I recently received my kickstarter copy of the game and after half a dozen games I decided I could write an early review of the game. This will be my first review, so feedback is welcome.
The card row and the current situation of one player.
Enchanters is a simple, easy to set up and play fantasy card drafting game. The cards are in a row and the cost of the card depends on its position.
Card types include items, enchantments, monsters and dragons.
The players are crafting an enchanted item to kill monsters to earn victory points.
How to play
To set up the game you choose one monster deck per player (there are 6 of them), or 4 decks for a two player game, using only the cards marked with a '2' (they are marked on the back and it is easy to see them, so the sorting is quick as well).
The decks are shuffled together, you choose a village (which will define the rest actions for that game and might contain additional scoring opportunities) at random and set up the initial journey deck (the row of cards from where the players can buy cards).
The starting row of items gets created of only items and enchantments - you draw cards from the bottom of the deck until you find 6 non-monster cards and than put all monsters and dragons you found during the process back on the bottom.
Each player has a row of items, a row of enchantments and a row of defeated enemies. They start with 5 crystals (the currency of the game).
On their turn a player can do one mayor action and as many minor actions as there are available. All minor actions can be only taken once per turn (unless they are labeled as multiaction) and are written as [cost] -> [effect].
The two major actions available are getting a card from the journey row or taking a rest.
To take a card the player has to pay crystals depending on its current position. The leftmost card is free, all further along the track cost one crystal for each card on their left (so the costs are in order: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5).
When taking an item or enchantment the player covers the upper part of the previous item/enchantment they have. So previous things can have a lasting bonus, but some other bonuses or maybe special minor or rest actions of the item can get covered.
When a player takes a monster or dragon from the row they need to get enough attack (the combination of their current attack from items and the usage of minor actions if needed) to match or exceed the monsters health. The player will take wounds equal to the difference of their defense and the monsters attack. Wounds are worth -1 victory point at the end of the game.
Some monsters can grant lasting bonuses or penalties to stats and they can also occasionally have some minor actions on them just like items.
Some items/enchantments/monsters have a special effect when you get/defeat them, noted on their card with a arrow pointing down - those effects happen before the card gets placed in its appropriate row in front of the player.
The other major action is resting. The chosen village will define the rest actions, usually a healing rest action and a action to get crystals (though there are exceptions). Occasionally the rest action can have an additional cost e.g. paying a crystal as well to heal.
Some items can give the player access to other rest actions (the icon is a cross). Of course in that case only the player owning that item can use that action and only if it isn't covered by another card (if I'm not mistaken all minor and rest actions on items are on the upper part which can get covered).
When a player rests the leftmost card in the journey row is discarded.
After a turn the cards in the journey row slide to the left to fill any empty spaces and a new card is added (if there are any left in the deck) to the most expensive spot.
The game ends once there are no more cards left in the row.
The cards are of high quality, linen finished and the art is really nice as well.
The village art is especially gorgeous, and since they are oversized it stands out even more. But the size is also a slight drawback, since the village cards seem to warp slightly.
Tokens are easy to recognize and my only micro complain is that there is no 5 crystal token.
The paper player mat doesn't really look that good on a table in my opinion, but in the end it is not needed at all. We used it for the first couple of games, since it has all the rules on it from setup to scoring. So we just stopped using it later (it also further reduces the table footprint of the game).
The players get cards and two tokens to mark their attack and defense, which is a nice addition, so you don't have to recount every turn.
The rulebook is short and clear, but there appears to be a mistake in it in one of the examples (they describe the scimtar item, but the number is in the wrong place, but I don't think that would cause to much confusion)
The player do get the feeling of constructing a stringer and stringer magical item the longer the game goes, so that aspect feels really thematic.
But on the other had the rulebook says that the players are defending the village and that part of the game doesn't come through at all... If you rest and a monsters gets discarded there is no penalty at all. And you don't really feel like you protect something, but more like you are having a nice little competition who can kill more/better enemies (the dragon and monster cards will provide the most victory point, though some items can have them as well).
The cards have quite cheesy flavor text, the item and enchantment even combine their texts. I personally like that kind of humor, but in the end noone has to read those text if they don't want to.
Replayability and variability
Variability is enormous.
The game comes with 6 different decks, each having its own theme, which can change the way the game plays out quite a bit - e.g. the unicorn deck has a lot of monsters which doesn't provide victory points, but they heal the player defeating them, so taking wounds can be much less of an issue if it is shuffled in the adventure deck.
And an even bigger gamechanger is the village card - there is 21 of them in the box and each will change the game with the different rest options being available and with additional scoring modifiers. E.g. Normaltown give you a multiaction to pay 2 crystals for 1 attack; allows you to rest for 3 crystals or to rest to heal 1 wound; and it awards 1 victory point for each pair of item and enchantment you have at the end of the game.
But they can change the game up even more than just by tweaking the numbers for the rest actions. HEre are some of the more extreme examples:
- Cave of fools: multiaction 2 crystals -> 1 attack; Players start with 25 crystals; 1 crystal -> 1 attack (mind that this is NOT a multiaction); rest -> heal 1 wound; 2 victory points for every 5 crystals
As you can see there is NO rest action to get crystals, so managing them is suddenly the name of the game.
- Deep tower: multiaction 2 crystals -> 1 attack; rest and put the top item and enchantment you have on the bottom of their rows -> take 3 crystals and heal 1 wound
The only rest action available changes the top of your stack of items and stack of enchantments! This is the only way in the entire game of changing the order of the cards in front of you. Planning when to rest and how to maximize on this unique ability is crucial.
And of course even when playing with the same setup cards will come out in different order and other players will make different decisions, so as I said - there is a lot of replayability in this box.
This game is light, but of course it is easy to learn/teach and the setup is fast. And the playtime isn't overly long either in my opinion. Our games take between 30 and 45 minutes, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. Though I can't comment on how much playtime another player or two would add.
The rules come with 2 variants to speed up the game, so it is possible to speed things up, which is a very good thing in my book (I don't mind longer games, but I want them a bit heavier than this).
The decisions on the game aren't to hard, but are still interesting: do I really want to spend that many crystals on that? I will have no money left when for the next round and probably need to rest... Also should I get that and cover up the great ability I currently have? But I need some more stats...
Some of the cards can even provide some minor 'goals' - e.g. 1 victory point for every 5 gold or 1 victory point for every 3 monsters defeated. So further changing the decision tree.
There are s few 'take that' items - in the picture at the start you can see the of antimagic enchantment, which when bought discards the top enchantment of a target player. There are really only a few of those in most decks, so they don't feel to bad and add a tiny bit more of player interaction.
There is one deck which felt a bit worse to me in that regard, since there are monsters in there which makes opponents discards slain monsters or even force them to give them to you, but once you get to know the decks you know what is coming and you can play around it - if you have to discard anything you can choose freely from your stack which one to discard unless otherwise specified. There were a few take that monsters in the other decks as well, but stealing 1 crystal or giving someone 1 wound doesn't really feel that bad (and again there isn't that many of those effects)
Though of course the way the cards come out is random and it'll happen that someone will get a good start and an early dragon appears and that player will get far ahead. But there is another variant in the rulebook, which slightly prolongs the setup, but ensure that all dragons are only on the second half of the adventure deck, slightly reducing that randomness. So why haven't we used that variant? All our games, except one were close (and even in that one game we noticed my girlfriend could have saved up some more money to try to get a certain card which would have turned the game on its head - as it played out shed couldn't afford it and I got to take it, basically finishing the game). So that randomness didn't feel like it hurt our games to much (and if my feelings on this change in the future I can still use the variant from the rulebook).
We quite enjoy the cheesy humor of the cards and we both like the artwork, combined with the weight and play time playing this feels relaxing for us. So it is a nice little card game (in a smallish box as well), we really like to play to wind down after an exhausting day.
Overall we enjoy it quite a bit and I don't think it'll get stale anytime soon.
I gave it a 7/10 rating.
I hope this review will be helpful and if you want anything clarified or if you spot any errors please let me know