A Review of Set A Watch: Swords Of The Coin

Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin is a cooperative stand-alone expansion for the original cooperative game Set A Watch. We liked the original game quite a bit: it made our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games! It’s a dice game where, even if you roll poorly, the special powers on the character cards allow mitigation.

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The expansion, at least for me, just delivered from Kickstarter a few days ago (today is Nov 6th, 2021).

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The Kickstarter delivered with an expansion (just more cards, we won’t really discuss here) and a nice little playmat for the monsters.

At the end of the day, we really liked the original Set A Watch: see our previous review here. These days, I am more reluctant to get expansions for games because I have to remember how the original plays before adding the expansion! Luckily, this expansion is (a) standalone (so you don’t need the original) as well (b) simple new rules. The new rules this expansion adds are pretty simple, so it was easy to get back into.

Unboxing and Components

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The box is smaller with a nice a nice magnetic clasp.

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The main board is on the inside  of the lid!  It’s magnetic clasp doesn’t quite stay flat (see above), but it’s pretty neat looking and still works (despite not being completely flat).

The dice are one of the centerpieces of this game: this is, at its core, a cooperative dice-rolling game!  The dice are nice and easy to read!  (The original Set A Watch had dice that could be harder to read with black ink: it’s good to see they fixed this in the new game).

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Probably the second most important thing in the game are the player boards: the game comes with 6 different characters (see above), each with very different powers AND dice!  Each character will take 3 dice as their main dice: See below!

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The final main components are the cards: Notice how nice and linen-finished they are!

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First are the character power cards: each character gets 5 character power cards (only 3 of which are active at any time): See above.

To win the game, the players need to make it through the woods and travel through 9 locations: each location (see above) has different effects.

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The monsters are the main obstacle for the adventurers in the game: see some of them above.  Every day, the adventurers must fend off the monsters!

Each day, one adventurer must stay back and tend to the fire: the little tokens (above) are for the fire and notating who has stayed back: each player must stay back exactly twice during the game.

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The “new coolness” of this expansion is the item cards: players can buy items from the merchant.

Overall, the components are nice for this game.  See above.  

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At the end of the day, the game just BARELY fits back in the box: you have to pack smartly to make sure it all fits.  But it does fit.

Rulebook

The rulebook is pretty good. One minor quibble is that it doesn’t show a picture of the components on the first page (see above).  It does jump straight into set-up on the next few pages.  

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Another minor quibble is that the rulebook wouldn’t stay open when I placed it on the table: see me holding the rulebook open above.  If I folded back the rulebook and “broke it’s spine”, it tended to stay open better but even that wasn’t perfect. 

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Having said that, the rules were fairly clear, the font was legible and large enough, and there were enough pictures pointing out elements of the game (see above, notating the merchant with some arrows, and also the monsters).

This little game has a fairly long rulebook, but a lot of the content at the end was describing how to combine the two games:

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This was a pretty good rulebook: the game explicitly showed set-up, the font was clear and legible, there were plenty of pictures showing notations,  and it was well organized.  It’s a bit long, but it was good enough to learn the game early and look up rules questions later.

Cooperative Mode

Take a look at our review from 2018 for more discussion of gameplay, but when playing cooperatively, this game really shines!  It uses one of my favorite cooperative mechanisms: Player Selected Turn Order (see here for more discussion).  We talk amongst each other, trying to figure out the order to activate our dice and powers!  There is tons of discussion as we try to figure out how to beat the monsters!  I can almost picture us in the forest shouting to each other: “Hey Artie!  I can take this bat before he becomes a vampire if you can just take the Acolyte out!”  “I can’t!  Bob, can you?”  Player Selected Turn Order can be daunting to notate, but it seems to work fine in this game as the dice themselves become the “notation”.

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In the game, there must ALWAYS been 4 characters being played, no matter the player count! The game works best at 4 players (see above, each of us controls one character), but 2 players works well by having the 2 players each take control of two characters each.  Normally, a three player game would be “weird”  under this set-up (“Who has to play two characters while we all play  a single character?”), but since one character always stays back at the fire, the extra character can be rotating to the player who is “back at the fire” so then every one can go fight monsters with the group!  Every one stay engaged!

Solo Rules

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Huzzah for providing a solo mode and following Saunders’ Law!

So, Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin suffers from the same solo rules as the original game: in order to play solo, the single person must take command of all four characters! See set-up above for a solo game: it’s fairly daunting! The game is “obviously” only balanced for 4 characters, so it is a lot of work to play the solo game. There’s a lot of die-rolling, card adjusting, and maintenance that’s usually “shared” in a multi-player game, but when you play a solo game, all that maintenance is piled upon the solo gamer. A worse issue, I think, is the context-switching: switching before 4 characters as you play each turn is just a lot of work. “Wait, what are the special powers? How do they combo well?” All the discussions that seem to take place in a multi-player cooperative game have to be made more explicit in a solo game.

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Having said that, the solo game is fun: there’s a lot of variety in the game as you switch back-and-forth between characters, roll the different dice, and strategize! I like this solo mode, and it’s fun, but there are problems with it that you need to be aware of: there’s quite a lot of context-switching and there’s potentially too much maintenance per turn. The solo mode is also probably not the best way to learn the game! I think the solo mode can be too overwhelming for the first-time player. Although I originally learned the original game from the solo mode, I still think they should have considered a simpler solo mode for Swords of the Coin.

Rule Change: Coin!

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Although Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin is essentially the same game as Set A Watch, there is one major difference!

Most prevalent: the group now has a shared “coin purse” and it allows you to purchase items as you play.   See the merchant above: he has 3 items for sale, with more to the side.  How do you get coin?

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Coin accumulates on the “Fire” board: some of the “Fire” actions have a coin on them: if that ability wasn’t activated, a coin is placed there.  On a later turn, you can pick up the accumulated coin.  I liked this rule!  For one, it forced you to maybe do “Fire” actions you might not do, just to gain the accumulated coin!  There can be some really cool stuff at the merchant.  To be clear, this mechanism is BRAND NEW to Set A Watch: Coins of the Sword!  It is NOT in the original game! It makes the game just a touch more fiddly and complex, but it does add more choices (which can be very nice).  

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I am not sure I would play Set A Watch: Coins of the Watch expansion with less experienced players: it add just a touch more complexity which might scare away those less experienced players.  Whereas, I have had great luck playing the original game with all sorts of game groups.

The Original Or The Expansion or Both?

Should you get the original (Set A Watch) or the expansion (Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin) or both?  The good news is that you can’t go wrong with either game!  They are both standalone games, so you can get either one.  They are essentially the same game with a different features.  The newer expansion game has better and more components (linen-coated cards, more legible dice, more cards) but it is slightly more complicated (with the coin and buying rules).  I have played the original game with many play groups who were NOT gamers, and they seemed to enjoy the original game!  If you are at all worried about the extra complexity of the coins and want the simpler game, pick up the original Set A Watch and give that a try.  If you are a more “seasoned” gamer, the newer game is more “gamery” and has slightly better components.  Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either one: they are pretty much the same game.

Should you get both? The nice thing about getting both is that there are a LOT of characters to choose from! If you get the original or the expansion and really like the game, I would suggest getting the other for more content, but mostly the new characters! All the characters in both games are VERY different, and the addition of the new characters will go a long way towards elongating the life of this game!

Conclusion

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Set A Watch: Swords of the Coin is a fantastic cooperative game for 1-4 players. The game is fairly small (see Coke can and pencil for scale above), but still feels like quite an adventure! The problem I have with most dice games is that unlucky rolls feel very depressing, but there are enough ways to mitigate bad dice rolls (assigning dice to powers, exhausting powers if really needed, staying back at camp on a bad roll, using the new objects) that it doesn’t seem to be a real problem. My friends enjoyed this, I enjoyed this, and my love for the game has gone up! I would probably give this an 8.5/10 now: there’s tons of variety if you have both this expansion and the original and every game group (newbies to experts) I have played with with has enjoyed this game.

Like my review of Marvel United: The X-Men, I suspect this will make my top 10 cooperative games of the year … I just don’t know if it will make the Top 10 Cooperative Games or the Top 10 Cooperative Expansions!

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