If I was asked to name my BOARD GAME of the latter part of the 2013 then I would have no hesitation in recommending MAGE Company's
If components are one of the things that make you look twice or even three times at a game then 12 REALMS' components will make you look a dozen times, and even then you might possibly not believe your eyes. Just look at the detail on the character pieces - they are a miniature figure painters dream (by this I mean someone who paints miniature figures, not a small person, not that I have anything against small people). There is one minor hiccup with the figures: they are not attached to their bases, you have to glue them to the tiddly-wink style bases. The problem with this is that the figures (and bases) are made of some type of poly-wotsit plastic which doesn't like super-glue, UHU and virtually every other adhesive I have at home. I finally found that Araldite appears to work. If you are any good at painting miniatures or you know someone who is then you can give the game extra visual attraction and bring the figures to life (figuratively speaking)
There is no one game board as in conventional boardgames, instead there are 12 separate boards each showing one of the Realms. In the box
you get just 4 of the Realms (which is a bit of a bummer considering the game's name): these are the Fairy Forest, Silver Kingdom, Cherry Blossom and Bones Island. The other Realms will be (I am assuming) available at a later date - the MAGE Company have already released various extras available, such as the three buildings in the Building Pack and the minis that replace the cards (from the box set)in the Dark Lords Pack; this latter contains Jack Rackham, Titania, Von Rothbart, the Mouse King, the Pirate King, Tamamo No Mae and the Snow Queen. In the game box there are cards for these Dark Lords and miniatures for the player characters, the Dark Lord miniatures and Buildings are amongst the ever-growing range of separate packs and Promo items. Each of the Realms has a ruling Dark Lord associated to it - Titania for
the Fairy Forest for example.
12 REALMS is a cooperative game (do not groan too quickly) that can be played by 1 to 6 players (not sure how 1 solo player can be anything
other than cooperative unless the player doesn't like him/her self) who take on the role of fearless adventurers who band together to prevent the Lords of Darkness from pillaging the 12 Realms. Each hero has a different specialist talent that can be used to defeat various individual invaders.
Amongst the hero characters available to the players are Snow White, D'Artagnan, Red Riding Hood, Robin Hood, Siegfried, Jeanne D'Arc, Nutcracker & the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Rules Book is possibly not the best laid out or easiest game guide I have encountered. To win, the players must locate and claim many powerful artefacts (3 per Realm) and clear each of the Realms of the Dark Forces and the governing Dark Lord.
The game is played over different Realms defined by a number of boards, the number of boards depending on how many players are involved. It is, as I said, a cooperative game that really is fun. Unlike some cooperative games where players are semi-forced to work together, in 12 Realms it is fun to work together as it is a win or lose game, no one has their own personal objective or agenda as there is no individual winner.
Every Realm is different as far as its inhabitants, treasures and towns but they are all split into 6 separate Regions and have a similar Invasion Track running along the bottom edge. There is a Token for each of these tracks and if it (the Token) reaches the end of any one of the Realm Tracks then the Players have collectively lost. To defeat the Dark Lord in the Realm the players have to find the three Artefacts for that Realm and have the necessary Talents as shown on the Dark Lord's card. The Players win if they defeat each Dark Lord
Players in the same Region may (and should) exchange items and help each other. Talents are represented by icons and can be used to claim
Treasures and Artefacts or to overcome an Invader. Hearts (Charm), Swords (Combat), Wings (Swiftness), Star (Magic), Book (Craft) and
Coin (Gold). Players can move around Realms, Region to region or between Realms from one Town to another. It is good that the rules allow Players to talk to each other and discuss tactics no matter what Realm their characters are in.
There are many options available for each player per turn, though obviously this isn't an infinite number and yes, if you overplay the game then you will find it gets too familiar. But with the expansions, the add-ons the cards that come with the game, the token, coins, characters and in fact all of the components and especially when all 12 Realms are available, the possibilities will always be there for a good, fun, challenging game.