then you have wasted a valuable artifact AND a grey man.

By the way - thanks for writing a review. This game looked pretty lonely without one - even if it's not a very flattering one. Mmh ... maybe I should write a positive one after a few new sessions.
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Gumsch
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To Mr. S. Boy:

I don't think the game needs all that much work. Unless nostalgia has stricken me more severely than I think, it is a fine game. Some cards are clearly stronger than others, yet the two sides are both viable. It's a bit fiddly to juggle with the tokens on the flimsy paper maps - but that shouldn't stop you from playing. Just avoid windy places like the soulless stare of the Eyeless.

And don't be too bothered with certain artistical ... liberties ... taken with the background.

As Siddgames said, the luck tends to get balanced out by the number of the dice. There is strategy in this game. And bluffing - e.g. did I play this challenge just to lure enemies away from the Pattern Challenge or do I actually want to commit troops? Are all those characters really busy recruiting - or will they suddenly show up in the battle through a Gateway? How many people do I need for ressource gathering, how many are necessary to win challenges - and how much of a risk is it to send them there?

In our games the only houserule we made was to create a separate deck for contested challenges - with a number of blank cards included, from which one card was drawn at the start of each game - the Nae'blis challenge, of course, was already available at the start. Not a strictly necessary change, but a good one, in our opinion - as no one was particularly thrilled to waste deck space for nations that tended to provide rather small benefits - that could rather easily be stolen by other players.

Apart from that, we found the Nae'blis mechanic slightly problematic. While in theory, it was a great and atmospheric tool to ensure uneasy alliances between Shadow Players, we tended not to pay a great deal of attention to it. The Dragon side seemed strong enough that any sizeable struggle for dominance among the Chosen Ones ensured that the happy Nae'blis would have the privilege to explain to the Great Lord just why this sherpherder and his friends now ruled the world.
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