This review has no overview of the game-play and rules. It strongly focuses on how Luck is present in the game and what parts of the game are Unbalanced.
Unbalanced: Special abilities of the game characters
As an example: the Gnome lets you catapult to a vortex on the outer ring.
Normally this would take you: movement points to get to a vortex+magic points to use the vortex. So an optimized move could save you 6 movement points + 9 magic points to get you to the other half of the board.
The Cyclops lets you dive from coast to coast. An optimized movement would get you one third of the board further but you would still have to spend the movement points to get you to a coastal space first. In terms of optimizing your play the Gnome is clearly the better.
On top of that the Cyclops 's diving is not a unique ability as it can be copied by another character if one plays the submarine magic card. The gnome's ability can not be copied by a magic card.
So characters are unbalanced in terms of what an optimized move would get you. They are are also unbalanced because some abilities can be copied by magic cards and others not. (Cyclops by Submarine, Trol and Golem by Hot Air Balloon (is actually stronger), Yeti by Rune Stone). This also takes away some of the flavour of the so called special abilities.
Unbalanced: Magic cards
I think there is a bit of a wide spread in desirability when it comes to the magic cards. There are cards you'd always want (and want to play) and then there's cards that will only do you good in specific situations.
Unbalanced: Victory conditions
The victory condition can be a fulfilled Quest (which is more about planning). There are two other ways to win the game that are more luck-based. These are to either take three Orbs tiles or three Monster tiles to the castle and thus win the game. As for me these two are unbalanced as they both involve picking up 3 Tower tiles but Orbs are clearly easier to pick up as you don't need to fight to get these while you have to fight the monsters to get them.
Unbalanced: Special Movement Card
There is a range from 4 to 6 on movement cards,which is OK. Furthermore there are some with extra actions on them. One that lets you use your characters special ability again if used already. According to me, in terms of balance this is a game killer. It is just to powerful.
I will shortly describe the elements effected by Luck.
Assign random character. The character ability affects play but also the starting position of all the drawn character can be important. With 4 starting players you can have a person with players on both sides and a person in between 2 empty regions.
Get 3 Movement and 3 Magic cards: as they are both unbalanced (although Magic more then Movement) you could start with a very poor or an extremely good hand.
Game Board Discs starting place: with the Whirlpool starting pointed at you, you will not get the benefit until next round but this means that other players are forced to spend Turn(s) and Magic points OR cards to take this advantage away from you.
Luck: During game play
All following are effected by luck:
- drawing 1 Movement card
- buying a Magic card
- turning Tower tiles (unless playing with open tiles)
- Rune Stone Space (unless paying extra Magic points)
The only things not luck-effected are Movement, Vortex travelling and Fort building.
Other points of interest:
-I like the art.
-I like the miniatures.
-It has player interaction but never in a kind way.
-It seems very strange that the game doesn't encourage you to go into the middle circle of the board. For the 3 Orbs or 3 Monsters victory conditions you could stay on the outside ring and when collected rush for the castle. As the turning Game Board Discs are main features to the game this seems particularly odd.
-There can be turns for you with only moving and nothing else to do. This takes a lot of joy out the game.
-Some rules are very counter-intuitive: A Submarine which can not cross the water space to the next Disc. (same for the Cyclops diving) A Hot Air Balloon that can not fly over the water space to the next Disc.
I focused hard on Unbalance and Luck in this review. To me there is just to much of both in the game. I didn't hate the game but I don't think I'll play it again. I am sure there is an audience out there for it but I am not part of it.
I hope this review can help others in deciding if this game is something they would like to try.
Stay thirsty my friends.
"strongly focuses on how Luck is present in the game and what parts of the game are Unbalanced."
I was afraid of this.
Too bad. It looked pretty cool.
Yep - completely felt the same... And some extra,
: you didn't mentioned the clarifications of the tiles and the cards. When we played, we were constantly grabbing one of the two (why not more?!) player aids to find out what the card or the tile would mean and how to play it. And the player aid didn't gave the complete clarification, because we still needed to read the rulebook for the complete meaning and gamerule for the tiles and the cards (for example: the Submarine and it's limits).
Apart from the nice artwork and cool miniatures, like
has mentioned, the game is really to much luck-driven. Like in our first (and last?) play of this game, these 'lucky' things were notable:
- I won because I completed the quest (having a fort in four regions) and I could run for the inner circle (palace) by receiving a wonderful hand of movement cards (6 movement +3 extra movement);
- Petra opened lots of Towers and received tons of magic cards - which Wim totally lacked;
- 3 battles against monsters were lost by one pip, even with heavy player attack results.
Maybe we forgot some actions or maybe we played something wrong, but one feeling was very strong: that night, Luck was playing with us, instead of we playing a game...
Let me throw in my 2 pennies also while we're at it.
I enjoyed myself during this game.
I agree with all the comments about balance and luck, but despite that I found it fun moving my creature to a better spot or hoping that the face down tile I was about to turn over would be something interesting.
I do find that the rotating board parts are just a gimmick, there is almost no incentive whatsoever to rotate the boards. It only gives you one Magic Point (money) when the vortex on one of the two boards is directed at your home-area. Rotating the boards however costs 1 MP for a dice-determined spin and 3MP for a rotation to your liking. That's 3 MP you have to spend to gain only 1 every turn, that is if other players don't rotate it back the next turn.
Also, the creature abilities may indeed be unbalanced but normally they are one time use only (unless you have that one movement card), so that shouldn't have such a deep impact on the game. Although the king's quest could make some powers more or less powerful (the quest we had - quest 5: the allies - should be easier to accomplish playing with the gnome than playing with the yeti for example).
The setup with 4 players is indeed a bit unbalanced although you might argue that both options (having neighbors on both sides or just on one side or even no neighbors) have their advantages or disadvantages (other players open up tiles for you if you have neighbors or you just have a lot of face down tiles to discover if you have no neighbors).
One way to mitigate luck in this game is mentioned as a variant in the rule book and that is to play with face up tower tiles, that way you could perhaps develop a better strategy as to where to move.
Another option would be to have a row of Magic cards to choose from every time you have to pick one, that would make it a bit more strategic and less luck dependent.
And also notable to mention is that this was our first and only game, perhaps multiple plays and a better understanding of the rules would make for a different game. I vote to give it another try.
One thing that can happen when you lose an attack is a chutes and ladders effect. If you are in the center ring heading for victory and loose a battle, you go to the outer ring to your starting position. You then must take several turns to get back to where you were. If your opponent could retreat you a few spaces instead that would have better rule than going back to your start position.