- Luke HectorUnited Kingdom
If there's one thing I appreciate in a board game it's good artwork. I know that sounds very superficial, but if a game is going to immerse you within it it needs to lend a helping hand to your imagination. You hand me something that looks like "Spreadsheet - The Game" and it's going to take a lot to draw me in. Now that doesn't mean it has to be astounding, gorgeous artwork, but it has to fit the theme and be vibrant. Many rag on my favourite, Sentinels of the Multiverse for having poor artwork. Now while I admit it's not worthy of an award and can see why people would disapprove, I still like it. It's vibrant, colourful and paints the theme of early 20th century comic strips perfectly. It does enough to get my mind imagining actual fight scenes taking place albeit with a Marvel MCU budget!
But of course when you get artwork that not only fits the theme, but looks astounding, it's a joy to stare at. Michael Menzel goes down as my favourite board game artist putting in such immersive detail into all that he does. Pillars of the Earth is used for my Portsmouth On Board event picture because I just think it looks that fantastic and I will defend that a fully set up game of Pillars combined with Stonemaier's Resource Chest tokens is the best looking game in existence. So knowing that he's the designer of Legends of Andor means I can already tick off one box on the list, but can he design as well as he can draw? Hints of story telling progression, "teach as you play" rules and Fantasy Flight Games give me hope. In my time they may not be heroes, but if they succeed. . . they will be remembered. . . as . . . legends!!
Designer: Michael Menzel
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games / Kosmos
Time: 60-90 min
Legends of Yesterday
"Quoted From BoardGameGeek - Legends of Andor"
Legends of Andor is a cooperative adventure board game for two to four players in which a band of heroes must work together to defend a fantasy realm from invading hordes. To secure Andor's borders, the heroes will embark on dangerous quests over the course of five unique scenarios (as well as a final scenario created by the players themselves). But as the clever game system keeps creatures on the march toward the castle, the players must balance their priorities carefully.
At the heart of Legends of Andor is its unique narrative, the linked scenarios of which tell an overarching story as the players successfully complete objectives. For each scenario, or "Legend", a legend deck conveys the plot of an ever-unfolding tale...one in which the players are the protagonists. A wooden marker moves along the board's legend track at key points during each scenario, triggering the draw of a new legend card, the introduction of new game-altering effects, and the advancement of the story's plot. In the end, the players must endeavour to guide the fate of Andor through their heroic actions, bringing a happy ending to their epic fantasy tale.
Will their heroes roam the land completing quests in the name of glory, or devote themselves to the defense of the realm? Uncover epic tales of glory as you live the Legends of Andor!
Remember That Name. He's Destined For Great Things
Fantasy Flight and Michael Menzel sound like a match made in heaven. A publisher known for producing great components coupled with an illustrator renowned for his amazing artwork. You couldn't get a better pairing if you tried. And it's no shocker that this game looks gorgeous. It's a change for Fantasy Flight not to use miniatures, but the cardboard standees all look great none the less and "finally" someone has produced plastic stands that are flexible and don't gnarl your pieces when you try to slot them in. They bend outwards and and gently clip the token in place, you need never remove them when packing the game away.
I can't review a game involving Menzel without gushing about the board. You might have heard me praise on the Dice Tower and on Facebook about Pillars of the Earth, which he also illustrated. That has possibly the most beautiful board in any game to date and whereas Legends of Andor doesn't surpass it, it's definitely on par, barely behind it. The fantasy landscape with the castle, caves, rivers, countryside, bridges of different types, wells and forests all looks fantastic. And it's even a double sided board! If anyone out there has some spare boards from Menzel's games, please send them to me, I would gladly frame these on my wall in my future games room, I like them that much! If you want a fantasy game to immerse your players, you need a board that paints the picture in cinematic quality and this does the job perfectly, with all the little fine details and Easter Eggs that Menzel is known for.
And you're certainly getting Bang for your Buck here to justify the surprisingly sustainable price tag of £39.99 RRP. There's a ton of pieces in this game and at first glance you aren't going to have the slightest clue what most of them do so bagging them up is going to be a case of trial and error as you won't realise what components go with what until you've played through a couple of scenarios. Allow yourself some spare time to get everything punched out as you'll no doubt take time to stare at the artwork and think to yourself "damn, when do I get this fight this dragon"? Some people may wish there were actual miniatures, but personally I'm getting burned out on all these games forcing miniatures down our throats, all they seem to achieve is inflating the price tag and giving me a bunch of unpainted sculptures on the board - yes I have the painting skills of a trio of colour blind hedgehogs in a bag, so painting miniatures is not my thing!
I'm Pretty Sure We Can Handle Ourselves
Normally learning the rules to any game can be a daunting task. You need to set aside spare time to absorb it all before you try to teach it to new players and time is precious (unless it's a 2 player game I categorically hate it when people try to teach a game direct from the rule book on their 1st play). Legends of Andor does things differently. We've heard the term, "teach as you play", but that still usually requires someone who knows the rules doing the teaching. Here it really is what that term means. The first scenario is a basic game with its own Quick-Start rulebook that takes you through the main rules in stages, introducing you in baby steps to movement, combat, special actions etc, while still keeping a story narrative going.
As you turn each card, it teaches you a new aspect leaving little room for confusion. There are even introduction tiles placed on the board on special spaces that teach you what the symbol means in your first game and then you never use them again ever! Talk about going the extra mile in components and rules. As you go through the other scenarios, other aspects of the game get introduced to you piece by piece. I only had to check the reference guide a few times for little nit-bits. I wish every game could be taught to you in this manner, it's a brilliant concept that is sadly almost never seen.
One Person Acting Alone Cannot Save The World
Each legend will have you engaging in Tower Defence mode while simultaneously completing other objectives, which get deeper and deeper as you progress through the overarching story. You won't be able to do everything as a group and so deciding which heroes are best for which task is key. Monster movement is handled by a simple arrow system and thus can be predicted from turn to turn, meaning that the game will feel like a thematic puzzle as all players try to figure out the most effective means of dealing with the threats at hand.
Rather oddly, hacking and slashing everything won't help you here as each monster kill advances the gamer timer causing more events to happen, more monsters to potentially spawn and of course accelerating the game too fast before you can complete the other objectives. So there's a lot of times where you have to choose your battles and accept losses. In fact it takes longer to figure out the turn than it does to play it out, but you're never choosing between "dumb" and "correct" options. Legends of Andor manages to have a sense of style unique to itself, and it's good to differentiate your game from the competition when possible in our saturated industry.
As much as Legends of Andor caters for solo play as well as four players, you'll need to be careful about playing scaling. There is more room allowed for error with less players before you lose, but note that the number of monsters doesn't change. If you fought 8 monsters with 4 players, you're going to have the same amount with 2 players another day. Even in solo mode I played with a minimum of two heroes and felt like I needed more characters to cope easier.
As for the heroes themselves, it's nice to see that they included female versions of each one, but they missed a mark by not distinguishing them very much in general. You've got a warrior, a mage, an archer and a dwarf (yeah a dwarf gets its own class apparently, work that one out), but stat wise, they're all exactly the same, the only difference been a special ability and the number of potential dice they can roll in combat. It would have been cool to have some different starting stats for all classes as well as for both male and female persona's for some more variety. Another missed mark is that
everything resets on characters and the board each game - i.e. apart from the storyline, there's no "campaign mode" as such.
I've Seen Men Of Steel Die And Dark Knights Fall
Legends of Andor comes with 6 scenarios in the box, however be aware that one of those is the introductory module and another is a "design it yourself" template. This means that for the vast majority of you, the first will get played maybe once and the latter won't get taken out of the box. So that leaves four and each one will have a story twist to it like visiting a witch for some brew, etc, but the overarching issue is having to keep the castle from being overrun by monsters. Each one has a separate legend deck of cards which tells the short story of the scenario, but we're not talking Arkham Horror level detail here. So unlike recent games with story progression you could still easily replay these scenarios with a new group. You may remember certain points when foes pop up so it won't be as memorable perhaps, but you're not in danger of spoilers or anything.
Of course, will 4 scenarios be enough to keep you engaged for a while? Well changing the player count and the hero selection can have a big effect on how the game plays out so repeated plays are possible, if somewhat limited and expansions do exist adding new scenarios and heroes to the mix. Now I've only seen a couple in the UK market, but as this was reprinted by Kosmos recently, I think more will be seen eventually if we bide our time. Failing that if you don't mind a bit of German, there are others out there in the Euro market. But there is the danger of it becoming a little repetitive in the long term, but not until you've got your monies worth and traded it on.
Verdict On Legends of Andor
Legends of Andor has a lot going for it, amazing components and artwork, a sense of story and immersion, a challenging difficulty level and a unique take on rules-teaching. And all from someone who normally just illustrates, this is an impressive first try at a co-operative game. It's perhaps a little too puzzle-like for it to become one of my all-time favourites, but that's a personal thing only, after all Pandemic doesn't suffer in the market for being essentially a puzzle game does it?
Even though you may argue that the replay value is hurt slightly by the "story" aspect and lack of playable scenarios, it's not as bad as saying you could never play it again like with Time Stories and if you know where to find them, there are expansions to keep the game going. But even with just what's in the box, there's plenty here to entertain with the same group of players and then when you mix and match, you'll find that games can play out differently based on player count and hero selection.
It's a solid venture into board game design for one of the best artists in the industry, enough that I'd like to see a second release, if only just to see another beautiful board again. Teetering on what I call the "next step" level above gateway games, this is one of the more accessible titles in the fantasy genre that actually has a strong theme built in, making it quite unique. If you're OK with the puzzle aspect, then you should give this one a try.
If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/
YOU WILL LIKE LEGENDS OF ANDOR IF:
You want to drool over the artwork in this game - recommend keeping a tissue handy.
You want a game that officially meets the definition of "learn as you play".
You want a co-operative fantasy game with a sense of story progression.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE LEGENDS OF ANDOR IF:
You aren't a fan of co-operatives which feel more like a puzzle.
You feel it won't get enough replays after you've finished all the scenarios.
You're in a group prone to alpha-gamer syndrome.
- [+] Dice rolls