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Subject: Quick, First Impression Review rss

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Nick Bentley
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Madison
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Played this last night.

In the center of the board there's a valley full of dragons. Surrounding it are human kingdoms, and each player is King of one. Each kingdom is a grid of spaces.

In the game, a constantly replenished stream of Dragons and Orcs with their Battering Rams come pouring out of the valley and into the Kingdoms.

As they're pouring in, each player builds a system of buildings in his kingdom to create a "Tower Defense", which both diverts and destroys the bad guys as they arrive. When I say Tower Defense, I'm making a direct reference. The game was clearly inspired by such games. The bad guys all move of their own accord, according to a very simple algorithm, and their movements are modified by interference from the buildings. Just like in good old Tower Defense.

While the bad guys are moving into the kingdoms, each kingdom is sending a constantly replenished stream of knights, archers, and trebuchets in the opposite direction, from the kingdoms toward the valley, with the ultimate goal of laying seige to the dragons' strongholds.

But before they get there, these good guys meet the bad guys coming from the valley, and they do battle in the shadow of each kingdom's towers.

You get some points for defeating the bad guys in your Kingdom, and you get a lot more points for successfully conquering the dragons strongholds.

I don't normally like games with lots of different sources of victory points, but this one was more enjoyable to me for two reasons:

1. Unlike many such games, it actually has at least a few spatial, geometric considerations - it's not just a spreadsheet masquerading as a board game.

2. The theme is better than normal for these sorts of games. Probably didn't hurt that the night before I played this I happened to read the section of the Hobbit where Smaug attacks the men of the lake.

It has a cool resource distribution dynamic. Every round, new elements are injected into the game: good guys, bad guys, special powers and events in the form of cards, as well as new buildings for tower defense. One player divides all this varied stuff HOWEVER HE WANTS into as many piles as there are players and then the trailing player gets the first choice of piles, and so on. So it's basically a mega pie rule.

But because the resources are so varied, and because they all have different values for each player depending on the state of his kingdom, dividing them into piles is a complicated, subtle bit of business. At least for this first time player, it was hard to avoid analysis paralysis in trying to divide up the piles. Not clear whether that would get better or worse with more experience, but it certainly was interesting.

Things I don't like: Maybe too much luck involved in attacking strongholds of the dragons? Each one is worth a ton of points, and because of that, the game seems to amount to a race to see which player can make it into the valley and wreak havoc there first/most.

So the game can hinge on whether and when you get to lay seige to the dragons' strongholds. And it seems there's lots of luck involved in determining this. But I could be wrong. It's very easy to overestimate the amount of luck when first playing a game, since it's easy to mistake one's own strategic ignorance for impenetrable randomness.

Also, mind you, I'm a hard core abstract game player above all and so what for me is too much luck is probably just fine for your average Euro player.

Other thing I don't like: I like rules that can be explained to me in under 2 minutes. I want emergent complexity to come from very simple rules. I really don't like spending most of my first play constantly referencing rules, and that's what happened here. The game is supposed to take two hours and we took three and a half, thanks to all the rulebook referencing.
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Pater Absurdus
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milomilo122 wrote:

Things I don't like: Maybe too much luck involved in attacking strongholds of the dragons? Each one is worth a ton of points, and because of that, the game seems to amount to a race to see which player can make it into the valley and wreak havoc there first/most.

So the game can hinge on whether and when you get to lay seige to the dragons' strongholds. And it seems there's lots of luck involved in determining this. But I could be wrong. It's very easy to overestimate the amount of luck when first playing a game, since it's easy to mistake one's own strategic ignorance for impenetrable randomness.


Thanks for the review!

My experience with this game is also limited but it seemed like there are other valid ways to win that may involve slightly less luck/randomness. One other option is to get the right kind of defenses up so that the dragons, orcs, etc that head your way end up walking off the cliff.

That strategy doesn't involve flipping over random tiles in the valley but there is still some randomness (what resources get drawn and how things get divided) so both of these strategies may involve a fair amount of randomness.

Happy gaming,
Redward

 
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Anders Pedersen
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milomilo122 wrote:

Other thing I don't like: I like rules that can be explained to me in under 2 minutes. I want emergent complexity to come from very simple rules. I really don't like spending most of my first play constantly referencing rules, and that's what happened here. The game is supposed to take two hours and we took three and a half, thanks to all the rulebook referencing.

I have not yet played the game but have read through the rules and played a few turns on my own.
I did not run into any problems with the rules. I find they are well laid out and the icons on the tiles describe their uses.
What exactly did you find problematic?
 
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