There it was on that fateful moonlit night. (Ok so it was sitting on the shelf of my FLGS with the store lights shining on it.) I just had finished a hard and grueling crawl through the dense woods. (Someone was standing near me.) When I saw it, a sudden movement, and the hair on my spine stood on end. (Said person put the box down.) And I was compelled. I stared at it, and it stared back. I picked it up, and soon I was whisked off into a new world.
...that pretty much sums up how Luna Llena came into my possession. I saw it on the shelf of my FLGS, knew nothing about it, read the back, and in a couple of days it was purchased. There was something very intangible about it that I swear was calling to me and so far I've not been disappointed.
Luna LLena is a "cooperative" all versus one game for 2-7 set in Aguirre Forest...or whatever deep and terrible forest you can think of. One player is the werewolf player and the rest are hapless campers who are unfortunate enough to have wandered into the forest a pack of werewolves calls home. To make the situation worse, the hiker with the map has been kidnapped so now they are lost. The humans are to follow the trail of the werewolf and rescue their comrades, and then escape. The werewolf wants to expand their pack and leave no one alive to tell about it.
The hikers are dealt action cards at random to explore, search, hide, defend, or run through the woods while the werewolf player tries to bite and infect them. Then the moon rises and all bets are off as the werewolf player goes for blood. The game progresses through as many hours as need (usually a day or less) until either the humans escape, or the rivers run red with blood.
The Spine Tinglingly Good
It has been said and it bears repeating, the game is oozing with theme. I often found my self snarling at the hikers...and may have howled once or twice... Each hex of the map has some resource cost that is reflective of the unnerving horror encountering such a scene would cause. Werewolves dart in and out of sight and can cause some real paranoia. If you wanted a game to play by a campfire on halloween with some creepy music, I'd nominate this one.
There have been many games similar to this, Fury of Dracula, Scotland Yard, etc. This one however does something quite interesting with the deductive elements. When following the werewolf's trail, the players actually roll dice to see if they succeed Arkham style. This brings an interesting luck twist to the otherwise tried and true "Did you go here?" formula that other deductive games use.
Buy sleeves! Punch carefully! The components are less than stellar. The cards are thin, the cardboard to punch is small, and you definitely don't want to rip anything. I only wish FFG or Days had gotten their mitts on this to see what they could've come up with. What the game has is, sufficient, no more, and probably a little less.
I understand translation is difficult but it can be unbearable sometimes. While not nearly as bad as Ghost Stories, the English version of the rules is not easy to read. I almost feel as if the translator pulled out a Spanish-English dictionary and then used an English thesaurus to find words that only kind of fit. While it makes sense after a third, fourth, or fifth pass, it certainly is not good to just pick up and understand.
The Slightly Creepy
While it certainly adds to tension and replayability, it can also play against the game. My first game, one of the hikers seemed to get nothing but cards that allowed her to hide. She spent much of the game frustrated that she did not want to do anything.
Another aspect of luck is the combat. Combat is entirely push your luck. Most similar to blackjack, cards are dealt alternating between the werewolf player and the human player. The value of the card is added until someone opts to stop, or gets dealt a forced stop card, highest value wins. Some of the force stops can be negated via other means. Their is the infamous "Trip" card that means you lose combat, regardless of your standing before that card was dealt. For the proportion of the card that these forced stops comprise, they seem to show up very often, at least for me. I've lost a couple of werewolves to tripping and only managed to land a bite because the hikers trip. It seems that combat can turn into a Chaos Marauders-y how well can you top deck.
I played the first game with 4 players and it worked brilliantly. I played the second game with seven, and we spent more time shuffling cards than playing it seems. Decks were constantly running out and having to be reshuffled, bits were flying across the table as they exchanged hands. There was almost too much bookkeeping with seven players in my opinion. I would say limit your group size in this one, definitely.
The game is hard, not for the hikers, but for the werewolves. The goal of infecting hikers is very difficult to achieve. First you have to bite them (a not so easy task as detailed above), then you have to hope the bite marker they received just happens to have an infection sign on the back. Considering that at maximum (with seven players) there are only two bite tokens with infection signs, it is far from surefire. During the day you need to harass all the players and try and score a lucky bite, however the presence of silver bullets and axes and many werewolf killing tools makes that option less than appealing. Coupled with the luck based combat it is nearly impossible to build an advantage against the hikers as they accumulate more and more gear to arm themselves against you. It may also be that my groups instinctively stuck in a large group, with almost always someone with a weapon guarding the entire group negating any combat advantages I would have...and I seem to be the keeper of clumsy werewolves, but similar to Fury of Dracula, I felt powerless as the bad guy sometimes.
End of the Day
With so much of the game's core mechanics in my mediocre section you would expect I would be rather indifferent about this game. However, I am not. For some reason, I feel compelled to play this beast. And it's something I can't quite my finger on. Many people have suggested it is like watching a werewolf movie unfold before your eyes, however I did not really see that. I did really enjoy the game though. It might be the environment that was create, it might have been the beer, vodka, and lasagna that always seem to come with this game, but I really really enjoy it. I suppose it is a testament to my friends and the game that there is so much I am willing to overlook. Bottom line is Aoooooooooo! But I would definitely recommend trying this one before you buy...unless you are like me...and become compelled to buy the game.
A Great review, I actually made the mistake of purchasing this before i tried, (i occasionally do this, Some i win, some i lose). I have actually had to pass on this game. After many reads of the not so well written rules, The puzzled rules just didn't seem to add up enough for me to try and get someone else interested in learning it. Shame as the theme is great. Again thanks for this review. It was really well done.
That's a shame. There's a really tense, tight game in there. I felt the same way after all the anticipation of waiting to get a copy. I finished reading them, and was let down. Then I played and all that changed.
The FAQ posted here helps with every ambiguity we came up with in our first play. I'm hoping to get it to the table at least once this weekend.
First at all: Thanks for buying my game!.
Also: Sorry for the clumsy translation, and not so FFG components. We´re a little dissapointed at Gen X Games with this also, i´m trying to do it rigth next time.
Just a pair of ideas: I´m a roleplayer myself with no time to run campaigns and i love Arkham Horror or Fury of Dracula for this "feeling an otherworldy adventure" trait.
I suggest you that you giv an opportunity to the game. I think, that despiting some rulebook problems, the game is Fun and it´s appealing many different gaming groups.
Also, if you wish, you can adjust the difficulty level for the Hikers simply by adding some planning points to the Werewolf player initial pool. Try 5 or 10 PP points and the odds vary notably againts the puny humans.
Another interesting approching is to deal the 1st combat card occult to each character and keep-it that way until the combat "stands": "Trips and Ravine cards must be changed if dealed". The combat turns more strategic this way. This is an optional rule we intend to introduce in our web soon with some others suggestions, along with a revised rulebook.