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Subject: A Eurogamer's Review of Legends of Andor rss

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J A
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This review is not intended to provide an overview or summary of the rules. Other very good reviews are available on BGG that do just that. Instead, it is intended to provide a short and hopefully pertinent analysis of the game: of its qualities, its shortcomings, its mechanisms, and generally what it has to offer. Hopefully it will be of help to the reader in deciding whether Andor is a game for them.



d10-1Overview of the game:

Andor is a cooperative game, a kind of adventure coop for eurogamers one might say. Players incarnate adventurers in a heroic fantasy setting who must coordinate their actions as best they can to achieve certain common objectives. The game is definitely not about winning against your fellow players by gaining the most Victory Points.

Yes, the game is a great heroic adventure: there is a lot of fighting involving dice chucking to defeat Creatures and save the kingdom of Andor. But Andor is not all about killing monsters, it is also a thinky euro-style game in which players must coordinate and optimize their actions to succeed. Each game session is permeated with tension. Players will not infrequently be beaten by the game or win by the skin of their teeth.

Andor fits squarely in the "Family Game" category. The rules are simple and clearly written. I would also say the rules are surprisingly flexible and "open": they give players a lot of freedom in their actions. Players will alternate between regular actions (that cost hours) and "Free actions". The latter are unlimited, may take place in an other player's turn, and don't follow turn order. This is refreshing and works well for a game of this ilk, allowing players a lot of latitude to create their own story, so to speak.

But at the same time, it leads to many situations in which players may be uncertain about how to apply the rules. I suspect that many players out there unknowingly play the game by committing (minor?) errors. I for one had to painstakingly read through pages of Rules posts on BGG and consult Andor regulars on the German forum to find answers to all my questions.

Indeed, if I have one criticism to make of the game, it is that the rules suffer from being grossly under explained. One glaring example (at least to me) are the rules pertaining to "Free actions". This is a core concept of the game and a rather abstract one that takes some time getting used to. The rules laconically state that players may take free actions "at any time". What they don't explain is that this means such actions can be taken at the beginning or end of a player's turn (or that of any other player); that some free actions can be taken during a combat round (using a Witch's Brew or a Herb), while others (exchanging and using objects) may be taken at the end or at the beginning of a combat round (prior to or after the hero's Fight Action). Wew! But once new players get over the learning curve, they will find the returns on their investments well, well worth the while!



d10-2Mechanisms:

Andor has a very clever and well calibrated game system. The game is very well-balanced and this shines through. This is obviously the product of a lot of hard work by the designer and of considerable play testing.

At the game's heart lies an Action Point Allowance System similar to that found in many other popular games, such as Tikal. Players will have to manage their quota of "hours". Each turn, they will have to spend hours to take actions (move, fight, or pass). Players can buy more hours by spending their "Willpower Points". They will also be able to spend gold coins to buy equipment at the Market that will give them bonuses and allow them to break the rules.
Players may also take a number of additional "Free actions" at the beginning or end of their player turn (or that of another player), such as exchanging equipment with fellow heroes, using equipment, or buying stuff at the Market.

Another core mechanisms of the game is that every turn, advancing monsters converge upon the Castle of Andor. If the Castle is overrun by a given number of monsters (variable according to player count), the players lose.

Finally, every turn, a "Narrator" token advances on the Legend Track. This triggers the activation of cards and acts as a timer for the game. Players must achieve their victory objectives before time runs out.



d10-3Theme:

The game is literally dripping with theme. I am referring to the game components: the lavishly and beautifully decorated game board (it's Michael Menzel, what else did you expect!). But I am also referring to the rules which are often very thematic. That's quite an accomplishment!
For example, the principal source of money in the game isn't a bank, or trading resources for gold, or anything like that. It's the loot you win by defeating monsters! Cool! And if players escort peasants from the monster-ravaged countryside of Andor to safety in the Castle, they take up arms and help defend the Castle by contributing to its defence capacity (technically, the Peasant tokens are flipped onto their Shield side, thus adding "lives" to the Castle).



d10-4Replayability

For my thoughts about the game's replayability, see here


Strengths:

d10-1 remarkably well-balanced game design and fluid gameplay
d10-2 original and interesting mechanisms (the Narrator; Castle defence; alternation between regular and free actions)
d10-3 a lot of freedom
d10-4 thematically justified game mechanisms
d10-5 lots of tension and interaction between players
d10-6 great artwork


Weaknesses:

d10-1 game rules are under explained (but this can easily be overcome by consulting the plethoric forums on BGG and legenden-von-andor.de for germanophones)


My verdict: thumbsup

Legends of Andor is a wonderful game which I highly enjoy and recommend. It successfully blends several popular gaming trends into a single package: it is a coop game with standees and combat using dice, yet it also features euro-style optimization and mechanisms.
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Stephen Keller
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You mention that the game is literally dripping with theme. Does it get your table wet?
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Mark Boulter
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Here is your answer...

Strengths:

...remarkably well-balanced game design and fluid gameplay
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