Board Gaming · Expansion Review · Review for One · Solo Gaming

Review for One – Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar

Thank you for checking review #76 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

*A review copy of this expansion was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter for the new campaign and other content: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1172937197/hero-realms-…


An Overview of Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar

Hero Realms: The Ruin of Thandar is an expansion for Hero Realms and was designed by Robert Dougherty, Ben Chichoski, Daniel Mandel, and Darwin Kastle, and was published by White Wizard Games in 2017. The box states that it can play 1-5 players and has a 90 minute play time.

Choose your character, team up with your friends, and start your adventure! Gain experience points on each mission. Spend your experience points between missions to improve your character with awesome new skill and gear cards.

The 144-card The Ruin of Thandar Campaign Deck contains:

E Rules for solo and cooperative Campaign play
E Three different missions, each designed to be more challenging than the last!
E Skill and gear cards to improve and customize your character

My Thoughts

 There is a well-considered progression you can develop your characters on throughout this, and the sequential, campaigns. This one box has every character path and upgrade you’ll need for the five initial character classes you can use, allowing you to decide early on how you want to proceed and chart out where your character will ultimately end up. While this takes up a lot of the content in the box, this is also a nice benefit because it allows you to plan from the beginning for your progression.

 It is a small detail, but I like the decision to use oversized cards for the villains in the campaign. It helps the players to differentiate at a quick glance between the main target and the ancillary cards interfering with their objectives. Much like the oversized cards I use for Sentinels of the Multiverse, this simply adds a nice element that gives it better table presence and makes the ultimate target feel like a big deal.

 It goes without saying, but I appreciated this opening up solo play in a great way for Hero Realms. While I enjoyed a few matches of Star Realms against those little boss cards, this campaign provides a much meatier and more enjoyable experience for the solo gamer. This feels very much like a dungeon crawl-inspired implementation of a deck builder, coupled with some elements from games like Sentinels of the Multiverse. Does it do each aspect better than game X that specializes in that area? No, but by merging all three of those into one game it delivers a fun, fast package that is unique in itself and can satisfy a lot of what I want out of a gaming session.

 This campaign plays out almost like a choose-your-own-adventure book, which is really fun. What I mean by that is you still need to successfully defeat the first boss battle, but once you do there is a snippet or two to read in the book that lays out what happens next, and at the end of that you are faced with two choices on what to do next. Depending on which you choose you progress down a slightly different story arc and encounter a different boss battle as a result. And the third encounter simply blew my mind with the approach taken here. I now understand how there are 8 different oversized cards for 3 encounters.

 The rules of the bosses are relatively simple, using their constructed mini deck and consulting their card based on the colored symbol shown for activation abilities (in addition to whatever the card is). At least with a solo game, this keeps the pace of the game moving forward and makes the focus more on how I act and react to the boss rather than going through a convoluted system to operate them. It takes the bookkeeping and simplifies things in all the right ways.

 To prevent dumping of massive damage while ignoring everything else, the Master’s deck can drop champions into your play area or into its play area (elites go to its area, all others to the player’s area). If it has ANY champion in your play area, Guarded keyword or not, you cannot attack or target the Master or its champions in its area. Which really stinks when it drops a 9 Health enemy there early on in the game, but also makes for great interactions. And the clever ideas only get better as you advance in the campaign.

 While I like the character progression and how scarce the upgrade points are, there is one thing I am disappointed with: you can’t go outside of your class for upgrades. There aren’t generic ones to choose from or anything, they are all specific to that class and essentially replace the starting abilities with stronger versions that become slightly specialized. By choosing Cleric, I’ll never be able to upgrade into dealing damage even if I wanted to for those slots. It makes sense, of course, but I’ve found that some of the choices to upgrade toward are not really as suited for solo play and therefore making the decisions easier on which path to take.

 I’ve said it before about Sentinels and I’ll say it as well on this game: the boss battles feel too easy at times. I went 3/3 on my campaign as a cleric, and while I had fun there was never a point where I was almost dead. The final encounter had about 2 turns where I was getting hit hard but then my deck’s engine finally was set and I took about 5 points of damage for the rest of the fight while dropping it by over 50 in those turns.

 Tied with the above, the flipping mechanic is clever but it only happened on the 3rd encounter. Getting some deck control on the Master via the Discard ability felt overly powerful, allowing me to cycle the Mastery cards to the bottom. In the solo match, the decks never depleted and so I was always able to delay the inevitable. That changed in the 3rd one, but by the time the final battle flipped, I was gearing up to be in control.

Final Thoughts

This version of Hero Realms is exactly what I want out of the game. For a base game with such a small buy-in, this experience takes that initial package and enhances it in clever ways. Sadly, I don’t think my wife will ever want to experience it (she hates co-op games) but the nice thing is that there’s still the regular Hero Realms I can enjoy with her. But this is the essential expansion for anyone who wants solo play, or who enjoys the feeling of character progression and big boss battles.

The story is simply told, and unravels in expected but exciting ways. There aren’t really any curveballs, although the added story when a card flipped out in the 3rd encounter was pretty cool. It came too late to really make an impact on the game, but it was a neat touch. But I still like the linear story with the small branches of possibilities. The boss fights all felt unique, and I have only faced half the cards in that box.

I’m a fan of being able to have the full information of how each class can upgrade in the overall campaign, yet it feels wasteful since the majority of this box is the cards used to upgrade the five decks. The encounter cards are a small fraction of what is in the box, and in a solo game you only use 1 of the 13 “starter” cards when constructing those decks.

In spite of this, I definitely feel like this is a great expansion experience for an already enjoyable game. There is plenty of replay value in here, plus the challenge of completing it with all five different classes in existence. Even if White Wizard Games never released a 2nd Campaign box, there would still be enough in here to make it worth the price to pick up this box unless you hate cooperative games AND never play solo games.

However, this little box helped make Hero Realms one of my Top 10 solo games this year and I look forward to seeing the story continue in the upcoming The Lost Village box (something I still wish had been available at Gen Con, as I purchased a ticket to play it but the event was cancelled prior to Gen Con)

Be sure to check out the campaign running on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1172937197/hero-realms-…

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Board Game Lists

Top 30 Heavy Games

Did you know that November is Heavy Games month? I heard rumor that it may be that, and you should definitely check out some of the heavy games on Kickstarter right now such as:

Pipeline by Capstone Games (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/capstonegames/pipeline-…)

The City on the Big Shoulders by Parallel Games (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1836800889/city-of-the-…)

So to celebrate I decided to throw all of the heavy games I’ve played into a list on Pub Meeple’s ranking engine to bring you my Top 30 (because there are 30 days in the month) Heavy Games.

I used the BGG Advanced Search to filter down to only games with a weight rating of 3.0 or higher, and from there I stopped looking at titles once I hit the BGG Ranking of 7000, which meant I looked through about 1500 titles. I won’t tell you the shamefully small number I have played, but what I will share are the 30 that I ranked above all of the others:

30. Root – So much universal love for the game, and I enjoy it as well. But the honeymoon phase has faded and there are other games that are far better with 2-players.

29. Sid Meier’s Civilization Board Game – I haven’t played the newest iteration of the game, but this FFG version was a great representation of the computer game I grew up loving to play.

28. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd Edition) – This game is not really playable with 2, therefore it left our collection long ago, but this would be that game to almost always pull out with 6 players for an epic, tense game.

27. Star Wars: Rebellion – I’ve still only played it once, and thus its low ranking here; yet that one play left a strong enough impression that I can’t wait to see whether or not it holds up.

26. In the Year of the Dragon – This game feels almost too light for this list, yet there is a simple brutality in this game that I really have enjoyed at all player counts.

25. Caverna: The Cave Farmers – One of only two Rosenberg titles to make the cut, as I prefer the adventuring over the card play in Agricola and the tetris puzzle in A Feast for Odin. This isn’t Rosenberg’s best game, but it is a solid worker placement that I rarely regret playing and think will be amazing with the Expansion.

24. Star Wars: Imperial Assault – This may be the game I’ve parted with that I regret the most, now that there is an app to solo play the campaign. The real star of the show was the 2-player skirmish mode, which was so excellent. But I disliked the churning of extra content from FFG and that was a big reason why this eventually had to go.

23. The Castles of Burgundy – The second of three Feld games to grace the list, and this one is a staple for a reason. It has enough mitigation to where the better player can, and often will, win in spite of any dice roll results.

22. Haspelknect – This undermentioned gem has some really interesting mechanics that I always enjoy getting to the table. I’ve heard the expansion on this cranks it up to 11, meaning I definitely need to grab it to see if this climbs further up the list.

21. Trajan – The final Feld game, and easily my favorite of them. I really enjoy the mancala action on here, and can’t wait for this to be rereleased even if it isn’t changed in any way.

20. Keyper – This game takes the fun elements of a game like Agricola or Caverna and makes it more interesting in all the right ways. I’m horrible at the game, but I enjoy the flippy boards each season and trying to strike a balance on how best to utilize my different Keyples.

19. Vinhos – This is the first of many Lacerda games to grace the list, but to say this is the worst of them is a diservice to the game. It is such a tight, excellent game where you quickly realize that a dozen actions is never going to be enough yet you can do so much that you’ll be thinking how to do it all better the next time.

18. Keyflower – One of the hardest decisions was when I had to choose Keyper or Keyflower, and I gave the nod to this one simply because of the unique bidding system and the clever use of those green Keyples. With more plays, this will easily climb the list a few spots.

17. Middle-Earth – Yes, a dead CCG made the list and with good reason. This manages to be such a thematic representation of Tolkien’s world, and competing against the other Istari wizards makes for a unique flavor. Cards are still mostly available at a reasonable price, and it was enough to hook me and a friend from the first agonizing play.

16. Food Chain Magnate – My first Splotter experience two months ago didn’t disappoint. Between the branching career paths for workers, the spatial element of controlling the demand on the board, and the impact of milestones – there is just so much in this game that I feel a need to replay it many times over just to really appreciate this gem.

15. CO2 – Honestly, this game surprised me in a way I never expected. I thought I’d hate the game, but found only a few turns into the experience that it was hitting all the right chords with me. Even if you have no interest in the theme or the so-called semi-cooperative nature of the game (really, you only are “working together” by making sure the pollution level never reaches a critical point), this one is worth checking out because it is such a great game in this box.

14. Gloomhaven – This one had to appear somewhere on the list, didn’t it? I’ve played a handful of games, but had to drop out of the regular group I had just joined. I enjoy the cardplay on this one, and still think this RPG-in-a-box might be something that would provide so many hours of delightful experiences.

13. BattleCON – The simple system of BattleCON makes it easy to pick up and learn, yet the weight on this dueling game comes from the open information and the wildly different playstyles of every character. Even when playing a character whose style is counterintuitive to my own preference, I still find myself having fun playing this game.

12. Spirit Island – The newest addition onto this list made a really strong first few impressions during some solo plays. I need to find a way to convince my wife to ignore the cooperative word on here and give it a play, as this is the kind of game I am sure she’d still enjoy playing together. This has so many delightfully tense decisions that I always feel like my turn matters.

11. Carthago: Merchants & Guilds – My current frontrunner as the best game of 2018, this game has a delightful system of multi-use cards, a tight rondel for actions, and has shown itself to contain multiple paths to victory.

10. The Gallerist – This game probably best demonstrates a Lacerda design, containing clear objectives to work toward via a small handful of actions, yet accomplishing any of those objectives takes plenty of time, planning, and an ability to call an audible when other players inevitably get in your way. This might be the easiest of his current games to teach, but there is a ton of room for learning to master the game and play it efficiently.

9. Ora et Labora – Easily the best Rosenberg I have played to date, this has so many excellent decisions and interesting challenges along the way, I love the resource wheel in this, just as I did in Glass Road (which, sadly, fell at a 2.97 weight rating and missed qualifying for the list) and there is a surprising amount of room for direct player interaction that is lacking in too many worker placement games.

8. Nations – The best of the civ-builder games that I have played. No, I have not tried Through the Ages yet but I think this one might be hard to topple. It has interesting decisions with upgrading and allocating to your own action spaces, an aspect which shines for me as a player.

7. The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade – This game is the best dice game on the market, as they never get rolled. This has simple mechanics, yet the decisions are tough at times and there is sufficient room for pursuing unique paths over the course of the game. I can’t wait for the final title in this trilogy to get the Capstone reprint so my colleciton can be complete.

6. Argent: The Consortium – Starting with this game through the #3 spot, these were some really tough choices. I absolutely love this worker placement gem, with an incredible theme and strong interaction between players. The delayed activation of workers until the end of the round opens up many opportunities to counter your opponent’s plans, and the 2nd Edition upgrade on this fixed the biggest issue the game had component-wise by providing better minis.

5. Rococo – My heart withers a little knowing there is no talk of a reprint on this incredible game. Sure, the theme might sound a little boring, but this game stole my heart from the first play. The deckbuilding is spectacular and essential to effective execution in a game about making dresses and suits.

4. Lignum – I really, really struggled with this and the next game. Lignum was a Top 5 game overall for me, and still is deserving of that placement. The long-term planning you need to be efficient in this game makes it a cherished part of my collection, and a game that always provides a good experience over the course of 2+ hours.

3. Lisboa – Lacerda’s best game to date is also arguably his densest game. There is just so much to explore that it can easily overwhelm a new player, yet once you get a handle on the basic concepts this game holds one of the best gaming experiences on the market. I’ve played and enjoyed this at 1, 2, and 3 players and will always be willing to sit down and play (and now teach) this game.

2. War of the Ring (Second Edition) – It is finally time to stop deluding myself – this is no longer my #1 game. It has dropped a spot, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t an excellent gaming experience. When I want an epic struggle in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, there is no other game I’d rather play for several hours with one friend. So much about this game is fantastic, and regardless of which side I am playing there is a feeling of epic scale and emotional swings that check all the right boxes that a game should check.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Yes, a Living Card Game takes the top spot. If you don’t think a card game can have weight, you haven’t played this one. There are so many fun and tense decisions to make, whether playing alone or working together with others, that this scratches every itch I want from a Lord of the Rings game (apart from competing against a player…until recently). It is easily my most-played game with over 100 logged played in just over a year, and the go-to solo game in my collection. Some dislike the chance that you might need to tweak a deck, or even change your deck completely, in order to beat a specific quest. As for me, I find that is what helps give it the nice weight I like in a game, as I need to adapt and plan better in order to be successful.

***

And there you have it, my top 30 heavy games. What games didn’t make my list that I definitely should check out if I haven’t already?

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Hero Realms

Thank you for checking review #75 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
An Overview of Hero Realms 

Hero Realms is a game designed by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, and was published by White Wizard Games in 2016. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 20-30 minute play time.

 

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Hero Realms is a fantasy-themed deck-building game that is an adaptation of the award-winning Star Realmsgame. The game includes basic rules for two-player games, along with rules for multiplayer formats such as Free-For-All, Hunter, and Hydra.

Each player starts the game with a ten-card personal deck containing gold (for buying) and weapons (for combat). You start each turn with a new hand of five cards from your personal deck. When your deck runs out of cards, you shuffle your discard pile into your new deck. An 80-card Market deck is shared by all players, with five cards being revealed from that deck to create the Market Row. As you play, you use gold to buy champion cards and action cards from the Market. These champions and actions can generate large amounts of gold, combat, or other powerful effects. You use combat to attack your opponent and their champions. When you reduce your opponent’s score (called health) to zero, you win!

Multiple expansions are available for Hero Realms that allow players to start as a particular character (Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Thief, or Wizard) and fight cooperatively against a Boss, fight Boss decks against one another, or compete in a campaign mode that has you gain experience to work through different levels of missions.

My Thoughts

 

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 This is a fun, fast game that is everything I want out of a deckbuilder. The setup and teardown time is quick, so I can pull this out at a whim and be playing within minutes. The rules are simple and easy to teach, yet there is a vast amount of complexity within the game itself in terms of strategies you can take. There are easy ways to increase damage, regain life, draw more cards, and to thin your deck. You are interacting with your opponent because you are trying to destroy them, and there are some ways that you can slow down your opponent’s attacks apart from trying to regain a ton of life. This one little box provides an experience that is incredibly fun and has plenty of replayability.

 Speaking of replayability, the factions seem to be a little more balanced in this game than Star Realms. I have no concrete evidence, but they there doesn’t seem to be an obvious mono-faction that is all power or all healing. There are definitely still areas where each faction is stronger, but overall this seems to do a better job of spreading out those desirable traits to encourage branching out.
 I love the change on how Champions are used. They are far more interesting than Bases in Star Realms, despite providing almost the same effect. The real kicker is they get tapped to be used, meaning your opponent has opportunity to take them out of the equation for a turn. It also makes it easier to see and remember if something has been used.

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 The art and theme in this version of the deckbuilder hold a stronger appeal to me personally than ships in space. I’m definitely not going to be the only one who finds that to be true and, if all other things between the two games were equal, the theme in this would help it make a case to be in my collection. This one is just more fun to look at while on the table.

 The health tracking cards are significantly improved compared to Star Realms, and are definitely something I am willing and able to use during gameplay. My wife still isn’t a fan of the method, but I find it to be intuitive and easy to navigate during gameplay.

 One of the big differences you can feel during Hero Realms is how greater the spikes in power are. On one hand, it feels amazing to drop epic damage in a round. On the other hand, the slow burn and building of a deck in Star Realms allows a slower build to hit its stride. Is it a horrible problem that this game can eat health faster? Not at all! It was something that kept me from the game for a long time, but I shouldn’t have stayed away because it rarely is a downside to the gameplay. In fact, it can help keep the pace flowing to where the game avoids dragging on forever.

 One thing I don’t understand about Champions is how they untap at the end of your turn. So you use them, and then they refresh in time to block everyone else’s turns. It is counter-intuitive to me as a player, and it took a little time to wrap my head around the concept. If you’re used to playing games where things untap at the start of your turn, too (and I bet you are), this might be a struggle for you to remember as well. At least for the first games.

 The biggest complaint that could be said is that it doesn’t do anything new or revolutionary in the base game box. This is essentially a reskin of Star Realms, which at its core was a simple combination of deckbuilding and PVP card game combat. Happily, there are expansions that branch out to open up assymetrical starting decks and powers, boss battles, and a campaign to play through. Unfortunately, those require additional purchases and take an inexpensive entry point and makes it on par with a bigger box game for a buy-in to get the best value and mileage for the game.

Final Thoughts

 

I held off on even trying Hero Realms for a long, long time. I owned and loved Star Realms so much and heard whispers about Hero Realms that made me resist trying it for so long. And yes, it definitely can have far greater spikes of damage in this version (the main drawback I strayed from) but when playing the game it is far from feeling like a problem. In fact, it actually allows this game to have a better tempo than Star Realms, relying less heavily upon needing to go mono-faction from the market to have an engine that churns effectively and providing ways to still drop enough damage on the turtle-heavy strategists..

When comparing just base game Hero Realms against base game Star Realms, there aren’t many differences outside of the theme. Hero Realms provides an art style that is brighter and will have a strong appeal. It offers faster (in general) matches to let this thrive as a best-of sort of game on the shelf. It also provides Champions, who are similar to Bases in the Star Realms game but actually do something besides just a passive benefit. There are smaller Champions, bringing a great variety of them to the table.

Ultimately I came to like and appreciate Hero Realms even more than I expected. I still enjoy, and would gladly play, either game. They scratch the same itch, at least in base form. This system remains one of my favorite deckbuilders out there, far surpassing the likes of Dominion and Marvel Legendary.

However, the problem with Hero Realms is that there is more than just the base game and you’ll want to expand it. However, as you’ll see soon, that is a good thing because it adds a solo mode that is better than Star Realms’ version, character classes for unique starting decks for all players, and even boss battles allowing a 1 vs Many scenario of battling that is a ton of fun.

For the entry price, this game is hard to beat. If I had played this one more prior to my Top 25 list, it definitely would have made an appearance on that list because it does all the right things that I want this small, portable deckbuilder to accomplish. And with more expansions in the near future, there isn’t a better time to consider playing Hero Realms and seeing if it is right for your collection.

***
Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Hero Realms. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

 

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Two-Player Only

Review for Two – Exceed Fighting System

Thank you for checking review #74 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An Overview of Exceed Fighting System

**Note: This is an overview of the fighting system as a whole, not a review of any particular box from the seasons of the game. Some of those may enter the pipeline in the future, though…

Exceed Fighting System is a game designed by D. Brad Talton Jr. and was published by Level 99 Games in 2015. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 5-30 minute play time.

Bring the fast-paced action of head-to-head arcade fighting games to your tabletop with the EXCEED Fighting System, which features fast-paced, intuitive mechanisms and gameplay that’s accessible to gamers and non-gamers of all skill levels. Choose your fighter from an ever-growing roster of diverse characters, each with their own deck of special moves and supers. Play your cards to unleash fireballs, dragon punches, and deadly combos on your opponents!

Titles in the EXCEED Fighting System come in one of two forms: standalone games that contain decks that allow two players to compete against one another, and individual decks. The standalone games are being released in “seasons”, with each season containing sixteen fighters from various franchises or worlds that are packaged into four-character boxes. Any deck can be played against any other deck, allowing you to compete across seasons and across worlds.

Season 1 of EXCEED features the art and characters of Jasco Games’ Red Horizon, which was first featured in the UFS Collectible Card Game. Season 2 of EXCEED features the monstrous heroes and villains of Seventh Cross, an upcoming game world from Level 99 Games.

My Thoughts

A huge change from BattleCON is that it becomes a “you go, I go” system and not every turn will consist of an attack. There are other things to do, such as drawing more cards or boosting your next attack or even moving around the board, and these add some nice, small decisions for the players. Attacking spends cards, all other actions at the least gain a card at the end of your turn. So eventually you’re going to either need to do something other than attack or just spam Wild Swings.

Wild Swings are what make this game exciting. Seriously. There’s something amazing about landing a strike that you couldn’t have otherwise done from your hand. I had a situation where I was 4 spaces away, my max range in my hand was 3. I gambled with the Wild Swing and flipped a card I didn’t even know existed yet that had a 4-6 range. It was an amazing feeling. I’ve also pulled off a finishing blow with a Wild Swing, as my opponent was at 4 health and both my hand attacks dealt 3. So I gambled on the Wild Swing and brought them down. Is it a reliable tactic to use often? No. But it is great to have that option for when you don’t have the right cards, or desire to keep your hand in-tact.

I love how thematic it feels to need to land hits in order to use your stronger attacks. Every successful hit is added to your Gauge, which is essentially a currency you can spend. Each character has a few cards (called Ultra Attacks) that can only be played by spending Gauge. It can also be spent as Force, providing more for fewer cards. It is like your fighter is using momentum throughout the match to hit harder and (usually) faster than a normal attack. While they lack any finishers, these are a close enough substitute that it feels right.

The Exceed mode on each character brings a nice decision into the game, as it also takes Gauge to flip your character. Gauge isn’t always easy, or fast, to come by. Spending 2-4 Gauge is a critical decision at times, as using it for Exceed will make it so you probably can’t afford an Ultra Attack. However, the continuous boost/change to your character might be worthwhile. Deciding when/if to Exceed is a critical decision at times, and one I enjoy having available.

EX Attacks are a fun twist to add in there, yet another thing that adds some flair to the gameplay and makes it exciting. When you play a strike, if you have two cards of the same name you can put them both down. What this essentially does is add +1 to everything but range on the attack, making it faster, stronger, and provide more defense. This has been the difference between being stunned and making a connection on an attack, and is a simple yet wonderful tactic.

There is balance in the game. Honestly, it felt like there wasn’t during my first two games as the fighters I used are polar opposites (one is all about ranged attacks, the other about being right next to the opponent). Yet as I played more, using the same matchup against the same opponent, that perceived disadvantage disappeared. Do they dictate some of the playstyle? Sure, which is the beauty of a game where there are currently 32 fighters, not counting bonus ones. You just need to find the one that resonates most with you.

These things are worth mentioning even though all I have is a demo deck. These could be things that have been changed/fixed already and I just don’t know it. But here goes: The board is 9 cards. While it isn’t a bad thing, having a board (other than via purchasing a mat) would be a nice bonus. I understand the cost savings of this method but it also leads me to wonder if there is a way to track health in the box. No board or mat leads me to have to find alternative methods for tracking our health.

The rules I have are disappointing. Yes, you can learn the game from them and play without much issue. The few questions we ran into in the last play session were either answered in the FAQ or quickly answered by the amazing fan community. However, they are a folded poster. Yes, that makes it portable. But I don’t want a massive rule sheet on the table while playing, and folding/unfolding it is annoying during play. I would honestly prefer more of a book – something I hope to discover upon opening a box rather than just a pair of demo decks…

Final Thoughts

I got my first introduction to Exceed: Fighting System at Gen Con from the Level 99 Games booth. I distinctly remember talking to Brad Talton while playing Temporal Odyssey beforehand, asking him how he felt Exceed and BattleCON could co-exist while providing the same concept of fighting game. I simply didn’t understand how this game could be different enough from BattleCON, a game I had already played and came to love, to merit consideration in a person’s collection. But Brad was right – turns out the designer of the games knows what he is talking about – this game is different enough to co-exist in a collection.
Both of the games are going to scratch different playstyle itches. BattleCON is deep in tactical and strategic layers because you have a set of cards that are known to both players, and that are available in a cyclical system of rotation. This provides both its greatest strength and greatest weakness in the same blow, as it allows you to plan for every possible combination your opponent could play and to think ahead by several turns on your own moves.
Exceed, on the other hand, has elements of both but is a lot heavier on the tactical side of things because it adds in randomness into the mix. You won’t always have the exact card you need for the situation, and the number of specific moves is finite in that deck. While it loses the ability to plan with perfect information, it gains a lot more emotional moments instead. Rather than doing well because you outplayed your opponent, you gain the thrill of connecting on a hopeless Wild Swing strike and drawing the exact card you need at just the right time for your circumstances. It provides more of a roller coaster of excitement and layers of tension that are sometimes lacking in the BattleCON match. All the while feeling like a brand new system that still feels as though it will reward the experienced player.
My experience so far with Exceed is limited to two characters, those demo decks I picked up at Gen Con, and that is why I feel there is some value here in reviewing the system as a whole. This avoids diving into X is broken or Y is underpowered or Z is the best box to purchase because it has A in there. This is my taking a look at the mechanics of Exceed and providing a review of the mechanics alone.
And that is enough. Honestly, it doesn’t matter as much about which box you pick up or which season of Exceed you purchase because the core of the game is great. I’m still not sure if I prefer this or BattleCON, and I don’t know that I will ever make that decision. I know players who are likely to prefer the open information of BattleCON and the feeling of outplaying your opponent to win. I know others who prefer a little luck in their game and will really dig the use of a Wild Swing as a mechanic. I enjoy them both equally.
Which says a lot about Exceed, since my expectations were pretty low going into the game. It provides a faster experience, while opening up a lot more small decisions to the player because it is not just about pairing attacks every single turn. You can not only do smaller actions to help position your fighter or load your hand, but you can also Exceed to unlock your more powerful side and play EX attacks to boost your strikes. I love the tweaks made on this fighting system, and if you like a little luck in your game and a box that has an excellent entry price, then definitely check out one of the eight available boxes of Exceed.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Exceed Fighting System. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for One · Uncategorized

Review for One – Maiden’s Quest

Thank you for checking review #73 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

An Overview of Maiden’s Quest

Maiden’s Quest is a game designed by Kenneth C. Shannon III and was published by Wiz Kids in 2018. The box states that it can play 1-2 players and has a 10-30 minute play time.

In Maiden’s Quest, a maiden — tired of waiting to be rescued — takes it upon herself to fight her enemies and escape.

Maidens use cards from their hands to attempt to defeat an enemy or obstacle. As you play, the game’s difficulty grows as enemies of increasing ferocity become active! An innovative turn-and-flip mechanism allows each card to represent up to four items, encounters, or allies.

This fun and easy-to-learn game takes 10–30 minutes if you play non-stop. However, since each encounter is resolved separately, you can stop and stow away the deck at any time, returning to play when and where you left off at a later time! Since no surface is required, you can play while standing in line to get your morning coffee, while you wait for an appointment, or while sitting on the couch at home! Contents include enough for true solo play, co-op, or competitive two-player games, and, with multiple copies, more players can join in!

description from the publisher

Gameplay differences for 1 Player
No changes, really, as I would say this is designed first and foremost to be a solo experience. Adding in more players has the players going through the first levels like a solo game, and being able to help each other in encounters after that (which sounds really cool, by the way).

My Thoughts

The game is relatively unique in being one that requires zero table space to play. In theory you could even set up without a table, although that tends to be handy. This is the kind of game you can take with you to play while waiting in lines, going on a walk (I still recommend paying attention to your surroundings!), sitting in a waiting room, and more. This allows the game to fill a niche in every collection.

The game has several difficulty levels you can play on, and each captor has varying difficulty. While I wish there was an official rating guide on difficulty, you at least know the two easiest from the rulebook. In my opinion, Hard is the only mode for me because you have a defined number of plays through the deck. However, the randomness also makes it so it would be possible to never encounter your captor. So I at least play until I’ve faced them at least once.

The replay value in the box is incredible, with 80 combinations just from maiden and captor pairings (8 Maidens x 10 Captors). That doesn’t include all the other cards going into each deck, all of which are different (usually only an item and up to 2 health cards are dictated specifically by a maiden, everything else is randomly added from that set of cards). This is the area where Maiden’s Quest crushes its “competition” in Palm Island and a huge reason I prefer this over Palm Island.

The cards are shuffled every time you pass through the deck. Some might dislike this, but I think it is actually a benefit of the game. Yes, you can’t “know” what cards are coming next through memorization. But if you just played the same sequence of cards 7-8 times in a row, you might never be able to pass certain obstacles and thus get into unwinnable situations. You can know what is in your deck and the odds of beating something without needing to know the exact cards coming next. The press your luck component is executed nicely.

The upgrading of your deck over the course of a play is really fun and interesting. It presents really strong decisions, and sometimes you find that downgrading a card is the best option (at the moment) for that card. Seriously, some are better on the flip side even though there is usually the cost of an extra hit while in your fan (if you fail) to add a nice risk-reward into the mix. This gives a strong sense of progression that plays out through all four levels. I wish it could carry on beyond that, but a small game like this can only have so much you expect from it…

Let’s talk theme for a moment. Not only is this a kickass theme about the maiden rescuing herself from the tower, but the cards in here are dripping with theme. Seriously, take the time to look at the card names, the symbols on them, and how that item changes with each upgrade/downgrade. Lots of careful consideration went into this delightful game beyond the simple mechanics. Do I notice the theme often while playing? No, but I don’t have to. I enjoy those things between games, and have those wonderful moments when I see that a Hooded Cloak downgrades to a No Snag Cape and then to a Towel. Or that a Belt can downgrade into a Really Long String. Or that a Candlestick can upgrade to Flame Dagger…or downgrade to my personal favorite: A Ham Sandwich. Did I mention they all have a small snippet of flavor text, too?

There is a ton of iconography and sometimes it can feel like a lot in those first plays. It took a long time for me to realize the value in Haste, which has become my Dark Horse to want in a fan. It is nice that the game comes with reference cards, and this would definitely be a negative without that. However, the rulebook is such an organizational mess that trying to find the full ruling on a keyword can be an effort in frustration. That is its greatest downfall, being a poor reference tool because things are referred to in several places but each time discusses a little different aspect. So you might need to look in three places in there to finally find what you were looking for.

I want to emphasize this, because it has been mentioned in other reviews as a total negative thing. The rules themselves are not bad. Could it be clearer in parts? Yes. Could it be organized better? Very much so. But I had no trouble playing the game after a single pass through the rulebook, only needing to refer back to it for specific situations. And guess what? The answer I needed was always in there. It isn’t a perfect rulebook by any means, but it is definitely going to do its job of teaching you the game effectively. And, spoiler alert, there may be a revised version in the works. I may have helped look it over.

The learn to play guide is fine. Much better than Root’s experience with it. However, it is short (two encounters) and really lacks the gusto that would help reward a new player. It was a nice starting point to run through the mechanics before diving into the rulebook, but I was in no way equipped to continue from that point without reading the rulebook. A longer guide would be a nice addition. Don’t be surprised, with how much I love this game, if a video tutorial appears on my YouTube in the near future…

The treasure cards are great, but there are only a few of them. Everything else has a strong variety, but these are really lacking. A fun mini-pack to add would be a “Treasure Trove” or something, adding some extra choices to flesh this out. After all, I can only flip the same treasure card so many times. Variety would strengthen this a lot.

Final Thoughts

This game isn’t one I am reviewing out of obligation because of getting a review copy, in spite of my best efforts to get one. I was rejected by Wiz Kids, even though the designer threw his support behind my request. I sought a copy out during my last day at Gen Con but was unable to get it while I was there (but did end up with the Unicorn Savior promo from a magazine!) I jumped on a chance to get one when the designer was offering copies, but it hasn’t arrived. None of that matters. I’m reviewing this game because it is one I really, truly believe in. That makes this one of those reviews I’m genuinely happy to write.
The game is not without its flaws. I am sure a left-handed person would dislike how things are organized on the cards and the fanning mechanic. A game can be lost due to luck, since you have no real control over what the next 5 cards will be when you start an encounter. It is portable to play, but doesn’t have any way to take it with you (such as a small wallet that those nice Button Shy games come in), and it can be a real challenge to shuffle while standing. More than once I’ve dropped a number of cards while attempting this and had to try and get them back in the proper orientation. The rulebook is a mess organizationally, even though the gameplay itself isn’t too complex and I had no issues with playing the game after a single pass through the rulebook (but was frustrated several times trying to find where a specific rule or clarification was located while playing those first games).
Warts and all, though, this is a game I really love. It is no secret that I love a story about a strong female protagonist, having written a fantasy novel featuring a strong female protagonist. I’d love to see Ava appear in this game, along with her trusty sword, Seraphina, and Edgar as a Savior card, and a maybe even a monster or two from the book pop into the game. (Let’s talk promos, Ken!) This was the game I needed because it has been perfect for my situation at the NICU visiting my daughter. Time and space to play games has been at a premium, and this game has delivered fun over the course of over a dozen plays so far.
There are two things I really love about this game, moreso than anything else. First of all is the replay value in this box, because there are a ton of maidens and captors and so you can mix & match for almost endless variety. You’ll never use all the treasures, items, health cards, dresses, saviors, or obstacles on any given playthrough so that varies a lot as well. Even when replaying the same exact setup, the order in which things are encountered can drastically alter the course of your play. This game, without any additional content, can provide hundreds of plays.
The other thing I really love is the sense of leveling up throughout the gameplay. You’re upgrading (and sometimes downgrading) cards as you complete encounters (even if you run away, it downgrades something in the fan). You gain that sense of becoming stronger and wiser as you play onto later levels because you have a better sense of what is in your deck. Not only does that apply from game to game, but across plays you get better at knowing what decisions to make and how to effectively upgrade cards and what symbols matter the most.
This is a game I could play all the time and enjoy. I have had fun with every success and every failure (I play on hard mode only, with the caveat of I’ll play Level 4 until I at least encounter the captor, which may take more than one run through if it pops into a fan). I’ve lost more games than I’ve won, something I wasn’t sure would happen when I won my first three games. There are great decisions and some excellent design and gameplay in this box. This is a must-have game for me as a solo gamer, and even if it didn’t have the benefit of being a portable, play-on-the-go style of niche game, it would earn a spot in that collection on merit of gameplay and replay alone. If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to take a look at this one. It is fantastic fun, and a game I can 100% recommend.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Maiden’s Quest. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Root

Thank you for checking review #72 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.

**Note: a review copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review.

An Overview of Root

 

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Root is a game designed by Cole Wehrle and was published by Leder Games in 2018. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60-90 minute play time.

Root is a game of adventure and war in which 2 to 4 (1 to 6 with the ‘Riverfolk’ expansion) players battle for control of a vast wilderness.

The nefarious Marquise de Cat has seized the great woodland, intent on harvesting its riches. Under her rule, the many creatures of the forest have banded together. This Alliance will seek to strengthen its resources and subvert the rule of Cats. In this effort, the Alliance may enlist the help of the wandering Vagabonds who are able to move through the more dangerous woodland paths. Though some may sympathize with the Alliance’s hopes and dreams, these wanderers are old enough to remember the great birds of prey who once controlled the woods.

Meanwhile, at the edge of the region, the proud, squabbling Eyrie have found a new commander who they hope will lead their faction to resume their ancient birthright. The stage is set for a contest that will decide the fate of the great woodland. It is up to the players to decide which group will ultimately take root.

Root represents the next step in our development of asymmetric design. Like Vast: The Crystal Caverns, each player in Root has unique capabilities and a different victory condition. Now, with the aid of gorgeous, multi-use cards, a truly asymmetric design has never been more accessible.

The Cats play a game of engine building and logistics while attempting to police the vast wilderness. By collecting Wood they are able to produce workshops, lumber mills, and barracks. They win by building new buildings and crafts.

The Eyrie musters their hawks to take back the Woods. They must capture as much territory as possible and build roosts before they collapse back into squabbling.

The Alliance hides in the shadows, recruiting forces and hatching conspiracies. They begin slowly and build towards a dramatic late-game presence–but only if they can manage to keep the other players in check.

Meanwhile, the Vagabond plays all sides of the conflict for their own gain, while hiding a mysterious quest. Explore the board, fight other factions, and work towards achieving your hidden goal.

In Root, players drive the narrative, and the differences between each role create an unparalleled level of interaction and replayability. Leder Games invites you and your family to explore the fantastic world of Root!

—description from the publisher

Gameplay differences for 2 Players

There are no real inherent differences apart from the removal of the four Dominance Cards from the deck. Apart from that, the factions set up and are played exactly the same as with more factions. There are a series of recommended matchups at this player count in the rulebook, with the most obvious being the Marquise de Cat vs. the Eyrie Dynasty (and arguably the best matchup)

My Thoughts

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 The best thing about Root is the asymmetric factions. They are all unique in how they operate, yet they are easy enough to navigate. There are common grounds in that they all get and use cards, they are working to earn 30 VP, and can make some use of items. Beyond that, each of them does things differently to make every experience feel fresh without it being overwhelming. Certain factions will cater more to certain playstyles, but all of them have their merit and all of them, at least in a 4-player game, will be capable of competing if played well.

 The problem that Vast: The Crystal Caverns ran into was the barrier to entry in a game with completely asymmetric factions. Thankfully, this game learned some lessons from its predecessor and provides an easier-to-learn experience with factions that are easy enough to play. The factions are necessary to provide overall balance to each other without the burdensome task of “the Goblins need to do X because they are the only faction that can really slow down Y”, making a much better and overall more enjoyable experience.

 

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 The board has two sides, consisting of the standard playing side and a winter side where you can randomize the clearings’ affiliations. I like this idea a lot, as it gives you a static setup to use for early games and a dynamic setup for experienced players. This is the same concept you see in games like Azul, where the player board has a standard side and a greyed out side to allow players to tinker with the layout. More games should consider something like this with the board, optimizing the value in the box and adding replay value.

 Combat in this game is simple and mostly intuitive. The attacker rolls two 12-sided dice (values range from 0-3) and the attacker gets the higher roll and the defender the lower roll. Both sides deal those hits at the same time, but are capped on the number of hits they can do by how many units they have present. That lone Cat Warrior can’t clear out three Bird Knights, no matter how often he rolls a 3. This system, while not incredible, is an effective system that keeps the game flowing and makes it so every combat has some risk to it.

 #teamwoodlandalliance. That is all. Guess which faction I enjoyed the most?

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 I rather like two of the three rulebook/references that are included in this game. One gives you the overview of information, allowing any group to start playing after going through a colorful book that walks you through the basics and provides nice examples. Another one is stylized in the format of a wargame’s rulebook and provides very detailed and complete rules. It is the sort of book you want to have as a way of referencing things as you play.

 However, the third thing in there isn’t so great. In concept, I like the walkthrough of two turns of play for players. It gets you up and running that much faster and lets them follow a pair of scripted turns that does demonstrate how each faction functions. However, this isn’t executed well because it lacks one key thing: reasoning. It is all good that the Cats are building a sawmill. But WHY? That is what a player wants to know. Otherwise why not just start the game at Turn 3, with those changes already implemented? That is essentially what happens there, because it gives no context or commentary on what is being completed by the player.

 There are items that can be crafted by each faction, which is nice because they score victory points. But unless you are playing with a Vagabond, that is the extent of their purpose in a game. They are limited by the quantity available in the supply at the top of the board, but I’ve rarely seen that an issue to prevent an item from being crafted. I do like that the Eyrie has a major drawback on crafting items, as they already score points really consistently. It is a key part of the game regardless, but it really loses the impact when there is no Vagabond. And, as you’ll read soon, the Vagabond isn’t really ideal in a 2-player game…

 The factions lose some of the interactions when not every faction is present. As the biggest “for instance”, let’s consider the Vagabond. He cannot function as intended, taking items in exchange for cards and finding peace with factions while warring with other ones. He also loses the freedom to spend any time exploring ruins, as it is almost critical that he combats those Eyrie every turn in order to keep pace on scoring and try to throw them into turmoil – something that, sadly, only worked once for my Vagabond when I played. After that, the Eyrie was able to smartly build their programming around what they possessed on the board and they ran away with the victory.

 Which is the other big detractor, tying into the loss of interactions: not every match is balanced at this player count. 10+ point blowouts are not uncommon, and there is no 3rd party to help slow down a leading player. Even the matchups recommended in the rulebook at 2-players, such as the Eyrie vs. the Vagabond, do not play out well. There is really one excellent matchup, and a handful of okay matchups. So if you love Cats and Birds, you’re in luck! Those two are the best against each other. Everything else really shows signs of wanting that extra player or two to help keep things in check.

Final Thoughts

 

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Root is one of those games that is hard to pinpoint where it should fall. What it sets out to accomplish, it does rather well. It is a fun, fast game that has mass appeal to wargamers and non-wargamers alike. It provides asymmetry, but streamlines the learning process that really hampered Vast: The Crystal Caverns (which was one of those few games that went into the “I never want to try and teach that game” category, right next to Race for the Galaxy). Combat is streamlined and simple, and every faction feels like they have unique paths to their objective of 30 points.

However, this review is not necessarily just a review of the game of Root. You, dear reader, likely want to know about it as a 2-player experience. Can I recommend it?

Had I reviewed this game immediately after my first few plays, the answer would have been “Yes!”. This game made me fall in love with it, and it jettisoned into my experimental “If I could only keep 50 games” list a few months ago as a result. It still might make that list, but for different reasons.

You see, Root is not a great 2-player only experience. If that is the only way you are going to play the game, I wouldn’t recommend it. It will be fun for a while, but you’ll eventually discover matchups that aren’t going to feel balanced (such as the Eyrie vs. the Vagabond, which saddened me so much because I was looking forward to playing the Vagabond! And this was recommended in the rules!) and might take dozens of frustrating losses to finally learn a way to win. Some people might be okay with that and embrace it – I plan to not give up on it myself, but most games these days get at most 10 plays during their life on a person’s shelves before something newer and shinier is fulfilled on Kickstarter to replace it.

Root’s biggest problem, besides the feeling of inbalance, is that it is a game that requires investment. You can play it 3-5 times and get a feeling of satisfaction, but it may take dozens of plays across the factions (not even counting expansion ones) in order to really have things shine through. And the harsh truth is most gamers won’t reach that point before moving on. This isn’t a game to pull out every 6 months to play it once and put it back. It desires regular, consistent play to fully enjoy it – especially with the same game group and at the max player count of 4. It is almost like a legacy game from that standpoint, as it will require committed scheduling to really see the best this game has to offer.

And the best this game offers is not at 2 players. Or even at 3, although that is significantly better. The best Root experience is at a full table, with all factions in play. That version of Root is the experience I can, and will, recommend without hesitation. That version of Root is arguably the best game so far in 2018.

And here lies the caveat for my final verdict. If you are looking at Root for your collection and know it is always going to be a 2-player experience, I would pass on the game as there are simply much better options out there. If you want head-to-head combat, something card-driven like BattleCON or Temporal Odyssey would be great, or for a conflict “dudes on a map” game War of the Ring or 878: Vikings – Invasions of England will provide better experiences for that player count.

However…

If there is a chance, any chance at all, that this will see some plays at 3-4 players it becomes a recommended game and therefore will definitely remain in our collection. It is still fun to play on occasion with 2 players and a game we both definitely enjoyed, and I have a feeling we’ll pull it out every so often when it is the two of us. However, this is going to be a go-to game any time we have a couple over to game with us because that is where Root really, really shines: with 3-4 players. Cole and the Leder Games team designed a fantastic game overall, and I’m definitely wanting to look into picking up that expansion for the solo play eventually. I’m glad we had a chance to play Root, and I think it is the rare game that many players will enjoy. I just wish it was a tad bit better with 2 players.

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Hopefully you found this article to be a useful look at Root. If you’re interested in providing support for Cardboard Clash so I can continue to improve what we offer, check out my page over on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/CardboardClash.

Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/220300/cardboard-clas

Board Gaming · Kickstarter · Two-Player Only

BattleCON Unleashed on Kickstarter + Fanfic Preview

This post is long overdue. Really long overdue. The campaign for BattleCON Unleashed is literally in its final hours, and it is one that I 100% recommend. Whole-heartedly. I believe in Level 99 Games and the work they are doing, and the BattleCON system is arguably the best 2-player only game out there for your money. Yes, better than my hyped Hanamikoji because of all the variability, depth, and replay value contained in even one box of this game (yet you’ll want them all).

So go check out the campaign. Pledge if you want to – it’ll be great. You can get everything ever released from BattleCON, or just the newest stuff. You can’t go wrong either way, as BattleCON isn’t just fan service to the fighting genre of video games. What is in the box is a tight, fast, fun dueling game with a ton of strategy and tactics, complete with open information. It rewards new players, as well as mastery of the characters.

Curious about my full thoughts on BattleCON? Check out the review I wrote for Trials of the Indines back in June.

This month has been the hardest month in terms of time for me. I wanted a nice, long, complete fanfic to post up as part of their campaign. In my mind, I was still going to reach the end of it in time, but life is just too insane right now for me to dedicate the proper time and attention to make a polished product. So I’ll end this with a teaser – a very small sampling of what will eventually become a long, finished product. Something that I, and Level 99 Games, can be proud of. Even this scene has changed and expanded – but it will be enough for now. The lore in the World of Indines is incredible, and so much is unexplored that a writer could be content creating content for years and still have things to cover.

***

“Whoa, the Rubara Keep is massive,” said Magdelina. She brushed a lock of hair aside and shook her head, her long pigtails swinging from the motion.

“Focus,” replied Kallistar. “We’re here for a reason, remember?”

“Right,” Magdelina said, “to stop Rexan from being resurrected and casting a shadow upon Indines once more. Which means we need to find Hepzibah before she can use her resurrection spell. I was the one with the dreams showing the event happening, remember?.”

“And it is very important that we succeed.” Kallistar marched forward, forcing her two companions to catch back up.

“Success is important,” Vanaah replied in between breaths, “but we also can’t walk blindly into a trap or ambush.”

“A trap?” Magdelina echoed, stopping in her tracks. Her gaze darted around the massive chamber, scrutinizing the shadows being cast by torches hanging from the walls and pillars. Vanaah looked up toward the ceiling where a pair of balconies stretched out over the chamber, but neither contained any signs of movement. Kallistar continued her determined stride forward, eyes fixated on the double doors ahead.

Twang!

“Kallistar, look out!” Magdelina shouted. Her companion continued her march onward. Two arrows converged upon the pyromancer in the lead. Magdelina clenched her fists and two luminescent shields formed in the air, traveling alongside Kallistar. The arrows bounced harmlessly off the shields and Magdelina banished the shields.

“Finally,” Kallistar said as the double doors opened and waves of guards burst into the chamber. Spouts of flame burst from Kallistar’s fists, scorching the nearest guards.

“We must remain vigilant,” Vanaah said as she readied her scythe. She swept the weapon in a wide arc, the crescent blade slicing the shins of a nearby guard.

“This is a distraction,” Magdelina said, dodging an arrow. “We need to find Hepzibah before it is too late.”

The stream of guards continued to flood into the chamber. Vanaah danced through their attacks, striking back mercilessly with her scythe. Kallistar burned with fury, her flames growing hotter with every blow the guards land upon her as she battles back the swarm. She laughs as a heavy crossbow bolt pierces her shoulder and sends a bolt of fire racing across the room to strike back at the assailant.

Swords slashed through the air around Magedelina. She ducked under one strike and hopped aside to avoid a thrust. Thick blue tendrils of smoke rose into the air from a golden ball in her hands, growing thicker with every successful dodge. A blast of flame tore through the guards to Magdelina’s right and she rolled under another swing from the remaining guard.

As she got to her feet, she spotted a flash of red hair beneath a black pointy hat. It disappeared beyond the open doors. “Hepzibah,” Magdelina whispered. Her companions were busy fighting off the guards. Kallistar looked like she was finally enjoying this quest for the first time since they embarked, and Vanaah was surrounded by a circle of troops. Magdelina knew Vanaah needed her help, but the mission had to come first. The fate of the entire world was in their hands, and the revival of Rexan would cast a shadow over the world. Hepzibah needed to be stopped at all costs.

She walked across the room, the turmoil of battle remaining on either side of her. The double doors began to close and she dashed forward. The opening grew smaller and smaller as she approached and she dove forward, rolling to her feet on the other side as the doors slammed shut. She looked around but could see no one who might have shut the doors. Goosepimples spread up her arms and she turned to examine the dark hallways.

To be continued…