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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game

I’ve been putting off writing this review, partly because I wanted to actually beat the third scenario first, but most because I really wanted to like the game but I’m not sure I do.

The Lord of the Rings has always had a special place in my heart, not so much the books themselves, but the stories and the world that has developed from them. Having a chance to play in that world is exciting for me.

With Fantasy Flight’s previous LCG, Warhammer Invasion, still ranking as one of my favourite, if not my favourite game, I had high hopes for this new game. But before I talk about why I’m not as keen as I had hoped, lets take a look at the game.

Theme

You control a party of mighty heroes, Middle Earth’s elite defenders. Together you will venture into danger and hopefully emerge victorious on the other side. Men, Dwarves and Elves will form an alliance to vanquish the evil forces of Sauron from Middle Earth, together they will battle Spiders, Orcs and Wild Wargs. They will face terrible foes such as the spawn of the great spider Ungoliant.

Through strength of will and strength of arms our heroes will, eventually, bring peace to Middle Earth, but the road is long and if you do not keep your feet there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Unboxed

Big box for two decks of cards no?

  • 12 Hero Cards
  • 4 Prebuilt Faction Decks
  • 7 Encounter Decks
  • 3 sets of Scenario Cards
  • 1 First Player Token
  • 2 Threat Dials
  • 40 Damage Tokens
  • 26 Progress Tokens
  • 30 Resource Tokens
  • 1 Rulebook.

Ok, so that’s 226 cards plus some punchboard sheets and a box big enough to store all the expansions in. Of course, what FFG do need to do is build into their boxes some kind of organising system, ala Thunderstone, as it is you are left to devise your own.

The cards and the punchboard are all good quality and the rulebook is well written with plenty of examples. The art in the game is simply stunning, I’m so glad that FFG didn’t decide to just rehash old artwork or worse, movie stills.

The graphic design is nice and clean and reasonably user friendly. It’s not always easy to tell the Neutral grey cards from the Leadership purple at a glance but that is really only a minor quibble.

I think FFG were being a tad stingy by not including 4 threat dials with the game, yes, you could just use two ten sided dice but it would have been nice to have 4 dials for the 4 decks in the starting box.

Other than this and the lack of a storage solution I feel that the production quality is top notch (although did anyone else notice that the box doesn’t have a nice linen finish like most FFG games?) and well worth the price of the game, if just for the art alone!

Playing the Game

The Lord of the Rings LCG is a co-operative game where the players compete against an event deck using cards from their own custom deck and 1 to 3 heroes.

Each player starts the game with 1 to 3 heroes in play, each hero has a Threat Value in the top corner, the player adds together all of the Threat Values and sets his Threat Dial to that number. If your threat ever exceeds 50 you are eliminated from the game.

The players then decide which quest to play. There are 3 quests included in the base game. The initial quest card, labelled 1a, tells the players which cards will be included in the encounter deck, along with any rules for set up.

Once the game is set up the players each draw 6 cards, and they are allowed to mulligan if they so wish. The first player is randomly determined and the game can begin.

The turn follows seven simple steps.

1. Resource Phase

In this phase each player draws 1 card and adds 1 resource to each of his Hero’s resource pools. It is worth noting that each hero has his own supply of resources, these can only be used to pay for cards that match that hero’s sphere of influence (colour). It is also worth noting that if your deck runs out you no longer draw cards but you are not eliminated from the game.

2. Planning Phase

In this phase each player, starting with the first player and proceeding clockwise, is allowed to spend resources to play Allies, Attachments and Events using his resources to buy them. Allies and Attachments are played to the table, Allies can only be played into your play area, whereas Attachments can be played on your heroes/allies or on another players.

3. Quest Phase

In the Quest Phase the players commit characters to the quest. A committed character is exhausted so will be unable to act later in the round. Once all the players have chosen to commit to the quest a card is revealed from the Encounter Deck for each player. All when revealed effects on the card are carried out, any events are discarded, any enemies or locations are added to the staging area. Then the players adds up their total Will Power and compare the total to the total Threat in the Staging Area. If the total will power is greater the player add progress tokens to the quest equal to the difference. If the threat is higher they raise their Threat Dials by the difference.

If the players place Progress Tokens equal to the number required to pass that stage of the quest (the yellow number on the quest card) they immediately move onto the next stage, excess progress is lost.

4. Travel Phase

If there is no active location the players may choose to travel to any of the locations in the staging area, making that location Active. Active Locations act as a buffer for the current quest, meaning that progress made during the Quest Phase must first be applied to the active location. Making a location Active removes it from the staging area meaning that it no longer contributes threat during the Quest Phase.

5. Encounter Phase

In this Phase each player has the option to engage one enemy in the staging area. Doing so removes that enemy from the staging area and it becomes engaged with the player, thus it no longer contributes it’s threat during the quest phase.

After each player has chosen to engage an enemy or not it is time to check for engagements. In turn each player looks to see if there is any enemy with an Engagement Cost (Top yellow number) of less than or equal to his Threat Level (the number on his dial). If there is the enemy with the largest Engagement Cost engages him. Players continue to check until only enemies with higher engagement costs than their Threat Level remain in the staging area.

6. Combat Phase

In this phase engaged enemies attack. Each engaged enemy is dealt a facedown card encounter card known as a shadow card. The enemies then attack in order from highest Engagement Cost to lowest. 

When an enemy attacks, the player has the option to declare one of his characters as a defender, exhausting that character. The enemy then flips over its shadow card, performing any actions that are listed as “Shadow” on the card. It then attacks, the enemy’s attack value is subtracted from the defenders Defence value and any left over attack is converted to wounds. If an attack was undefended the player must apply the attacker’s full attack value to a single hero he controls (not an ally) and he cannot apply his defence.

After all the enemies have attacked it is the players turns to attack back. A player may declare only 1 attack against each enemy per turn. Exhausted characters cannot attack. Each attack may have multiple characters, which are exhausted in order to attack, they pool their attack value and subtract the enemies defence applying the rest as wounds.

Any defeated enemies or characters are discarded. Defeated enemies with the keyword Victory are placed to one side not in the discard pile.

7. Refresh Phase

In this phase the players ready all exhausted characters, raise their threat by 1 and pass the first player token to the next player clockwise.

This continues until the players complete the victory conditions on the last Quest Card, or until they are defeated which happens by all players being eliminated by either having a threat in excess of 50 or having no remaining Heroes.

Thoughts

So, why don’t I like it? I guess it is for the same reason that most co-operative games fall flat for me. I’ve never been a fan of games that are too hard, even computer games, when it gets to a point where the game wins 99% of the time I just want to give up. For me a game is about fun and while I like a challenge, I don’t like being pummelled about the head.

The problem with LOTR LCG is that the game doesn’t have much of a narrative arc, it doesn’t start easy and work up to the hard stuff because the Encounter deck is random. If luck throws the three hardest beasties in the deck at you on turn one you aren’t going to survive for very long.

Because it is seemingly random luck that can spell your doom it makes me feel that victory is achieved by luck too and that cheapens the victory for me. When you end a game and say “well it was a good job such and such didn’t come up” it makes me think that the game may have very little to do with player skill.

Now, I believe that the problems I am having are based on inherent problems within the core set. These are that the base decks are simply not strong enough, the variety of cards is less than it should be, for example the decks aren’t even tournament legal sized (i.e. 50 card decks). Secondly I believe it was a mistake to include 1 easy, 1 medium and 1 hard quest. I would have preferred to see more quests than three but definitely more easier quests. If the first quest is a level 1 quest, why is the next quest level 4 and then level 7. Going from a relatively easy first quest to the rather hideously brutal second quest is not an easy transition. A lot of people bought into this new game as their first exposure to collectable card games and this quest structure is simply prohibitive to learning the game.

In addition, if you do find that you can’t complete a quest because it is simply too hard that means that you are losing a third of the replayability of the set.

Ok Enough Bashing of the Game

Ok, so, I may have sounded more negative than I wanted to there because I do enjoy aspects of the game, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have racked up 30 plays of it. I like the way that the different spheres have different strengths and weaknesses. One thing this does, as well as providing a theme to each deck, is it makes you think about how to fix what is lacking in your deck. For example if you like playing the Leadership deck, which generates a lot of resources but has poor card draw you may want to mix it with Lore to fix that problem.

I like the way that questing works and how thematic the “staging area” is. I like the idea of locations and in principle I like the idea of shadow cards although I find that many of them make the game very difficult indeed to beat.

One thing I don’t like is dead cards. In Warhammer Invasion, a game by the same company that I enjoy immensely, you always have options of how to use cards from your hand that aren’t worth playing. With a few exceptions (certain cards that allow you to discard for effects) useless cards simply sit in your hand doing nothing. If, for example, you lose the only hero you have that can play green cards, every green card in your hand is now useless, in addition because you only draw one card per turn you could be potentially drawing a useless card.

Thematically I like Gandalf, the way he turns up briefly to help when you most need it is very thematic, but it also adds to the “luck” issue I mentioned above. When you find yourself hoping that your next card draw will reveal the grey wizard you know you’re in trouble.

Final Thoughts

I know I’ve been pretty negative about this game (which is why I wanted to hold off writing the review) but it does have some good solid mechanics and it does feel like an epic adventure at times and I love the production quality and the art work.

However I feel that the base set is too restrictive in card choices to complete the included quests. I also feel that there simply isn’t enough replayability in the base set because there are only 3 included quests. In a CCG this wouldn’t be a problem, but in an LCG I feel like the base set should be all you need to buy to play casually.

The RRP for LOTR LCG is £30, when compared to a deckbuilding card game like Thunderstone or Dominion (£35) the replayability of the game is simply nowhere near as strong. In fact, for the same money Warhammer Invasion has tons more replayability out of the box.

Overall LOTR LCG feels incomplete, that you will need expansions in order to keep the game interesting and while I realise that is the point I’m not sure it should be counted as a positive in the games favour.

All of this said, I will be buying the first six expansions and reviewing them and discussing how they change the game and if they make the game more like the game I want it to be. I will also be playing and reviewing Ninjadorg’s homebrewed scenarios which can be found here., adding some much needed replayability to the game.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Board Game News 7– Shuuro, Scene-it and More…

Welcome one and all, lots of news this week so lets get right into it…

Shuuro Wrath of the Elements

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the fun chess game Shuuro, but designer Alessio Cavatore did let me know at the UK Games Expo that the game was due to release soon in electronic format on Facebook. That day has now arrived! So, go and check out the Shuuro Beta and challenge your friends to earn new units!

Scene It Daily

For fans of the DVD Board Game Scene it, the developers Sceenlife would like you to know about their new daily app which offers daily quizzes for Music, Film, TV and Celebrities. The app is available:

At least on Android you are allowed to do 2 quizzes a day and obviously more can be unlocked if you don’t want to just play for free.

It’s a nice way to test your movie/tv trivia brain for free so check it out.

Kings Cribbage and The Mind Sports Olympiad

The guys over at Kings Cribbage UK wrote to me to let me know that they will be demoing Kings Cribbage at the Mind Sports Olympiad this year on the 26th August from 2.30pm onwards. They are looking to increase the UK awareness of this game so if you fancy trying the game out it may be worth going along.

Also, the Mind Sports Olympiad is an interesting event that I had not heard of before. The event is a series of tournaments in various classic card and board games such as Chess, Draughts and Monopoly, but also other Designer Board Games such as Lost Cities, Blokus, Acquire and more. 

If anyone will be attending the event I would be very interested in getting a report on what it was like and the events that were run. If you are going and would like to do a write up for Unboxed please contact me.

Family and Party Games

Finally FamilyandPartyGames.com would like you to know about 2 new releases they’ve got this month which are Awkward Family Photos and The Greatest Day Ever.

And that about concludes the news, check out the sites, play some games and I’ll see you all back here on Wednesday for another review!

Chris

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Carcassonne–The Entourage

Just a quick review this week as I look at the latest small box expansion for Carcassonne.

Theme

Your name is now legend across the ever-changing land of Carcassonne, and with prestige and fame comes followers. Now when you claim new lands for your own, you can command your entourage to help out and claim surrounding features too!

Unboxed

The Entourage, otherwise known as the Phantom, comes in a small plastic meeple shaped box. Inside the box are 6 translucent meeples, one of each player colour and the worlds tiniest rulebook.

The pieces look pretty nice, the box is rather extraneous though and the rules really are too small. I would have preferred the meeples to at least be as thick as the standard wooden ones, but as it is they are a few millimetres thinner.

How To Play

Each player receives a Phantom in their colour. When you play a tile you may deploy your Phantom in addition to a standard meeple on a separate feature on the same time. If you wish a Phantom can also be deployed as a standard meeple.

Thoughts

In general the Phantom is useful because it gives you an extra meeple, this will naturally lead to higher end game scores. I don’t think it’s as big a game changer as the Builder or even the Mega Meeple though.

To make the best use of the Phantom you want to deploy it in easy to complete features, such as Roads or Small Cities, deploying in a Cloister could leave it stranded for a long time. If used effectively the Phantom could be a really useful piece, of course, if it stays on the board for too long other players could seek ways to trap it and render it useless. In addition because it can be used as a standard Meeple I guess that it can be effected by Dragons and Towers too.

Final Thoughts

Overall this is not an essential expansion, it can add some interesting strategy to the game, but it feels quite over priced for what it is. I think that unless you really want cool looking Meeples your money would be better spent on Cult and Siege or The River/River II or save up for a big box expansion.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Shuuro

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting Alessio Cavatore, the man who literally wrote every game I played in my late teens and early twenties.

For those who don’t know Alessio was the man behind the Lord of the Rings system, a system that remains largely unchanged even to this day and has formed the basis of several other historical games. He was also responsible for 7th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battles and 5th Warhammer 40,000.

But what’s my point? Well it’s this, Alessio also designed a board game and it’s called Shuuro…

Theme

You are a mighty leader, although your advancing age has limited your mobility somewhat. Luckily you married a young, virile warrior princess, perhaps the greatest in the land. Standing steadfast by your side is the ever vigilant clergy, ready to rain down holy hell and smite any that stand in your way. Beside them your trusty Knights, mounted on their courageous steeds and last but not least your castle walls themselves, bastions of defence, imposing and deadly all at the same time…

Oh yeah and there is some peasant rabble too…

Unboxed

What comes in the Shuuro box then?

  • 1 double sided board
  • 8 plastic Blocks
  • 43 Red Pieces
  • 43 Blue Pieces
  • 2 Dice
  • 1 Rulebook

Ok, so if you don’t know what Shuuro is, it’s a chess variant. The game is played on a 12 by 12 grid and it uses 8 plastic blocks to form a new layout every time.

The board is pretty nice, there is a little bit of artwork to make it less bland than a standard chessboard without being over powering. The plastic blocks are moulded plastic, they could be better but they serve their purpose. The pieces are nice enough for me, solid plastic, with a felt base and, most importantly, they make a nice noise when you knock over the other player’s pieces with them.

For me, this is enough, I’m not super excited about Chess and have never felt the need to go out and spend a lot of money on a set made of gold or crystal, however, if you really are a chess lover the pieces will not blow you away.

The rulebook is well written and it has some tongue in cheek humour in the rules, which I appreciated. It also comes with a bunch of optional rules and variants in the back, as well as a full explanation of how to play Chess.

So, as I said, I think the production quality is nice enough for most people and for the price point and the fact that the board is double sided and can be used as a standard chess set is a great idea.

Setting Up the Game

The way that Shuuro differs from Chess is mainly in the set up of the game. Each player is given 800 points to spend on their “army”. The point costs are as follows:

  • King – Free – Mandatory
  • 0-4 Queens – 110pts
  • 0-6 Rooks – 70pts
  • 0-8 Bishops 40pts
  • 0-8 Knights 40pts
  • 0-16 Pawns 10pts

Each player may have at most 32 pieces in their Army.

Once the players have chosen their army it is time to set up the battlefield. For each quadrant of the board the players roll 2 dice, one die is the y axis, the other is the x axis. For example a 3 and 6 would mean the 6th space in the third column. Each player does this twice for each quadrant on their side of the board, placing a plastic block in the square indicated by the die roll. It would have been nice if there had been two different coloured dice included so players could roll both together, but that’s just nit-picking.

The plastic blocks perform a simple function, they stop movement, the only exception to this is Knights which can leap over or even on top of the blocks. A piece on top of a block can only be taken by another Knight.

Once the board is set up each player rolls a die to determine who goes first. The first player then deploys their king somewhere in the central 6 spaces of the back row on their side of the board. The other player does the same.

Then in turn each player deploys his one of his nobles (i.e. not Pawns) until all have been placed. The player must deploy nobles into the back row until it is full. Once all the nobles are deployed the pawns are placed in the second row. If there are too many pawns to fit in the second row they can be deployed in the third row, but such pawns would not be entitled to take a double move on their first turn.

Playing the Game

Shuuro plays exactly like Chess but with the differences as noted above. The first player to checkmate the other players king wins.

Thoughts

Shuuro is an interesting way to play chess, but that is what it is, Chess. If you don’t like Chess Shuuro won’t change that. However, if you would like a different challenge, or a way to play chess that is not as repetitive then Shuuro can help here.

Being able to change up your army each time opens up new and interesting tactical decisions. Also, using the point system allows you to give the better player a handicap, making the game more fun for the player who is not a chess wizard.

The changeable set up is also interesting as it forces you to think differently about how you move pieces and even about how you deploy pieces. While the terrain can be a great way to protect your pieces, it can also become a death trap if you’re not careful.

Half Sized Shuuro

One of the variants I’ve played with Shuuro is to simply fold the board in half, this gives you a 12 by 6 grid to play on. Using 400 points instead of 800 and 4 blocks instead of 8. Half Sized Shuuro offers a very different challenge, especially for Queens and Bishops. It becomes a lot easier to defend your half of the board as the blocks often cause bottlenecks around the centre.

Mini Shuuro

Mini Shuuro is simply played on a 6 by 6 board using just 200 points. This leads to a very fast and simple game, although the better player will almost definitely triumph in this format. It’s certainly a good way to play Shuuro quickly and it offers a very different strategic feel than the big game.

Expansions

In my talks with Alessio we discussed three expansions for Shuuro.

  • Turanga – This expansion adds a 3rd and 4th player and turns Shuuro into a team game.
  • Yuddah – This upcoming expansion will add an optional dice combat system
  • Loka – This upcoming expansion will bring new terrain to the game including forests, lakes, swamps and elemental loci

Final Thoughts

So, do I like Shuuro, yes. What I like about Shuuro is that it is simple, it takes a ruleset that most people know and simply changes it up just a little. The variable set up and army selection, coupled with the variable board sizes means that no two games of Shuuro need to be the same.

Do the changes make me any better at the game? Quite frankly, no. Unfortunately Chess is not a game that holds enough interest for me to even attempt to master it. I don't mind the odd game here and there but there are a lot of other games I’d rather be playing. 

However Shuuro has the benefit of being able to be played quickly, using mini or half sized Shuuro making it a great, thoughtful filler game for two people.

Because I’m not great at Chess I am personally looking forward to the dice expansion which will hopefully allow me to leverage luck to my advantage, while the terrain expansion offers even more ways to change the game and breathe fresh life into the old game of chess.

So my final thoughts are that I like it as it is, but I’m even more excited to see where it goes next!

--- A Copy of Shuuro was provided to me for Review from River Horse Games---

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Thunderstone Thornwood Siege

Anyone who has been following the Twitter Stream should know that very few games get played in my house as often as Thunderstone. In fact it is my Mum’s current favourite, which is odd as previous to that it was Valdora and Stone Age, but it takes all kinds right?

Anyway, as soon as review copies became available I shot off an email and was rewarded with my very own copy of Thornwood Siege. In the following review I will be concretizing solely on how the expansion works, so for a full overview of the game check out my Dragonspire Review.

Theme

You are a hero, using gold you have drawn further Heroes to your side. You’ve bought magical blades, sinister spells and honourable mercenaries. Together you forge deep into the heart of Thornwood, looking for the fabled Stone of Blight. While you were gone however the village came under attack by brigands, they left none alive, they stole, raped and pillaged, reducing your stores, using up precious resources and slaying potential allies, making it that much harder for you to complete your quest and find the stone!

Unboxed

Thornwood Siege contains:

  • 1 Thunderstone
  • 90 Hero Cards (7 Sets)
  • 112 Village Cards (14 Sets)
  • 50 Monster Cards (5 Sets)
  • 1 Guardian
  • 30 Randomisers
  • 27 Dividers
  • 18 Tokens

The first thing that struck me about the contents of the box was the lack of types of cards. There were no traps, no treasures and no settings. I had expected at least one of each, perhaps Forest Snares for traps, or at least a Thornwood Settings card.

That said, I’m not that disappointed, overall I dislike the extra faff that settings, traps and treasure add, I just found it interesting that this expansion did not expand existing elements from previous expansions.

The second thing to note about the components is that there is a printing error on the Stalk tokens. This is nothing major, just that the text on two of the tokens is wrong based on the image on the token. They are still perfectly usable but AEG has released a corrected version that can be printed out if you desire.

Other than that the components are pretty standard, although I think the printing may be the crispest yet, the layout on the cards stands out really well and looks beautiful. Again, great art across the set and a lot of variety included in the box.

Playing the Game

Thornwood Siege introduces two new elements to the game. These are Stalk and Raid.

However, Raid is not really “new” it’s just a shorter keyword than “When Revealed” and it only affects the Village. Basically if a card with the Raid Keyword is turned over from the dungeon deck the active player will remove a certain number of cards from the village.

Making Raid it’s own Keyword seems a little pointless in my own personal opinion, unless of course they introduce anti-Raid cards. “When Revealed” works just as well.

The second effect introduced in Thornwood Siege is Stalk. When a monster with Stalk is revealed from the deck you take the appropriate Stalk Token and place it in front of you, this token will take affect at the start of your next turn, regardless of whether or not the monster that was staking you is still in the dungeon

The stalk effects are pretty simple, affecting either your hand, your gold or forcing you to go to the dungeon. While these are interesting effects, they’re not really debilitating. I can see the Stalk Effect being really cool if used with a Demonic or Undead monster set in a later expansion.

Thoughts

Overall these two effects are not ground breaking. Raid reduces the options in the village drastically, targeting the best and cheapest items equally. As there is no effective way of cancelling the effect I find it less fun to play with.

It’s also less thematic, the title of the expansion is Thornwood Siege, but it doesn’t really feel like a siege because you can’t stop the village being destroyed. Even if you use the Scout or some other method of searching the dungeon deck and moving cards around they will still come up eventually.

Overall “Breach”, for me, works better for simulating a Siege.

As I said, Stalk is an interesting mechanic, but the “bad stuff” is generally not too bad to make a noticeable difference. Also, despite the cool Centaur Artwork, I felt the effect would have worked better on perhaps a set of Ethereal Undead.

Other Cards

Thornwood Siege brings the focus of the game back onto some of the core elements of the base game. For example the Militia are the focal point of many of the new cards and 2 of the 5 monster sets also focus heavily on giving disease.

Monsters

I’ve already talked about the Raiders and the Centaurs, but what about the other 3 sets.

Siege – Most of the Siege Engines have global effects that targets the village, usually triggered by a player buying something or simply going to the village. If they come out early in the game they can be pretty destructive, although they are relatively easy to take out later in the game as they don’t require special attacks etc.

Verminfolk – As you may expect Verminfolk concentrate on giving out diseases. They also tend to target Militia, either giving you diseases for each militia or simply preventing them from attacking. There is some pretty nice artwork in this set too, I think there are my favourite of the new monsters.

Abyssal Malformed – These weird and wonderful beasts concentrate on card destruction. Each one destroys a different type of card, some of them are not too bad, destroying food items, others destroy monsters in your hand. Worst still these monsters give you diseases for each card they destroyed, making them really unpleasant to deal with, but a fun challenge.

Guardian of Virulence – The only guardian included with this set, she has the Global effect of giving anyone who goes to the village a disease. With a 14 health she is not a weak opponent, but she shouldn’t be too much trouble. Once again this Guardian follows the rules of this set which is about making heroes choose to fight rather than buy.

New Heroes

Krell – Krell is another Hero that can achieve level 4, however he is only at his most powerful when surrounded by militia. If combined with the Highland Officer and Elite Militia this guy could be a seriously great hero, but if it was a choice between him a level 4 Veteran I know which I would take.

Lurker – The Lurker is an inexpensive thief with a light and a gold, very comparable to the Chulian in Dragonspire. As he levels up he causes players to discard items and at the highest levels he can use one of the discarded items. The Thieves Blade included in this expansion can give this hero a great attacking boost.

Magehunter – This Hero is very powerful if you are focusing solely on ATTACK as opposed to MAGIC ATTACK. He’s reasonably strong and has a max attack of 7 at Level 3 as long as no MAGIC ATTACK is revealed.

Nightblade – Again another cheap Thief, this time one that encourages you to buy low weight weapons such as the Dagger. As I said earlier this set really brings the focus back on the basics as you see ways of using your cheaper starter items to powerup your heroes.

 

Thornwood – The Thornwood Archer is a pretty powerful hero, if nothing else his +1 ATTACK per rank cuts light penalties in half. Another archer is a great addition for the Short Bow from Wrath of the Elements. At higher levels he rewards you for killing Rank 3 monsters as well as giving +2 attack per rank.

 

Veris – The Veris felt almost broken in the game I played with it. If bought early they are exceptionally useful. They confer a +1 light bonus on all equipped Heroes. Now that handful of militias with daggers has enough light to see into rank 2 and enough attack to kill stuff. As it levels up the Veris becomes a machine. At level 3 each equipped hero gets +2 ATTACK and +2 Light and the Veris gets MAGIC ATTACK equal to the amount of light!

Because his special ability grants ATTACK to heroes, not MAGIC ATTACK he is reasonably useful regardless of what you are fighting.

Woodfolk – These are one of my favourite new Heroes. Relatively cheap Clerics that give you a +3 MAGIC ATTACK against disease giving monsters. At level 3 you can use them to destroy diseases to gain +4 MAGIC ATTACK and a card – And it’s a repeat effect!

Village

I’m not going to cover all the village cards in detail because that would take ages, however this set does have some great synergies, a lot of the time these are with basic items.

Some of my favourites include:

Time Bend – This card allows you to draw a card and then save any one of the cards from your hand for your next turn. Like the scout and other cards this is great for fighting the luck element inherent in Thunderstone.

Highland Officer, Elite Militia and Drill Sergeant – The Elite Militia count as Militia for all purposes, but they have an ATTACK +2 and a strength of 4, plus you can destroy a militia and buy another card the turn you buy an Elite Militia. The Highland Officer allows you to draw an extra card in the village and you can buy a militia in addition to your normal buy. In addition in the dungeon you can draw a card for each revealed militia. The Drill Sergeant allows you to destroy Militia in the dungeon to draw 2 cards and gain an experience point.

All of these cards allow you to manipulate the Militia in your starting deck in interesting ways. In addition they are cheap to buy meaning you can start using them really early in the game.

Power Word: Kill – This is a seriously powerful spell that can take out Monsters worth up to 5 Victory points. If another player is using these and you aren’t you’re probably going to lose. To make the most effective use of the card you will need high level wizards or clerics though.

Thieves Blade – With two Thieves included with this set this is a great addition to the game. It’s light and can give upto a +4 ATTACK bonus in the right hands.

Stalking Spell – This is just a fun card, it costs 3 but it allows you to draw 2 cards and forces everyone into the Dungeon on their next turn.

Final Thoughts

So, my final thoughts on Thornwood Siege… Overall I think it’s an Ok expansion, but it’s not the best. The “new” things it includes are not that exciting and it doesn’t expand old ideas at all. I find that many of the new effects like Stalk and Raid, along with new cards like Guiding Light and the Global Effects on the Siege Engines are pretty fiddly to keep track of.

That said there are some great village cards and the focus on basic, always available, items is a good thing. Many of the new cards force you to consider using a totally new strategy, like keeping Militia alive.

There may be a little bit of power creep in the heroes, particularly the Veris, Thornwood and Woodfolk, but overall the new heroes add to the base set rather than detract from it.

Once again the components are great and the artwork is very nice to look at. I don’t think that Thornwood is an essential expansion in any way but it does include a lot of good stuff and lots of variety.

So, that was Thornwood Siege and until next time, have fun gaming!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Musings on Medieval Mastery

Mark Rivera from Board Games in Blighty could not have been more impressed if he had tried when he met Miles Ratcliffe from Chaos Publishing. At the tender age of 18 Miles had no only designed his own game, but funded and published it himself too. Check out what Mark and Miles had to say in our final video for today…

Don’t forget that all these videos were produced in conjunction with the UK Gaming Media Network. We had a great time at the expo and we had a great time putting all this together. If you would like to be involved with next years projects we have even bigger plans so check out our guild and get in touch!

See y’all soon, Chris

Magnetic Mice, Love It!

Cubiko is great little company that produces games from wood with that hand crafted look and Cheese Factory is no different as Mark Rivera from Board Games in Blighty discovered when he sat down to play:

The theme is great and the variety of components really adds to the dexterity challenges in this game. Let us know what you think.

More from the expo very soon!

Demoing Conflicting Kingdoms

So, cards and miniatures, two of my favourite things and Conflicting Kingdoms, well it combines the two! In this video Michael Fox from the Little Metal Dog Show gets to sit down with the guys from Deck Void Games and chat about their new game, check it out:

Come back soon for more…

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