Board Gaming · Review for Two · Wargame Garrison

Review for Two – Night of Man

Thank you for checking review #33 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 Night of Man

Night of Man is a game designed by Mark H. Walker and is published by Flying Pig Games. The box states that it can play 2 players and has a 60 minute play time.

Night of Man is a card-driven, tactical board game. Set in a post-alien-invasion-of-Earth universe, the squads, heroes, and tanks of Earth’s Militia battle against powerful aliens with enhanced power armor, hover tanks, Mechs, and spider-like robots.

In each turn gamers draw up to a four card hand and may play a card, sometimes more, in each impulse. The cards activate units to move, fire, assault, and use special powers, such as explosive rounds, telekinesis, and more. Special cards, such as critical hit or bullet storm, can also enhance a unit’s attacks.

Each turn continues until three end turn cards have been drawn. Players then choose one card from their hand to keep, the administrative markers are removed from the board, and a new hand is dealt to each player. The players use that new hand, or the card kept from the previous turn, to bid for initiative in the new turn.

Night of Man ships with numerous scenarios, as well as a point system that allows gamers to put together their own battles in no time flat.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

This one is a tricky one to describe the setup because each game will be different. There are a set of scenarios to play through, each one dictating the boards used, how they are laid out, the armies fielded by each side, and where they are placed (or enter the board when moved). They also dictate the number of rounds played, the objective for each side, point values for destroying units (if the scenario includes scoring), and how many “End Turn” cards need to be drawn before the round ends.

The one consistent is that the deck of cards will be shuffled and four will be dealt to each player. If an End Turn card is dealt, it is placed face-up and a new one is dealt. The players then each select one card to “bid” for initiative. The player whose card shows a higher value discards the card and goes first, taking their turn with three cards. The losing player keeps their card and will have four to use on their first turn.

On a turn, the player plays one card from their hand. Each card has two possible actions on there, and the player uses only one. Most actions are marked with a green icon, but there are red and yellow ones as well. Red are interrupts, so to speak, allowing you to play them on the other player’s turn. Yellow are able to boost your action, making it so you can play more than one card for the round. After the action on the card is resolved, the player may discard any number of additional cards and draw back up to four. If an End Turn card is drawn, it goes face-up in the pile and a new card is drawn to replace it.

The core concept is simple: move your units toward the enemy and then try to shoot them into oblivion. This is an underexaggeration, to be sure, but it gets the core premise across. Some scenarios involve trying to find an object or gain and maintain control of a certain area of the board. The interesting thing here is that when a unit moves or fires, it gets marked with a token indicating that action is done. Which prevents them from activating for anything else this round unless a card, such as Second Wind, is played to remove those tokens.

My Thoughts

The premise and the theme for this game is great. I love the idea that the aliens have come and subjected the Earth to their rule. One side is playing those alien overlords, while the other is playing the role of a resistance of humans. The aliens are, of course, well-armored and hard to kill. The theme was what drew me to this game in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint once I got the game.

The counters are large and chunky and easy to maneuver and manipulate. Which is a good thing, because you’ll be adding them, flipping them, and removing them often. I couldn’t even imagine the headache this could have caused if the counters were really small. They also are clearly distinguishable on the board via color coding, and the artwork of the units and characters is done well. The board itself is a little bland art-wise, but the counters make up for it.

I love multi-use cards so very much. These are great because they not only make you choose between two actions on the card, but they also track the round’s end and are used in combat rather than dice. This might make it sound like you’ll be flipping that deck quickly, and you certainly can, but especially in that first round the deck goes one or two cards per turn. You’ll see a lot of repeated actions throughout the deck, especially Move actions and Fire actions, but there are enough to shake things up.

Combat is simple and dice-free. My wife is one of those who absolutely hates games that use a ton of dice. Her biggest rage during a game happened a few years ago playing Doctor Who Risk, and it was at that point that I knew I couldn’t play a game where combat relied solely upon who rolls better. This is a card-driven system for battle, which not only keeps things simple but also helps to flip through that deck. The modifiers used for range, etc. are relatively easy to grasp and follow, although the first few plays saw me triple-checking I had things right. The vehicles add complexity to the system, but not so much that it can’t be played. You’ll just be likely to have to check the process a few additional times the first play or two incorporating them into the mix. Something you’ll hear me mention often in this review.

There is no getting around it: this game is fun. And that, in spite of anything else, is what you want to find in a board game. Those first two scenarios are introductory, at best, and should be viewed as such. They are the equivalent of the first ten levels you gain in an RPG – meant to get your feet wet before introducing more complexity. The third scenario doesn’t add new rules, but it does provide a few new units and an objective for one side to chase. I’m halfway through this campaign and really enjoying the progress so far. I’ve seen there are other campaign packs, including a solo one, and those are very likely to enter onto my wish list.

The boards are folded in two and, at least with my copy, tends to not lay flat on the table as a result. This is a preference thing only, and worth noting, but it doesn’t end up affecting the gameplay itself.

The rulebook is hit and miss. I thought, upon first read, that it covered things well. And what it contains, it does cover well. But there are omissions throughout, such as what happens if enough End Turn cards are dealt into the opening hands to end the round, or what triggers the powers shown on the units’ counters (It was my third play when I noticed the small “Power” word on some of the cards and was able to make the connection). Or what happens when a unit is on fire from the Infantry’s special power? I’ve seen threads galore mentioning the Handler and his Spiderbots, and with good reason. The other thing I would have liked to see were more visual demonstrations of what was being explained. Blocks of text are great, but a small image (and there are some in here) would help to emphasize that and provide a quick go-to as a refresher.

And so I am torn on the use of cards to trigger the end of a round. Part of me wants to love it and proclaim the brilliance of this concept. It isn’t often that the game gets to a point where both sides can’t do anything (although the alien side is more likely to hit that point first) apart from toss cards and hope to draw a Second Wind or trigger the round’s end. So long as one side is able to do things, the round will keep going (it can end if both players pass consecutively). The variable round length is great in concept: there should be uncertainty in war about how long a battle will take. But what about when you draw all of the End Turn cards at the very start of a round? And if this happens a few turns in a row? On the reverse side, what if they all keep populating at the very bottom of the deck? This game could either run short or really long in those scenarios. I’ve had more games where rounds end super-early than running really long, but the chance is there and some players really won’t like that variable length.

The player aids provided are fine, but there were things that I found myself having to look up time and again in the rule book. So they are things I wish there had been an aid for, so that the finding of this information could have been a little easier. I had to look up what the various numbers on the counters represented, and there are two times when this really happened: the first few plays to get down the leg units, and then just when you get those few parts down the vehicles are thrown into the mix and double the numbers you’re looking at on the unit counters. The same thing goes with the cards. For the most part, things are easy to get down early but once vehicles come into play, I found myself checking and rechecking what the numbers were and when they were used. Finally, there are powers and abilities indicated by small icons on units. These are great, but I had to look those up repeatedly and found myself forgetting what some of them did. None of these three things are game-breakers, and they are all covered well in the rulebook, but I’d prefer not to flip through the book every time I need to reference these things. At least on the counter layout and the card layout.

Final Verdict

This is a game I really want to love, and I know with more plays and more exposure I can come to love the game. Right now I simply enjoy the game. It is a nice system, although a little more complex than I initially expected. There are a lot of things to remember, and if you can’t recall which number on the token represents the ABF or the HF, etc. then you’ll be grabbing the rule book often for reference. And that part is why I’ve hesitated so long in teaching the game to my wife. It isn’t bad in the first three scenarios, where you have all leg units, but the vehicles add extra layers and a lot more numbers become relevant. Which also makes more card abilities matter. Which means I need to have a good grasp on those things if I want to teach her in a manner that she can find enjoyable. Having me stop things to reference the rulebook every five minutes wouldn’t exactly be an experience she’d find to be fun.

I do enjoy a scenario system, and so I am glad this has that available to play. But it does also include the important skirmish system. This gives it life beyond the scenario plays, allowing each player to build and field a custom army to battle it out.

I’m still very early into my wargaming career, and I probably secured a copy of this about 6-12 months too soon. It was quite a jump from the Swords & Shields system from Stamford Bridge to this one. However, anyone who has a fair amount of experience with wargames should fare well when playing this game. And this game has been worth the effort I’ve put into learning things and I have no doubt it will continue to be rewarding.

The biggest headache will come from the text-dense reference sheet, no quick reference for what is shown on each counter, and those occasional things that aren’t explained well in the rulebook. Those things can usually be inferred based on how a player chooses to interpret things, but there will be questions that you simply can’t find a clear answer to. Which is always frustrating for a gamer.

Overall I have enjoyed Night of Man, and this is a game that I plan to play more times, both solo to sharpen my understanding of the rules and system as well as with my wife. I’ll need to be solid in my command of the game and what everything means if I want her to enjoy the next plays where we add more complexity and depth to the game. But I am confident this will be one we’ll both enjoy because we like games with conflict and where you need to use tactical maneuvering to be victorious. If you are just exploring wargames, this might not be the right purchase (yet), but if you’ve got a good command of consulting tables and modifiers, this game is definitely worth checking out.

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

Uncategorized · Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Unearth

Thank you for checking review #31 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 Unearth

Unearth is a game designed by Jason Harner and Matthew Ransom and is published by Brotherwise Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 30-60 minute play time.

Long ago, your ancestors built great cities across the world. Now your tribe must explore forests, deserts, islands, mountains, and caverns to find these lost cities. Claim the ruins, build places of power, and restore the glory of a bygone age.

Unearth is a bend-your-luck game of dice placement and set collection. Designed by Jason Harner and Matthew Ransom, it plays in under an hour with 2-4 players. Each player leads a tribe of Delvers, represented by five dice (3 six-sided, 1 four-sided, and 1 eight-sided). Players take turns rolling and placing dice in an attempt to claim Ruins.

The game’s elegant core mechanic is accessible to players of all skill levels. High rolls help players claim Ruins, while low rolls help players collect Stones. This opens two paths to victory: claiming sets of Ruins or using Stones to build Wonders. Delver cards help you affect your dice rolls or dice in play, and Wonders can grant abilities that impact the late game.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The game sets up in a very similar manner to a game with more players, with three exceptions: ten cards are removed from the Ruins deck instead of five, there are four Wonder cards available (2 per player +2), and only four Ruins cards are revealed at a time instead of five.

The game plays simply. A player’s turn has two actions, one optional and the other mandatory. First, a player may play any number of Delver cards, which can do things such as change the value of dice rolls, modify dice values on current cards, reroll dice showing a specific value, and more. Then, a player must roll one of their five dice onto a Ruins card. They announce before the roll (unless they play a Delver card stating otherwise) what card they are rolling onto and place the rolled die onto that card. If the value on the die is 3 or lower, they take a stone off that card (or, if the card has no stones, a random one from the stone bag). Then, they check to see if the value of all dice on that card is greater than or equal to the “Breaking Point” on that card.

Once a card breaks, the player with the highest-valued die gets the card and all other players draw a delver card for every die they had on that card. Ties on dice are broken by taking the highest-sided die with that value, and the next tiebreaker would be to look at each of those players’ second-highest valued die. If there is an unbreakable tie, both players draw delver cards and the Ruins card is discarded.

Stones collected are placed in front of a player, and you earn a Wonder by creating a circle of stones with a space in the center (it’ll take 6 stones to accomplish this). Some Wonders require certain combinations of colored stones, and the best Wonders need all six to be the same color. Play continues until the Ruins have all been explored, including whatever appears for the End of Age card that is at the bottom of the Ruins deck.

Points are scored for each Ruins colored card (having 3 reds are worth a lot more than 2 reds, for example), having a set of each colored Ruin card, for Wonders built, and for having 3 or more Wonders built. The player with the highest score wins.

My Thoughts 

 This game looks great on the table. The dice aren’t special, but they are colorful. The stones, apart from the blacks, are vibrant in color as well and have great design in them. This is the kind of game that people will stop to look at as they pass by, because it really catches the eye.

 I really like that you are rewarded both for high and for low rolls in this game. High rolls help earn the Ruins cards, which are usually the primary source of points in a game. Low rolls get you stones, which can be a viable path to winning provided you can get Greater Wonders or special ones worth a point per stone of a certain color. Yes, the high rolls are usually preferred but it is nice that a low-roller can still feel competitive in this game.

 Tying in with the dice rolling would be those Delver cards. Each player has some to start, and they serve as an excellent catch-up mechanic because you get one for each die on a card that you didn’t win. These allow you to manipulate and reroll dice in some fashion, making your rolls more (or less) effective as needed or affecting what your opponent has out there. We’ve found this helps to keep scores close by the end of the game, as one player is able to use these to close that gap in points.

 How many board games do you see using d8 and d4 in there? Not that many, which is yet another way that this game does something unique to make it stand out. Everyone is used to chucking those six-sided dice for games, but there is something fun about tossing a d8 and satisfying about watching that d4 drop. Having one of each also gives you a way to try and shoot to break a Ruins card or to be nearly-guaranteed to earn a stone.

 I really love building with those stones. The spatial element takes this game and adds a new layer to it. And how you are building with those stones will determine the points potential coming from your wonder. Do you try and get all six of the same color for the high-scoring Greater Wonders? Do you try and make the right combination for one of the four specials? Or do you just nab Lesser Wonders and use those to supplement your points? This aspect takes what would be a fine game and makes it even better.

 Some of the wonders that get drawn aren’t useful over the course of a game. Most of the games we played there were 1-2 that might get snagged, but for the most part the focus goes on either Greater or Lesser Wonders. There are some that are really good, while others just don’t appear to be worth the effort it would take to earn them.

 I felt the same about the End of Age cards. Some are great, making you have to roll a ton of dice to earn that card and get a big batch of points. But nothing is worse than needing 1-2 stones and seeing the +1 to all die rolls card come out. Some of them are going to be cards you enjoy seeing come out to mark the end of the game. Others will leave you disappointed. I do appreciate the variety, though, rather than always having the same card appear at the end.

 Regardless of the Delver cards and the stones, this game is still a dice-rolling game at heart. That means, in spite of the ways you can manipulate things or get rewarded for low rolls, this game can still get swingy. The last game we played, I took the first 4 or 5 Ruins cards because she wasn’t able to roll anything above a 3, no matter which die she used. She wasn’t enjoying that experience, which is something you always risk encountering in a game where you roll dice for results. So, in spite of the great mechanics in there to supplement the dice, this is still a game that dice-haters might not enjoy.

 Tying in with the above, there are far too many moments in the game where it feels like luck is as important, if not moreso, than skill. Perhaps that might change if you could always roll first and then place the die, allowing you to adapt your decision based on what is rolled. But having to choose before rolling makes the luck factor increase. Most frequently the decision of which card to roll on it based on needing a certain stone color or that Ruins color to add to your set, not based on what else is actually out there for possibilities.

Final Verdict 

This game is one of those games I hadn’t expected my wife to enjoy. After all, the core of the game involves rolling dice, something she isn’t a big fan of. Her initial reaction, upon seeing dice, was to groan. Her first play was peppered with complaints about rolling the dice. But that ended by the time that first game finished. Much like Castles of Burgundy, another dice-rolling game she likes, there are plenty of ways to manipulate and modify dice rolls. There are even rewards for rolling low (and many times when you’re just as happy to roll a 3 as you would have been with a 6).

So in the realm of dice games, this one gets a seal of approval through the various methods in which you are rewarded for both high and low rolls, as well as the Delver cards and how those are distributed in a catch-up mechanism. The removal of cards from the Ruins deck makes it so you can’t be sure what quantity of each color you might see, especially in a 2-player game. That can make some colors really valuable if there are a lot of them to collect, while others become worth less since they are scarce. The stones and the wonders provides a nice building aspect to the game that complements the entire system well.

The biggest problem with this game is that it is just another really solid game amidst a plethora of other solid games. For those who love rolling dice, this is going to be a must-have. It is easy to teach, quick enough to play, and something that will easily find its way to the table time and again. Yet there is nothing remarkable about the game to set it apart from some of the other games that fill the same time frame.

This is not a knock on the game in any way, as we truly enjoyed every play of the game, but for our tastes this one isn’t likely to see a lot of replay. That is no fault of the game itself, but rather a fault of the overabundance of good games out there. Even though my wife doesn’t mind the dice so much in this one, I know she’d prefer a game that isn’t all about rolling dice. And if I’m going to pick a game she’s playing just because I want to play it, I’d likely pick something a little heavier on the weight scale.

Would I recommend Unearth? Absolutely, especially if you enjoy rolling dice. It is a very well-crafted game that features a nice and balanced system. Like any dice game, there will be times when someone rolls really hot and claims a ton of Ruins. That can’t be completely avoided, no matter how many Delver cards you possess. This is a game even the dice-averse can play and enjoy, although they may not want to play it often. It is a great game that everyone should at least seek out a chance to play it, because this game delivers.

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Crazier Eights: Avalon

Thank you for checking review #30 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 Crazier Eights: Avalon

Crazier Eights: Avalon is a game designed by James Wallace Gray and is self-published. The box states that it can play 2-3 players and has a 10-20 minute play time.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

This game sets up in a simple fashion: you shuffle the cards, flip the top card to start the discard pile, and then deal 7 cards to each player. On your turn a player draws a card and then is able to play a card and to discard a card, in either order. Played cards are either one-time effects (which go to the bottom of the discard pile after use) or they are Assets, which stay in play in front of that player (they have ongoing effects). Discarding a card requires the card to either match the color or number of the card on top of the discard pile.

Play continues around the table until one person has depleted their hand of cards.

My Thoughts

I’m a sucker for anything Arthurian, so that immediately drew me in. I really enjoyed the artwork and the names of some of the cards. While there were generic names for a few things (which do fit in thematically), there were also some recognizable characters and places from the Arthurian lore. Any fan of King Arthur will enjoy this aspect of the game, although the artwork can be enjoyed by those who know nothing of King Arthur.

The game is very simple to teach, with a rules explanation taking 60 seconds. This allows you to grab new players into a game without a long, lengthy rules overhead. All exceptions are found on the cards themselves, and those are relatively straightforward in what they allow you to do. A player who has not played Crazy Eights is not at a disadvantage.

I am finding there is a part of me that can appreciate smaller card games like this one and The Fox in the Forest, which take a deck of cards and allows you to do something simple, yet more complex than what you’d get with the standard deck of cards. The essence is simple: draw a card, play a card, discard a card. But the text on the cards, with each one being different in some way, is what elevates this above the simplicity of a card game.

This game has the feel of a Fluxx game combined with a card game, but it is far less chaotic than Fluxx. The goal remains the same throughout, and there is a clear path to get there. There is some randomness in there, but it never feels like you’re winning or losing due to blind luck (which is something I’ve definitely felt while playing a Fluxx game).

While I received a prototype, so final quality may vary, the cards were noticeable getting some wear around the edges after only a few plays. This is something that many gamers are going to want to sleeve to preserve the quality, but I don’t think the box it comes in will hold the sleeved cards. Both of those could easily be fixed by the time this releases.

This game plays just fine as it stands, coming with numbers 11-15 and some cards that have multi-colors without numbers. It really does function as a stand-alone game. However, it always felt like it was an inferior experience to what you’d get with the first set of cards (Crazier Eights: Camelot), which I assume has cards 1-10 and is a larger set of cards. This is 33 cards, there are no wild cards to plan around, and so it just feels like you aren’t getting the full experience. Probably because of the lack of numbers and wilds. The multi-colors are great for discarding, but at the same time it makes this feel too easy since you can match color or number. Also, the player reference cards with the rules show cards from the first set and talks about eights, creating the potential for confusion. So yes, this set is all you’d need to be able to play the game and still enjoy it, but if you have the chance I’d recommend getting both Camelot and Avalon and combining the two into one larger experience.

If you’re looking for a game that does something new or groundbreaking, this isn’t it. This is a great retheming and addition to a traditional game, but it won’t provide an experience that isn’t similar to other games (Crazy Eights, Fluxx, Uno, and more). It doesn’t necessarily need to, as this game is fun the way it is, but not everyone will want a game that is similar to something they already have.

The cards are all unique in the text on there, but that text doesn’t really tie in with the character or location named on the card. This isn’t a deal breaker in any way, but if you are looking for thematic ties between the cards and what they do, you really have to stretch your imagination to make things fit.

Final Verdict

Overall, this game fits nicely in a niche category of games: small, portable, fast, easy games with a small footprint. These games are valuable to have in a collection, both because they are great for taking places (such as a restaurant)and perfect to play in those windows of time when you might only have 10-15 minutes to spare. There are many games that can’t even be set up in that amount of time, much less played to completion. And so that is an area where this game shines.

It shares striking similarities with two games in particular, merging the traits from two of them while discarding the random nature of one: Crazy Eights and Fluxx. This makes it a game I’d rather play over either of those, as it offers more than the deck of cards and a bit more stability to win conditions over Fluxx. This isn’t a game I’d pull out on a regular basis, but neither is Fluxx and so it fills that niche nicely in my collection.

If this game didn’t have the Arthurian theme, it probably wouldn’t appeal to me as much. There is not a lot to set this apart from other games, and it doesn’t do anything particularly well or innovative. It is a nice game that doesn’t take long to play and is easy to teach. This is a game I can have my wife toss in her purse when we leave the house, something to play at family get-togethers with gamers of all types, and a game that would function as a filler during a game day. There are many games to choose from which could fill those same needs, making it hard to advocate this over any of those others.

However, if you are a fan of the original Crazy Eights or of King Arthur, this would definitely be worth considering. If the price aligns with the previous set, it’d be an inexpensive addition to your collection. It definitely provides a fun experience while playing it, so long as you don’t mind games where you need to read the card’s text in order to see what it can do. If you wanted to like Fluxx, but hated the random changes it enforced, then you might really enjoy this game.


You may pre-order Crazier Eights: Avalon and find detailed rules and explanations at

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two · Review for One

Review for One AND Two – Albion’s Legacy

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.

My Thoughts

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.

whistle 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

Final Verdict

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.

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Incantris

Thank you for checking review #28 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 Incantris

Incantris is a game designed by Heath and Seth Robinson and is published by RAINN Studios. The box states that it can play 1-4 players and has a 20-60 minute play time.

The Kingdom of Aldramere is in the midst of a long, brutal, and magical war that is threatening to tear the fabric of the world apart. Each side is too proud to concede, but they have agreed to settle the conflict though a battle of champions. The High Council of Aldramere has summoned its most powerful wizards to the ruins of Orleal on the Misty Moorlands to compete for the right to represent their kingdom in the battle.

Incantris is a game of magical combat set in the Kingdom of Aldramere. Each player controls a team of three wizards, each with unique spells and abilities. Rain down fiery meteors with the Sorceress, call upon the bear spirit to unleash destruction with the Shaman, strike from afar with the Shadow Weaver, or pummel foes with the Druid’s tempest. Decide how best to use these abilities to defeat the other players and become the champion of Aldramere.

Incantris is a fast-paced and thought-provoking game that pairs strategy with a beautiful gaming environment. Use the modular board and 3D terrain to create a different battlefield for every game. The game also features 25 different spells and abilities ensuring that each game of Incantris will be a unique experience. Set-up is quick with each player selecting a team of three wizards optimized for a particular play style.

The wizards wield magic from the Spirit, Elemental, and Astral realms. The spellcasting and warding system is intuitive and exciting. To emerge victorious, players will have to outmaneuver their opponents, use their wizards’ strengths, and take advantage of the opposing teams’ weaknesses.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The game board will consist of four full-terrain tiles and two half-terrain tiles. Most gameplays will have two full and a half on each side, kind of like this:


Each player will start on one of the half-tiles with their three wizards situated however they like. 3D terrain can be added as seen fit between the players. I found I enjoyed using two per player, with each player taking turns to place one on the map. Each player takes their three wizard sheets and puts the life marker to their top value, and then the dice are rolled. Whoever rolls the most hits goes first.

With two players, the game moves quickly most of the time. The map is small, so there aren’t many places to retreat and hide. Clever use of the terrain obstacles and block line of sight for your foe while allowing you to still attack, but usually this is only an obstacle for a single turn. Many spells have a range of 4-6 hexes, which is much smaller than you think. Especially since most wizards move in that range as well.

There isn’t much to this: you activate a wizard, moving up to the number of hexes mentioned on the bottom of their player board, and then cast up to one spell from those listed on their board. Each spell has a range, as well as a number such as 2D+1. That would indicate you roll two dice, and add one extra hit above what you roll. Defending is shown at the bottom of each board, with each wizard having a number of dice they roll depending on the school of magic they are defending. Each ward they roll will cancel a hit from their opponent.

In most instances, play continues until all three wizards on one team are dead. A wizard only activates once each round, regardless of how many your opponent has to activate.

In a two player game, things move extremely fast. There are few things to consider beyond who you want to target, how you want to move into range, and rolling the necessary dice. This makes a simple and fast game, perfect for an evening of unwinding.

Carebears beware, though, as there is no avoiding conflict in this one. You will be attacking your opponent every turn, with almost every wizard you have. There is no avoiding that aspect in this game.

My Thoughts

I love the variety among the teams. Each color has three wizards, and not only does each team get a different trio of wizards, but even the shared wizards among them can have different spells. This adds variety in being able to play as all four colors, and also makes it so you can’t assume their Druid can do the exact same things as your Druid. I’m a fan of an asymmetrical game, and this scratches that itch with the preconstructed teams.

I enjoy the simplicity within the system of this game. Here are the number of spaces you can move with this character. Everything costs 1 move except moving through water. Here is the range of your spell and the number of dice you roll to hit. Here are the number of dice you roll to defend when the spell belongs to X type. This die result provides a hit. This die result provides a ward (block). Very simple, streamlined system that allows a player to dive in with minimal rules overhead, which makes this a game you could teach to gamers of almost any experience.

Setting the game up is also a nice, simple process. There are full tiles and half tiles to make up the landscape, and the setup is based solely upon player count and the match type being played. There is variability based on which ones you use – some add in a fair amount of water – but nothing complicated to consider. 3D terrain is fairly easy to construct and place throughout the map as well. I tend to use two items per player and it works well, but there is no set system on that. All in all, it takes about 5 minutes to go from box to having this ready on the table.

This box is packed with things that provide value. Not just because it has some nice miniatures, or the 3D terrain, or even the tokens. Those are all nice. This game is one that I can see using long after I am done with Incantris, being able to pull things from here to run through a game like Frostgrave without having to invest in minis and terrain for that game. This isn’t likely an intentional purpose behind Incantris, but it is one I am definitely excited about because I’ve had a Frostgrave book on my shelf, unplayed, for a while now. The point being that there is value in this box beyond the game itself if you have any interest in other skirmish-style games or even D&D campaigns where you have a visual set on the table.

Combat in this game is quick and simple. There are no numbers to crunch, no charts to check, just a dice roll for both parties involved. Any hits done by the attacker in excess of the wards by the defender drops their life value. Did I mention these dice are custom 8-sided dice with the two symbols on them? I like the dice and enjoy rolling them. However, the combat not only heavily favors the attacker, it also can be swingy based on dice rolls. Our most recent game played, I couldn’t stop rolling hits and it was a very one-sided affair because of that.

I want to enjoy the 3D terrain. It is fun to see the trees and walls and everything on the hexes during a match. They really add to the game and enhance both the visual and tactical aspects of the game. Sadly, it hasn’t taken long for the layers of cardboard to start to bend and peel. This means the lifespan of this terrain is questionable at best, something that is further compounded because you have to take them apart between games. The walls might get by with remaining together, but the trees have no space in the box to be stored unless they are broken down and flat.

The campaign system in this one is a great addition. With a higher player count, this would probably get full marks for the fun factor. However, with just two players there are a few of the matches that don’t live up to the full potential. The orb drain was more fun than I had expected, considering all you needed to do was race to the other side and use a single action to win. Easy, right? It wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t horrible. The race to nab a crystal and leave the board with it was a little more fun but, again, it lacked the fun that playing with more would have provided. So while I enjoyed “leveling up” and purchasing one-time-use tokens, the mode isn’t ideal for two players. But it also isn’t a bad choice to play through, at least once, to see what the other modes can offer. But I suspect we’ll be sticking to just trying to blast each other in the future.

I lament when I get a game that has so much empty space that it felt a waste. I own many such games which could fit into smaller boxes with ease: Splendor, Battle Line, Fields of Green. This game suffers from the opposite problem. I wish it had a larger box. Yes, everything fits. But there is hardly any room to spare, and that room could have allowed the trees and other terrain pieces to remain constructed. While I respect that this game isn’t trying to hog an obscene amount of shelf space, I would have gladly settled for a larger box.

I mentioned as a positive that the teams, spells, etc. are all prepared and ready to go right out of the box. That makes for an excellent game to jump into quickly and a great game for nights when you don’t have a lot of time. However, that also severely limits the replay value from this box. Sure, there are four teams that are all slightly different, but they’ll start to feel similar enough after a while. There can also be teams who have a spell, like Teleport, that make certain matches feel unfair and imbalanced. Because things are pregenerated, there isn’t much you can do to fix or avoid these situations.

Final Verdict

Overall this is a fast and fun game. My wife enjoyed this game about 300 times more than I ever imagined she would, which was a huge win for me. I wasn’t sure how moving around and blasting each other would go for her, but she enjoys dominating me during most of our plays of this game.

As with any dice-dependent combat system, the rolls can lead to swingy matches. However, the game plays fast enough that it is rarely a deterring factor. If this game was doubled in scope and length, then it might present a bit of an issue. But it ends up being right for what this game tries to do. There are no complicated charts to consult, no dense packets of rules explanations to flip through. Everything is simple and streamlined, providing both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness as a game.

This game serves as a fantastic starting point for someone new to skirmish games and looking to test this style of game out. It is ideal because the teams have been constructed, the spells have been selected, the terrain is fast to put together, and the arenas can be built within seconds. So, in addition to someone looking for an introductory point, this also is a great game for anyone looking to have a skirmish game they can set up and start playing in a short amount of time. A match or two can easily be played during an evening, even on a work night or after the kids are in bed.

But this game could be a disappointment to some gamers. If you are a seasoned veteran in the skirmish category of games, this is likely to be too light and preconstructed for your tastes. That type of gamer might want to skip this title, unless they want something that is fast to get going, could be played in under an hour, and light enough to bring others into skirmish games. Or if they are interested in repurposing the contents of this box after a few plays of the game.

Overall, I’m glad we got this game. It is fun on its own, and also serves as a great starting place for us before we take the plunge into something larger. It is perfect for us, because we can set it up and play it during any evening due to the game’s quickness. Had we jumped to something more complex, I’m not sure it would have hooked my wife like it did. If you are new to skirmish games and interested at all in a wizard-dueling fantasy theme, this is definitely worth checking out.

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Thank you for checking review #26 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: We received a copy of this game from Mayfair Games in exchange for an honest review. All opinions below are my own and were not purchased nor influenced by receiving a copy of this game.

An Overview of Caverna: Cave vs Cave

Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a game designed by Uwe Rosenberg and is published by Mayfair Games. The box states that it can play 1-2 players and has a 20-40 minute play time.

In the two-player game Caverna: Cave vs. Cave, each player starts the game with only two dwarves and a small excavation in the side of a mountain. Over the course of eight rounds, they’ll double their workforce, open up new living space in the mountain, construct new buildings and rooms in which to live, and dig for precious metals.

In more detail, each player starts the game with an individual player board that’s covered with a random assortment of face-down building/room tiles and only one space. Some tiles are face up and available for purchase at the start of play. Four action tiles lie face up as well. At the start of each of the eight rounds, one new action tile is revealed, then players alternate taking actions, with the number of actions increasing from two up to four over the course of the game. As players excavate their mountainous player board, new building and room tiles are added to the pool; some rooms can be used immediately when acquired, whereas others require the use of an action tile.

After eight rounds, players tally their points for buildings constructed and gold collected to see who wins.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

Each player gains their player board and six resource tokens, placing them all on the 1 space on their shelf. Mix the dark-backed rooms (they show a pickaxe) and give each player nine of these which are placed face-down on the player board on every space except the starting space and the one with a no pickaxe sign. The six rooms with a light gray back are placed face-up to form a common purchasing pool. Sort the remaining tiles by number (the four with a dwarf on the back form the first four available actions) and mix them up, placing them with the three 2s, then the four 3s, and finally the 4, all face down on the action board.

Players will take turns selecting an action to activate, making it unavailable for use for the remainder of the turn. During the first three turns each player will get two actions, the next four turns each player takes three actions, and in the final round each player takes four actions. At the end of a round, all of the used action tiles are replaced face-up on the row and the first player marker passes to the next player.

In essence, the game is about clearing space in your cave, gaining resources, and then using those resources to furnish your cave with rooms. The unique mechanic is that each room not only has a cost, but it has a required layout of walls that have to be around the room in order for it to be built.

With two players, this game sets up, plays, and tears down rather quickly. In later rounds the turns tend to slow a little as players are calculating their options and the sequence of selections needed to get there, but overall this game moves at a fast pace. The alternating of actions helps to keep any downtime to a minimum.

My Thoughts

This game manages to take a few of the aspects of Caverna: The Cave Farmers and implements them well in a shorter, more streamlined game. This is the type of game for those who dread the time it takes to setup, play, and teardown the traditional Caverna, or who might want to play Caverna but lack the time to do so. This is not an equivalent game – you don’t get the same experience but in a condensed time span – but it does hit on some of those mechanics to provide a comparable version that can be played in a shorter timeframe.

The wall requirements for building a room is a neat addition that, most of the time, works really well. I really enjoy most aspects of it (see further below for some on the negative) because it forces you to think and plan ahead on where to build things, etc. The orientation of the tile itself isn’t important, which is a good thing, so if it fits turned sideways than it works. This part makes some of those stronger, and higher valued, rooms a little harder to obtain. Which is a good thing.

I really enjoy how things ramp up throughout the game. Early on, it costs 2 food to build a room. However, as the game progresses that cost also increases to 3, and then to 4 in the final round. The rooms you’re building in those first turns are likely the weaker, low-point rooms that provide the foundation to generate a resource engine. Which is vital to get in place, as you’ll need more and more resources as the game progresses. It works well, and forces you to keep the generation of food in mind as an essential aspect.

I really like the blue rooms. It wasn’t until the last game we played that I experimented with them, and I found they really helped out my engine. There have been plenty of games where they come out too late to matter (more on that later!), but if they come early they are essential. Unlike the orange rooms, these are active at all times and provide a bonus that ties to the gaining of a certain resource or the completion of a certain action. They tend to be low in cost and low in points, requiring few walls as well, so they are easy to get out. But gaining that free resource can be the difference between an efficient turn later or having to spend extra time getting the resources you need to make those plays.

You can generate six different resource types throughout the game. Some are easy to come by. Some are difficult to gain. All of them are important in some fashion, spendable via rooms or actions to make something better. An efficient engine has a good way to produce at least 1-2 of those resources in addition to food (needed to build rooms) and gold (pure VP). Yet, at the end, only one of those is worth points if you have any left over. At first I wasn’t a fan of this, but it has grown on me. You need to have ways to generate those other resources otherwise you’ll end up way behind. Yet focus too much on those and you’ll miss the chance to gain the only thing that matters at the end (apart from the rooms you’ve built). This is a fun and interesting approach that I have come to enjoy.

There is a bonus “room” space you can gain if you are the first to fill your player board. I am yet to do so, but I’ve come close! It gives me something lofty to shoot for. And I like having a goal like that to angle for, at least once.

I love excavating the cave. But I hate that you don’t know what rooms will come available and when they come available. If you, or your opponent, don’t excavate often early in the game, it can lead to a cluttering of subpar or expensive rooms in the pool. Which means it can be harder to get that optimal engine going in your own cave. The not knowing what will be out there is important, but at the same time it is really frustrating to not see those rooms you need or to see all those blue rooms finally flipping in the final rounds when they won’t add much value.

It is a challenge to build a great engine with your rooms when almost every action selection allowing you to use your rooms’ actions provide a single action. There is a single action that lets you use 2 rooms, and one that lets you use 3, but almost everything else gives a 1. This slows your production down from what it could be, especially when you get 2-4 rooms that synergize with each other. I never feel like I was able to accomplish everything I could have, but I also never end up feeling like it was a barrier I couldn’t overcome. It just ends up taking a little longer to do some things than I’d like, and makes it so you almost need to take that 2 or 3-action tile when it is available at the start of each turn.

I understand that building walls should be something that is hard to come by; however, since there are many rooms that require one or more walls added to the cave, it surprises me that there is only one action which adds a wall. At least, until the final round of the game. Depending on when the action comes in the tier-two actions, you get anywhere from 6-8 chances to build a wall. Assuming your opponent takes that action half of the rounds, that means you’re looking to get at most 3-4 walls to add in your cave. Few things are worse than seeing a room flip in the final rounds that you need to add 1-2 walls in order to build.

I hate the final round’s action. Seriously, I rage inside every time it flips up. Why? Because only the player with the MOST gold gets to use that action. You’re in the lead on gold, so here: add a wall and a free room. Wait, what? Shouldn’t that be the person who is BEHIND on gold gets to use that room? Nope, better luck next time. Don’t let yourself get behind in the gold race. Don’t spend that hard-earned gold to build a room worth extra points. Sit and horde it like a dragon, because then you can block your opponent from using the best action in the game. Finally, in my very last game played of this, I was able to use that action. It felt great, but it also felt wrong. Because, as you’d expect, I was clearly winning at that point and this action secured that victory. The player who uses this action wins the game more often than they will lose, and it is no wonder why.

Final Verdict

Overall I enjoy this game. It has been months since we played Caverna: The Cave Farmers and this game has me itching to get that back to the table. My wife claimed we no longer need the big game, but I think I may end up disagreeing with that decision. This game is small and fast, but it is missing some of the key elements from the larger game that I enjoyed. I can see there being plenty of want to have them both in a collection, just like Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small doesn’t replace Agricola or Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game doesn’t replace Castles of Burgundy. The experiences between them, while sharing similarities, are different enough to merit having them both. Unless you really just like building rooms to furnish a cave and nothing else about Caverna.

This game also falls into an awkward spot compared to some of the other 2-player only games we’ve picked up and played this year. It is different enough that I can see keeping Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, 7 Wonders Duel, and Patchwork (among many others) in our collection. They are all excellent games with 2 players that can be set up, played, and torn down in under an hour. It doesn’t set itself apart as being better, nor worse, than any of those mentioned games because they all provide different experiences. I’m finding that some of the best 2-player experiences are coming from games that play just two players, probably because those have been playtested extensively at that player count.

Having not tried it solo, I cannot speak to how that aspect stacks up but I have a feeling it will be much like any Rosenburg solo game: try and top your high score from the last game. With the removal of one action, you get fewer turns to accomplish that feat which would help the scores range similar to what you might get in a 2-player game.

I wouldn’t proclaim this a must-buy for everyone who wants a 2-player game, but neither would I say this game is one to pass on. This is a great game and a ton of fun. If you enjoy Uwe’s games, or Caverna itself, then this is likely a must-buy for you. If you want a game that is light on take-that effects to play with one other person, this game would fit that requirement well. If you enjoy building things and finding combos to set up a small engine, this game will scratch that itch. It won’t be perfect for everyone, but it is a solid game that few gamers would regret adding to their collection.

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

Board Gaming · Review for Two

Review for Two – Mystic Vale

Thank you for checking review #25 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 Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale is a game designed by John D. Clair and is published by Alderac Entertainment Group. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 45 minute play time.

A curse has been placed on the Valley of Life. Hearing the spirits of nature cry out for aid, clans of druids have arrived, determined to use their blessings to heal the land and rescue the spirits. It will require courage and also caution, as the curse can overwhelm the careless who wield too much power.

In Mystic Vale, 2 to 4 players take on the role of druidic clans trying to cleanse the curse upon the land. Each turn, you play cards into your field to gain powerful advancements and useful vale cards. Use your power wisely, or decay will end your turn prematurely. Score the most victory points to win the game!

Mystic Vale uses the innovative “Card Crafting System”, which lets you not only build your deck, but build the individual cards in your deck, customizing each card’s abilities to exactly the strategy you want to follow.

Setup and gameplay for 2 Players

The setup on this game has only two changes when playing with two players: the Level 1 advancement cards deck has only 12 random cards, and the VP token pool has 23 VP in it. The implications of these changes are so that the Level 1 cards are gone faster, encouraging the purchase and use of more powerful card inserts (when the Level 1 deck is empty, those slots will fill in with Level 2 cards), and so that the game will end quicker. There are more VP tokens per player out there, but a smaller pool overall does mean that the game can and sometime will end quicker than in a game with more players.

Gameplay itself is fast and furious, especially since you are supposed to prep your field each turn while your opponent is playing. With 2 players, it isn’t uncommon for the other player to finish their turn while you are prepping your field. We actually find it is beneficial to do this part during your own turn so you can actually see what your opponent purchases, etc. since it still goes really fast with two players. All you are waiting on is whether they’ll push or not, and for them to purchase up to two advancement cards and up to two Vale cards during their turn. What they purchase has no direct impact on you, but it can inform future purchasing decisions if you know they have X advancement and so this one for purchase now would make that card even better.

My Thoughts

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way: the card crafting system. I love this aspect of the game so much! It is so much fun trying to plan ahead for a card, picking it up knowing that cards X or Y would go great in there, but also having to adapt to what may or may not be present in the Commons area over the course of the game when that card is in your field. You can’t always pull off those ideal pairings, but when you do it provides a great feeling. I also like that you can’t overwrite a slot if it has something there, meaning those Cursed Lands and Fertile Soils from the beginning will still be a present factor.

Not only is it fun to add those clear advancements into your sleeved cards, but it gives this deckbuilding game something that I haven’t seen elsewhere: a deckbuilder where the deck doesn’t grow! You both start with that same crappy 20-card deck, but by the end you have unique 20-card decks that are (hopefully) filled with one or two combinations that you hope to pull off. That static deck size is what appeals most to my wife with this game, and is something I really appreciate as well.

The smaller Level 1 advancement deck, based on player count, is a great idea because it encourages the purchasing of more powerful and expensive additions. It also means you cannot count on a certain card, or at least its arrangement, to appear over the course of a game. There are certainly some nice Level 1 advancements in there which I usually try to grab if they appear, but I wouldn’t want to dwell there for the entire game. They are there to get your decks started, but not to endlessly add to them.

The press-your-luck element in this game is something that elevates it from great to outstanding. Choosing when to flip one more card can be the difference between winning and losing, and knowing when you can push is equally important. Since you know how many Cursed Lands are in your deck, there are opportunities for safer risks. Yet that greed can also cost you dearly if you spoil, making the entire field get discarded. As a consolation, you get to refresh your mana token (if it has been used) and there are times when I’ll push just to get that back for a future turn.

I love the Vale cards. When I was being taught the game, I was told that no one won by getting those. So I ignored them my first few plays. And then I discovered their power – not only for the abilities on some of the cards but also for the pure VP at the end of the game. It isn’t an essential thing to focus on, but if one player is going for these cards then you almost certainly need to do the same. Otherwise they might just outpace you, being able to buy up to four things (two of these plus two advancements) on a really good turn. Don’t undervalue them!

The advancements themselves feel really well-balanced. I don’t know that I can think of many cards that seem over or under-costed, and many cards that are just “okay” on their own become great given the right combination. Some of the most powerful cards in the game add decay symbols, while those with growth symbols are usually unimpressive with what else they have to offer. Letting you get more cards played into your field is a strong enough power, after all!

There is only one endgame trigger: the VP pool is emptied. Each player gets the same number of turns and you pull out any additional tokens needed for further gains, which makes it all even. But if no one is buying the advancements that give VP tokens, or if none come out early? This game can run long in that scenario. It also enables one person to end the game fast if they get a very early Level 3 advancement, giving 4 or so tokens each time it comes out. I enjoy the longer games than those which end when everyone else’s deck just seems to get started. I don’t know what other trigger could be used, but this one can be a downside in some plays.

Mana and spirit symbols can be tough to track over the course of your turn. I’ve had to recount my field several times on turns to make sure I remember what I had. Especially with the symbols. I actually got some tokens for these at a promo event a few weeks ago and I don’t know that I’d ever want to go back to playing without them. They help make tracking what you gain, and what you’ve spent, so that there is a lower risk for errors while buying those cards. This doesn’t detract from the game itself, but be prepared to triple-check sometimes to make sure you’re actually spending what you have available in your pool.

There isn’t really a way I can think of to fix this, but you can usually see what card is next to flip up in each stack. The pictures are visible enough even through the back of the cards, making it so you can plan ahead using information that should have been hidden. Especially since images are in one of three places, allowing you to be able to see three of the upcoming cards if you really wanted to. That is just a challenge of the clear cards, and could really only be fixed if they printed something on the back of those images.

Final Verdict

This game has been the biggest surprise hit of 2017 for us. I was reasonably certain that I would enjoy the game because I am a big fan of deckbuilding games, so it isn’t a shock that I dig this game. But my wife is not a fan of deckbuilding games in general, although she can enjoy the occasional play of a deckbuilder and will usually get better at them over the course of repeated plays. Getting her to try the game was a struggle, but once she did I knew we had found a good thing. She not only wanted to play again immediately, but also wanted to borrow the game and play it several times daily during the short span that we had a copy here. That has never happened with another deckbuilding game.

This game has so much variety in it because you are crafting the cards as you play. The advancements you purchase must go onto the cards in your field, so there is no guarantee it will ever be able to connect onto the card you really need it on in your deck. That innovative system, along with the static deck size of 20 cards, makes this a standout in the field of deckbuilders. There is no thinning of your deck, but neither is there a risk of having a bloated deck. The thinning and/or bloating comes from the symbols on your advancements, either adding in more decay symbols so you can player fewer (but often stronger) cards or from adding in growth symbols so that you can offset those decay cards.

I’ve won games with few Level 3 advancements. I’ve won games without buying Vale cards. I’ve won games while gaining only a few of the VP tokens. There are several strategies that can be pursued in this game, which makes it a great one for replay. This game is fast and fun, and is the game I plan to pull out any time we have another couple come over for dinner and a game. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see this appear on one, or both, of our Top 10 lists at the end of this year. If you are looking for a deckbuilder, or a game with unique takes on familiar mechanics, then Mystic Vale is definitely one to consider.

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