Recommend
24 
 Thumb up
 Hide
19 Posts

Path of Light and Shadow» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Life in Games Kickstarter Recommendation rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb


Path of Light and Shadow is a new game designed by the trio of Travis Chance, Nick Little, and Jonathan Gilmour in which players engage in a struggle to dominate the realm as the heirs of once great houses.  The methods by which each player attempts to achieve this goal are largely up to them, as they may be as merciful or cruel as they wish while reaping both the benefits and drawbacks that come with either. Do you have what it takes to crush your enemies and claim the realm by right of conquest?  Choose your path, but choose wisely as only one will lead to victory!

The Kickstarter campaign for Path of Light and Shadow begins on Tuesday May 9th and is being run by the well-known publisher Indie Boards and Cards.  This should reasonably remove any concern potential backers may have about the reliability of the people running the project, as it is a first-rate operation.  Rather than give a full rules explanation, I will instead give an overview of the mechanics and gameplay that make this such an interesting game.



Game Overview

The realm over which the players are battling!
The Path of Light and Shadow is played over the course of three years(rounds) with each round being made up of four game turns.  At the end of each year players will earn points based on the current state of the board position.

Each player gets one turn during each game turn, that is made up of their main phase, when most of the action takes place, and an end phase during which recruiting occurs.
During a players Main Phase they may move their leader, build a structure (advance on the tech tree), use and action ability(shown on cards), recruit an ally if the conditions are met cull cards from their deck and gain cruelty, promote a card, and attempt to conquer a province.  These actions may be performed in any order to the player’s best advantage, and some may be performed multiple times.
 
During a player’s End Phase they resolve any end of turn abilities they may have and then recruit.  The player must recruit a card from the deck that matches the type of province their leader is in and may recruit a second one from the same deck to increase their merciful rating by one.
That is the basic turn structure.  Pretty standard stuff in many ways, but the standouts are the impact of the culling in regards to cruelty, the recruiting and its effect on mercy, and a very interesting combat system.

As the name of the game implies there are two major paths that players may pursue in the game.  One of those main paths is cruelty and it is done by culling cards from one’s deck.  Most cards have a strength value and it may be used to cull (remove) other cards from the player’s hand or discard pile.  Each card culled increases the player’s cruelty by one.  Mechanically this thins a player’s deck and improves their draws.  Thematically, this represents a cruel leader who only keeps the strongest and most fanatically devoted to the cause.  Taking this path allows the player to push their cruelty to a level where certain cards grant benefits for such behavior!

The other primary path is that of the merciful leader.  While there are a number of ways to boost a player’s mercy, the most straightforward is to recruit an extra card during the End of Turn Phase.  Much like culling for cruelty, this is interesting both thematically and mechanically.  Mechanically, the player grows their deck and weakens the average strength of their draws, but as many cards provide end of game victory points it can improve their chances for victory.  Thematically, it shows a leader who accepts all who flock to the banner and attempts to rise to power through creating as large a coalition as possible.
Both of these features are integral to the game and a player should commit to one or the other as the middle is a terrible place to be.  As Machiavelli said you can generally be loved or feared and it the Path of Light and Shadow either is effective, but you must choose one!



Lastly is the unique combat system which is also linked with the terrific 3D towers that represent the strength and value of the castle in a province.  Unlike most area control games an empty province is not free for the taking.  Each province already has an existing stronghold and its strength and value are determined by the number of pips on the tower pieces in the province.  Even if it is not controlled by another player, it must be still be conquered to bring it under one’s sway. 

Even more interesting is that doing so may very well result in damage being done to the towers and reducing its future strength and value!  This is awesome! I have never played a game that employed such a mechanic despite it being such an intuitive and realistic outcome of a battle.

Not destroying the province one conquers is important not only for its eventual point value but also for the defensive value it provides should another player try to take it.  This is because an attacking player declares it chooses a number of cards from hand, places them facedown, and declares the number of cards that are being used to conquer.  If the defender has any cards in hand capable of a defense they may now be declared.  Both players, resolve any battle abilities on their cards, calculate their strength and roll a number of battle dice to modify their strength.  The defender also adds in the number of pips on the tower in the province being defended and the player with the highest total wins.

This is just a brief overview of the combat system, but I assure you it is great!  There is a sense of unknown on the part of both players that creates tension.  The attacker has to worry about going too strong and potentially causing damage to the prize, but also deal with the danger of attacking too weakly if the defender has enough cards in hand to react.  Mix in the custom die rolls and there is an opportunity for some wild outcomes depending how much risk you are willing to take.  I say risk you are willing to take, because despite the number of unknowns a player can be cautious and almost guarantee victory if they want to wait for the right conditions.  However, time is tight and fortune favors, and sometimes crushes, the bold and a well-timed gamble can really pay off!

At the end of the 12th turn players once again score the pips on their castles and receive bonus for controlling multiple provinces of the same type, as well as any influence value on cards in their decks, influence for their allies, any points for structures they have built.  The player with the highest point total is the victor!

My Impression

I am a big fan of this game!  Path of Light and Shadow is fascinating because it is full of new takes on familiar mechanics.  It is absolutely an area control game, or as those of us who love them like to say, “a dudes on the map game.”  Yet, each player will only ever have one actual dude on the map!   All players begin the game with a near identical deck of cards that will be augmented over the course of the game as cards are mercifully recruited or cruelly culled.  Yet, it is in almost no way a traditional deckbuilding game.  It is more of deck and hand management game, where a player’s deck is representative of his civilization/faction and the strategy it is pursuing towards victory.  There is a tech tree through which players are able to enhance their faction and customize the strategy they wish to follow.  Yet, this is no run of the mill civilization building game that takes countless hours to play and effectively renders itself unplayable in the process (more on this later).  It is most certainly a game about conquering lands and battling the other players.  Yet, unlike many such games the players will be forced to choose a moral path where they will either mercifully renew the lands that they liberate and seek to defend or cruelly and wantonly destroy everything leaving a wake of destruction for all to contend with. This is a game about decisions and the consequences that a leader must face as a result of those decisions.
 
I mentioned earlier, as the name implies, it is game with two primary paths.  However, there are numerous ways to pursue both of those paths creating many different ways to play.  The word that I think best describes it is…room.  There is so much room in this game to explore that it calls to a player like me!  I love games that allow players to experiment with a wide array of play styles and Path of Light and Shadow completely delivers in this regard.

Another great thing about the game, and one that makes my previous observation possible, is that it plays in a very reasonable amount of time.  You can have as much “room” in a game as you want, but if it takes 10 hours to play no one will dare to explore creative strategies as time invested is too great to take such chances and possibly ruin your experience.  The Path of Light and Shadow plays in about 90 to 120 minutes, and I felt engaged the entire time.  It is possible they have achieved one of the Holy Grails of game design…a civ game(sort of) with a with manageable play time!



Players simply have so many options from the factions on which they focus, the structures they build, promoting their weaker cards or cruelly culling them, and whether to defend powerful castles or watch the world burn that the Path of Light and Shadow will demand many plays to even begin unlocking all of its secrets!   I would advise caution to those who dislike direct conflict or games of a hardcore nature, as it can be quite punishing, but for all others it is a must have!  It is because of this that I give it my highest recommendation and urge those with tastes like mine to back it on Kickstarter or seek it out when it reaches retail!  It is a great game that offers an epic experience and tons of fun for those brave enough to conquer it!

This article was originally posted at www.lifeingames.com.
33 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Salman Qaisar
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for the review.
Is there much downtime?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
There is some, but as the players become more competent at navigating the system, turns tend to move very quickly. Downtime is also limited to some degree because often two players will battle on each turn. As the game only accommodates 2-4 players that means at least 50% of the players will be engaged each turn when there is a battle. It is also far less than most dudes on the map games because each player only has one dude.
3 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Duo Maxwell
United States
flag msg tools
mbmb
Very intriguing. I sort of wished the towers were a little more fanciful design but still this game looks very interesting. I am pretty sure I will back this one.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt
United States
Noblesville
Indiana
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Zalman wrote:
Thanks for the review.
Is there much downtime?


I played this with one of the designers recently, and there wasn't much downtime at all in our 4-player game. Aside from the battling that was already discussed, you are always interested in what others are doing on their turn. Are they moving closer to a province you control? Are they promoting their guys? This in particular makes you pay attention, because there is only 1 "legendary" tier 3 upgrade for everything, so whoever gets there first gets the only one. So if another player upgrades to the legendary you were going for, you need to switch gears and maybe upgrade someone else. Also, as other players battle (either against each other or just against an unclaimed province), provinces become weaker, which may influence what you want to do on your turn.

I've only played the one game, and this would change as you play more, but you can do SO MUCH with every card in your hand, that I spent the entire time that it wasn't my turn trying to figure out what I was going to do on my turn. Do I use these two or three guys to build? Or do I use these guys to cull this other guy? Do I want this guy for his stats, or for his action? Do I hold this guy with a shield back, because I think someone is about to attack me? Do I use this guy to promote a character in my discard, and these 4 to battle? And WHO do I want to promote? Again, there's a race to the legendary ones! So if I wait...but if I use him to build instead, then I'll have some cool ability.... Just so many decisions.

I definitely agree with the OP, that this is hand management and area control mixed very well. It's like a little puzzle you have to figure out with every new hand of cards. So yeah, I felt there was very little downtime, even with two of us being first-time players.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
UA Darth
United States
Boca Raton
FL
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I saw dice and decided not to back. I assume there is a decent amount of luck?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Big Head Zach
United States
Atlanta
Georgia
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
shadow9d9 wrote:
I saw dice and decided not to back. I assume there is a decent amount of luck?


The dice are only used as a partial randomizer of combat results in several interesting ways:

1) When you assemble offensive/defensive forces from your hand, the card with the highest combat value is actually set aside, and you roll dice equal to its value instead. So if you bring an army of 1-1-1-1-2, you have a fixed value of 4, plus the value of 2 dice. These dice somewhat resemble Fudge Dice in that some faces show a Strength icon (counting as 1), some faces show a Ruin (resulting in damage to the defensive structures or casualties done to cards post-battle), some are blank, and at least one face shows both a Strength and a Ruin. If you rely on only a few cards to carry you through the fight, your combat total can vary a bit, so the game encourages you to have a sizeable force, even if their total is low compared to your strongest card.

1a) There are technology advances you can acquire which let you manipulate the outcome/effects of the dice roll in your favor (or against your opponents' rolls).

1b) This also encourages you to engage in raids/small attacks (and defend against them) because you still stand a chance to damage your opponents' deck/defenses with Ruin results, making future fights easier.

1c) When a player defends their territory, they pledge one or more cards that can defend (has the shield icon) face down, then draw replacements back into their hand. Deckbuilders will realize this means free churn at little risk (similar to the Cellar in Dominion). You're rather encouraged to send the 1-point mooks in, because at worst you draw through them, and at best they become casualties and you trim - and also because of how totaling combat value works, every card you play in excess of the highest one, counts fully and is not an unknown quantity.


So, it's necessary to have the dice so that there is not a 100% certainty of the results, but through selection of cards and acquisition of technologies, risk can be largely mitigated to suit your playstyle. Plus, it's necessary in order to simulate the destruction of forces and defensive structures that works with the deckbuilding element.

If you detest any luck in your combat system, then obviously you'll still be disappointed.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
There is certainly no denying that there is luck in this game. Card draws, dice, and random recruits. That being said, I am very anti luck/randomness in my tastes and did not mind it as much in this game. I think this is because there are paths a player can choose that are more conservative and less dice reliant if that is their preference. I would compare the dice in Path of Light and Shadow to the dice in Twilight Struggle. They can have an impact, but the better player/strategy will almost always prevail.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
UA Darth
United States
Boca Raton
FL
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Interesting. Thanks for the clarification. I will have to keep an eye on this.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I totally understand. I am a big dice hater myself! ;)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Davis Stringer
United States
Mississippi
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Great Review! I'm chomping at the bit to get at this game. It will also be my first deck builder!


Disagree on towers though. They really seem to be the only weak link in this game. They look like stone chests or some kind of medieval shipping crate. They could be jewelry boxes stacked one on top of the other. In some images the way they arranged looks like a stone privy with two holes. 3 out of 10 at best. Whatever they look like, the image invoked is not of a tower or castle.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Salman Qaisar
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
stevuscaticus wrote:
Great Review! I'm chomping at the bit to get at this game. It will also be my first deck builder!


Disagree on towers though. They really seem to be the only weak link in this game. They look like stone chests or some kind of medieval shipping crate. They could be jewelry boxes stacked one on top of the other. In some images the way they arranged looks like a stone privy with two holes. 3 out of 10 at best. Whatever they look like, the image invoked is not of a tower or castle.



I agree, I really like what this game offers.
- Only thing i'm neutral on is the card art, many ppl seem to love it, i think it's a bit boring.
- But only 1 thing I don't like at the mo is the towers - I like the idea of them, the ruin + points + visible indication of rank etc - but they just look like boring grey lego pieces!
Compare them to the awesome sculpts for strongholds in Rising sun - different colours, detailed sculpts, still stackable, unique sculpt for turtle clan etc.
Or Santorini - wonderful!

Anyway, it's probably too late for them to do anything about them, even if they agreed with us. cry
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks Dave! I am glad you found the review helpful. Interesting thoughts on the castle blocks. As a game designer myself I was taken in by the excellent functionality of the castle pieces. That along with the fact that I tend to play more games with cubes and disks (euros) that the towers seem very cool to me. It certainly is a subjective matter, but I can see how those more accustomed to things like Rising Sun would find them bland looking by comparison. However, I assure the game has it where it counts! :)
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kevin John
United States
Tallahassee
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Zalman wrote:
I agree, I really like what this game offers.
- Only thing i'm neutral on is the card art, many ppl seem to love it, i think it's a bit boring.
- But only 1 thing I don't like at the mo is the towers - I like the idea of them, the ruin + points + visible indication of rank etc - but they just look like boring grey lego pieces!
Compare them to the awesome sculpts for strongholds in Rising sun - different colours, detailed sculpts, still stackable, unique sculpt for turtle clan etc.
Or Santorini - wonderful!

Anyway, it's probably too late for them to do anything about them, even if they agreed with us. cry


Think about it though, if they made the castle pieces multiple colors, then every time you conquer you're going to have to switch out all the towers to your color. That would be annoying especially compared to just switching out a flag.

The shape of them could be changed but that's kind of a subjective thing. I think they look like little medieval walls which I assume is what they were going for considering the medieval-ish theme.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Frank Weiß
Germany
Grenzach-Wyhlen
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thanks for your review. Can you recommend it with just two?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am glad you found the review helpful! Sadly, I did not have an opportunity to play the game with only two players, so that limits my ability to give such a recommendation . However, given the smaller board for 2 players only I don't see why it would not still be a great game. I imagine each player would have more control with only one opponent to contend with, thus reducing the game's unpredictability. If you prefer high control 2 player would probably be great. If you prefer multiplayer interaction and the chaos that can come with it 2 player may be lees up your alley. I hope that helps.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Frank Weiß
Germany
Grenzach-Wyhlen
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Thanks a lot, Chris! That helps.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Davis Stringer
United States
Mississippi
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
thedirtyhamm wrote:
Thanks Dave! I am glad you found the review helpful. Interesting thoughts on the castle blocks. As a game designer myself I was taken in by the excellent functionality of the castle pieces. That along with the fact that I tend to play more games with cubes and disks (euros) that the towers seem very cool to me. It certainly is a subjective matter, but I can see how those more accustomed to things like Rising Sun would find them bland looking by comparison. However, I assure the game has it where it counts!


After several plays I've found that it helps lessen my "OCD aesthetic snobbery" to arrange the tower pieces in several different manners to invoke the idea of castles, towers, and fortresses rather than just stack them without any thought. We've come up with several arrangements for each number including twin "Frey" towers in one of the "Riverlands" territories!!!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hamm
United States
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Haha...very nice! Thanks for reading!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.