Today, I brought a Print and Play copy of Immortal to the local coffee house in order to demo and try it out with my gaming group. I was a bit worried as I'm not the best to teach people how to play games (including games I have designed ). However, one of the things that is really cool about this game is that the rules include a short skirmish variant, which I would strongly recommend to use as a tool to teach the game.
Before going, I brushed up on my rules and abilities so that I knew which faction I wanted to try so the first thing me and my opponent did was decide which factions to play. I was eager to try the swift and voidwalker abilities so I was determined to play the Japanese, while my opponent had a preference for the Norse. Since most of the abilities (other than the generic +'X' attack/ defence VS 'Y') are Pantheon specific, it only took a couple of minutes to go over the abilities and concepts of direction (North, South, East and West) in relation to placing the cards on the battlefield and combat values on the cards. Once we got the basics down, we each chose a board and proceeded to build our hand of 6 cards each for the Skirmish.
FIRST GAME: SKIRMISH
For the skirmish setting, I chose all the water cards for the Japanese (Three level 1, two level 2 and one level 3). The reason was that I reaallly wanted to play 'swiftly'. My opponent, on the other hand, wanted to see what the abilities did so he took a more 'balanced' approach.
After arranging the boards to create the battlefield and choosing the 'North' direction, we then proceeded to alternately place a card face down, respecting the 'no placing in an adjacent cardinal direction' (diagonally is permitted). When there were no more spaces that were legal to put a card down, we then flipped over to reveal the cards and placed our tokens to mark who controlled the cards.
At this point, game play is straight forward: place a card from your hand to an empty space on the battlefield (and mark ownership by placing one of your tokens on it), check for pre-combat ability effects, and compare adjacent values to evaluate who wins combat (the person placing the card must defeat the adjacent value so tie goes to defender). If the just placed card value is higher then the adjacent enemy value, replace the enemy token on his card with one of your tokens (to which this card now becomes an 'ally' under your control). Repeat this process for each cardinal direction of card that was placed this turn, then apply any post-combat abilities, and end your turn by drawing a card. Then, your opponent does the same.
Wash, rinse and repeat until a player can no longer play a card (either because they have no more cards in their hand or there are no more empty spaces on the battlefield). When this happens, player tally how many of their tokens are on the battlefield and the player with the most tokens wins.
Now, back to our game...
For my initial strategy, I had placed my cards that had the +1 VS Earth (or Sky) on the board, trying to keep my cards with the 'Swift' ability in my hand to use as a 'double attack'. My opponent did something similar, keeping his stronger cards in his hand (except for Hel, which he used to bait me). I immediately captured Hel and placed it in my hand (as per the traitor ability) but that left the position on the battlefield opened for my opponent to position (and me without the 'extra' token on the board). Another thing I did not notice/ pay attention to was positioning in regards to the 'swift' cards. I could place them for maybe one combat win but manoeuvring it for another victory proved to be very difficult since A) I did not position my cards with this in mind and B) I did not initially position the battlefield board to allow for more space as well. Needless to say, the Norse pillaged the poor Japanese for the first game.
SECOND GAME: STANDARD
For the second game, we kept the same Pantheons but changed the battlefield boards. The main differences is now, there are 2 stages to the game. The first stage is the same as the skirmish but only with the Level 1 cards. This time, I would have access to my voidwalkers so I wanted to keep this in mind when placing the board (however, I guess I did not learn my lesson of creating an expanded space for my swift cards, more in my final thoughts). The back and forth continued very similarly to the first game (yeah, including the being fished for capturing Hel, again ). Then end of the first stage ended with my opponent controlling 7 cards, while I only had 5 so he got to start stage 2... RAGNAROK!
(Please take note of the beautiful 'void' space I left in the middle, and yes, this was intentional!)
For stage 2, more boards are added (equal to number of players). Also, players shuffle their level 2 and 3 cards (separately), placing the shuffled level 3 cards on the bottom and placing the shuffled level 2 cards on top of the level 3, creating the playdeck for stage 2. Players draw 5 cards and the match continues, starting with the player that won stage 1 (in this case, my sneaky bast... I mean my esteemed opponent ).
During Ragnarok, I tried very hard to be conscious of how I placed my cards (tried to give my swift cards more space) and tried to avoid tricky traps of the traitor cards. This proved to be difficult to avoid as my opponent was very crafty at placing them in key places. I countered as best I could using my voidwalkers to get around the board better (not noticing I was making a similar mistake as before, more in my final thoughts) and held on to my champions as well as generic 'bonus givers' (+'X' attack/ defence VS 'Y'). However, it ended up being too little too late as my opponent did a much better job with positioning his cards and battlefield earlier in the game.
Final Score: Norse 15, Japanese 9
This is a simple game to play but don't let that fool you (as it did me). There is definitely a lot of strategy and tactics going on. From positioning the battlefield and placing your initial cards to carefully considering those effects on the card abilities later on in the game (there were times I did not want to capture the traitor and that did create an obstacle).
I think my biggest mistake was not realizing the 'long term planning' of the positioning as I was more focused on tactics instead of strategy and in doing so, it hurt me in the long run.
I learned the hard way that the voidwalkers (as well as capturing traitors) do NOT PROVIDE as much area control as I had thought. In both instances, I did not get to place tokens for area control of the cards I captured or put into play so learn from my mistakes, USE SPARINGLY your special abilities!
I'm aiming to get together on Friday this week with my gaming partner so that we can try the Native Americans and Greeks. In the meantime, we brainstormed for a solitaire variant and I came up with some ideas that I'll be playtesting with each Pantheon this week to see how viable it is (oh yeah, I'm going there... challenge accepted David!)... More to come...
P.S. One question for the designer: When we complete stage one and start stage 2, do we discard our stage 1 cards that we still have in our hand and draw all new cards from the new playdeck for stage 2 or do we keep the stage 1 cards that were left over?
Sanhueza at GAME-O-GAMI
Thank you for the detailed write-up, Serge! I'm glad that you and your friend had fun playing Immortal for the first time.
To answer your question: Yes, at the end of Act One, all cards remaining in players' hands are discarded to the Underworld. Each player then draws an entirely new hand of 5 cards from their respective Act Two decks.
This is described at the end of the "Act One" segment in the rule book.