Howdy! I hope I can help:
When I've got a Shield token, must I "spend/use" it?
Thoughts: It feels a bit wasted if lost after a duel that I would have won anyway. So I think I'd prefer to be able to decide if I want to use it before the duel. Or that I even only need to roll for a check if I needed the Shield in the duel. Or: I loose it (automatically) after the first duel where I needed it.
Why do I need to roll another die to check regarding the Shield - when the first roll counts for the Sword?
The Shield token applies when your pawn takes any sort of damage, whether is comes from a duel, a misfortune effect from an opponent, or the effect of rolling poorly when using a Shoot the Rapids or Homemade Flappers space. The Shield roll is made after damage is taken. The roll for a duel is separate and unaffected by a Shield token.
The rules say: "...starting with the first player to the left of the player who placed the "place objectives" effect." Shouldn't it say: "who covered/triggered the effect"? Since these effects are always (?) on black-bordered progress areas...
"Placed" in this context means the player who covered the black-bordered progress area by placing a card over it. Placing a card triggers both the black-bordered progress effect and the white-bordered misfortune effect.
May I deal damage to myself?
No, you can't. In the section describing the various misfortune effects: "Deal (X) damage: Add the indicated number of damage markers to one opponent’s pawn." When you deal damage, you may only deal it to an opponent.
"Discard an opponent's card of your choice"
That means: randomly? Draw one face-down?
From the section listing misfortune effects: "Opponent discards card of your choice: Look at an opponent’s hand and select one card. That card is placed at the bottom of the Forest deck. At the end of the opponent’s next turn she draws an extra card so her hand size is again three."
Many times pawns land on home - and not only because of their own movement. Hoe does dueling work then? Does the pawn that arrived later have the right to initiate a duel? Even if it was placed there by getting damaged?
Returning to Home is not movement. A pawn that is returned to home because of damage or another effect can't initiate a duel.
Shouldn't there be objectives from the get-go?
After all necessary Root cards are placed, I feel players just wait for cards ith an objective effect. Why not place an objective for each player directly (just as the status tokens)? Possible answer: Because players stray around before that, so when someone plays that first objective card there's already space for tactical placement? However, these very first turns until that felt like straying and a bit useless.
An early version of Vasty Wilds had an initial placement of objectives, but we found it was too easy to grab them. Every player ended up tied at Home with one objective after a few rounds and it didn't add to the game. The compromise was the status token placement after the root cards are placed.
Is damage a form of (opponent) movement???
So, obviously it's nice that there is no player elimination. But to me it felt as if dealing damage was rather a means of getting someone to home. Which meant often I didn't want to deal damage because it would just carry that pawn in the directing it wanted to go anyway. (Since the shape/structure of the home card basically leads to a board with two major areas - and objectives are placed at the other end of the "board".)
You can send an opponent to Home and closer to her objective by dealing damage to their pawn, but that is counterproductive. Damage-dealing misfortune effects should be saved for when your opponents are getting close to their objectives.
What happens if you swap tokens and thus swap one of your own objectives to the field you're on? Do you collect it immediately?
Swapping tokens means status tokens, not objectives. A player can pick up an objective only by moving onto the space containing an objective. If an effect moves an objective so that it is in the owning player's space, the objective is not collected. If an opponent moves the player's pawn onto the space with her objective, the objective is collected.
Why are you not allowed to collect two objectives in the same turn?
(I got that wrong initially and it brought the most exciting moments of my play-through.)
This came up in playtesting when new players would place two of an opponent's objectives next to each other. The player who collected two objectives in one turn would have an insurmountable lead over the other players. Players generally wouldn't put two of an opponent's objectives next to each other anyway, but it kinda killed the game when they did. The "one objective per turn" rule was meant to give each opponent a turn to mess with the player's chances of scoring two objectives in quick succession.
Race for big movement
Especially in the later stages, my schiz-solo was a race for "big movement" progress effects (Move 4 or more). There where many "movement 2" areas available which were treated as dead ends. Is that normal? An element of the game? A bit of a flaw?
Also, when I had cards with "big movement" on my hand, I didn't play them - because a black-bordered effect is basically given away to your opponents. It felt like slowing the game down and limiting my choices. I thought, ok, when all "players" are out of choices. the big cards are getting played with some "player" more lucky than others. Especially since many cards with big movement black areas had mediocre white-border misfortune effects.
Later on I started placing the cards so that the "big movement" areas became dead ends due to placement rules (I layed these cards in a way that the next player couldn't use these effects). I'm not sure if that is more interesting tactical card play or rather a little flaw slowing down the game.
Yes, there is a race for big movement, especially later in the game. Card placement to block some options is an intended part of the game. Sometimes, when any card place from the player's hand would give too much advantage to an opponent, that player may want to take advantage of the Redraw option to move 1d6 and draw a new hand.
Out of curiosity: Why where the area borders changed from straight to skew? I mean, I understand that the original layout produced a grid-like "board" while the new layout produces rather a network. But is there a specific design decision behind this?
The layout was changed for two reasons:
First, the angled layout makes it easier to see which spaces border other spaces when the cards are placed sloppily, as well as easier to see which placements would result in illegal overlaps.
Second, the angled layout looked more organic, and playtesters felt this served the theme of the game better than right-angle connections.
Thanks for the questions!