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Guards of Atlantis: Tabletop MOBA» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Yes, they pulled it off (PnP version) rss

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Mark Iradian
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Just to get this out of the way: I’m a huge MOBA fan, and played all sorts of MOBA games such as Strife, Heroes of Newerth, Heroes of the Storm, DOTA 1 and 2, and the big one, League of Legends. I’m also a huge fan of tabletop games, especially ones based on cards like Nightfall and Evolution.

When I first heard about Guards of Atlantis, I was very skeptical because the idea of a very complicated genre into tabletop format would be a living nightmare. MOBAs are known for their complexity, mainly due to unintuitive mechanics, and putting even the fraction of the features of a typical MOBA into tabletop just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

But after playing the PnP version a few times in 2 vs 2 situation, I can say with confidence that Guards of Atlantis manages to capture a good portion of the elements found in a MOBA within a system that is very easy to understand and teach.

There is absolutely no luck in this game whatsoever. The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time. Each card has their own set of actions and Initiative number, which will determine initiative order. There are five main cards: Basic (Yellow), Hold (Black), Attack (Red), Skill (Blue), and Defense (Green). You will never start the round with more than five cards.

Besides Primary Actions (e.g. Attack cards having an Attack ability), cards may also have secondary action like defense or movement. For example, instead of using your Basic Attack card to strike at someone, you can use it to move your character or, if you ever targeted by an attack, discard it for defensive purposes while it's in your hand.

To summarize how a round goes, every player will play a card face down, reveal, and will do their actions in Initiative Order. They can only pick ONE action per card, which is determined by the card they play. Actions include Movement, Fast Travel, Attack, or Skill and the option to do these things is dependent on the card picked. A player picks one of those actions on their turn (not in advance), and it simply goes to the next person. This cycle repeats four times, then the round ends.

Combat itself is straightforward. When a player attacks another player, there is a numerical value on that attack. The other player must play a defensive card that is equal or higher, or they will suffer defeat thus removing them from play for the rest of the round. The card used in this way cannot be used to perform an action. There is no hit point tracking or some crazy book keeping nonsense that is often the case with these skirmish games. And now you’re probably thinking ...

“Wait, we only have 5 cards in our hand, and an entire round requires us playing 4 cards, which means…”

Yes, you don’t want to be constantly targeted because you might run out of cards or might have to use your best cards to defend yourself. This is a highly innovative mechanic and it’s so easy to understand yet puts so much tactical decisions forced upon the player that is a mixture of mind games, opportunity cost, and game knowledge rolled into one.

Let me give you one scenario: You are playing a Barbarian who has high defensive values but low Initiative. An enemy melee character, who just happens to be a Cat, is adjacent to you and his Sniper range partner is close by. You know that this Cat character can ignore non-basic attacks with one of his defensive abilities and out of the entire game, his cards have the highest initiative value. Your partner, who is a Witch, is in range to attack the Sniper and the Sniper’s red Attack card will likely be the last action used in this turn.

Suddenly, questions start popping up in your mind:

- Does he plan to strike me to force me to use one of my defensive cards to open up for the Sniper attack?

- Am I even a target? Maybe he wants to use a low initiative card to move out of range and start going for my Witch partner while I wasted a good card for nothing?

- Is the Sniper actually going to attack my Witch partner this turn? I know she has a Skill that allows her to move 4 spaces in a straight line and this is the first turn.

- Maybe this Cat is going to use a “Hold” and be ready for any of my attacks or see how I respond?

And so forth.

It’s this type of cat and mouse ideology that makes this game wonderful. Somehow, with 5 cards in each player’s hands, the game has given far more meaningful and interesting decisions than other skirmish games I’ve played in the past such as Summoner Wars.

I haven’t even talked about the minions or levelling up, key concepts in any MOBA game.

The main objective in Guards of Atlantis is to have your minions push towards the enemy’s Throne area. There are several areas in the game: Three “grassland” areas, two rivers, and two Thrones. The Grassland areas is the game’s “lane” where the majority of action will take place and where the minions will travel to push further.

Minions do not attack players and when they are attacked, they are automatically defeated and given gold to the rival hero that defeated them. When a team loses all of their minions in an area, the enemy minions move to the next area, closer to the enemy Throne, and all minions respawn in the new area, thus causing a reset. Minions, like heroes, do not block line of sight but block movement.

With all that gold gathered, what do you do with it? The only purpose gold serves is to level up your character. At the end of the round, everyone has a chance to level up their character by spending their gold. When they level up, they pick a color they want to upgrade to the next tier (ex: Blue skill Tier 1 to Tier 2). The interesting mechanic behind this is you are swapping your old card for the new one, and the card you didn’t pick will give you a passive upgrade based on the white icon at the bottom of the card. This passive upgrade is a boost to all cards you have in your hand, so it is possible to cater to a certain style in the game such as being mobile or being a tank with high defensive values. In the full game, the Red, Blue, and Green will have two cards for Tier 2 and Tier 3 with a Purple “Ultimate” ability at the very end.

As for character diversity, each character plays vastly different then one another, almost requiring a different mindset to play very well. For example, the Sniper can only fire at targets in a straight line, although one of her tier 2 abilities removes this restriction for less damage and range. Meanwhile, the Cat character I’ve mentioned has high movement and high initiative, allowing him to give quick jabs for openings or give the final blow before the enemy runs away. This is not a game that you can master in one go and you can see the radical changes between all the characters in the game.

The only few complaints I have about the game mainly deals with the rulebook and the characters themselves. Since I’ve played this game without any use of “how to videos”, the rulebook left a few gaps that made myself and the players I’ve played with a few questions. Many cards listed a certain effect that we weren’t sure if it was a requirement or not, and some of them felt way too much in a grey area (“Heros within radius can take one of their cards back”...does that include myself?)

Another issue is the characters. While the characters are designed greatly with far more personality than most games I’ve seen, the issue is you cannot mix them up. Each character plays for a specific faction, so you can’t mix characters up from different factions. I understand this is for balancing purposes and from the ground up it was designed this way, but it does reduce the number of possible of team compositions greatly.

Otherwise, as both a tabletop and MOBA fan, I am very surprised to see Guards of Atlantis managing to merge the two themes well with innovative rules and understandable mechanics. You can tell the designers behind this game have played a few MOBAs under their belt with tiny features like creep farming early in the game to players focused by the enemy team being destroyed immediately with little retaliation. If you’re into Skirmish games, this is a very unique experience since it goes beyond the “control this area” or “kill the enemy team” that is often the case with other skirmish games. This game is worth checking out.
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Hesy
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And suddenly we live in a world in which LoL is considered "the big one".
I´m definately getting too old to keep up.
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Mark Iradian
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failtech wrote:
And suddenly we live in a world in which LoL is considered "the big one".
I´m definately getting too old to keep up.


If you look at the Twitch viewers and the eSports viewers/teams, it's the biggest thing out there.

I don't like the game at all, but I can't deny the facts.
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Philip Wittenberg
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Thanks for the review a verry nice and interesting read!
If you forward your questions and suggestions for the rulebook to the creater they will probably improve the rulebook which would be great for all of us!
 
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Arty N.
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witphil wrote:
Thanks for the review a verry nice and interesting read!
If you forward your questions and suggestions for the rulebook to the creater they will probably improve the rulebook which would be great for all of us!

Mark already did that actually. (Thanks, Mark!)
Hopefully the final version will be more clear about the details.
 
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Mark Iradian
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nichik wrote:
witphil wrote:
Thanks for the review a verry nice and interesting read!
If you forward your questions and suggestions for the rulebook to the creater they will probably improve the rulebook which would be great for all of us!

Mark already did that actually. (Thanks, Mark!)
Hopefully the final version will be more clear about the details.


I'm almost tempted to ask you to send me all the card text and give you my suggestions
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UA Darth
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" There is absolutely no luck in this game whatsoever. The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time."- Double think is very, very much luck in my opinion.
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shadow9d9 wrote:
" The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time."- Double think is very, very much luck in my opinion.

Yep, I agree with this statement.

There's no randomness, but there is a small portion of luck in the game.
Then again, there's luck even in chess ;)
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Mark Iradian
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shadow9d9 wrote:
" There is absolutely no luck in this game whatsoever. The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time."- Double think is very, very much luck in my opinion.


I disagree. It's an element you can't control, but it's not something that occurs by chance either. There will be a logical reason behind what other players are doing and it's your job to figure it out.
 
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MarkyX wrote:
shadow9d9 wrote:
" There is absolutely no luck in this game whatsoever. The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time."- Double think is very, very much luck in my opinion.


I disagree. It's an element you can't control, but it's not something that occurs by chance either. There will be a logical reason behind what other players are doing and it's your job to figure it out.


I had same opinion, but then I've stumbled upon this lecture by Richard Garfield, which changed my perspective.

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MarkyX wrote:
shadow9d9 wrote:
" There is absolutely no luck in this game whatsoever. The core premise behind GoA is everyone plays a card face down, then reveals them at the same time."- Double think is very, very much luck in my opinion.


I disagree. It's an element you can't control, but it's not something that occurs by chance either. There will be a logical reason behind what other players are doing and it's your job to figure it out.


Whether you want to use the term luck, randomness, or chaos, it is in much higher doses than in truly luckless games. This is also a problem with blind bidding, etc.
 
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Noe Huerta
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That Richard Garfield video is the Bee's Knees :) It's very good, and I agree with his interpretation of Luck in games. I think he made a lot of great points! But then again, game design in general is fascinating to me :3
 
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Achim Zien
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Thank you for the detailed review. I think I will give this game a try.

And also, it appears that there is no randomness in this game while players also do not have complete information (with regards to their enemies' and comrades' (?) actions).

This is exactly the way I would expect an action tactics game to be. Quick*, but the only randomness is your enemy.

* Avoiding the inherent AP problem of no-randomness complete-information games like chess. Which is fine in and of itself, just not my cup of tea.
 
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PiHalbe wrote:

And also, it appears that there is no randomness in this game while players also do not have complete information (with regards to their enemies' and comrades' (?) actions).


Exactly :)
 
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Mark Iradian
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PiHalbe wrote:
Thank you for the detailed review. I think I will give this game a try.

And also, it appears that there is no randomness in this game while players also do not have complete information (with regards to their enemies' and comrades' (?) actions).

This is exactly the way I would expect an action tactics game to be. Quick*, but the only randomness is your enemy.

* Avoiding the inherent AP problem of no-randomness complete-information games like chess. Which is fine in and of itself, just not my cup of tea.


The "perfect" information you have is what they have played/discarded. If you know the game well enough, you can immediately know what everyone has, but it still doesn't suffer from AP because people can easily screw up your long term plans if they do something unexpected on that turn.

Also, as I've mentioned in the review, you play your action when it is your turn, not when the card is flipped. This means that you can forego your main action to do movement if you feel in danger.

Because of this, constantly studying the map is highly irrelevant in the bigger picture. Only thing I might expect AP would be during the character select since you are trying to decipher counters and synergies in drafting (pretty much like any MOBA)
 
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Achim Zien
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MarkyX wrote:
Only thing I might expect AP would be during the character select since you are trying to decipher counters and synergies in drafting (pretty much like any MOBA)


But that is most likely not going to be an issue with beginners, I hope. Are they going to be fine just picking any character and still feel effective?

Feeling effective is much more important than winning for beginners. And I don't think we will get to become masters.
 
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PiHalbe wrote:
Thank you for the detailed review. I think I will give this game a try.

And also, it appears that there is no randomness in this game while players also do not have complete information (with regards to their enemies' and comrades' (?) actions).

This is exactly the way I would expect an action tactics game to be. Quick*, but the only randomness is your enemy.

* Avoiding the inherent AP problem of no-randomness complete-information games like chess. Which is fine in and of itself, just not my cup of tea.


Chess takes turns separately.. this is like blind bidding. Very random.
 
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Dustin Crenshaw
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I completely disagree with Garfield. Luck is something beyond control. Drawing the right card at the right time is luck. You picking an action in secret, and I picking an action in secret, leads to me being obliterated. That wasn't luck. You did better than me picking your action.

Random is without a plan or purpose. If everyone is doing something for a reason or with a plan, it isn't random. Regardless if you know what it is or not.
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SeerMagic wrote:
I completely disagree with Garfield. Luck is something beyond control. Drawing the right card at the right time is luck. You picking an action in secret, and I picking an action in secret, leads to me being obliterated. That wasn't luck. You did better than me picking your action.

Random is without a plan or purpose. If everyone is doing something for a reason or with a plan, it isn't random. Regardless if you know what it is or not.

So rock-paper-scissors isn't random then? ;)
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nichik wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
I completely disagree with Garfield. Luck is something beyond control. Drawing the right card at the right time is luck. You picking an action in secret, and I picking an action in secret, leads to me being obliterated. That wasn't luck. You did better than me picking your action.

Random is without a plan or purpose. If everyone is doing something for a reason or with a plan, it isn't random. Regardless if you know what it is or not.

So rock-paper-scissors isn't random then? ;)


Of course it is, because people pick at random. Thus it is random. Here you are not picking at random. 2 very different things. If you had to shuffle your hand and place a card down at random, then it would be random.
 
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But you are deciding what to pick.

Jokes aside, as I've mentioned above, I separate randomness and luck. Where there's no perfect information, there will be luck involved.
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Dustin Crenshaw
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nichik wrote:
But you are deciding what to pick.

Jokes aside, as I've mentioned above, I separate randomness and luck. Where there's no perfect information, there will be luck involved.


I separate randomness and luck too, they are different.

End of the day none of this matters really, I just hope we all enjoy the game!
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SeerMagic wrote:

End of the day none of this matters really, I just hope we all enjoy the game!


I hope so too!

And don't forget to let me know how it goes after you try it. :)
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nichik wrote:
SeerMagic wrote:
I completely disagree with Garfield. Luck is something beyond control. Drawing the right card at the right time is luck. You picking an action in secret, and I picking an action in secret, leads to me being obliterated. That wasn't luck. You did better than me picking your action.

Random is without a plan or purpose. If everyone is doing something for a reason or with a plan, it isn't random. Regardless if you know what it is or not.

So rock-paper-scissors isn't random then?


Playing devil's advocate, Rock-Paper-Scissor is only as random as the players that pick between rock, paper and scissors. Yes, many players think they randomly pick between the three options, but this isn't actually true. There are actually tendencies in players that you can take advantage of (such as men typically open a game playing rock). Random would imply that every round you have an equal (33%) chance of playing any of the options, which is not true in Rock-Paper-Scissors. Players often behave (and choose) differently the next round depending on what they (and their opponent) played the previous round.

That doesn't sound like "random" to me
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About mixing heroes:
You can choose any Hero you want. The heroes do not belong to a specific faction that prevents you from having the barbarian in the same team as the sniper.
 
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