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Subject: Style over substance, I am not bound to keep this game of spells. rss

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Don D.
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Spellbound is the newest game from Fragor games. I recently threw in a copy with a large overseas order and got it to the table today.

Quick conclusion I played the game this afternoon and finished the second game at around 4:30. By 5:30 I had confirmed a purchase offer on the geek to sell it.

Quick overview of game:

Spellbound is a coop game in which 1-4 players are traveling the land trying to obtain 4 of 5 different spellbooks before confronting an evil witch in her tower for one final battle. Along the way, the players will stop by villages and recruit allies, have skirmishes with the witch, and other spell type fantasy things. Of note: this game is not only co op, it is co op and deck builder. The game has one common deck and a face up display that acts as a communal deck and hand for each player from turn to turn.

What's good about the game:

thumbsup The pieces. I was stunned. They are huge and incredibly well done, and the nicest I've ever seen in a game.

thumbsup similarly, the artwork on the board and box are fantastic.

thumbsup the gameplay is pretty straightforward and easy to get the gist of after you figure out the rules.

thumbsup it's the right length of time, not too long.

thumbsup the game feels very thematic and fantasy-ish. Probably in large part due to the great pieces and art on the board.

What's bad about the game:

thumbsdown The pieces. I was stunned. They are huge, incredibly well done, and belong on someone's bookshelf rather than in a game.

thumbsdown the artwork on the cards and the witch's hats are noticeably downgraded in quality and makes for an odd dichotomy. Not a big deal though.

thumbsdown the game has 4 different characters, and they are ALL the same. The game has 5 different books, and they are ALL the same. The game has four witches hats and a troll chasing those books, and they are ALL the same. To me, this is a shocking lack of game development and - especially considering the lavish and creative pieces- a shocking lack of creativity. A game like this DEMANDS variable powers with the characters, different types of spells castable by the different spellbooks, and different strengths and weaknesses with the witch hats and trolls chasing them. It had absolutely none of that and I can't understand why not. I hate to say this, but the only two reasons I can think of for this would be 1) reduce complexity (not a persuasive reason IMO) 2) laziness with playtesting - adding in variability requires a lot more thought and care to ensure balance in the game.

thumbsdown the game is artificially difficult. This is perhaps a problem with many (or all) coops for me but particularly comes out in this one. In a coop, you are essentially competing as a group against the designers. But the designers are in complete control of their universe and will only lose if they let you win. This makes an unfair fight that sometimes is too much in a way that I don't enjoy. Especially when rulebooks of coops brag constantly about how tough the game is to beat. I mean, I can design a coop that requires all players start in a locked room that you can only unlock by rolling a 7 on a D6 and it would be the hardest Coop ever. That doesn't make it an interesting game. As I stated, this is a complaint about the genre itself, but it's particularly noticeable in this one.

thumbsdown it's a bit too random for my tastes, what cards are drawn when, what beads are pulled from the bag, what village cards start revealed, etc.

thumbsdown there are zero mechanics in the game to prevent or reduce the instance of the one bossy player dominating. This is truly a solitaire game at its core.

thumbsdown the game lacks interesting or meaningful choices for the large part of the game. Some of the choices are meaningful, less of them are interesting. Few if any are both. That's a death knell for me with most games.

thumbsdown the rules are overly complex and convoluted when the gameplay is neither. The English translation was also not done by a native speaker and was clearly never sent to any native speaker for editing prior to going to print. The latter is only a minor issue, the former creates a bit of a roadblock that could dissaude one of the best potential audiences for a game like this- new gamers- from playing.

Final thoughts:
This game is mediocre and fell short of what it could have been. Had the designers focused more attention and resources on the gameplay and less on the absurd (and gorgeous) pieces, it might have been a much stronger game. As it stands now, it is a below average game being propped up by the allure of amazing pieces. Some people will love the pieces so much they enjoy the game just because it gives them a chance to admire and play with those pieces. I am certainly not one of those people. Stripping all the chrome away, you've got a co op game that is both too random and not variable enough to have staying power or even be compelling in the short term. This could've been one of the top co op games around, but as is falls well short of the mark of other standard bearers like pandemic.

My rating:

BGG rating: 4 "Not so good, doesn't get me but could be talked into on occasion."





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Tiago Duarte
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dond80 wrote:
thumbsdown the rules are overly complex and convoluted when the gameplay is neither. The English translation was also not done by a native speaker and was clearly never sent to any native speaker for editing prior to going to print. The latter is only a minor issue, the former creates a bit of a roadblock that could dissaude one of the best potential audiences for a game like this- new gamers- from playing.


Hi,

First of all, thank you for your review!

I'm planning to finally play this game next wednesday.

I read your review and I think weird your opinion about English translation because this game, as far as I know, only have the English version and the designers are from Scotland. Could it occurs due to the differences between English (Scotish) and English (United States)?

Tiago Duarte
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Lee Fisher
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This is a pretty fair assessment.

I disagree that the characters and books should be different or that it was lazy. Having them be the same allows for better balance. The wand can allow you to customize to some extent.

I agree on the rules (though not necessarily a translation issue as Tiago mentioned). We played 4-5 times and still discovered a rule we missed or played incorrectly.
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Chien-Tsun Chen
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lfisher wrote:
This is a pretty fair assessment.

I disagree that the characters and books should be different or that it was lazy. Having them be the same allows for better balance. The wand can allow you to customize to some extent.

Customized wand card for each Mage is a good idea. I played it twice in a row last night and it played quick and smooth. But its replay value is a serious issue. It will be great to have some expansion cards in the future. ninja
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dond80 wrote:
This game is mediocre and fell short of what it could have been. Had the designers focused more attention and resources on the gameplay and less on the absurd (and gorgeous) pieces, it might have been a much stronger game. As it stands now, it is a below average game being propped up by the allure of amazing pieces.


It is a common misunderstanding that the Fragors design the pieces they are known for. In fact, they do not. They are the work of an artist who makes many different figures like these just for display purposes. Fragor just repurposes them. http://www.paolochiari.it/
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chearns
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Thanks for telling us your number of plays. Were they both solo plays?

 
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Don D.
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chearns wrote:
Thanks for telling us your number of plays. Were they both solo plays?



Both 4p with the same group played back to back.
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Lee Fisher
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dond80 wrote:
chearns wrote:
Thanks for telling us your number of plays. Were they both solo plays?



Both 4p with the same group played back to back.


How did they end?
 
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Don D.
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lfisher wrote:
dond80 wrote:
chearns wrote:
Thanks for telling us your number of plays. Were they both solo plays?



Both 4p with the same group played back to back.


How did they end?


First one with two books being captured, the second one with two hats reaching the end of the track.
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Thanasis Patsios
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I'm sorry your first 2 plays put you off. Ofcourse, every game is not for everyone. Having said that, I've also had plays that were lost in the first few rounds, but they're a minority.

After the first few plays, one starts to develop strategies (most involve recruiting-using allies). Although every character is the same, the overall strategy greatly changes depending on the number of players. For example, playing less destiny cards per player is essential when playing with 3-4, at least that's my experience (>20 plays). Using the variants that add to the game's difficulty is necessary after you get the hang of it, so yes, it is artificially difficult, but - for me - this keeps the tension up and adds to the replayability.

I hope you'll give it another try before selling it (if you haven't already sold it), if not, I'm sure you'll have plenty of potential buyers!
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Don D.
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NasosP wrote:
I'm sorry your first 2 plays put you off. Ofcourse, every game is not for everyone. Having said that, I've also had plays that were lost in the first few rounds, but they're a minority.

After the first few plays, one starts to develop strategies (most involve recruiting-using allies). Although every character is the same, the overall strategy greatly changes depending on the number of players. For example, playing less destiny cards per player is essential when playing with 3-4, at least that's my experience (>20 plays). Using the variants that add to the game's difficulty is necessary after you get the hang of it, so yes, it is artificially difficult, but - for me - this keeps the tension up and adds to the replayability.

I hope you'll give it another try before selling it (if you haven't already sold it), if not, I'm sure you'll have plenty of potential buyers!


It's already gone! I did see the strategies for sure, we picked up on the need to slow down the cycle of the deck early in the first game. That is kind of one of the negatives for us as well, that the strategies seemed a bit too self evident. This game will be enjoyed by many I'm sure of it, just wasn't for my group.
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Vortex Surfer
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dond80 wrote:

thumbsdown The English translation was also not done by a native speaker and was clearly never sent to any native speaker for editing prior to going to print.



Which translation? As far as i know scotch ARE native speakers (or at least writers )
 
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Cindy Nowak
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Vortexsurfer wrote:

Which translation? As far as i know scotch ARE native speakers (or at least writers )


Ah, yes, but there's a difference between the Scots' English, the Queen's English and American English.
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Bruce Murphy
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scoutmom wrote:
Vortexsurfer wrote:

Which translation? As far as i know scotch ARE native speakers (or at least writers ;) )


Ah, yes, but there's a difference between the Scots' English, the Queen's English and American English. :D


You mean Angry English, English, and, well, there's no polite way to say really.

B>
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steven riola

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Thank you!!! You confirmed everything I was worried about. The pieces had me roped in, glad I did some digging before dropping that sort of cash!!!
 
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Kristopher Snyder
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scoutmom wrote:
Vortexsurfer wrote:

Which translation? As far as i know scotch ARE native speakers (or at least writers )


Ah, yes, but there's a difference between the Scots' English, the Queen's English and American English.


Yes. Someone wrote a comment that should have been written using the serial comma. Great example. Though I am surprised you're American

Without a comma after the Queen's English, it implies that you're discussing the differences between Scots' English and the Queen's English and her American English.

 
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Matt Smith
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I played the game yesterday for the first time, and we won! We lost one book, and had one hat at the end of its track, so a close win from that perspective. My one-play assessment:
- What to do on each player's turn was pretty obvious. It was a simple puzzle of how to best use the available cards to protect the books and build the deck.
- The meaningful choices are which cards to use to build the deck. Since each card type has a different combination of abilities (movement, magic, influence), it's important to remember which abilities your deck is lacking, and try to get more of those abilities, so you have a balanced deck.
- Unless we played it wrong, the end game fell a little flat for me. Since we could use each book to cancel one of the witch's cards (even the minion cards), we were able to wipe out all of her cards and crush her in the final battle.

Overall a decent co-op with amazing components, but not one I need to own.
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