Josiah Leis
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This review is for those of you who have heard a great deal of talk about this game. There are those who have criticized this game, calling it the worst board game in the history of mankind..... Others mark it as one of their most beloved games of all time. Why so much love? Why so much hate? This review will attempt to answer those questions for the reader. It will not delve deeply into game mechanics, there are plenty of other reviews that deal with that already.

I feel its only fair to state what my own opinion of the game is, right from the start. I like this game. That being said, it does have some very serious flaws. As a result, I only play this game on occasion, it is not something that finds its way to my table very often. Yet I still keep it, and I have no desire to get rid of it. Though not one I play often, it is one I enjoy every once in a while, despite its flaws.

Overview

So what actually goes on in this game? Well in the game, two teams (called factions) are pitted against one another, they are the Horde and the Alliance. Each player controls a hero for his team, and tries to use his heroes actions to help direct his team to victory. The game is played either with 2 heroes on each side, or 3 heroes on each side. If playing with a number of people other than 4 or 6, some people may have to control 2 heroes at once.

But how exactly does a player get his team to achieve victory? The answer is simple, by defeating the overlord. The overlord is a powerful "boss" like creature, and whichever team slays him first is declared victorious. Alternatively, if neither team has managed to kill the overlord by the end of the 30th turn, both teams duke it out in a final Player versus Player battle, whichever team still has one member standing when all is said and done is the victor.

Naturally the players start out far too weak and ill-equipped to simply march over and fight the overlord at the start of the game. So the teams spend their time directing their characters all over the board in an effort to gain experience (and therefore "level up"), gold, and equipment so as to be better prepared to fight the overlord. Thus the game in its most basic element, boils down to a race between two teams. Each team is trying to make their characters as powerful as possible, as fast as possible. Whichever team manages to get their characters in a position where they feel powerful enough to fight the
overlord, try it, and succeed at killing him wins.

Components

The game is made by Fantasy Flight Games. Need I say more? For those of you not familiar with this company, that means that the components are of top notch quality. All tokens and cards are pretty thick and durable, while the minis are sturdy and detailed. Everything in the game uses quality components, I really don't think that they should be an issue with this game, even though there is a lot of handling of them. I have heard some people say that the small cards start to wear after a lot of games, but I can't say I've noticed anything like that. I've played probably around 15 games, have no sleeves on any of the cards, and haven't noticed anything other than the most minimal of wear.


Atmosphere

This game is based off of the popular MMO by the same name. Set in the Warcraft universe, it attempts to imitate the video game in table top form. Having played WoW Online for quite some time, as well as all three Warcraft games preceding it, it could be said I'm a bit of a Warcraft fanboy . So then how does the atmosphere stack up for someone familiar with the video game? I have to say the boardgame implementation of it pulls it off beautifully. You really feel like you're in the Warcraft universe. The art, cards, abilities, even how the different character classes play all really reflect the online
version of the game. In fact seeing how they implemented different video game effects to a board game is part of the fun for me.

But what if you've never heard of the Warcraft universe or anything to do with it? Well then I have to say that the game's atmosphere probably isn't really all THAT special. It's just a fantasy universe, although there are some unique things about it, if you aren't familiar with the online version of the game, you probably won't catch most of the references. Still, the art and general theme of the game is an entertaining one, at least to the non-video gamers I've played it with.


Gameplay

Okay so we have a basic overview of the game, but how does it actually work when you get down to brass tacks? Your character is running around the map trying to level up as fast as possible, the best way to do this, is "Quests". Completing quests yields rewards of gold, experience, and possibly items. Each faction has their own quests, so you won't be competing with the other side to try and do quests before they do. And since you're cooperating with your side, you'll try and figure out the most "optimal" way of doing a quest, whether its spliting up, or tackling them together and sharing the rewards.

But what do the quests ask you to do? Simply put, kill things. ALL quests spawn monsters on the board, which you are then required to go kill in order to collect the rewards. The other faction cannot interfere with your quest creatures in any way. The quest may also spawn "neutral" creatures who wander about the board, delaying and getting in the way of both teams. It is not required to kill the blue creatures from a quest, in fact there's no reward for killing them at all. Thus bumping into one is a serious delay, that will cost you valuable time, as well as possibly expenditures of health and energy (what you use to power your spells\abilities) before the battle is over with.

There are other ways to gain experience and power for your characters. "Wars" between factions require you to place two of your teams characters in two separate locations at the same time to claim victory and earn rewards for everyone on your side. Event cards can bring up "bosses" which the first faction to defeat can claim some rewards for doing. There are some other minor ways of gaining power for your character, but quests are certainly the mainstay. Quests focus on combat, and combat is what most of the game revolves around.

Combat provides an interesting level of customization, and powerful combination. There are 9 different character classes to choose from, each one having it's own unique selection of Powers (skills you buy with money and can swap in and out like equipment for different combinations) and Talents ("free" abilities, you receive one each time you level up, many of them interact with your different Powers in various ways). I really like the way combat works, it captures the flavor of the online game and makes each class unique (they play very similar to their online selves). Thus Mages are frail and vulnerable, but command a powerful array of ranged spells to devastate their opponents from afar before they can even reach them. Whereas a class like Warriors on the other hand, are very powerful melee fighters, capable of going toe to toe with an opponent and bringing them down with their melee prowess.

A side note on combat however. I have never played the base game by itself, I bought it with the first expansion pack Shadow of War. This expansion DOUBLES the number of Powers and Talents available to each class (among other things). This really opens up a huge array of options for the different characters and adds a lot more interesting choices to the game, while highly adding to its re-playability factor. In fact, I can't really imagine playing the base game without SoW, which is probably a weakness in the base game. On the other hand, SoW is very cheap, and is really just building on the very great foundation for character customization laid by the base game.


So why so much love?

Character Customization: There are a lot of different ways to build your character. And there are 9 different classes to choose from, each one totally unique from any other. This really makes each character "feel" different, and play differently in the actual game to. Even among the same character there are several different ways to build your character to optimize different areas of performance. This is especially true when the Shadow of War expansion pack is added, but even the base game allows for a HUGE number of possibilities, which really adds to re-playability. Add to this the large number of treasures and equipment you can acquire for your character, and you'll make each game a unique experience.

Combat: This game focuses on combat, and in my opinion does pretty well at making it interesting, varied, and fun. There are many different ways to approach combat, a wide myriad of creatures and bosses to do battle with, and lots of different stats to focus on. There are a lot of dice used in combat, but there are in fact so many that luck is actually minimized. I know that may sound like an oxymoron, but really when you are rolling so many dice, so many times, math does its thing and helps balance it out for you. It doesn't all come down to you rolling poor on some 1 stupid dice, the chances of which you doing that were 99 to 1. There are also ways to minimize the luck, with stats like Re-roll and Attrition. Combat is at the heart
of this game, and in my opinion is one of the biggest reasons the game can be so fun.

Theme: If you love theme in a game, I believe this game pulls it off very admirably. Especially if you are a fan of the Warcraft universe, this game's theme will strike right on target. Even if you are unfamiliar with the Warcraft theme, I think you'll get a good immersion in the Warcraft universe, if nothing else a good feel for its wild and varied bestiary!


But, why so much hate?

Length: This game takes a LONG time to play. Seriously, it takes a very long time to play, and the more people you add, the worse it gets. As your group gains experience playing, and if they take certain measures (see downtime) it will be mitigated the more you play, but even among experienced players this is a very long game. My shortest game (other than solo ones using a few house rules) was about 2.5 hrs, with just myself and 1 other player (controlling two characters each). On the other hand, I've played a game where I was teaching it to 5 other people who'd never played before and it took over 7 hours. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, if it weren't for the 2nd reason there's so much hate for this game....downtime.

Downtime: The game is played in turns, with first one faction going, then the other. This means that you have to wait for the other team to complete its entire turn while you do....basically nothing. This can take a pretty long time sometimes. Since 1\2 the game is spent this way it really makes the LENGTH problem even worse, since it seems you're twiddling your thumbs 50% of the time.

Now, after playing the game a few times (or reading some of the helpful suggestions on these boards), you will learn to make good use of your downtime. By planning out your character's moves, talents, what powers you'd like to buy next, what quests to complete in what order, discussing with your teammates strategy....you can really lessen the time your own turn takes. It also makes the downtime flow much quicker, since you're still involved with the game and feel active. If BOTH teams will commit to utilizing their own downtime to plan out their future turns, it will make each team's turn take less time, and
help the downtime flow much faster for both sides.

On the other hand, if even ONE player fails to do this, the game will drag on, especially for the team who's turns aren't taking much time since they have it all planned out. Having people go "Oh it's my turn? Okay, now what do I want to do.....*discuss*......*finally do something or resolve a combat*......"Hey I leveled! What talent should I take?"......*paw through talents for 5 minutes*......cry If people do that it can really aggravate this problem of the game. So both teams planning out their turns during the other team's turn is essential.

Multiplayer Solitaire: Though the game doesn't really feel like multiplayer solitaire because you are interacting with your teammates every turn, it can feel like multiplayer "team" solitaire because you never really interact with the other team. There isn't much incentive to do PvP during the game, and mostly each side just runs around questing without bumping into each other. This can be helped with some house rules, but if you are wanting a nitty, gritty all out war between the two sides, that probably isn't going to ever happen.


Summary

I already told you what I think of the game, but what do I think YOU will think of the game? Well that depends on what sort of person you are. If you:

Don't like long games

Don't like games with lots of dice

Don't like games with very little hostile or confrontational player interaction

Don't like games where most of your planning takes place while the other team is taking their turn



Then this game is definitely not for you. Just stay away, no expansion will fix it, there's no reason to buy it. On the other hand if you:

Like WoW as a video game or the Warcraft universe

Enjoy games with loads and loads of Character development

Like games where the focus is on the combat

Like co-operative games

Enjoy Ameritrash games (games with lots of plastic minis, dice, and theme)


Then you may enjoy WoW:TBG and I'd encourage you to give it a try. Even if you do end up liking it however, I should warn you it may not see your table very often, due to its lengthy playtime. But, I find it a real joy to pull out every now and then, and I've never played a game of it I didn't enjoy .

Thanks for reading, hope that helps feel free to ask any questions you feel I didn't address.
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Damo
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Great review. I've just bought the game with the SoW expansion and you've improved my confidence in my purchase.

My gaming group likes complexity, fine with the character "leveling up" aspect, though may miss out on our general level of inter-player conflict.

Sounds like it could be a hit OR a misss, though probably will be a fun game to try out.
 
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Josiah Leis
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I spent 100 GG and all I got was this stupid overtext.....
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Glad to hear you liked the review. Character devolpment is a real strong suit in the game so your group should really enjoy that.

If you want more interaction between the two factions, some house rules can be adopted to encourage Player versus Player combat. One is to make enemy faction members act like blue creatures (meaning that if you are in the same region as one you cannot move away from them, and must challenge them with your next action). That can make PvP fights easier to instigate, and let's you "block" your opponents from passing through regions unless they fight you first.

There is also a victory point variant here on these boards that, among other things, encourages PvP combat a bit more. My group is eager to try it the next time we play, but I haven't yet so I can't say personally if it's any good or not, but it did look interesting.

Even so, you may just want to try the game as is before using house rules (always a good idea in my opinion ). I hope you guys enjoy the game, good luck!
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Josiah Leis
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Oh yeah, and I also forgot to mention, that thing I said in the review about making use of your downtime is CRITICAL. If both sides will plan out their character's moves and how they'd like them to develop the game will progress a LOT more quickly, with less downtime for both sides. Plus the downtime you do have won't seem as bad if you're planning.

So I'd be sure and try to make a note of that to your players the first time you play, although to start with they may be watching each other's turns just to make sure they understand how the game works .
 
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Simon Lundström
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Good review, but you failed to point out the part that I felt was the largest downside. I appreciated WoW online a lot, yet this game fell quite short. Like you, I adored the chara development and the combat system and the die rolling, but the reason the game failed for me was none of the 4 points you took up (long game, die rolling, planning in advance, no interaction), but the fact that everything was combat, and that was everything there ever was. There wasn't the slightest inkling of adventure. All you did was take two steps, and then a combat. Next turn, another combat. Next turn, another combat. The occasional rest, and training to get new talents with which to combat. There was no "draw a card to see what happens".

Yes, I know it's not labeled as an adventure game, but I think it's understandable to expect some adventurous parts, considering it's based on an online game which consists of exploration quests, delivery quests, escort quests, and a lot of explorative travels and unforeseen events in the cities. And most of the FFG plastic-love games do have some fancy card-drawing with "stuff that happens". This game doesn't

I'm not saying you SHOULD expect that from WoW:tb, or that it's a flaw that the game doesn't have any adventure cards, but I think it's good to raise the flag and say that it hasn't, because I know a lot of people beside me felt the same thing lacking, so obviously there were more than me who, somewhere in their minds, did expect some adventure. You mention that those who "like games where the focus is on the combat" would like this, and yes, they do. But you might want to chime in that people who expect some sort of adventure and story unfolding out of this game should also stay away.

Which is a pity, because the combat and the chara levelling is so awesome.

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Gabriel Kuriata
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Simply put: two people, two characters (one for each faction).

1. Reduce statistics of bosses proportionally;
2. Don't take difficult quests too early (or do if you know what you're doing).

IMHO no more advanced modifications are needed. This way the game becomes a 2-player race for points, playable in 1h 30 minutes, or even less.
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Josiah Leis
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Aye, I have played a game or two with my brother as you suggested Gabriel. One hero per faction does actually work pretty well, we even used the normal Overlord stats for 4 characters, it just took a little longer before you faced him. You had to make sure you were level 5, with great equipment and well built for the fight.

Simon you do bring up an interesting point. I suppose I didn't mention it because it wasn't something I expected from the game. I knew it was pure combat when I bought it and so I wasn't looking for anything different. But I could definitely see that if someone was expecting an adventure game, the idea of characters complete "Quests" could be misleading.

I can't say I have ever played an "adventure" game in the true sense. The idea of a fantasy adventure game sounds kind of fun. I've seen you posting several places on BGG, and you seem to know quite a bit about adventure games, what one would you recommend? I love Descent, so Runebound might be good since its set in an atmosphere I enjoy. Same goes for WoW:The Adventure Game. Or what about Talisman? Or what do you enjoy? Just curious....kinda hijacking my own thread .
 
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J Mathews
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Zimeon wrote:
Like you, I adored the chara development and the combat system and the die rolling, but the reason the game failed for me was none of the 4 points you took up (long game, die rolling, planning in advance, no interaction), but the fact that everything was combat, and that was everything there ever was. There wasn't the slightest inkling of adventure. All you did was take two steps, and then a combat. Next turn, another combat. Next turn, another combat. The occasional rest, and training to get new talents with which to combat. There was no "draw a card to see what happens".

Yes, I know it's not labeled as an adventure game, but I think it's understandable to expect some adventurous parts, considering it's based on an online game which consists of exploration quests, delivery quests, escort quests, and a lot of explorative travels and unforeseen events in the cities. And most of the FFG plastic-love games do have some fancy card-drawing with "stuff that happens". This game doesn't

I thought that the card drawing, non-combat attempt to bring adventure into Runebound was the weakest part of that game. I think that the attempts to bring some sense of adventure to WoW:TBG (the caves, the duration cards, the other board, etc) have served to just add on time to this game. The point is to fight to level your character and get to the boss guy first. Anything else is an unnecessary distraction. If I want faux adventure, I'll play Return of the Heroes or Runebound (well, ok, I won't play Runebound).

One of these days I should post my house rules for boardless WoW:TBG. It's amazing how fast the game goes when you get rid of the board and the plastic and streamline it a bit. As a card game, we get 4-player games in in around 1.5 hrs and 6-player games in in 2. But I have a box of pretty plastic and game boards that don't get touched.
 
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Daniel Corban
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This is not an "adventure" in the way that Return of the Heroes, Prophecy, or Talisman is an "adventure". This is, simply put, a team-based action efficiency game. Whichever team can get powered up to the point where they can defeat the boss in the fewest turns wins. The entire game is based on this concept.

Anyone who likes, or thinks they would like, Runebound should enjoy this game. It is essentially a playable Runebound. The PVP isn't broken (unlike Runebound), the team aspect makes multiplayer enjoyable (unlike Runebound), and combat is interesting (unlike Runebound).
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