Clinton Paris
United States
Post Falls
Idaho
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Introduction
At this point, every serious board gamer is well aware of the splash Gloomhaven has made in the board gaming world. An amazing narrative and abundant components aside, it would still be a noteworthy title for taking the dungeon crawl and turning it into deep, tactical game by freeing it from the tyranny of dice and excessive doses of luck. The result resonated with a gaming world yearning for more substance in their adventurers’ delves. What would happen if the same could be done to a miniature skirmish game themed around the world’s most popular type of competitive computer game? Guards of Atlantis dares to both ask and answer that question.

What’s a MOBA?
Guards of Atlantis proudly touts itself as a “Tabletop MOBA”. Computer games such as League of Legends and DOTA2 not only introduced us to the MOBA (Massive Online Battle Area) years ago, but continue to dominate the competitive computer gaming scene today. Millions of viewers tune in every week to watch their favorite teams compete for thousands of dollars with intense battles and hours of professional analysis. Even for the uninitiated, watching one broadcast demonstrates why these titles are so compelling, especially when played by gamers at the top of their craft. Wolffe Designa, publisher of Guards of Atlantis, has bravely crafted their analog interpretation of the MOBA by trying to distill the feel of the game into a luckless, tactical miniatures game that impresses on many levels.

E Gloomhaven? Really? W
At the risk of pandering to the current popular trend in gaming, the Gloomhaven comparison to Guards of Atlantis is not a stretch by any means. Both ask the player to pick an action for the turn from a small deck of cards. Once the cards of all the players are selected, they are revealed and resolved in priority order, forcing players to sometimes adapt their play by taking alternate actions available on their selection. The kicker here is that Guards of Atlantis is a PVP game: no co-op here! Rather, nearly every turn feels tense and almost stressful as players and their teammates discuss and ultimately decide what actions to lock in, while preparing alternate plans that their selections will allow them to explore.

Another Gloomhaven-esque mechanism comes when it is time to level-up one's hero. After choosing what skill to improve, players are forced to pick between two options. After a choice is made, the other will never again be available. Choose wisely, as the evolution of your hero cannot be undone! The almost masochistic pleasure of having to decide what path to take is simply excellent, and creates an instant desire to play again after the game is done in order to explore the path not taken as players think about “builds” they can explore in the future.

bacon Truly Multiplayer bacon
Not many board games support more than five players well. Guards of Atlantis not only shatters this multiplayer glass ceiling, but gets better with each player added. Other games simply divide the available game space between players, making larger games an exercise in enjoying rationed play. Guards of Atlantis instead opts for an “additive” approach that gives the game more layers with each additional player. Even more impressive is its resiliency to not collapse under the weight of nine players (or 11 with the highly recommended expansion!) by providing a streamlined play that doesn’t skimp on player agency. I for one have never been so amazed by the cognitive demands of simply having to play a single card from a hand of five each turn!

heartConclusionheart
While I will concede that the gaming world may dismiss this title as a simple niche product themed around a style of competitive computer game, I have been to Atlantis and back, having explored the game space many times over. Guards of Atlantis is a highly unique experience in a world of “Heavy Euros” and “Resource Engine Builders” that will challenge you in new and exciting ways. And if the allure of Gloomhaven can give you a peek as to what that entails, Guards of Atlantis will definitely surprise in the best of ways.



FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated with a copy of this game or expansion. This review is brought to you purely from my experience with my own purchase that I would happily make again!


meeple


Edit -- Typos
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Achim Zien
Germany
Oldenburg
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There's a theory: if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There's another theory: this has already happened.
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I know, I know, I need to get this to the table more often. modest

I really love the way that all the important decisions of a MOBA are in the game, but the upkeep and fiddliness is pretty much completely absent. You can just focus on your decision, their decisions and their consequences.

Move minions? Why? They are just the Background before which the heroes maneuver and attack. And really, their attacks are not deadly but simply buffs to heroes' attacks.

Hit points? Why? Either you survive the attack or you get away, that is all that matters.

Randomness? Why? It just dilutes meaningful decision. Your opponents' decisions will provide all the uncertainty you need.

Some more streamlining effects: Unify the two progression scales of coin and XP. Make items into passive buffs for the things you *actually* want to do. Abolish line-of-sight.

It's really that brilliant.

Actually, I could even introduce it to non-gamers and they were quite happy smashing poor minions and obstructing the enemy.
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Dionisis Stefanitsis
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Why do you think this is not a popular game? Is this because it's a niche game? Probably not many MOBA players are also board gamers..
 
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Mark Thomas
United States
Findlay
Ohio
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I think it's a harder to find title. It's been getting good word of mouth, slowly, and I think it has a bright future with the upcoming second box set.
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John Aronis
New Zealand
Christchurch
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TheGelatinousCube wrote:
I think it's a harder to find title. It's been getting good word of mouth, slowly, and I think it has a bright future with the upcoming second box set.

I was just describing this game to a friend and I explained it as "gloomhaven's combat done as PvP". Just thought it was funny.
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