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Subject: A better game than the film on which it’s based rss

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Jason Rider
United States
New York
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Score: 6.5/ 10

While no one’s accusing the motion picture incarnation of Eragon of dazzling at the box office, all signs to an official board game based on the substandard movie which itself is based on a mediocre book series point to disaster. As it turns out the game manages to fall victim to some of the usual pitfalls associated with movie tie-ins and actually manages to sidestep a few others in the process.

Brought out by a company called Mega back in 2006, Eragon the Official Motion Picture Board Game earns high marks for its actual game components right off the bat. Rather than play as cardboard cutout or plastic miniaturized versions of the film characters, the player pawns are well-constructed sword hilts (complete with different-colored gem stones in the handles) that’s blade appear to be thrust into the ground. Very cool! The five-fold board too deserves credit for boasting a full color rendition of the fictitious kingdom of Alegaesia that puts to shame the efforts of the book series on which the game (and movie) are based. Other notables are the three dice used throughout the game: a beautiful partially transparent sapphire six-sided for movement, a ten-sided red die to indicate strength and a twenty-sided green to represent magic. 52 cards made of average cardstock handle the in-game orders. Finally the game includes 100 sapphire crystals (plastic beads) that represent a sort of currency/ win-determination and a nice suede bag in which to store them.

Setup is as simple as opening up the fairly large board and placing the player pawns on the start square. The board contains a spot for both of the special dice as well spots for the card pile and discard area. The beads are, of course stored within the suede bag but plan on using snack bowls or cups to store each player’s supply of gems (twenty each for 2 players, ten each for 3 or 4) as these guys just love to wander!

As is so often the case with movie-tie in games in general (fantasy themed in particular), the core of the game is little more than a succession of dice rolls. In Eragon you roll a die to move, follow the instructions on the board (which range from (commonly) drawing a card, raiding an opponent’s gem supply, to having the option of laying down a challenge). It is the last option that makes this particular game a little more than just a dice-roller. The challenge option allows the player to pick an opponent of his/her own choosing for some old fashioned betting. Only rather than money, the stakes are those pretty little beads I was telling you about. The challenger decides how many he wishes to bet (limited of course to how many he has) and the opponent has no choice but to accept and put up the number of gems requested. If the opponent can’t meet the challenge moving back on the board is the penalty. The gamble itself comes (unfortunately) down to but another roll of the die (either the red strength die or green magic die; challenger picks) and highest roll wins the duel.

Sparing the exercise from complete monotony are a few protection cards buried in the deck that the recipient is allowed to hold onto in the event that lose a challenge and don’t quite feel like paying the penalty. Additionally a couple other cards (like the Battle routine) make drawing a card from the deck a little more than simply collecting or giving away gems based on some lame paragraph involving something that happened in the flick.

To the designers’ credit, it is equally thoughtful that they implemented multiple paths along the board and the ever welcomed feature that the first player to reach the end is not the winner but rather the game ender who receives a bonus (5 gems) for his efforts. The real winner is, of course, the one with the most gems in his or her dish at the end. Nice touch. While we’re on the topic of interesting little touches, it’s equally cool that to enter the final section of the board, the player must roll a 1 on the movement die or waste his turn trying. It’s these little measures that keep the game from falling victim to the same garbage that is the Lord of the Rings movie games from RoseArt.

In all, Eragon the Official Motion Picture Board Game isn’t a bad way to spend a half-hour (2-4 Players, ages 8 and up) so long as the gamer goes in with realistic expectations. The game comes down to little more than rolls of a die for all of its decision-making but it is commendable that the designers did what they could to offer the player a few choices along the way. The most compelling aspect by far to report would have to be the inclusion of the betting element, which can completely change the outcome of the game at any given moment. The luck of the draw, er actually in this case, the roll is still the deciding factor but protection cards and gem budgeting bring just enough strategy to the formula to make it worth coming back to as a perfect filler game.
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