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Subject: Light Co-op Fun rss

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Marc Specter
United States
Belmont
Michigan
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As a father for the past 12 years, I have spent a fair amount of time reading to my kids. There is nothing quite like watching a child’s eyes light up as the story and pictures on the pages before them come to life in their imagination. And as a child I spent—and continue to spend—countless hours joining all manner of heroes in the pages of books, helping to vanquish evil and save the world from impending doom.

12 Realms plays out those story-based imaginings on the table before you. Now you can actually assist those fairytale characters in beating back the denizens who would infiltrate their peaceful worlds.

In 12 Realms you begin by picking your unique character. Each character has Talents that you will bring to bear in fighting the bad guys.

12 Realms scales not only to fit the number of players, but also to the flavor and difficulty of game those players want. The game presents you with 4 unique areas, divided into 6 realms. You can fight pirate scourge at Bones Island, anime-style baddies in Cherry Blossom, the fey of the Fairy Realm, or fantasy folk of the Silver Kingdom. You pick the number of areas based on the players. The base game for 2 players comprises 2 areas, hence the name 12 Realms. With 3-4 players you have 3 areas, and with 5-6 players you have 4 areas. Each area also has 2 bosses of varying difficulty, allowing for lesser or greater game difficulty.

Each round you get a pre-determined number of actions based on your character’s Talents. You exploit those Talents to travel around each of the Realms defeating the bad guys and keeping their Infiltration at bay. Each round that goes by where the baddies go undefeated, that Infiltration meter ticks upwards. When the meter crosses a threshold (represented by the changing color intensity), the area boss comes out and the heroes can defeat him, but only after they have collected 3 artifacts. It is very much a desperate race against the clock. Will you be able to keep the minions in check and gather the artifacts before the land is lost?

Each round you will begin by increasing the Infiltration counter based on the number of minions present. Then some of those minions have special powers that will activate and affect the heroes. Finally, it is time to bring minions onto the board. The number of minions is determined before play begins by the aforementioned area boss, and you can set the difficulty to reveal and place between 2-4 minions. Some of these minions will simply appear, while others have additional effects. For example, the Horde minion power will place 2 or 3 minions at one time with the turn of only a single card. Each of the minions has specific vulnerabilities, represented by symbols on the chits.

After that it is time for the heroes to react. The heroes can take a number of actions that include moving around the board, collecting artifacts and treasure, seeking assistance in the towns, and of course defeating the minions. This is the point at which the characters’ Talents will come into play. Since each character has a different set of Talents, none will play exactly the same. And each of course has a special power. For example, the Sugar Plum Fairy has the ability to trade 2 of her Star Talents for 1 of another kind, to be used immediately or later. The heroes’ Talents match the minions’ vulnerabilities, and therein are the minions defeated.

It is the job of the players to keep the minions at bay for as long as possible until the artifacts come up. It is only after collecting these artifacts that the players will be able to defeat the area boss. If the area boss comes up sooner because the Infiltration track threshold has been crossed, that is just an additional difficulty to overcome.

The game is finally won when the players have defeated the big baddie of each area. The game is lost if the Infiltration marker of any area reaches 20, the last point on the track.

If you are hearing echoes of Eagle Games’ Defenders of the Realm, you are not far off the mark. I play and enjoy that game immensely. What 12 Realms does differently lies in the tone and bookkeeping. There is no escaping the high fantasy feel of Defenders, enhanced by the legendary artwork of Larry Elmore. The artwork in 12 Realms is similarly spectacular, but varies greatly from area to area, and among the minions populating them.

12 Realms also has a bit of a Smash Up feel. In Smash Up, you get to combine 2 thematic decks to form a unique team. The different areas in 12 Realms each has its own flavor, allowing you to create the game that you want to play, facing a different combination of bad guys each time.

The last area where 12 Realms shines is in its light-hearted tone and speedy play. The minions have particular vulnerabilities that you know in advance. You know going in if you will be able to defeat a bad guy. In this way it is very similar to Thunderstone: do the resources you have at hand meet the vulnerabilities of the bad guys? The challenges lie in can you get to them, and are there other things you might do first to tip the game in your favor going forward. While both Defenders and Thunderstone have a lot of intricacy, the simple and recognizable icons, i.e., stars, hearts, swords, ensure that 12 Realms can be grasped and enjoyed by much younger players. And the aforementioned ability to scale the difficulty means younger players need not be frustrated by overwhelming odds.

I enjoy 12 Realms and if you are a fan of the co-op genre yet struggle to include younger players in these types of games, look no further. With its recognizable characters and top-notch art, it will be easy to include everyone. Yet after those kids have gone to bed, you can scale up the difficulty and throw at yourself greater challenges from the tales of your youth.
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Ray Smith
United States
Newburg
Pennsylvania
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Very nicely done, Marc!! Thank you for the review!

I was a fan of this when it was a PnP, but now the pro version has me intrigued again. My only concern is the lightness of gameplay. Yes, I realize the difficulty can be ramped up for us hardcore dudes, but is there enough varying of strategies, changes of conditions, etc., to make repeated play worthwhile for gamers? (I like surprises. )
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Bill Hartman
United States
Bishopville
Maryland
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I hope to see how it plays with the various rules once I print everything out and give the PnP with the new rulebook a go.
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Michael Andresakis
Greece
Athens
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thanx!
 
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