Fleeting memories rise | From the shadows of my mind | Sing "nonomori" - endless corridors | Say "nonomori" - hopeless warriors | You were there | You were there
I just acquired this game, and to get a feel for it I tried a solo run-through, with three "players": Blue, Yellow, and Red.
I started out thinking that the game was about solving the Prophecy, but this part actually seems to be pretty easy - especially if you pay a bit of attention to all hunts (not just your own). You don't have to exert much brainpower to learn from which hunts the other players can't thwart, and if you're clever there are occasional other opportunities to pick up clues. However, even with the rather brain-dead means of discovery which I used for soloing purposes (where I kept hunt-derived information strictly compartmentalized in order to keep the three "players" as independent as I could), solving the puzzle didn't take very long. Blue and Yellow arrived at their conclusions within a turn of each other, and Red wasn't all that far behind - even after a slow start caused by a failure to obtain any Guiding skill except Catacombs, for which the next player (Blue) happened to hold the Prophecy card.
The problem for Blue was that at the time he solved the Prophecy he had not a single one of the skills needed to confront the Shadow. Yellow was in a bit better shape at the time, but had a lot of shares locked up. So did Red, actually, which meant that Blue was about to start having fun...
Blue's first major stroke of luck, which had happened just before this point in the game, arrived when he turned up the Thief and hired him for two shares, which was a bid neither of the other players could best at the time. For the rest of the game, Blue rapidly siphoned off all the gold the other players managed to bring in. And he put it to good use!
The whole game saw only one visit to the Market, but during that visit Blue was able to obtain both the Knight's Shining Armor and the Book of the Prophet. That was a real bonanza, since Blue's Hero was the Ranger, who could wear the Armor himself, and the Prophet was in his party. Blue used the Book to get his last question about the Prophecy answered, and then he managed to hire the Assassin for just one share (again because the other players couldn't beat the bid). She's female, so with the Knight's Shining Armor knocking one share off, the Assassin essentially was free! So over the next couple of turns, Blue stole gold with the Thief and used it to have the Assassin kill off first the Prophet and then the Dwarven Blacksmith, neither of whom was needed any longer.
So here's Blue, still without a single one of the skills needed to challenge the Shadow in a party consisting of just the Ranger (Hero), the Thief (two shares), and the Assassin (zero shares).
Meanwhile, Yellow has all of his shares locked up in a party with exactly the right skills, but with not a single share left to his Hero. Blue has stolen all his gold, so he can't disband unless he does a full Party Disband. He's hoping instead to kill off one of his Hunters in a fight with a Dark Agent, and then hire a new one for one share less - since even a single share could be enough to win. But with Guiding skills only for the relatively tame Palace and Catacombs, the Dark Agents keep going down in defeat instead of Yellow's Hunters.
Red, on the other hand, is still finishing up his solution to the Prophecy, by hiring characters and then promptly seeing them die at the hands of Dark Agents in failed Hunts. Sometimes he's got one or two shares, and sometimes he's got a whole bunch.
But it's during one of those times that Red is down to one remaining share that Blue draws the Princess. She has the Guiding skill of Palace and the Seeking skill of Bait, both of which match the Prophecy. And at one share, the Knight's Shining Armor brings her in for nothing. So now Blue has two free females in his party! All he needs is two Melee skills.
Blue's next three hires, each at two shares, are the Witch Hunter, the Virgin Maiden, and the Monk. Between the Witch Hunter and the Monk, Blue has the Melee skills he needs. With the discount on the Virgin Maiden from the Knight's Shining Armor, Blue still has one share remaining on the Ranger. That's more than enough to win.
But...why win with just one share, when by taking one more turn, Blue can win with six! Amusingly enough, this is possible - although you wouldn't know it unless you'd been paying attention to the fact that the Arena deck had completely cycled, and the next card due up was the Knight. He's got the Melee skill needed, and unlike the Witch Hunter and the Monk, he's not immune to the Virgin Maiden's ability.
So, sure enough, next turn Blue is able to hire the Knight. Blue has four gold (and two silver) on hand. He uses one gold to have the Assassin kill off the Thief. He uses two more gold to disband the Witch Hunter. He uses the last gold to disband the Virgin Maiden, who removes both shares from the Knight. Blue is left with his Ranger (Hero), the Monk (two shares), and three more completely cost-free characters: the Assassin, the Princess, and the Knight.
Final accounting: Blue with thirty gold and two silver, Yellow and Red with nothing.
I can see why the rules say: "Shares are a player's greatest resource. Do not give them up lightly."
And I can now see that solving the Prophecy is a relatively minor part of the game. I'm looking forward to playing it with real people...
Here is why knowing the prophecy is important -
Early in the game, a lot of hiring happens. The more you know about what skills are needed to end the game, the better decisions you'll be able to make about which hunters to hire. If you manage to gather a lot of information early on about what skills won't be used, you won't be wasting a lot of shares on a hunter that only has useless skills.
That's how I feel anyway... Figuring out the prophecy may not be difficult, but knowing the prophecy before anyone else does will give you an opportunity to pick up some of the needed skills before the other players realize they need them too.