We, I got my two sons to play. They were excited to try so this wasn't too hard. We played with one house rule and that was that when you went to a city with an encounter you could only do the encounter or the market, not both. We did this to offset the advantage of moving first. The players are:
B - the old man
D - 15
M - 12
The two younger players are proficient Magic and Puerto Rico players so they have had quite a bit of experience with similar things.
Characters: D had a character good at Magic with a pre-combat magic attack with 1 fatigue. M had a good Melee character with the ability to make an ally cost 1 less gold (like good charisma), and B had a character with good missle combat and fair melee with the additional ability of being able to take 2 fatigue in order to attack in two phases of combat.
We all started going at the green challenges. These went well for the first couple of rounds and we were all well on our way to levels and getting some decent gold. B got an ally pretty early. It was a 2 gold magic user with only a weak attack but it was good for absorbing a little damage. D's character also had a fairly good melee attack. D got leather armor so felt ready to take on a yellow challenge. Unfortunately, D got the one with the blood fountain on it. D ended up getting knocked out by this challenge and losing 3 experience and some gold. I'd say D never really recoverded from this as he always seemed a little behind after that. His character seemed in good enough shape to take this challenge but the one drawn just made it too difficult.
I noticed at this point that one of the items at the city on the far side of the board was the Wings of Regiroth. This is one great item. It allows you to move 4 spaces in any direction and then roll 3 dice for further movement. This seems almost too powerful and in Magic we would say it is a broken card. It costs 10 gold so it is a little difficult to get but one of my green quests gave me 4 so that really made it possible.
M had been making steady progress and had ended up with some very decent items and allies (because of his ability). Neither he nor B got knocked out the entire game.
Now we started to move into the yellow and blue quests. D got knocked out a second time on a very bad roll. He eventually got pretty powerful but was very far behind. One interesting item that he won as the result of beating an encounter was a rune that allowed him to swap fatigue for damage pre-combat. His character had 4 fatigue possible so this was a decent item for him. D also got an item that allowed him to attack in two phases of combat. He would have been nasty in player-to-player combat but we were sort of being nice about that since this was our first game... next time probably won't be the same.
M got an ally that had a 5 melee and berserk (attack got stronger as he got hit). B got an item that when activated with one fatigue, gave an enemy one hit for every hit they inflicted. With B's movement advantage and this item, this put him in a very good position. However, he only had one ally and that was a poor one. B went on a quest to get more allys and eventually got a priest with a 6/2 magic attack and the ability to add +2 to all types of test die rolls.
B was ready for the end game but M had already started. He defeated the first dragon and got a dragon rune. Unfortunately, the encounter was the only red in the region he was in.
B went to a nearby region (but still 10 or so hexes away) and killed his first dragon. His dragon rune allowed him to heal 3 wounds and 3 fatigue before combat. Now the advantage of the wings really kicked in. He used the wings, the 3 die roll and a card that tacked on 2 more moves at the end of his movement phase to move 9 spaces! This put him within one turn of another red encounter.
Meanwhile, D was trying a red encounter but had no allies. He barely got beat by the dragon but put up a very good fight with his new rune armor which stopped one wound every combat round.
M was having movement problems and spent 2 turns in the forest with no forest pips on the 8 dice he rolled. B started on his 2nd red encounter which required a big test to even fight. The wizard ally helped with this and he barely was able to meet the challenge in combat. Combat was tough but with the mirror reflecting all damage and 4 allies, B prevailed fairly easily.
Now B was within range of another red encounter next turn. No one was near and it was all up to B to beat out the dragon. It was not the head dragon but one more dragon rune would give B the victory. It turned out to be not much of a contest at B rolled well.
D and M continued to play for 2nd place and had some interesting encounters. M ended up getting 3 more runes as the head dragon didn't show up until the very last red card. This is the second time this has happened in a game I've played.
D didn't have a single dragon rune. With his other rune that did pre-combat damage, he probably could have one any player-to-player combat but we played a little conservative due to the fact that it was our first game.
B had huge advantage with the Wings. This artifact is arguably too powerful especially in the end-game when everyone is racing for dragon.
The game is fun and what I'd hoped for. We are looking forward to new cards, rules and opportunities to play. We also want to give some of the advanced rules a try.