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Subject: Midgard – Städte, Schätze, Abenteuer: a derO23 review rss

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Ollie Gross
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Note - This review is based on the most recent version of the game prototype as it was demoed at the SPIEL 06 fair. For this reason I will not include the graphical presentation as it will be changed for the final product. It is a little difficult to describe all the game mechanics without having a rulebook and it will be a huge review and I will certainly forget one or the other detail, so please be gentle.

Midgard – Städte, Schätze, Abenteuer is based on the german fantasy RPG Midgard, so players familiar with the RPG will recognize the cities, spells, etc. used in the game. Players take the roles of fantasy characters based on the character classes from the RPG. All this certainly adds to the flavor of the game but it will not hinder players unfamiliar with the Midgard RPG to enjoy the game.

Game Components:
Twelve rectangular tiles that represent cities on the Midgard world. On the tiles are spaces for three building objective markers, three person objective markers, three “wanted” objectives and one treasure. It also states what type of card (spells, items or weapons and armor) can be purchased in the city or which attribute can be raised via training in the city.

A whole bunch of different game cards:
Action cards – the have three different game values/informations on them:
1. Amount of action points (between 1 and 4)
2. Amount of life points healed (between 2 and 4)
3. Card text (There is a whole bunch of card texts: modifiers to die rolls, fixed results for die rolls, special effects, adventures and terrors. The latter two need some additional explanation. These cards are placed on the gameboard to show the locations of adventures the players can accomplish to get rewards or terrible terrors that threaten cities which players can defeat to get rewards.)

Character abilities – They provide modifiers to die rolls or other game mechanics.

Weapons & armor – They allow for better combat values and protection.

Spells – They provide various game effects from damage in combat to die roll modifiers.

Items - They provide modifiers to die rolls or other game mechanics.

Adventures – They represent obstacles the players encounter during an adventure.

Reward cards – Rewards gained after the successful completion of an adventure. Ranging from gold over favors from the gods to items.

Destiny cards – They are used to determine what happens when a players fails to achieve an objective.

Destination cards – They determine the location on the gameboard where you have to bring the treasures to win the game.

Templates for the characters. Characters have three attributes: strength, dexterity and intelligence. These attributes are used as base values for all die rolls (ranging from objective tests to combat rolls) in the game. It additionally shows your carrying limits as backpack (where you can store up to four items/objective markers), spellbook (which holds up to four spells), left & right hand (for weapons and items), head & body (for armor).

Standees for the characters.

Lots of markers. The markers for objectives require some more explanation. These markers are divided into buildings and persons. The face-open markers represents items in buildings, items on persons or persons themselves that the players may acquire. The face-down markers include one-use items, opponents who attack, and forgeries of the various face-open objectives. These forgeries may be used instead of the actual objective marker but there is a certain chance that the forgery is discovered.

An objective marker has the following information:
1. Required test(s) to solve it. This may be one test against a certain attribute, the choice between one of two tests against different attributes or a test against two different attributes.
Test are made by rolling a twenty-sided die and add all modifiers. If the result is a 20 or higher the test is successful. If it is lower than 20 the attempt failed badly and the player draws a card from the destiny deck and follows the instructions. These range from being allowed another attempt for free over guards that must be fought to automatic imprisonment in the tower. Depending on the outcome the players turn may continue as long as he has action points left. If the test was successful the next player makes a resistance roll based an the value printed on the objective marker (see next point). If the roll is lower than the total generated by the player attempting to solve the objective, the attempt was successful and the player gets the token. If the roll beats the total generated by the player attempting to solve the objective, the attempt is fend off. This ends the players turn but does not cause him to draw a card from the destiny deck.

2. The base value for the resistance roll of the objective.

3. The city where the objective is “wanted”.

4. The amount of gold a player gets for bringing it to the city that wants it.

Tokens for gold, lifepoints, etc.

20 sided dice.

The quality of the final components remains to be seen, but apart from that you get a lot of material with the game. Space-wise you need a large gaming table to play it comfortably.

Victory Conditions:
Have a grade (level) 2 character and acquire two treasures plus one favor of the gods and bring them to a certain destination. To get a treasure you have to bring two of the “wanted” objectives to a city. This has not be done at the same time or even the same player. When you bring the second “wanted” objective to a city you get the treasure. Favors of the gods are gained as a reward from successful completion of an adventure.
The actual victory conditions of the game can be adjusted (more RPG flavored, more strategical, shorter game, etc. ) depending on the preferred style of play.

The twelve tiles are laid out to form an abstract look at the Midgard world. They can be laid out in any fashion as long as tiles touch each other on a side.
The the objective markers, which are divided into buildings and persons, and the treasures are placed on their respective spaces on the gameboard. This is done partially fixed and open for some of the objectives and randomly and face-down for the rest of the markers.
Each player chooses one of the available characters and gets the corresponding cards and tokens: abilities, items, spells, weapons, etc.
Each player is dealt four of the action cards (which is also the maximum cardhand) and one destination card which he keeps secret from the other players.
All remaining cards, markers and tokens are placed next to the gameboard as they will be used during play.
The start player is determined by the roll of a twenty-sided die and starting with him the players place their standees on the gameboard.

A player turn consists of the following things:
1. Play an action card for action points

2. Take actions

3. Draw one action card from deck

Play an action card to determine the amount of action points available for the turn. Other information on the card is ignored unless it is an adventure or a terror. If so the card is placed on a tile of the gameboard to show the location of an adventure or terror. More on these special cases later. Other cards are simply discarded after determining the amount of action points.

Action points may be used for various different things:
Moving around the gameboard
Checking out objectives (turn face-down ones face up)
Trying to solve an objective
Start an adventure
Start a battle against a terror
Purchase items or weapons & armor
Attack another character
Steal from another character
Draw an action card from the deck
Play an action card to heal the printed amount of life points

These actions cost one action point each.

Moving around: for moving purposes the cities as adjacent spaces on the gameboard. Moving one
space costs one action point.

Note - imprisonment, attacking another character and stealing from another character gets you a special marker (the tower for being imprisoned, ambush for attacking a player and theft for stealing from a player). It costs you two action points to remove the marker to be able to leave the tower (continue playing), being able to attack a character again or being able to steal from a character again.

So usually a player determines how many actions he gets for the turn and takes them one by one. This allows for some planning ahead, but a failed die roll may cause you to make some adjustments on the fly.

Another interesting aspect of the game is option to play cooperatively. Anytime a player is in the same city as another (or more) player, he may ask them for their support. If a player supports another he will so to say “share” parts of the turn with the acting player. He will travel along the acting player if he does and he will help him during attempts on objectives by providing a modifier to the die roll. After the acting player finishes his turn, the supporting player is rewarded with one free action point that he must spend immediately. This action point may be spend on all possible actions with the exception of leaving the city. If he attempts to solve an objective the former acting player automatically supports him by providing the die roll modifier, although he does not gain a free action point for supporting (no endless free support action point chains). On the downside the supporter also “shares” the bad things, e.g. if the acting player fails the test and is imprisoned the supporter goes along. This support concept is even necessary for the adventures and the terrors, as they are almost impossible for a single player to attempt alone.

Adventures are available in three difficulties ranging from easy to tough and are handled in a very nice (and RPG-flavored) way. The acting player, who so to speak initiated the adventure becomes the party leader. As party leader he gets to decide who does what during the course of the adventure. He draws three cards face-down from the corresponding adventure deck, then he turns over the first card. An adventure card shows a certain obstacle that must be overcome for the adventure to continue. This may be a locked door to be opened, information that must be gathered, an opponent that must be fought, a trap that must be disarmed, etc. It also lists the test (standard die roll or combat) that needs to be made and what happens if the test fails. Now the party leader decides which of the participating players has to overcome the obstacle. Since you only get rewarded for a successful adventure he will usually choose the player most able for the given task. Depending on the drawn cards and the participating players an adventure may be more or less easy to handle. At the end of a successful adventure each player receives experience points for each obstacle that he overcame and one additional xp for the adventure. Furthermore the party leader draws a set amount of reward cards (depending on the difficulty of the adventure) chooses one and gives the rest to the next participating player, so in the end each gets one reward card.

Terrors are tough and complex opponents that must be fought by more than one player. They have special attacks and it takes a good mix of characters to fight one. If the players beat the terror (by inflicting a set amount of damage depending on the terror) the get xp and reward cards. If not they usually get beaten up badly.

If a character looses his last life point (of which you normally have four, more if you have armor) he drops out of the adventure, fight against the terror or whatever action caused him to receive the damage and ends his turn. During his next turn the player must play one of his action cards to heal life points. This way players are never removed from the game but just start over with a little delay.

To advance to the next grade a character has to get a certain amount of experience points. Xp are gained by completing adventures, beating terrors and delivering objectives.

Playing Time:
Depending on playing style and familiarity with the rules, a game can take between 60 and 120 minutes.

A pretty solid fantasy-themed, character-based boardgame that certainly has a nice RPG flavor. Game mechanics-wise it is basically pretty simple but it offers many options and tactical decisions to make. Complex but not complicated.

My 5 cent:
I think it´s a pretty solid design with a lot of potential for a “hot game” so far, although there are certain aspects of the game that could be (and will be) improved, e.g. the concept of the objectives reminds me a little of Return of the Heroes, another game designed by Lutz Stepponat. I personally have some issues with the mix of coop/competitive styles of playing. On one hand it allows for interesting options during play when you are everybody´s darling because you are the only one who can fight and most certainly adds to the RPG feel when you attempt an adventure together. But at a certain point during the game the tide turns and nobody likes you anymore when you just got your second treasure and are on your way your winning location. In this regard it´s neither fish nor fowl.

Final Rating:

Note- As I mentioned in the beginning, I certainly forgot some of the details. If you have questions regarding the game, post them as comments and I will try to answer.
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J. J.
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Thanks for the report. If there is more Info or reports, I would be glad to see some. Cant wait for the game!

Greetings JJ
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