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kevin hoffer
United States
Los Angeles
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I'll skip the description as it has been covered quite well in other reviews (well done!)

My friend and I are both big fans of the Blizzard computer game and he had big doubts, I had high hopes.

Our experience seems to be right in the middle somewhere...

Bits:
+ I found the game production to be very nice. Wooden army pieces do leave more for the imagination and feels more classic somehow. Cardboard for the rest felt right as the rest is just support for the army. The upgrading tiles took a bit to get used to, but I've seen nothing like it, and works well. The board was obviously inspired by Settlers, a good game to imitate, but I would like to have seen a full copy, as there are limitations based on the tiles released, although I am sure expansions will help with that. The artwork, most of it lifted from the extensive Blizzard gallery, is phenomenal.

- However, without experience with the computer game, much of the artwork made little or no sense. I trusted the numbers, but didn't know what my flyers were supposed to be (although I tend to just call them all "walkers, rangers, and flyers.") The lack of text felt a little corner-cutting since it was obviously done to market to an intl market, and learning the spells a chore, but slightly forgiven based on the occasional need to update rules. The board is just a LITTLE too small, and I have a hard time stacking all the necessary bits onto a particularly busy hex.

Gameplay
+ Unique. I have played many, but not all the games in creation. Harvesting is by far the most interesting way to create resources in a board game I have ever seen, and strangely does feel like the cg (although the cg resources don't run out by surprise.) As of now, I can't seem to get a handle on the turn switching thing and often get confused as to where I can leave my troops at the end of a turn, but more play should help. There is enough planning to do, as well as enough surprises that play is different but not ridiculously wacky. Once we memorized the turn ordering, play became pretty smooth. We are still finding seeming exceptions, so we still have to look to the book for help. Because of the different scenarios (another plus because of limitless authoring via the web,) strategy is not always the same, even for each race.

- As it stands, it seems the races are unbalanced by their spells. It seems any race can get hosed by a bad draw of spells (multiples of useless spells,) but certain races seem to be prone to good or bad draws. This, of course, could change with balancing changes found on the web or in expansions. Within each scenario, strategy does seem to distill down to one way of building/upgrading, but that could change as we get better.

Overall, it's a neat game. Good quality components makes it nice to play with (we never did grow up, did we?) Good art and colors. Play is a bit vague, but learnable. Strategy is seemingly simple, and a bit random (because of spells and resource gathering,) so ya can't get TOO invested in your plan to win.

I am a big fan of games I can teach non-gamers, and games that play well two as well as multi. This game will be pretty much unintersting to even light gamers (too complex and referential to the cg.) But so far, plays well with two players (and I'm sure is better in multi.) Someday I am gonna have to make it to a convention and give it a go with some other geeks.

Hope this helped.

Kevin

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