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Subject: My impressions after 3 solo plays of Gloom of Kilforth rss

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Josh Walton
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Maeleena the half-elven wizard lay slumped in the back of the cave, bleeding out. She had been here two days waiting for the hailstorm to end. Her quest to retrieve a scepter of immense power had led her down many dark and dangerous paths, but she knew it was her greed that had brought her to this point.

During her waking moments she told herself she only wanted the scepter so she could stop the gloom. She tried unsuccessfully to convince herself it was all the Prince of Ruin's fault. If he hadn't come and the gloom with him she never would have taken the quest. But in her heart she knew the truth. She saw in the quest for the mighty artifact the chance to prove herself, to show all of Sprawl City she was more than the magical powers she had inherited.

But mostly she slept, trying to heal, trying to outlast the storm. Would it ever stop hailing? As each night passed she could sense more and more of the land succumbing to the gloom. She couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. The wounds received from the surprise attack from that Reaper in the woods were fatal, and she knew it. But she just wanted to see one more sunrise. Feeling her death approaching she opened her eyes one last time, hopeful for perhaps one ray of sunlight to be visible.

The gloom descended upon her....



That was how my third game of Gloom of Kilforth: A Fantasy Quest Game came to a bitter end. And I couldn't have enjoyed it more.



This is a game of high adventure and powerful imagination. You will level up your character from a nobody who can barely get anything done in a day to a powerful warlord crushing demons with one roll of the dice. You will travel through varied locations encountering a wide swath of places and people. You will suffer painful losses and discover horrifying things. And you will do it all in one of the most beautifully realized and lovingly crafted worlds I have ever adventured in.

Rather than give a whole rundown of the game mechanics I just want to offer my impressions of the game after three solo plays. But first, just to give some context I'll point out my potential biases:

1. I love adventure games, and in particular ones with a fantasy theme.
2. I was a Kickstarter backer.
3. I don't know the designer personally but based on following these forums for a few years I think he seems to be a pretty cool dude and am generally predisposed to seeing him do well.


The things I love:

1. The artwork. There are some games that when they are mentioned the first comment is always about the art. This will be one of those games. Every single card is a unique painting of exquisite quality.

2. The emergent storytelling. This isn't a narrative driven game in the same vein as Above and Below or Mice and Mystics. But I dare say it tells a better story every time. Between your personal saga, the flavor text on the cards, and the unified feel of the world there is more than enough fertile soil for your imagination to craft an epic tale.

3. The Keyword system. A big part of the game is completing your personal saga. It's a five part story you must complete before you can battle the final boss. But it isn't some linear thing that you will play through the same way every time. In order to advance the story you must amass different keywords by collecting various cards. But here's what's so cool about it. Instead of telling me I have to go fight a certain person and collect a certain item and visit a certain place, since every card has multiple keywords I might play the same quest many times over but complete the objectives with different cards every time. Now, in the end mechanically it's the same thing. But in my mind it's telling a completely different story.

4. The world of Kilforth. I don't know anything about the setting of this game other than what I see on the cards but I want to. The various factions, the terrifying Ancients and the tantalizing locations make me wish this was a fully fleshed out IP replete with movies, novels, and breakfast cereals. I want to know more about this awesome world.

5. The sense of progression. You're constantly getting cool stuff in this game. And you have so much freedom of choice in how you get it. Every time you complete an encounter you get to choose if you want gold or take a chance and pull a loot token. Then you get to decide if you want to keep the card you just defeated or turn it in for something else. Every time you complete a chapter of your saga you increase your maximum health and gain a skill. But since there are two different skills for every level you can really customize your character.

6. It plays very well as a pure solo game. There are many good cooperative games that can be played solo, but most of them require you to control multiple characters. This game plays perfectly well controlling only one character.

7. It's not too long and not too short. It's deep and long enough to feel like you've really had a meaty game experience, but not so long that you feel like you might not be able to pull it out frequently. And along the same lines set up and take down are pretty quick. All told I think it takes about an hour start to finish once you don't have to look up rules anymore.

8. And of course the gameplay itself. There's a lot to like about the relatively simple action system, but I'll just point out a couple of things. I really like how completing encounters isn't down to just a win or lose die roll. You can choose to spend multiple actions building up successes over the course of a day. I also really enjoy how Rumours work. When you get a card like a spell or an ally it goes into your hand as a Rumour. You then have to travel to a specific location in order to put it into play. You always feel like you have somewhere to go and something to do.


The things I like but will only quickly mention:

1. The randomized map

2. The considerable variety of encounters and rewards

3. Battling the final boss really feels like a do or die final battle (largely because it is literally win or die)

4. All the wooden pieces are well done and add a lot of theme


The things that's don't bother me but others might not like:

1. The game is incredibly thematic, and part of what makes it so thematic is all the terminology. You don't exhaust a card or rotate it, you "veil" it. There are certain actions in the game that don't cost you an Action Point but they aren't called free actions they're called "Deeds". Things like that can sometimes make a game harder to learn whereas using more common terminology might assist in those first few games.

2. The game can be pretty dark. Sometimes you explore a forest and discover a peaceful glade or soaring temple. Or you might walk across a plain and encounter a beautiful noblewoman. Other times you're trudging through a swamp and a demon straight out of Hellraiser swoops down and bites your head off. Some of the artwork is downright terrifying (and gorgeous, always gorgeous) and may not be appropriate for some.

3. My third neutral point I hesitate to mention because I just don't know but I guess I'll say I wonder if it might be tricky to teach. I've only played it solo so I haven't actually taught anyone but after three plays I'm still discovering little rules I missed that aren't always the easiest to remember. That's true of many of these adventure games so again it's not a knock on the game but might bear mentioning.


The things that it would be nice if were different but I'm sure have good reasons for being the way they are:

1. It would be nice if there were more dice in the box. The game comes with 6 but I've had attack values of 15 at times. It would also be nice if there were two different colors of dice since the hero and the enemies technically attack at the same time so you could roll them together. But who among us doesn't have more dice somewhere?

2. It would be nice if the token bag were a little bigger BUT at least the game comes with a bag unlike some other games (looking at you every Arkham Files game).

3. It would be nice if there were player aid reference cards. There are a lot of different actions and a lot of different deeds and it would be really helpful to have those all listed on a reference with quick reminders of how they work. I've no doubt there will be some lovely fan made ones available but having them in the box would've been nice.


Overall this game is a solid 9 out of 10 for me. If you look at my ratings I tend to rate games highly so take that with a grain of salt but this has immediately jumped up among my favorites like Mage Knight and Arkham Horror. And it could be a 10, I just need to play it with others first to assess any other potential pros or cons that could come along with that. But as a solo game this is easily among the best. I love this game.
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Tristan Hall
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This has literally made my day, Josh - thanks so much for playing the game, and I'm so so happy that you're clearly enjoying it so much. Just, brill.
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Derrick Wildstar
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Josh, this was a fantastic write up. Often I read a great review and agree with much of what was said. But here I pretty much agree with everything you said! NO, really, like every line. Seems we are like minded in regard to games and especially our thoughts on this one.

Great job on the opening story piece, too!
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Claire
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Agreed thumbsup

I am using different coloured dice for the enemies. At times you have an attack value of 15-wow I def was playing wrong. I have ditched my first attempt and am going to start anew, as made too many mistakes. I shall take on the Deacon Of Betrayal adventure again-wish me luck edit *maybe not luck but a grasp on the rules* haha
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Richard Dewsbery
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toliveischrist77 wrote:
The things that's don't bother me but others might not like:

1. The game is incredibly thematic, and part of what makes it so thematic is all the terminology. You don't exhaust a card or rotate it, you "veil" it. There are certain actions in the game that don't cost you an Action Point but they aren't called free actions they're called "Deeds". Things like that can sometimes make a game harder to learn whereas using more common terminology might assist in those first few games.


I have yet to play the game properly; I've tried to understand the rules, but for me I actually need to see the pieces move around before I can really see what the rules mean. I tried a two-player game with a friend, but we quite quickly bogged down to the point where we had no idea what was going on, or what rules we were getting wrong.

Part of that was down to how the rule book was laid out and structured; it seemed terribly confusing that some rules were in one place, other rules governing the same action were somewhere else; some actions were summarised (in some detail), and then explained again a little later in the rule book. And the lengthy explanations as to what appeared where on the cards - without any context of what it actually meant, bewildered and frustrated me somewhat. Hopefully that will get better now I have endeavoured to watch EVERY video, and to re-read the rule book from cover to cover twice more.

But the number one factor that gets in my way of understanding what is going on is the chuffing terminology.

I'm sure that if you are trying to maintain an internal narrative, to weave a story around the game play, calling a free action a "deed" makes sense - I suppose. Although killing a monster, befriending a stranger or completing a quest would also be a "deed" in my corner of the universe. But I would much rather have read something in the rule book that simply said "this is a free action; it does not use one of your action points".

I have to put up with "veiling" a card rather than "tapping" it thanks to WOTC, but again I would have shied away from using an obscure term like "veiling" to describe something simple.

It reminds me a bit of Innovation (in fact, a lot of Chudyk's games), where words are not given their normal meaning and everyday concepts are given an esoteric term for reasons largely lost on me.

I'm hoping that the game can feel plenty thematic enough without unnecessary fripperies like overly complicated language and concepts. I know that when I finally understand the game and try to teach it to others, non-canonical terms like "tapping" and "free actions" will be making an appearance!

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Josh Walton
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ninjadorg wrote:
This has literally made my day, Josh - thanks so much for playing the game, and I'm so so happy that you're clearly enjoying it so much. Just, brill.


Well thanks for making it! In the six years I've been on BGG this is only the second review I've ever taken the time to write. I really want to help this game succeed and if putting a few words out there helps then I'm happy to do it.

Speaking of seeing the game succeed, Tristan are there going to be copies available for general sale? I plan to shout this from the rooftops but if people can't then go buy the game, well that just seems cruel!
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Derrick Wildstar wrote:
Josh, this was a fantastic write up. Often I read a great review and agree with much of what was said. But here I pretty much agree with everything you said! NO, really, like every line. Seems we are like minded in regard to games and especially our thoughts on this one.

Great job on the opening story piece, too!


Thanks so much! Sounds like I might be coming to you for future recommendations!
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AnimalMkIV wrote:
Agreed. Brilliant write up and exactly how I feel about the game. From my. Very first demo 18 months ago, I realized the scope of the game and it's ability to create fantastic stories. It's been a long wait but, damn it's been worth it.

This will be my go to solo game when I have a couple of hours free.

I taught this to two others last night a d it's not actually that bad, you can go over the main mechanics, the actions, deeds, sagas and ancient ones and then pick up on the little this GS as you go. I also decided to teach the competitive mode first as there is only one big bad to deal with which is more than enough for a first game.


Oh good to hear it! I'm really hoping to teach my wife soon. And that's a good tip on starting with competitive.
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DragonFly90 wrote:
Agreed thumbsup

I am using different coloured dice for the enemies. At times you have an attack value of 15-wow I def was playing wrong. I have ditched my first attempt and am going to start anew, as made too many mistakes. I shall take on the Deacon Of Betrayal adventure again-wish me luck edit *maybe not luck but a grasp on the rules* haha


Yeah I discovered the dice from Dice Heist work perfectly for this game. There are 7 white and 5 black which is usually going to be enough. The time I attacked with 15 was a perfect storm of awesome lol. Surprise, a skill that let me use my influence for attack along with a lot of influence boosting assets, plus a Blessing loot token for two more dice!

I made a ton of mistakes my first couple of games as well. I played my fourth yesterday and for the first time I *think* I didn't do anything wrong. Good luck/grasp on the rules!!
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Josh Walton
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RDewsbery wrote:
toliveischrist77 wrote:
The things that's don't bother me but others might not like:

1. The game is incredibly thematic, and part of what makes it so thematic is all the terminology. You don't exhaust a card or rotate it, you "veil" it. There are certain actions in the game that don't cost you an Action Point but they aren't called free actions they're called "Deeds". Things like that can sometimes make a game harder to learn whereas using more common terminology might assist in those first few games.


It reminds me a bit of Innovation (in fact, a lot of Chudyk's games), where words are not given their normal meaning and everyday concepts are given an esoteric term for reasons largely lost on me.

I'm hoping that the game can feel plenty thematic enough without unnecessary fripperies like overly complicated language and concepts. I know that when I finally understand the game and try to teach it to others, non-canonical terms like "tapping" and "free actions" will be making an appearance!



Amen to the Chudyk comment. I love his games but it's like he wants them to be hard to learn! Haha I too plan on breaking copyright laws when teaching this game and using the contraband word "tap"!
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Tristan Hall
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toliveischrist77 wrote:
Speaking of seeing the game succeed, Tristan are there going to be copies available for general sale? I plan to shout this from the rooftops but if people can't then go buy the game, well that just seems cruel!


If we can gather enough demand I'd love to do a second print run. I don't have the personal funds to put this up myself, but a number of distributors are already interested so let's see what happens. We might even end up back on Kickstarter...
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Sander van der Drift
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Thanks for your excellent written review! I received the game yesterday and after reading your impression I'm even more anxious to play the game soon. After scanning the manual I was indeed a little surprised that there's no reference sheet or something like that. Would be useful.

One question. You've already described that playing solo is excellent. Still, do you think that solo playing with multiple heroes would add anything to the game(play)?
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Josh Walton
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OmegaDragon wrote:
One question. You've already described that playing solo is excellent. Still, do you think that solo playing with multiple heroes would add anything to the game(play)?


You know, that's an excellent question. I haven't really been tempted to try it, partially because I don't feel like anything's missing from the pure solo experience, and partially because the way I'm set up on my not overly large table I don't have anywhere to put someone else. I know the co-op experience provides the opportunity to share rumours from hand, as well as team up to tackle encounters. I suspect that that would add another tactical layer of movement around the board as you could choose whether to spread out to cover more ground, or stick together and take down challenges easier.

So now that you've given me the chance to think about this for a minute I guess my answer would annoyingly be yes and no lol. I do think having another hero would add some elements to the game, but as always at the added expense of managing a larger pool of cards and options. For me playing two handed in a game like Lord of the Rings LCG is done more out of necessity than desire. The challenge of the game is much easier to manage with two parties so I play that way. If I have the option to just play with one hero and the game works well that way, I think I'll probably stick to that and get my chances to experience the multiple hero game when I can get someone else to the table with me. But if I had no hope of that happening as I know some people do then I would totally try out a second hero.
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AnimalMkIV wrote:
Solo playing multiple characters would lose a lot of the feel in my opinion.

It's not very often you get a solid adventure game that is designed to be played properly solo and the way GoK works, you really can get invested in 'being' your character.

Playing multiple characters would be like a step backwards. Not only would you lose the sense of involvement, but you would have multiple sets of cards everywhere as each character needs their sagas, race, class & skill cards, their discovered assets display and their 'hand' of rumour cards as well as all their tokens & counters. It would just become another messy co-op or like trying to read two or three books at the same time.

The game is so smooth and so immersive you really don't want to ruin it.


Also, this.
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David Ross
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Nice review.
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I agree with everything the OP said. This is a great game, with absolutely stunning artwork. I've only played it solo 3 times so far, but look forward to a 2-player run-through.
Thank you, Tristan Hall. It was well worth the wait !
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Tony C
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So after my big one play - I agree. One character solo. (And I usually do play multiple characters).
The character evolves enough and is dynamic enough that I want to experience and play 'that character', which would be diluted if I were handling two or more characters.
In many other asymmetric co-op games, the characters either aren't that different (A Touch of Evil, DotR), don't really evolve, or the game requires multiple characters (Sentinels of the Multiverse). Even if I play the exact same character next time, s/he will evolve quite differently on my next play.
(Plus, of course, the rule of 6 means you might have to understand up to 22 different characteristics per character.)

I also agree with lots of other stuff that was said - great art, good character development, not incredibly difficult to learn (once getting past game-specific terminology). My first game was long but it was entirely a learning game.
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A. B. West
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Adding to the pile of compliments, great review! And certainly a wonderfully conceived game. Happy to have backed it, happy to play it!
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If you own Eldritch Horror, I strongly recommend replacing it with this.

However, that's an unfair statement because I don't like Eldritch Horror. It's too random. Decisions don't matter enough. The story is so thin that my wife didn't even put together a narrative at the end because she quit reading flavor text when it became inconsistent.

Gloom of Kilforth tells the story through mechanics and augments the storytelling aspect with inspiring flavor text and beautiful, dramatic art that nudge the imagination without attempting to replace it.

Shadows of Malice is equally recommendable as a similar thematic machine with great storytelling and good decisions, but it's much heavier, much longer, and the art is lovely in a very old-school, less impressive way.

Anyone want to buy an Eldritch Horror collection?
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ninjadorg wrote:
toliveischrist77 wrote:
Speaking of seeing the game succeed, Tristan are there going to be copies available for general sale? I plan to shout this from the rooftops but if people can't then go buy the game, well that just seems cruel!


If we can gather enough demand I'd love to do a second print run. I don't have the personal funds to put this up myself, but a number of distributors are already interested so let's see what happens. We might even end up back on Kickstarter...


If you ever run a second print, please make an upgrade pledge for those who backed first print
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I mainly bought this for solo (1 hero) play and I'm glad you've found it awesome for a single hero. You have me pumped for the game!
And... of course it just arrived today
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Hate to be a downer here, but my experience was quite different.
I did not play solo for my first attempt, we played a 4 player game and a friend of mine was the person who backed the KS and had read the rules primarily.
The artwork is fantastic, and the game was setup when we arrived.
Upon trying to start the game was when all the trouble started. No player aids? Seriously, this is a HUGE pitfall right out of the gate. There are literally like 30 actions you can take if you include the Deeds that are listed.
The rulebook is laid out in terrible fashion without good examples of gameplay. We hit the first card and turned up an encounter (not a monster per se, and excuse my lack of terminology) and it literally took 10 minutes to page through the rulebook to figure out if we had to fight it this round or the next.
After coming to a determination on that, it was super confusing to figure out how you were supposed to keep track of what happened from round to round, since you carry over success on certain locations. We ended up using other dice to keep track on the card. Of course, there is no real reference in the rulebook on how to keep track of this, and it's pretty vague on having to do it in the first place.
Also, to that effect, I always dislike in a game when it gets to be my turn, I roll 6 dice, they all fail success, and my turn is over. What a waste of time. Clearly, building your character, you can mitigate some of this, but that is a rather slow progression with the rumor system and 3 other players.
Another thing we really dislike was how punishing failing an attack was. Not only do you take damage from monsters no matter what, but each hit takes away your vital actions during the round. This was just too much, as you already failed to roll your successes and wasted your turn, you are now going to be punished by even having less turns to finish out the round, and get the added bonus of having less actions next round due to your lower health.
My biggest gripe with this game is the rulebook and lack of player aids though. It is a MASSIVE failing and should not be underestimated. If there is a 2nd printing, this is an absolute must.
I did enjoy the "story" the game was trying to tell and how you build out your character, but it did seem apparent that this game might have been constructed for solo play only, as then only 1 player needs to look through the rulebook and enjoy their custom adventure.

Multiplayer Pros:
Great Artwork
Interesting Story
Interesting character progression
Cons:
Long play time
Absolutely horrible startup time due to lack of player aids and rulebook layout/descriptions
Punishing combat system
Not enough luck mitigation
Slow ramp up time
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Michael Bacon
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It sounds like your group had at least two bad things going on :

1. The owner did not know how to play. The rulebook is one of the better rulebooks I've used in a game, though it has some failings. This is not a game that should be delved into with a group if you don't understand it. It's not a gateway game.

2. Most of the luck mitigation is in making good choices. The early game is about hiding and avoiding fights. Focus are punishing because getting murdered by things you aren't yet ready for is punishing. Enemies are easy to avoid and must be avoided early in the game.

3.It's not slow and doesn't ramp up slowly if you're doing the above. I could be wrong about this when playing with four players. That is a lot!

I played my first game very poorly, by the way. I was defeated every turn for a bit.
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Tristan Hall
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MilkFromACow wrote:
Hate to be a downer here, but my experience was quite different.
I did not play solo for my first attempt, we played a 4 player game and a friend of mine was the person who backed the KS and had read the rules primarily.
The artwork is fantastic, and the game was setup when we arrived.
Upon trying to start the game was when all the trouble started. No player aids? Seriously, this is a HUGE pitfall right out of the gate. There are literally like 30 actions you can take if you include the Deeds that are listed.
The rulebook is laid out in terrible fashion without good examples of gameplay. We hit the first card and turned up an encounter (not a monster per se, and excuse my lack of terminology) and it literally took 10 minutes to page through the rulebook to figure out if we had to fight it this round or the next.
After coming to a determination on that, it was super confusing to figure out how you were supposed to keep track of what happened from round to round, since you carry over success on certain locations. We ended up using other dice to keep track on the card. Of course, there is no real reference in the rulebook on how to keep track of this, and it's pretty vague on having to do it in the first place.
Also, to that effect, I always dislike in a game when it gets to be my turn, I roll 6 dice, they all fail success, and my turn is over. What a waste of time. Clearly, building your character, you can mitigate some of this, but that is a rather slow progression with the rumor system and 3 other players.
Another thing we really dislike was how punishing failing an attack was. Not only do you take damage from monsters no matter what, but each hit takes away your vital actions during the round. This was just too much, as you already failed to roll your successes and wasted your turn, you are now going to be punished by even having less turns to finish out the round, and get the added bonus of having less actions next round due to your lower health.
My biggest gripe with this game is the rulebook and lack of player aids though. It is a MASSIVE failing and should not be underestimated. If there is a 2nd printing, this is an absolute must.
I did enjoy the "story" the game was trying to tell and how you build out your character, but it did seem apparent that this game might have been constructed for solo play only, as then only 1 player needs to look through the rulebook and enjoy their custom adventure.

Multiplayer Pros:
Great Artwork
Interesting Story
Interesting character progression
Cons:
Long play time
Absolutely horrible startup time due to lack of player aids and rulebook layout/descriptions
Punishing combat system
Not enough luck mitigation
Slow ramp up time



Oh man, that sucks Jason - I'm sorry you had a terrible time with the game.

I would never introduce a game like this to my friends without learning the rules first. I find that one of the huge benefits of games with solo modes like this is that you can play them through first, get the rules straight in your head, have a great experience for yourself, and then when you introduce the game to your group you're already up and running.

The rulebook does tell you to use any handy tokens to track your successes, but these rules forums have taught me that in future we need to outline exactly which tokens you must use for this or people will get confused.

The back of the rulebook is filled with reference charts for all of the actions and deeds you can perform in the game, but a kindly BGGer has also uploaded a player aid to the files section here on BGG - maybe your group could make good use of it? And I'll certainly consider swapping the rulebook reference charts for separate player aids in future. Thank you for highlighting some positives along with your negative experiences too, it helps soften the blow a little.
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Richard Dewsbery
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I would have to echo some of these comments.

I too found the rule book terribly confusing; I had one bad aborted game, trying to play it through with a friend, both of us getting very confused. the second game went a lot smoother (with another friend), as each of us had "pushed the pieces around" and had started to understand what could or could not be done. I am now much more confident that I could explain the game tolerably well, and get a new player playing the game relatively quickly and smoothly, because at it's heart this is not a terribly complicated game. But the rule book makes it sound a lot heavier going than it is.

As Tristan has said, the back of the rule book contains quite a bit that is useful; after the first 30 minutes of last night's game we had the rule book open at that page and only looked elsewhere a few times (but that wasn't always easy - there are effectively THREE glossary or definition sections, arguably four if you include the card layout section, and that does not help ease you into it). I think a decent player aid might help - although sometimes they get in the way of my understanding a game properly.

There are actually only a few actions that you really need to understand, and a few "free actions" ("Deeds"); and the rule book sometimes fools you into thinking that some of the actions are more complicated than they really are.

I thought that the lack of success tokens was a huge issue, but actually it's not that major (though I will be adding some player-coloured discs as soon as I have the chance to hunt through my bits box).

In terms of progression, we found that yes, it started slow - but concentrate on leveling ("regaling to advance your saga") and it really ramps up. Unless you get into a fight that batters you - that's a BIG speedbump, and understanding how to avoid getting walloped is pretty important to getting any enjoyment from the experience. Most turns roll around pretty quick, and the only real issue I had with turn timing was that if you were down to 1AP, and other players had leveled a couple of times, you end up making camp really early on that day and sit around twiddling your thumbs waiting for night. But it wasn't a biggy for us.

I'm fairly sure that I will enjoy it more when I try it again (although one of the three players from last night's game declared that it was "one and done" for him.
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