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Review originally posted here:
Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends is an abstract strategy game set in a fantasy themed arena (and reviewed in 2015). It has risen into the Top 500 games on Board Game Geek and is listed just outside the Top 20 abstract games. The game is played on a grid of squares with players trying to place their pieces in a variety of patterns; that in turn allow the playing of powerful cards that will change the shape of the game. There are variety of game modes, depending on player numbers (two to four), with aims ranging from simply taking your opponents pieces to completing tasks.
Its a fantastic abstract game that stands apart by having both elements of luck (in your individual card draw, the tasks etc) but also each player having their own deck of themed cards to use. There were two sets of identical cards in the box for the purists wanting to be more evenly matched, plus just two more decks: a bit tight, I thought – so it was always crying out for expansions.
What does Everfrost bring to the arena?
Everfrost can be seen as the simpler of the two, despite it adding an interesting new twist not in the base game. The player using this card deck will find about a third of their cards carry the ‘frozen’ symbol. When you play these cards, instead of discarding it you instead leave it in front of you – as you’ll be able to thaw this ‘frozen’ effect when you need it. But you can only have one frozen effect in front of you at a time, which can lead to some interesting extra decisions: if it looks as if your current frozen effect may come in handy soon, do you hold off playing another frozen card? But it’s hard not to play your cards immediately as keeping your patterns in place can be fiendishly difficult.
In addition a few of the individual cards throw in some interesting new effects, including Crystal Mirror (allowing you to mimic an opponents pieces – which could be a ‘heroic’); and Deathbringer (which lets you remove an opponent’s piece from the game completely).
How much does it change the game?
While the deck is interesting, as you’ll see above, it doesn't introduce anything to the game beyond this that wasn’t there already. Neither of the first two expansion decks affects team play, for example, and no new ways of playing are introduced. But Everfrost does adds a nice tension to the game, especially when playing against it. It’s painful having an effect hanging there, waiting go off in your face, probably when you most expect it too. Its an interesting addition to a game that is usually all about swift, decisive moves you rarely see coming (until you know the decks really well, that is).
Is Everfrost essential?
One of my key observations in my review of Tash-Kalar was a complaint about the lack of different card decks in the box. Four seemed exceedingly tight, especially as two of them were essentially identical. It didn’t stop me having fun with the base game, and it is a fun challenge to play with the identical decks, but if this is a game you’re hoping to play often I’d say yes, grabbing at least one of the two available expansions will be essential.
However I wouldn’t say you need them straight away. Everfrost adds a new mechanism that is slightly more complex and is more suited to players that have become familiar with the base game (the Nethervoid expansion is much harder to master). The game can be quite hard to get your head around at first, as its mixes up some original ideas with traditional ones, and this adds a little extra.
Is Everfrost value for money?
At around £10 it may seem a little expensive – but it comes with its own scoreboard, tokens and card deck with all individual pieces of art on each card. You could of course argue that you don’t really need the tokens, or boards – so why not just do cheap card expansions? My guess to that would be the standard one for expansions: that it’s the card art that costs all the money, so taking the other bits out wouldn’t reduce the cost much anyway.
But if you take it purely on what it adds in terms of gameplay, its absolutely worth it. Although I wouldn’t want to get into an argument about whether it should have been included in the original game box anyway, with that having a slightly higher price… But hey, business is business and it's easy to forget that this is the board game 'industry' – not the charity many Kickstarter campaigns would have us believe.
… and does it fit in the original Tash-Kalar box?
Yes, very easily. And if you discarded the (rather useless) insert from the original box too, there’s still plenty of space for some more expansions too – and long may they continue.
- Last edited Tue Sep 27, 2016 4:29 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Sep 12, 2016 4:28 pm
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Thanks for doing these Chris. A good writeup.
A good review. I really like this deck though as with Sylvan (but much more so) bad draws can occasionally sink you: with Sylvan getting Kiskin Spirit and Forest Mystic on the last draws is unfortunate, and with Everfrost, getting Frozen Chest too early means you'll likely waste it. But the basic idea is really interesting: can having multiple SMALL effects per turn, with much more flexibility in their timing, compete against more obviously powerful decks like Highland? Given that Tash-Kalar is a tempo game, where an extra action often makes a huge difference, Everfrost can be super powerful (especially against opponents who are negligent about flares).
Re: variety in the base game: while it's unfortunately not implemented in the online version of the game at BGA and isn't included in the printed rules, Vlaada's suggestion of drafting decks is one that is worth incorporating in regular play for variety and extra strategical depth. (http://tash-kalar.com/variants.html)