Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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This review is part of my attempt to review as many co-op games as I can. All of my reviews are in the geeklist A Crazy Couple's Co-op Guide: 2013 and onward Edition

Our rating:

Addictive?: Mixed

Modes: Co-op, Solo

Players: 1-4

With a couple:
We just tried with 2 characters each. Would like to try again with 1 character each; is fully supported by the scenario scaling.

Play Time: Long (2-3 hours per adventure)

Difficulty: Moderate

Skill Factor: 3 Generally based on skill in play, but bad luck or nasty enemy ability combos can totally doom you.

Individual/Group Play: Mixed.
* No info is hidden between characters.
* However, each character has several cards and abilities in front of them; probably hard for everyone else to keep track of.

Component Quality: Mixed
* Nice minis, good tokens, functional cards.
* Boards are a pain to set-up; lots of little tiles to put together, making set-up take too long.
* Monster cards are cluttered with info, and some of it is hard to read.
* You have to distinguish between different types of monster (Blue Bandit A and Blue Bandit B, for example) with minis that don't differentiate between the two in any noticeable way.

Rules Quality: thumbsup
* Overall fine rules.
* A lot to keep track of.

Mini-Review
Campaign dungeon crawl adventure. Play through 5 pre-designed scenarios out of a possible 6.

Combat is pretty standard miniature driven affair, where characters take actions to move around and roll specialty dice with hit and "special effect" symbols to attack and defend. Monsters are driven by a reference card for each monster with an "AI" list of actions on it.

Some elements in games are handled by reading from a choose-your-own adventure style book.

Each character has a unique deck of skills, and also has two "paths" (basically good and evil) to pick from. There's a nice amount of variety, but the skill balance is wonky - some abilities are awesome, and some terrible. Rumor has it that some of the worst skills will get upgraded cards in the 2nd wave printing. Fixing that would probably be worth an extra star on rating.
UPDATE: Received wave 2. Not much for fixes. Now that I'm looking at it though, I think most of the poor skills were on expansion characters, not in the core set. (the KS version just had them all lumped in together).

Using your skills is controlling by a cooldown mechanic; when you fire a skill, it will need to be rotated back into "readiness" before using it again.

The moving, combat and experience is fairly solid and fun, though it runs toward the clunky side of things. However, adventures tend to run long and are heavy handed with special events. Repeated summoning and spawns can turn parts of it into a huge grind, and it can be hard to keep straight the abilities for each monster, especially when different variations of the same monster have different passive defense effects.

The CYOA book is annoying; lots of reading poorly written little text for little gain. Some paragraphs direct you to different options that then just redirect back to the same end point with only a meaningless fluff difference. Almost no choice you make during the game actually has any significant impact. Even more annoying, a paragraph will sometimes give instructions that say something like "read X when Y happens". There's no way to mark or note that, and Y may be happening half an hour or more of play later, by which time you've completely forgotten about it.

The selection of monsters is very limited, but they do an excellent job of stretching the limited variety as far as they can, gradually introducing the different monsters and changing them up to keep the adventures feeling different.

One interesting thing is that scenarios neither automatically scale themselves to the character level nor strongly force characters to a specific level. If you get clobbered and lose levels, the next scenario will be a lot harder. It isn't without problems as there could be a snowball effect, but it gives trying to level up a much bigger mechanical edge than in games where the enemies automatically level up with you. I personally like it, but I can see where it won't be to everyone's taste.

Another unusual point is that when a character dies, they become a ghost with limited abilities, and can have some impact while the team gets enough soul points to resurrect them.

It is a playable and interesting system hurt by grindy scenarios, a terrible CYOAish book and bad ability balance. Fixing up the abilities and creating some better scenarios would make it a lot of fun.

We didn't like...
* Long set up time.
* Grindy scenarios.
* Any time we had to read from the dang book.
* Trying to keep track of all the monster abilities.
* Useless character abilities.

We really did like...
* Variety of character abilities.
* While limited in total variety, the enemies behave very differently.
* The basic combat and action mechanics.
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W B
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Solid review. I think the game is more enjoyable than you do, but I enjoy the book bits...so that makes sense.

I will be most curious to see how the expansions add to the gameplay. Will the arcane portal scenarios add to the game significantly.

My big complaint is I felt like there should have been more scenarios in the initial offering, though I did like it enough to be willing to get the first expansion that is out this summer, but that will certainly determine if I keep it or then sell it off.

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