Thank you for checking review #29 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.
**Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this game in exchange for an honest review.
An Overview of Albion’s Legacy
Albion’s Legacy is a game designed by Thomas Gofton, Aron Murch, and Cameron Parkinson and is published by Jasco Games and Lynnvander Productions. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 90 minute play time.
Albion’s Legacy is a cooperative, modular-adventure board game for 1-4 players, expandable to 6.
The game allows players to participate as one of their favourite Arthurian characters ranging from the legendary wizard Merlin, the famous Lady of the Lake, the brave Sir Lancelot, and the great King Arthur himself. These heroes will champion all that is good in 90 minutes as the players travel across the realm of Albion and face dangerous roaming threats, mythical beasts and deadly encounters.
Collect lore-enriched relics, artifacts, weapons and special awards under a heated deadline while solving some of the most famous historical and mythical chronicles of the Arthurian legend.
This game will challenge you, excite you, educate you and if you’re not careful it will take you down (your character that is…) Everything you need is provided at the gaming table, just bring your friends, your love of Arthurian lore (knowledge of Arthurian lore optional) and your thirst for adventure! Onward! The Kingdom needs YOU!
Setup and gameplay for 1 and 2 Players
The setup is very similar regardless of the number of players. When playing this game solo, you control three characters. Playing with two players, each player controls two characters. So at all player counts there will be at least 3 characters maneuvering around the board, which is an essential thing.
The Virtue tile stack requires 6 tiles plus one per player. This is the one area where it could be interpreted as either one per character or one per player. Going with the former would give an easier experience than the latter, although in some games it may not become a relevant factor. If that pile is emptied, you lose the game.
The other key difference is the number of Quest Coins needed to win the game. This one is clearly mentioned as needing 3 coins per character (not player), so depending on your player count you need to obtain either 9 or 12 of these in addition to the Story Card’s objective in order to win the game.
The game plays simply: each character gets an activation where they can move up to 4 spaces (this can be increased once Mounts are unlocked), often exploring new tiles. Many of the tiles will have threat icons on them, triggering the spawning of various creature tokens that you’ll need to defeat in order to earn a Quest Coin. These encounters alternate between spawning generic non-named enemies and spawning a named threat. The latter are sometimes accompanied by non-named enemies, are harder to kill (requiring 4 hits instead of 3), and usually have nasty effects either when you move onto their space or at the end of a round if they are still alive.
After a character’s turn is done, play shifts clockwise to the next character. Once it gets back around to the “starting” character of the round, that character gets one more activation and then the key-turn triggers. This is where the enemies move, where the named enemies’ effects happen, and a Beacon of Hope is extinguished. If all ten Beacons of Hope are extinguished, the game ends and the players lose.
Let’s start with the obvious: I am a HUUUUUGE Arthurian fan. I love to read the old stories from de Troyes, Malory, Tennyson, and others. I enjoy watching movies, no matter how bad, about Arthur and his knights. In my heart, I desire to be a knight of the Round Table and go forth on quests. And I can honestly attest that this game has a ton of Arthurian lore woven throughout. It is on the tiles, in the characters, the cards, the encounters, the threats, and the quests. Everything within this box evokes the theme, making this a must-buy for any Arthurian fan for this reason alone. Even if you don’t feel like a knight going on a quest, you will be able to find and appreciate so many subtle ties to Arthurian lore that it will leave you amazed.
My wife and I aren’t huge fans of cooperative games. However, I am far more likely to enjoy the game if it presents a challenge. Yes, I enjoy winning as much as the next person, but when you are collectively working as a team you want to go into the game with a high level of uncertainty. And this game delivers: it is hard. Soul-crushingly difficult at times. Those who dislike losing will want to steer clear of this game, but for those of us who want to be challenged every time we set up the game, this one will deliver. Even our last play, where all five locations we needed came out early, ended in a loss because we ended up losing a total of 3 turns via the Encounter deck (we actually lost 4, but were able to earn one back). I’ve had games where we’ve come close to winning. To where one more round could have been enough to seal a victory. But I’ve also had ones where we didn’t even come close. I’ve taken those as lessons learned: you have to be efficient and focused on what needs to be accomplished. Find ways to do things better. Winning has eluded me still with this game, and that is something I feel obliged to praise about Albion’s Legacy. This game defeats me as often as my wife does in competitive games.
Each character in the game is a little different than the others. Gawain can take an extra wound. Lancelot gets more Destiny tokens (usually used for rerolls). Guenievere can heal another character’s wound. King Arthur can take a wound in place of someone else. Merlin can draw two threat cards and choose which one goes into play. And they all have varying strengths and weaknesses with the symbols they can roll. Lancelot has very high Prowess, but his Loyalty trait is poor. They also have favored enemies, granting them an extra die when facing one of the two types of enemies they are favored against. So while they all operate in similar ways, each character does feel different. You’ll want to have certain characters keep back and let someone else clear out those witches or druids, whereas Lancelot should always ride into battle against dragons or knights.
There isn’t a ton of artwork outside of the characters, but I love the artwork on the characters. It evokes traits of those characters from the Arthurian legends. Those eight character cards stand out to me, and the standees still look good as they move around the board. I do wish those standees had been just a little bigger so that the artwork would stand out more during the game.
This game is great at all player counts. I’ve played with 1, 2, and 3 players and would imagine 4 to be just as good. You’re going to have either 3 or 4 characters during the game, and you’ll get a few more activations with 4 characters but also will need to gain more Quest Coins. The balance feels great at both character counts and, by extension, all player counts. The lack of player elimination also helps this one out a lot.
This is a game that rewards trying different strategies. What seems like a game where all you need to do is move around and explore, fighting baddies along the way, will surprise you along the way. Yes, those are still the basic mechanics. But there are ways to set yourself up to greater success. The Item deck seems like a useless deck until you start getting them and realize there are cards in here that can transport you to certain tiles and ones to search the terrain stack for a specific tile. Movement seems to be slow until you realize the importance of those Mounts that get unlocked as the game progresses. Relics and the Armory are clearly vital from the start, and even moreso once you find Relics that can gain you a turn back or restore Destiny tokens. Certain baddies seem like an immediate threat and turn out to be decoys, distracting you from your objective. There is a lot of stuff in here, and it will take many plays to be familiar with what you can find and where you should focus your efforts.
The death of a character is not quite as punishing as it could have been. The character is out of the game, you discard the top Virtue Plaque, and on that player’s next turn a new character begins at the Round Table. This is great, as it prevents player elimination. It moves one defeat trigger closer to the end, but that is often less punishing than if you lost a full game round. Defeated enemy tokens are also kept, which helps to alleviate the blow of losing any equipment, etc. that character may have accumulated.
Combat involves rolling dice. The number rolled is based on your character’s trait, and you can usually use one of two against an enemy type. The dice have five symbols on there, plus a “wild” burst symbol that always counts as 2 hits. You get a 33% chance of hitting the enemy with a die roll, yet sometimes it feels far lower. There are ways to mitigate: Destiny tokens allow you to reroll a single die and breaking equipment can prevent taking a wound. The problem comes, not only through the random dice roll, but that there is no way to retreat. When things go wrong, and in this game they can and will, there is no way to avoid that certain defeat. Edit: As it turns out, you CAN retreat from a challenge, but you must discard an unbroken inventory item.
The game does boil down to exploring and then either do X on these locations or deliver Y to these locations. Each of the three Story Cards are different, yet very much the same. But so many games can be reduced down to simple, boring mechanics. It is the total package which should be evaluated, and this one delivers. My only nitpick is that I wish at least one Story Card felt different. I want to go and find the Holy Grail, to embark on some sort of grand adventure. Not to try and find these locations and do something on them to win.
There is no getting around the fact: this game is fiddly. There are a ton of tokens and tiny cards, and you’ll be flipping and moving and adding and removing them all the time. You’ll be seeking out specific named tokens with every other threat tile. You’ll be slowly building the map with individual terrain tiles that sometimes don’t line up and are prone to shifting if bumped. Moving enemy tokens from one tile to the next can also cause headaches with shifting tiles. This is one game that desperately needs organization solutions, and even then it can feel like there is just so much stuff to manipulate. The game needs these things, and uses them well. But if you hate that sort of thing, you won’t enjoy doing that with this game.
There are a ton of expansions for this game, adding characters and enemies and story cards and much, much more. The problem? Only available during the Legacy game kickstarters, and only available as a complete package for over $100. Worth the purchase? I’m inclined to believe so because I really enjoy the base game and am dying to see what else it adds. But its lack of availability, and the high price since it is only sold as a full bundle, is something that makes me sad. This isn’t a negative against
There was never a doubt in my Arthurian-loving heart that I would enjoy this game. It is not a perfect game by any means, much as I might like it to be, yet this is a game that gives an experience greater than the sum of its parts. For many potential negatives, there are offsetting methods for them. While rolling dice is a random element, there are Destiny Tokens for rerolls and the ability to break equipment to avoid taking wounds. Exploring through the stack of tiles is a random element, but there are items which can help you to find what you’re seeking faster. Travel can take a long time, but there are mounts and “connected” tiles that can come out to make travel a little faster.
The one thing that simply cannot be offset is the fiddliness of the game. There are tons of tiny tokens, and you’ll be putting them on the board often. The named ones, which appear with every other threat, are especially troublesome since you need that specific character. The map tiles are prone to being bumped and shifting, and don’t always perfectly line up after long paths explored. Almost everything you do involves you adding, or moving, tokens or coins or the tiny cards.
Yet in spite of all of these things, it remains a game near and dear to me as a gamer. Even without the Arthurian lore woven throughout the game (and this game does it better than any other I’ve encountered), the challenges and experiences of this game make it worth playing. I’ve lamented before the ranking of this game on BGG, and will continue to do so. This is easily the best cooperative game I’ve ever played for the pure fact that it is hard. Not just a “you’re going to feel like you are doing poorly, but will manage to pull ahead late in the game” experience that would present the illusion of challenge. I’ve played enough of those. This game will beat you down until your armor has so many dings and dents that it has become useless. It will evoke anger, frustration, and despair. It will also evoke excitement, tension, hope, and the thrill of putting yourself to the test.
This is not a game for those who cannot handle defeat. The game has beaten me every time I’ve played it and left me thirsting for more punishment. Even when all goes well, and sometimes it does, the game magically finds a way to remind you that you are in its domain. Regardless of player count, this is a game I would always be willing to play. It provides a fantastic challenge for solo gamers and for couples alike. Just don’t expect to find a happy ending at the resolution of the quest. Because despair will overtake the land more often than naught, and that is one of the best things about this game.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.