I had obtained Return of the Heroes and Shadow of the Dragon from Tanga and was anxious to give them a try. My friend Shaun came over and we gave it a go.
I read the rulebook aloud as he punched counters and set up the board. We were a little bit confused because the set-up rules are not well organized, at least if you are not following the introductory adventure. Rule reading and set-up took about an hour.
Once the board was set-up, we admired it briefly and considered who to be and where to place our homes. I picked the Elf and Shaun picked the Cleric. I placed my home near the King's castle hoping to get started on a quest early. Shaun placed his home near the market.
Right away, I went to the castle and learned that it was my destiny to return the Axe of the Gnomes to the uh...Gnomes. Hey, elves like gnomes. They're cute, they're magical, they need magic axes. Cool cool. I can roll with that. I began to gatherer tasks while waiting for the first step of my quest to become available.
Meanwhile, the Cleric went shopping and bought a magic item at the market which added +1 to his magic. Shouldn't he have been tithing to the church? Bursting at the britches with magic prowess, the Cleric started a holy rampage, and he quickly gained EC by smiting every little creature that reared its head.
I was not about to be sidetracked by the pursuit of EC however, and my single mindedness was rewarded when my first quest item was revealed. Word reached the Cleric that I had an appointment with greatness. Apparently, word also reached the Nameless, and he stirred in is slumber (we dropped his counter into the bag).
As the Nameless was having nightmares about our "appointment", the Cleric marched briskly to the Castle, littering the countryside with the dead and dying (what kind of God does this guy worship anyway?).
I completed some tasks, and quickly became a feared archer. My growing prowess caused the Nameless to awake from his slumber. [I drew the Nameless token and we mistakenly put all the nameless servants onto the board. We should have put some on the board and the rest in the bag. I don't believe that this mistake affected the game.].
"I shall smite the evil!" said the Cleric, and he promptly killed a Nameless servant and gained 2 more experience. At this point, he was rolling 5 dice in magic to my 4 in archery.
To complete a task, I went to the City of Mages. It took about 4 turns for me to get into the city. This was just silly. I mean are the mages so busy holding the Crack of the World together that they can't just hire someone to have a big bucket to haul people up and down? No, we're mages, we're just gonna have a random stupid teleporter that for shits and giggles will teleport you to the dump. It's a wonder they ever sell anything at all.
While I was down in the dumps, the Cleric got to the King and got his quest. As a further sign that I was the Chosen One, none his quest tokens were on the board. Fearing that he would never reach the Nameless before me, the Cleric decided to go slay a Unicorn because word on the street was "Kill the unicorn, slay the dragon". And if you can't kill the Nameless, killing a dragon is pretty cool, too. Right?
In the Floating City, I was a little worried about dragons. Some charlatan sold me a scroll of lighting. "It can fend off dragon attacks", he said. "Dragon weather is coming." chimed in his wife. Ah well, a fool and his money.... [We never drew the dragon token, so my lightning was never used].
After my trip to the Floating City, things started going badly, and my resolve began to weaken. I met up with myself (or a strange belligerent double of me) on the road, and I proceeded to kick my own butt. Ouch. Then some Nameless servant challenged me to a duel, but my arrows were useless against him. I bravely tried to use my fists, but he just punched me in the face. At this point, I decided I was really hungry. I began limping home moaning "Elf needs food badly". Once home, I kicked back for a while and drank elvish wine, and told all the elvish girls that it was my destiny to slay the Nameless.
I knew the Cleric was much more powerful than I, but it was my destiny to reach the Nameless first, so I made a trip to the market and netted me some boots! Man, I was so glad to finally have some shoes.
Fortune was with me, and my second quest token appeared! Freshly shod, I marched off to complete my Quest. The Cleric meanwhile was getting frantic. He had looked under ever nook and cranny, but his quest was not going anywhere fast. [After whining in a most ungodly way, he began rifling through the rulebook, wondering if we had missed something]. I completed my Quest and was given a pretty stone. The gnomes told me the Nameless One will see you if you give him the pretty stone, and so it was time to march off to Moria and throw the precious stone into Mt. Doom or something like that.
After debating whether you could trade quests in - ["Hey, I don't really want to free the Princess, I'd much rather hang with the dwarves"] the Cleric had learned that the King would give you up to 2 quests, so he set off towards the Castle again. On his way there, he put drew the doppleganger and set it my path. Although this creature had defeated me once, it would not do so again! I cocked my bow and shot the vile creature right between the eyes. Fatality!
However, I might have gotten a might too cocky, because the first guard of the Nameless shrugged off my arrows and punched me in the face. OW! I tried another guard and this one had the good grace to die when I shot him full of arrows. Victory was about to be mine!
Of course next turn I flipped over the Nameless token, and my destiny was revealed. It was not the one I had hoped for. Turns out my destiny was to learn that the Nameless was the Dread One. With my dying breath, I whispered my secret to the mice, hoping that they would warn my cousin's sister's step-son twice removed that he would need a magic bow to hurt the Nameless. The Dread One punched me in the face a couple of more times, and I passed on.
Of course, the Cleric was gloating in a most un-pious fasion. He had gotten a new quest which was already on the board, and he was a juggernaut, smashing through everything to complete his quest. My cousin's sister's step-son twice removed (a pimply lad, who was gamely in spite of his inexperience) was inspired by my tale and set off to complete the quest I had started.
But it was too late. He was too weak to face the Dread One, and his last ditch attempt to use the land teleporter to rip apart the fabric of the world itself to buy him more time to level up didn't work. The Cleric bought a horse, and before the little whipper snapper could even learn to properly string his bow, the Cleric pulverized the Dread One with his mighty mastery of magic.
Playing time 2:30 minutes. It was a fun night, and we would both play again. We both felt that the randomness of the game was fun but frustrating. I was also disappointed that we never drew the dragon token to start Dragon Events. After one play through, it is apparent that this is a race game, and not so much a game about leveling up your character. Because we both had fun, and wanted to try this one again, the Elf and the Cleric agreed Return of the Heroes + Expansion was a solid 7.
12-27-06 - Edited for grammar.
- Last edited Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:09 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Dec 27, 2006 3:13 am
After typing up this session, I've been musing about the game mechanics. For my next play I'm considering trying one or more of the following. Any thoughts?
1. Precious stone quest items only appear if the quest is selected - Separate the open tiles that are specifically related to completing precious stone quests and set them aside. When a player visits the Castle to obtain a quest, place the appropriate tiles into the bag. Reason: It will minimize the number of "useless" tiles that go onto the board. Also, no one's quest tokens will appear on the board until they get the quest. This will avoid the situation where someone lucks into a quest that can be quickly completed. Possible problems: Are some precious stone tiles also used in the completion of tasks? Distribution frequencies may be thrown off because too few tiles are in the bag.
2. Strategic placement of Servants - Once the Nameless token is placed into the bag, instead of placing some Servants on the board and some in the bag, place all the Servants in the bag. When you draw a Servant place it in an unoccupied tan area. Reason: It increases interaction because you can place Servants in an attempt to thwart your fellow player's progress. Possible problems: Perhaps, placing the Servants in the specified locations is important for balance purposes. Although I suspect this is not the case, reading the author's response to some other thread.
3. Nameless One Awakens - Once one player has a precious gem, the Nameless one awakens. All precious stone quest tiles are removed from the bag and placed on the board. All creatures have an additional hit point. On your turn if you do not have a precious gem, you can move a servant of the Nameless one space [treat as if the Servant had a movement of 1 and always found secret paths]. Reason: If you are getting stalled out because your quest tokens haven't appeared, they come out now and the race is on. The Nameless One's servants are now on the move too. You can use them to harrass your opponents and buy yourself time. Possible Problems - Gang up on the leader problem. An extra hit point may make things too difficult.
4. Nameless on gathers his power - Once one player has a precious gem, keep track of how many turns pass. Every 10 turns that pass, add 1 hit point to the Nameless One. Reason This heightens the urgency of the game and makes getting to the Nameless One imperative.
5. On Death and Dying - If the Nameless One kills you, the Gods reincarnate you. Place your character in the Temple. Remove all artifacts and tasks from your character card, start with 1 hit point, and remove 2 EC from your magic, melee, and archery skills. Keep your precious stone. Reason - Keeps up the pressure in the game. If the 1st person does not defeat the Nameless, his opponents still had better move quickly, because he will heal up quickly and come gunning for the Nameless One again.
Since we didn't use the dragon mechanics, I'm not sure if this needs any tweaking.
Wonderful session report. I'm glad to see it only took 2.5 hours, even with using the expansion.
I too just bought these games from Tanga and have played three introductory games:
- One solitare
- One two-player (1.75 hours with the base game)
- One four-player (2.25 hours with the base game)
Based on these plays, here are my thoughts on your variants:
1. This variant would cause an issue because everyone would want to start near the castle. House placement rules prevent that, which would give an unfair advantage to the first couple of players who place their house. When you pull a quest, since only your quest tokens would get put in the bag, only you could advance in your quest. By having all quest tokens in the bag to start, the players don't necessarily have to rush the castle. Instead, they can focus on gathering tasks and defeating creatures, which will cause a lot of token drawing. As the quest tokens start to hit the board, each player needs to judge when it's time to run to the castle. It's more strategic that way.
2. If all servants are placed in the bag, that would slow down the drawing of quest tokens. I like the standard rule for servant placement.
3. This variant has some pretty significant changes to the rules, and would have to be tried to see what it does to the game.
4. This is a good variant if the players seem intent on maxing out their character. However, if players are playing the game properly (as a race), then I don't think this is necessary. In my four-player game, the Mage was first to take on the Nameless. He had to rush there because the Elf wasn't far behind. As such, he only had two hit points and was killed due to two bad roles. He was even rolling four dice.
5. I like this option. I think the current reincarnation rule is too harsh. However, this could lead to players not being careful enough in the early and middle portions of the game, which could change the feel of the game. If you like the reality feeling that you can't be killed because you'll basically be out of the game, it makes each decision have more weight.
Thanks for the commentary and your thoughts. It seems your perspective is different because you've played with more than 2 people.
Regarding #1: With 2 people, you don't draw as many tiles and things can kind of bog down when you are drawing quest tiles that nobody is using. Also with only 2 people placing houses, everyone can start fairly near to the castle.
Regarding #2: I don't see any problem with placing some servants on the board on the indicated tiles. However, I still think it would be worthwhile when drawing servants from the bag, you are allowed to place them on empty tan spaces. The problem with 2 players was that even with EVERY nameless servant on the board (we messed that one up in our game), it was pretty easy to avoid them unless you just wanted to mop up an extra EC.
Regarding #3: This one probably needs playtesting, but hey, they all do.
Regarding #4: Probably not necessary upon further reflection.
Regarding #5: In this game due to the random nature of the Nameless's ability, you can be trounced. In my game, my archery was maxed out, but the Nameless one easily beat me because he was immune to ranged combat unless I had the magic bow. This was just bad luck. I could have waited for the mice to be drawn or figured out how to get a magic bow just in case, but honestly even if I knew that one of the Nameless was immune to archery I would have taken the risk because odds are it wouldn't be that Nameless and all the others I was ready for.
You shouldn't lose the game because you took a calculated risk. Sure it should set you back, but you still have a chance to come back. I didn't have a chance to that. My attempt to use the land teleporter was just desperate. Being careful shouldn't mean that all the players wait for the mice to appear or go get the magic bow, yew staff, and the other thingie "just in case."
Your experience with the game is greatly influenced by the fact that you played the combined game with only two players. I think it works well with about 4 players, but with only 2, you might need some tweaks.
First, the total number of chits in the bag. Some people suggested to draw two chits instead of one when playing with only two players. In my experience, the drawing rate is ok with 4 players, and a bit too slow with 3 (i never played it with only 2).
The quests: In the basic game, you draw two quests at random at the start of the game. In this case, i'd remove and redraw chits that are for quests not used by either player. With the expansion, it is written that you get a quest at the castle (since there are not enough quests to give 2 each to 5-6 players). But in this case, you don't draw at random, but you select a quest. So better wait until some quest tokens are out before heading there. In addition, it is possible to exchange your quest at the castle, if you didn't start it yet.
The placement of the servants: It's just one servant for each of the tiles of the base game (except dark tower and temple). I'd go with the rules as written for a few games, and do house rules then if you still feel the need.
On Death and Dying: It's important that there is a major penalty for dying after the early game. But here you have your two player problem. Better follow the suggestion from the expansion: When a hero dies in the final fight, the other player has a few turns to try to win the game with a major win. If he doesn't, it's only a minor win.
In a 4 player game, when i died about 2/3 of the game (due to guardians placed between me and any location to heal - could happen much more often with your variant), i just waited for them to finish the game. In your case, you could just declare your opponent a winner.
City of the mages: The only want magic users there. If you plan to visit them, try to get a few (2-3) blue experience cubes. Then it should be easy for you to enter the city.
Nameless immune to one kind of attack: That's one reason why you should try to raise two different skills, instead of relying on only one skill. Or try to get your hands on that bow (easier said than done). Or, in the combined game, go for the dragon instead of the nameless one.
Game length: It's usually 30 minutes per player for us for the base game alone. The combined game is longer. So we usually use a few house rules (that were published as tournament rules) to speed up the game:
- the nameless and his 4 gaurds start on the map, the servants in the bag
(otherwise it might take a long time for him to get drawn)
- the dragon starts at the board, the dragon events in the bag
- the world is round. You can leave it at one side and enter at the opposite one
- all movement abilities are increased by one point.
- the starting chits for the dragon quests start on the map
- each player (in reverse starting order) may buy one item from either the market or the city of magic at the start of the game
[maybe there were others i forgot]
That still leaves the problem with too many counters to draw in a two player game. Possible workarounds:
- draw two chits instead of one when you have to draw
- draw one chit at the end of each turn, no matter what you did
- place the first chit of each quest (8 for the nameless one, 3 for the dragon) on the map at the start of the game