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Jonathan Nelson
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Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends is a game by Vlaada Chvatil, published by Czech Games Edition and Z-Man Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be strategically trying to make patterns to summon powerful creatures to destroy their opponents pieces. The player that is best able to manager their pieces and patterns will be declared the winner.

In this review, I will mainly be referencing the basic game. Just a note, there are actually several different variations to the game that can be played depending on number of players and chosen style of play. To begin this version, one player will take the blue Northern Empire deck and one player will take the red Southern Empire deck. These decks are exactly the same. The cards are shuffled and the first 3 cards drawn. The arena board is set up with the side that has the darkened squares in the middle. The task board is set up as shown in the rules with 3 available spots and 1 spot for the task deck. Once these task cards are shuffled, 3 cards will be placed face up and the deck placed face down with the top card face up for future reference. Each player will take the appropriate colored pieces. When playing the full game, the legendary symbol pieces will be used as well. The flare deck is shuffled and each player is given 1 card. When playing the full game, the legendary deck is shuffled and set out, with each player receiving 2 legendary cards. Once set up is complete, the game begins.
On a player's turn they may take 2 actions, however the starting player may only take 1 action on their first turn. The 2 actions can either be to put a common piece on the board or to use pieces already on the board to summon a creature. Basically what you'll be doing is trying to match up patterns on the cards with patterns on the board. You will then place the appropriate piece on the board to represent the creature. This could destroy other pieces or do something special. In any case, once the effect of the card is done, the piece becomes just another piece on the board.

One thing that can help you in a come from behind action is to invoke a flare using a flare card. This is sort of a way of catching up. There are two entries on each card. If you're able to fulfill either or both of the entries, you can use the card to perform one or both of the actions. There's no need to worry about losing the card as you will be drawing cards at the end of your turn till you have the same amount as you started your turn with. This actually gives you incentive to use every card that you possibly can as soon as possible.
At the end of your turn, you may claim a task if you have performed the actions that the card states. When playing the basic game, this is how you will score points. After all the goal is to be the first to claim 6 points worth of tasks. Once a player has done this the game is over and that player is the winner.


COMPONENTS
There are lots of really great looking pieces in this game. First off the cards are absolutely incredible looking. The artwork is top notch and blew me away the first time that I looked them. The board is double sided and is really nice and sturdy. The pieces are really thick and sturdy and look great with the different ranks of beings on each one. They're really easy to distinguish between. The task board and score boards are really nice as well. They're really thick and have great artwork on them as well. The theme is really very prevalent throughout every piece and part here. There is definitely a feel of arena combat in all of the artwork. The production value of everything here is phenomenal. I absolutely love each and everything here.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rule book is an absolute masterpiece. For one, the overview of the game is given by your wizened old master as he teaches you the ways of arena combat. So thematic and absolutely great. There are lots of great pictures throughout each page with tons of examples everywhere. There are pictures and examples of setting up the game. There are rules for the basic game as well as the full game. Later on when you've gotten really good at playing those versions, this rulebook gives you even more. There rules for the High Form which is for 2 players or teams. There's the Deathmatch Duel for 2 players or teams. There are rules for team games. There are even rules for Deathmatch melee for 3 or 4 players. It doesn't matter how many people you have to play or how you want to play, they have thought of everything. Fantastic. I can't applaud this piece of writing mastery any more.
10 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This game is SO much fun. My friend and I enjoyed this one immensely. Even though I lost both times we played, I enjoyed every minute of it. Yes the game is a bit abstract in how it plays, but that didn't bother me one bit. You will find yourself turning cards around and around in your hand as you try to find that particular match up that you need to summon a creature. Seemed that my friend always found a way to destroy my creature tokens. Booo! The game didn't take all that long to play, even with the card turning. We played both a basic game and a full game but were unable to ever pull a legendary creature out of the batch. Still I enjoyed this a great deal and so did he. I loved playing the different schools. I especially like the Sylvan school of creatures. I only hope that there will be an expansion for this in the future as there needs to be lots more schools to add to the fun of this game.
10 out of 10

OVERALL
Tash Kalar: Arena of Legends is a medium weight game of pattern building and creature summoning. I really enjoy this game. The artwork is great. The game is a bit of a brain burner, but it's a fun kind of burn. It doesn't take a very long time to play. Fans of abstract strategy games or fantasy games in general will love this game. I highly recommend this one. I'm betting fans of Mage Wars and Summoner Wars might even get a kick out of this one. There's a lot to love about this game. I personally love the different creature cards. It's really neat to play with the different schools. I only wish there had been more included with the game. Even so, I absolutely love this game. You will too.
10 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Czech Games Edition at their site.

http://czechgames.com

Also check out Z-man games at their site.

http://zmangames.com
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Duncan Idaho
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MillicanDarque wrote:
The board is double sided and is really nice and sturdy.


This is the one point on which we disagree. I found everything else to be great, but the board is flimsy and bland. For me, it's not that bad - I don't want anything flashy in a game where I'm just placing pieces on it. But they could have made it sturdier.

It's also a bit jarring when you open the box to see how few components there are for the cost. I'd expect this game to retail at about $20 cheaper.

If you can get over the cost, however, it's a great game.
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Dustin
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No way the components are a 10/10. It's looks like a cheap prototype. And at the cost should have at least come with thick wood tokens. Does have good art, but everything else is bad.
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GeekInsight
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SeerMagic wrote:
No way the components are a 10/10. It's looks like a cheap prototype. And at the cost should have at least come with thick wood tokens. Does have good art, but everything else is bad.


I'll agree on the components piece. While everything is certainly servicable, they aren't up to the quality you'd normally expect from a modern board game - especially a great publisher like CGE.

Putting that aside, though, the gameplay is phenomenal. One of my favorites from this year (I know, I know. But I played it for the first time this year).

Idaho11 wrote:
It's also a bit jarring when you open the box to see how few components there are for the cost. I'd expect this game to retail at about $20 cheaper.


For myself, a judge a game's cost primarily by the exprience it provides, and not based on the shiny bits that come in the box. From that perspective, it's worth the price.

But I agree that if you were looking for something impressive components-wise, this game will not deliver.
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Duncan Idaho
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MyParadox wrote:

Idaho11 wrote:
It's also a bit jarring when you open the box to see how few components there are for the cost. I'd expect this game to retail at about $20 cheaper.


For myself, a judge a game's cost primarily by the exprience it provides, and not based on the shiny bits that come in the box. From that perspective, it's worth the price.

But I agree that if you were looking for something impressive components-wise, this game will not deliver.


Oh, I agree completely. But the first thing you have to determine value after spending the cash is what you get when you open the box. It's a bit jarring when that happens and you see what you get for the money.

The value is apparent when you play the game. But between opening the box and getting it to the table, there are a few moments where I didn't feel that great.
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridicolously overpriced by ZMan or what not. Here in PL I'm paying regular $35 to get and component quality seems to just fine for that price range. I agree, though, that the board could be a bit more sturdy.
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rattkin wrote:
The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridicolously overpriced by ZMan or what not.


Yep, but I feel like a review should mention that information. Not everyone has an unlimited budget, and this is an expensive game.

It might even preempt some issues when someone who has read the review gets over the shock of the dearth of components relative to value, knowing the reviewer took that into consideration and still thought it was a great deal.
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rattkin wrote:
The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridicolously overpriced by ZMan or what not.


In what way have we got "past this". ZMan, certainly in the UK, massively overpriced Tash Kalar (a trend with all ZMan stuff it appears) and this remains the case.

Good review though.
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Perhaps I will change my mind someday when I find out that zman priced this game out of greed but, at this point, I am satisfied with what you get out of the box. The cards are tremendous: oversized, good quality and gorgeous art - I mean, really gorgeous. I don't feel let down by the cardboard pieces either. They are sturdy and look nice and it is easy to understand the board state even when there are numerous pieces on the board, easy to pick up and move around. I am glad hey kept the board small, this helps to keep the oversized cards and the accessory boards manageable when it comes to table space.

I don't think the price is unreasonable ven discounting the fact that the game is well designed gets played quite a bit in spite of our large collection.
 
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Nicola Bocchetta
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domus_ludorum wrote:
rattkin wrote:
The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridicolously overpriced by ZMan or what not.


In what way have we got "past this". ZMan, certainly in the UK, massively overpriced Tash Kalar (a trend with all ZMan stuff it appears) and this remains the case.

Good review though.


If it makes you feel better, even in Italy the game was hugely overpriced at first (55 €). Now I think its price has gone down a bit (around 45€).

I'm happy having bought it at Essen for 35€.
 
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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domus_ludorum wrote:
rattkin wrote:
The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridicolously overpriced by ZMan or what not.


In what way have we got "past this".


In this way - http://boardgamegeek.com/article/14378673#14378673.

I just feel that the price argument is not valid, as what you're looking at is not the "real" price of the game, but artificially bloated by one publisher price. We all know that the bloated price doesn't match the game content AT ALL. The "real" price is/should be different.

There are definitely ways to buy the game for the "normal" price. In fact, I've myself bought and set few boxes for people from UK/US, here in Poland.
 
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rattkin wrote:

There are definitely ways to buy the game for the "normal" price. In fact, I've myself bought and set few boxes for people from UK/US, here in Poland.


And it was cheaper, with shipping, than just buying it at the inflated Z-Man price? I've shipped to Europe before and I find that hard to believe. At least compared to OLGS prices with free shipping.

We might have explanations and commentary from the designer, but the price remains the price, and it's still an issue, even if it has been fully discussed.
 
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Mike Urban
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Perhaps the category of 'components' is a little too broad in reviews. It includes both graphical design and the physical material quality; and there are plenty of games where the artwork is excellent but the cards or board are thin or warp. There are a few games with solid materials but awful artwork, for that matter.
 
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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Idaho11 wrote:
rattkin wrote:

There are definitely ways to buy the game for the "normal" price. In fact, I've myself bought and set few boxes for people from UK/US, here in Poland.


And it was cheaper, with shipping, than just buying it at the inflated Z-Man price? I've shipped to Europe before and I find that hard to believe. At least compared to OLGS prices with free shipping..


Apparently it was. I'm shipping to US, the cost isn't really that high. Also, the game was available here before it was widely available in US, so that could be the factor, too.

Still, I can see Tash-Kalar for $48 on Amazon and even $44 on MiniatureMarket, so, with all due respect, the price argument is moot for me. If you chose to buy it overpriced, knowing it's overpriced, there's really no place for complaint. These situations happen, not that long ago, I've overpaid for Quantum, because I couldn't get it any other way. I've paid way too much for the game's worth or "standard price", but I don't take it on components or quality, as it was my conscious decision.
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rattkin wrote:

Still, I can see Tash-Kalar for $48 on Amazon and even $44 on MiniatureMarket, so, with all due respect, the price argument is moot for me. If you chose to buy it overpriced, knowing it's overpriced, there's really no place for complaint.


Oh, I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that someone who reads this review might get an inflated sense of the components relative to the price, which is why I mentioned it in the comments.
 
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Idaho11 wrote:

Oh, I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that someone who reads this review might get an inflated sense of the components relative to the price, which is why I mentioned it in the comments.


I understand what you're saying. But bear in mind that original reviewer doesn't mention the price. He might have bought the game for "normal" price and it's definitely possible for others. The "inflated sense" possibility is in your head, as you compare it with "your" price. Then again, it's also not reviewer's job to be aware of all the price ranges and adjust his opinion basing on the cost/value ratio. Yes, the game was selling for way too much, it's good to be aware of this. No, it's - apparently (Amazon, MM) - no longer an issue.

Components are very good and of expected quality of ~$40 price point game. Yes, the board could have been slightly better, but it's no biggie. I would give that part 9/10.
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rattkin wrote:

I understand what you're saying. But bear in mind that original reviewer doesn't mention the price.


Definitely possible. And value is relative. And he's not expected to know the price everyone paid. However, I brought it up because I think it's a consideration that people should know about.

Quote:
The "inflated sense" possibility is in your head, as you compare it with "your" price. Then again, it's also not reviewer's job to be aware of all the price ranges and adjust his opinion basing on the cost/value ratio. Yes, the game was selling for way too much, it's good to be aware of this. No, it's - apparently (Amazon, MM) - no longer an issue.


And it not being an issue is in your head. That's an opinion. I think it is still an issue - the price is $45 for, essentially, a stack of cards. And that's best-case scenario, since the game retails here for $65. The cardboard is thin (not bad, but thin), and the board is flimsy. The cards are great, but that's 8/10, for me, tops.

Quote:

Components are very good and of expected quality of ~$40 price point game. Yes, the board could have been slightly better, but it's no biggie. I would give that part 9/10.


Again, very few people in America are paying anything approaching $40. If you buy it from MM/Amazon, you're paying $45/$48. I would expect this game, based on what's in it, to retail at $40, and sell for $27 at the discount stores. That's an opinion, but one that people should know going in.

I'm not sad I dropped $45 on it - there's a lot of game in here. But the price is 100% still an issue, and it should be discussed.
 
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Idaho11 wrote:
The cardboard is thin (not bad, but thin), and the board is flimsy. The cards are great, but that's 8/10, for me, tops.


Just as a reference point, I gave the componens a 3 of 5 in my review.
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price is certainly an issue, and it is overpriced
 
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Idaho11 wrote:
I'm not sad I dropped $45 on it - there's a lot of game in here. But the price is 100% still an issue, and it should be discussed.

Certainly the comments are for people to discuss whatever they think is important. But just because you think price is "100% still an issue," that doesn't make it obligatory for all reviewers. If you think the current going price is a critical element of game evaluation, you can be sure to include that in any of your reviews.
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If the price is worth debate, it's worth mentioning in a review.
 
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rattkin wrote:
domus_ludorum wrote:
rattkin wrote:
The price argument seems to come back a lot. I thought we got past this, that fact that it was ridiculously overpriced by ZMan or what not.


In what way have we got "past this".


In this way - http://boardgamegeek.com/article/14378673#14378673.

I'm not sure how the designer agreeing that the game is overpriced is getting "past" it. It sounds more like confirmation that we're not past it.
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Jonathan Nelson
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WOW! I didn't realize I would stir up so much hate and discontent with my review. Whether you like the game and/or it's components or not, the fact of the matter is that this review is my personal opinion of the game. Personally I really love everything about it. If someone disagrees with my assessment, that's fine. That's your opinion and you're entitled to express your disagreement. As for me, I stand by my review. Thank you for reading it and for your comments, whether positive or negative.
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