Set A Watch is a Kickstarter game that was active in late September 2018 and delivered here to the USA in late June/early July. It’s a cooperative game about keeping watch at a campfire and defeating monsters who would attack your campfire.
Set A Watch is light to medium weight game for 1-4 players (although, see below). Each player takes a very different role (Cleric, Knight, Beastmaster, etc): there are 8 roles in the game (6 or 7 in the retail version I think), with each player taking a different role. It’s a smallish game in a smallish box (barely fitting in the box, but it does fit).
Note that the “board” is in the top of the box! It’s pretty cool, but I had some trouble keeping the edge (leftmost edge in picture) down during play.
Each player chooses a character, with 5 special abilities (only 3 at a time can be used in the empty positions on the card). Each player also has a special ability back at camp (Set Trap above).
Each character gets 3 dice which you role at the start of your turn. Some characters get 6-sided dice and some get 8-sided dice. It’s pretty obvious: the 6-sideds are red/orange/yellow, and the 8-sideds are green/blue/purple.
The dice are the key element to the game! Whenever you do anything, you assign dice to either abilities or just use the straight-up value to fight monsters with the direct value! Although it seems like the 8-sided heroes have an advantage, as they will tend to roll more potential damage, the 6-sided heroes have abilites that don’t depend as strongly on the value. We’ll see more below …
The components are really nice. The box has a magnetic clasp (ooooh!), the rulebook is pretty good, the cards have nice art, the dice are decent (although the 8-sided are harder to read), and in general the game looks really nice.
You even get some nice wooden bits: there are 3 different fire tokens to represent “how high the fire is”! The higher the fire, the more of the creatures you can see! Usually, a higher fire is a good thing! The other wooden bits are a token to show “how many times you watched the fire”. Everybody has to watch the fire twice before the big battle at the end ….
So, in Set A Watch, you must ALWAYS have 4 characters in play, regardless of the the player count. This means that in a solo game, the solo character MUST PLAY 4 characters at a time! Oi!! Although this game, strictly speaking, follows Saunders’ Law (every cooperative game must have a viable solo mode), it’s a bit much for the first play!! Playing 4 characters for a game you DON’T KNOW is really intimidating!! I really wish this game had a balancing act for fewer players (like changing the number of monsters that come out depending on the number of players), but it is what it is.
Each player takes a Character and the corresponding dice. HINT!!! The back of the character cards is a player summary card!!! Since there are 8 characters and only 4 ever playing, make sure you give everyone a “unplayed character” to use as a reference card!!! And this makes me very happy: in all the games I played, the player summary card was worth its weight in gold!! People who hadn’t played got almost everything they needed from either the player summary part of the front part of their card.
Once you choose your character, you choose 3 of your 5 powers to populate your character. The other two remain dormant (although you can swap them in during the campfire phase later). These 3 power cards represent your “hit points”: if all three of them are ever disabled, you cannot participate in combat. You can heal from the Cleric, or back at the campfire.
The Rulebook has a nice picture of set-up, although the “Line” (where all creatures come out) is impractical. This is what I ended up doing, putting the line below the board …
Once you get the game set-up, it flows pretty quickly. It’s a little fiddly to set-up. There’s spaces for the Horde and Unused Locations in the box …
But everything else is the sides (the Graveyard and the Unhallowed). The difficulty of the game is controlled by how many Summon cards in the creature deck. The more there are, the harder the game is! The Summon cards bring in the Unhallowed, which are nastier monsters!
To Win, the players have to travel all the way back home (The Fobidden Tower). There are 8 locations to move from, and when they get home, they have to do a final stand to defend their home (from the Hoard as well!).
The gameplay is simple: at the start of the turn, everyone rolls their dice, and a decision is made! One character watches the campfire for the night and the other 3 go and fight the monsters that would attack the campfire! If any monsters make it through (aren’t defeated) , the adventurers gets wounded, and the remnants go the Horde.
Everyone must stay back (at the campfire) twice, but in the final combat at the Forbidden Tower, EVERYONE FIGHTS!
Everyone looks at their dice to decide who stay back at the Campfire this turn. Everyone must stay back exactly twice. Whoever stays back decides what to do with their dice: they can heal, chop firewood, check the map, scout ahead. If they roll doubles they can “activate Runes!” (do very special stuff )! If you roll doubles, this might be a reason to have your character stay back this turn! Again, the character summary sheet lets you know everything you can do!
In our case, the player uses his doubles to VANQUISH and get rid of one monster from the Horde! Important safety tip, you MUST FIGHT all monsters in the Horde when you make it back home! So, it’s important to keep the Horde under control …
So, the guy back at camp just hangs out while his compatriots go fight!
Each character, in Player Selected Turn Order (PSTO) (i.e., any order they want) can play any amount of dice they want. I can play 2, you can play 1, then I can play 1 more, etc.
You can use Dice directly as their value for damage against a monster. The monster’s health is in the upper right corner.
For example: if I have a 7 or 8, I can kill the Bandit with 1 die! Since this is a cooperative game, I can play a 3 and you can play a 4 (or more) and together we can take it out! Once a die is used, that’s it for that die this turn.
The second thing you can do it to use your die to activate one of your special abilities!
For example: the Wizard has used two of his abilities this turn (each ability can only be activated once). This is notated by putting one of the dice on the ability.
Finally, you can “exhaust” one of your abilities to use it again (without needing a die). Unfortunately, unless you heal yourself, that ability is gone for the rest of the game. (You can heal yourself back at camp or the Cleric can heal you).
Once all the monsters in the line are taken care of, you go to the next round! There’s a notion of keeping your firewood high enough to see more monsters, and there’s some other rules, but that’s the basic game.
So, this game has gone over like gangbusters in all my game groups. I have played it solo, we have played it in my serious groups, a couple of lighter groups, and my Las Cruces group (which is notorious for very different opinions on games than my other groups). And everyone has liked it!
The game plays quickly (an hour), everyone feels engaged most of the time, and bad dice rolls can be mitigated by the special powers! I was worried that when a player “stayed back at camp”, that would cause that player to get annoyed for that turn (they are doing stuff, but not quite as much as the other players). In the end, everyone “got it”! Someone has to stay back and take it for the team this round! And it seemed a very cooperative decision … since everyone has to stay back exactly twice, I don’t think anyone felt slighted.
The solo play works once you know the game, but always playing 4 characters is annoying. I wish there were a better solo mode, this one is good enough to have fun with.
In the end, this game has been a hit in all my game groups. It’s smallish, fast, fun, easy to learn, and there’s a ton of variety between the different characters. This gets an 8 on the BoardGameGeek scale! Good game!