The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance is a very light cooperative story-telling game. Players each create a character and take them through a very light adventure to find some “relic” or Object D’Interest. All players quest together as a team. See below.
This is a light dungeon-crawler game: each character will create a character using one of the 5 prototypes in the game: Priest, Wizard, Warrior, Bard, or Rogue. See picture above.
The act of creating your character is fairly quick: you answer 3 simple questions about the “nature” of your character and use that to help guide your character through the game. In general, you want to stay “true” to your characters (but if you don’t, there are no real consequences).
A close-up of the Wizard sheet
Take a closer look at the Wizard sheet (above) for a sense of the questions you’ll be asked to set-up our character. Again, this is a story-telling game, so you are just “goofing” and creating a backstory out of your imagination.
You can see our group took this VERY seriously: we went with an Italian food motif with Lil’ Meatball (the warrior), Noodle (the Wizard), Sauce (the Bard), and Parmesan (The Priest). See below.
This character-creating process should be an immediate indicator of whether you will love or hate this game: the game does seem to lean towards silliness.
This is mostly a card game: the cards will specify events and monster to overcome: you will tell stories of how you overcame said events and monsters.
This is not a “pure” storytelling game: you will be rolling the dice (above) to see if you pass events/defeat monsters. Generally, with the dice and your “extra plusses”, you will have to roll OVER the amount on the card. The mechanism is dirt-simple.
For example, to get through “The Great Gate” above (green card on right), the current player will have to roll-play, tell a story, and get a 6 or above to get through the gate. Some events will get extra plusses if you incorporate extra story elements.
As you play, you can turn in completed events/monster for treasure. See some treasure above.
We chose to watch the video by Becca Scott to see how to play. I would recommend watching this video to learn: it was reasonable and she is very upbeat.
After we basically got set-up, we’d occasionally look at the video to get clarifications.
We had to look at the rulebook “a little”, but in general, the video was good enough.
Gameplay is pretty simple: everyone gets a turn trying to defeat a monster/event on the board. Once you go all around, you get to “reset” you character (each player has a help token they can use once per round).
One other player can offer to help, but it uses their “help” token. If you defeat the event/monster, you keep the defeated card … with enough of them, you can turn them in for treasure.
You have no choice on which treasure you get: you just get the top card of the Treasure deck. LIke the Haunted Doll … not sure we would have chosen that as treasure!
You can lose if the “party health” goes to zero (top of the board). Each failure in the game will cause some damage to the “party health”, depending on the event/monster.
And that’s it! Players keep going until they get through 2 piles on the board, and they lose f the party health goes to 0! Very simple.
Solo Mode vs Cooperative Mode
There is no given solo mode: this is a game for 2-5 players. This is a light, cooperative story-telling game. There’s no reason you couldn’t play two characters (you definitely need at least 2 characters so they can help each other) to play solo, but it seems like it would be not fun.
This is a cooperative story-telling game where you feed off of each others stories and silliness. It really should be played as a group.
This is a very light game: I know, I’ve said that a lot. It’s a little random, as you have no control over what treasures you get, but I guess that’s the nature of treasure, isn’t it? The game presents a framework for storytelling and gives you places to tell little stories. It forces you to roll some dice so you do fail sometimes (sometimes failure is funnier than succeeding) and make the game interesting. There is an interesting notion of cooperation, as each player can use offer help or accept help from a few characters, but at the cost of not being to help others.
Each player gets a token to help others: see the +2 for the Wizard above. Once it’s spent, it can’t used until the round (each player gets one go) ends.
There was a little bit of strategy in the endgame as we had to make sure we could defeat the final puzzle by spending our help tokens properly. In general, though, this was just a light game where we told stories and had fun.
You’ll probably know if you’d like the game after getting here: if you want a light, cooperative, story-telling game, this is fun. The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance presents a nice framework for a silly storytelling game. The combat/events mechanisms are dirt simple and keep the prospect of failure in the game so as to make the game at least somewhat interesting (it’s boring to win all the time).
Interestingly, I think my friends like this game a little more than I did: they like RPGs and play them quite a bit, so the notion of creating a story and populating that world was appealing. I didn’t like it quite as much, probably because it felt just a little too random. But, this game was still fun: I got to hang out with my friends one evening and tell silly stories.
Those of you paying attention might be saying “Wait a Minute! Ark Nova is an engine building game that’s completely competitive! You can’t play it cooperatively!”
Or can you?
Well, this would be a pretty short blog entry if you couldn’t.
An Idea From Solo Mode
To win the solo mode, you need to get at least zero victory points! Scoring is a little different in Ark Nova: it is a victory point game, but the number of victory points you get is (nominally) the difference between your Appeal value and your Conservation track (modulo some rules for snapping to an edge).
See the picture above: My victory points for a solo game were 80 – 67 = 13 victory points (the conservation track uses the smallest number in the range on the green track). Don’t expect huge scores in this game: if you can get a positive score, that’s a big deal! (Note, if this were the other around, I would have -13 victory points! A loss!)
Engine Building in a Zoo
Ark Nova game reminds me a little of Terraforming Mars meets Endangered: it’s an engine builder (with lots of cards: see above) with a zoo/conservation theme where you build your own zoo: see below.
Ark Nova is also about as long as Terraforming Mars: It’s quite long, and the more people play, the longer it is.
At first blush, this seem like is that there really isn’t any “take-that” in this game. By “take that”, we mean mechanisms were you intentionally do something bad to another player to help yourself. In our first solo game, we didn’t see any cards that would “screw” other players. That gave us hope that maybe turning this into cooperative would work! Generally, you are just worried about building the best engine you can and doing the best on your turn! There is player interaction in the sense that you might take an animal someone else wants, or start the break early, but these are much more passive interactions. Generally, you aren’t out to get people: you just want to build build build.
Unfortunately, after playing again and looking closer at the rules, there are quite a number of “take-that” mechanisms in the game: stealing cards or money, putting poison, hypnosis, constriction. See images form the Icon sheet below. All the yellow/red tokens are “take-that” to some extent.
This might be a sign that a cooperative mode is a bad idea. To make this work, we’d have to either (a) completely eliminate these cards or (b) rewrite the text so the effects are different. The deck is MUCH too large (212 cards) to go through it apriori and eliminate the “take-that” cards before game, so we’ll have to eliminate them as they come up.
Once we get rid of the “take-that” cards in the game, it’s very simple to add a cooperative mode. Ready?
In the cooperative mode of Ark Nova, players work together to build their engines with the intent that no player gets negative victory points. Players win together if all players have zero or more victory points!
And that’s it! Well, that’s the idea at least: we use the idea from the solo mode that negative victory points are bad, so that all players must work together to make sure none of their fellow compatriots are lagging. We like this idea because it keeps the entire flow of the game, but still gives somewhat of a notion of cooperation in the endgame.
Those of you with good memories might think “Hey, didn’t you propose something like this for DungeonLords?” Good memory! Recall from this Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Fully Cooperatively, we added some rules to make DungeonLords cooperative! The idea was very similar:
In the cooperative mode for DungeonLords, players win as a group if they can keep all Dungeons “pristine” and unexplored by the hero parties.
We dubbed this stay-out-each-other’s-way cooperative, and that’s very similar to what we propose here: players will mostly just try to stay out of each other’s way as they play.
What Really Happened
We started Ark Nova with the best intentions to play it cooperatively. “How hard can it be? Play normally and get rid of the take-that cards as you play!” Harder than you think.
First of all, there’s a lot of cards with a lot of text in the game that come out (in the display or in your hand). Culling the “take-that” cards dynamically is actually a lot of work because we have to read a lot of cards as they came out: this really ground the game to a halt. In the end, we just let the “take that” cards come out because they weren’t that bad. But, it seemed like an inauspicious start.
Also, what really happened: we all got too invested in our boards!! We played for 3.5 hours (4-player game). After so much investment in time and momentum (individually) in our zoos, we just kinda “forgot” about playing this cooperatively. After 3.5 hours, we were also tired and kinda just wanted the game to end. My players essentially said that “there was too much thinking: trying to embrace a cooperative mode at the endgame just seemed out of reach”. It was too much.
Is it a good idea to turn Ark Nova into a cooperative game? I don’t know, but our first experiment/session in this endeavour was a complete flop. Players (individually) got too invested in their own zoos and it was too hard to break out of that mold. It almost feels like we just ran a psychology experiment: “What happens if you try to add cooperation to a world-view that has already embraced competition?” In our case, the cooperation failed.
That doesn’t mean we might not still pursue this cooperative idea, but preliminary results show that this is perhaps a bad idea for Ark Nova.
Sometimes, we receive games that we only play once or a couple of times. That’s not enough information for a full review, but it’s usually very telling if no one wants to play the game again. Sometimes we really just don’t like a game, or sometimes a game just doesn’t hit for us, or sometimes a game just doesn’t stand out for more plays. Here’s a look at three games we’ve played in the last few months that we didn’t love. We’ll start with our least favorite and end with our favorite.
Quick Review: Tiny Epic Dungeons
This game was infuriating. The components are pretty amazing, with screen printed wood minis and linen cards…
…but the rulebook was horrible.
I rage-quit my first solo game because the rules were so bad.
I asked my friends to play a game with me and see what I did wrong: “Surely I was doing something wrong!” After playing through again, they had the same reaction: this rulebook isn’t very good and it seems to be missing information.
Andrew found a 14-page supplement (that’s right 14 pages!!) online to to understand the iconology of the game: this supplement was critical to understanding the game. Even with that, the game just wasn’t that easy to play, and it wasn’t fun.
Nobody in my group liked it: We’d probably give it a 3.5/10. It only gets a 3.5 instead of a 3 because the components were so nice.
We could be completely wrong on this one: The rating on BoardGameGeek was like 7.8/10.0 at the time of this quick review, but no one in my group liked this game. At all. I will probably never play this again.
Quick Review: Tales From the Loop
I played this one solo first to get a sense of the rules: the rulebook was “ok”, not great: it needs a better organization, but all the rules were mostly there.
Then, we played a 4-player game. The basic mood of the room was “Eh, it was okay”. We like the kid stuff the best (“do your chores sometime during the week”), but the game didn’t really hit us. I had seen the show, but my friends hadn’t: I had described the TV show Tales From The Loop as a “Twilight Zone meets spartan Scandinavian sensibilities”.
This game didn’t really convey that sense. I didn’t get the feel from the game, and my friends didn’t get that feel either. The game was ok. It felt like it would be a bit samey after a while. It was also pretty complicated too.
No one really hated the game, but no one necessarily would suggest it again. I think we’d give it a 5/10 as a group. If someone wanted to play, we’d play again.
Quick Review: Mortum Medieval Detective
So, this was a weird one. I was super excited to play this: me and my friends had played Suspects (the murder mystery game) over a few weeks (see review here) and this seemed to promise that same mystery (with three cases, just like Suspects), but in a Medieval setting.
Sounds cool! But the game wasn’t at all what we expected. It didn’t feel like a mystery at all! There were some things you had to figure out, but it was more like “explore until you find things”: I never felt we had a chance to uncover and follow the mystery, we either just got lucky or we didn’t.
We guessed at the solution and did really well, but it all felt too random: we don’t felt like we deserved the score we got: we felt like we just got lucky.
After playing, we realized that if we reset our expectations to this being a “story in which we explore in a Medieval setting”, then the game is much more fun! But with the word Detective in the title, we expected much more of a mystery like in our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games. Of all the games here, we might play this one again: we were interested in trying it again after we reset our expectations: We’d probably give this a 6/10 currently. This one may still go up in ratings: we just don’t know what we think. It was a weird one.
A number of weeks ago, we reviewed Hour of Need (see review here). One of our complaints was that the game looks like a “sea of grey” on the board: see above. The lack of miniature bases for a game with a fair number of miniatures (especially with the Kickstarter Bystander and Minion upgrade pack), is a bit discouraging. So, we did a little bit of research and found 3 (well, 4 but you’ll see) different solutions for miniature bases. Let’s take a look at what we found!
Note: If you are good and painting and have already painted your minis, hush. This is a solution for those of us who are “painting challenged”.
What To Look For
What I need is about 30 or so more rings like the ones behind Guerilla above. The rings above are for the Lackeys, and since the Lackey’s cards are already color-coded for those colors, we can’t use Red/Green/Blue/Yellow for anything else in the game! So, we want “something” like this:
4 for the Heroes (preferably a different color for each one, but not necessarily)
10 for the Minions: probably something grey or greyish
8 for the Bystanders: probably white or silver or something lighter, like their innocent hearts!
1-4 for the Villains: probably something black, like their hearts of evil! There’s usually only one in play at a time, so we probably only need 1 color
My first choice was to try and find a bunch of the silicon/rubber rings like those that come with the game: (like the rings behind Guerilla above). I was surprised that I could not find them! At least not for 25mm bases. So I had to try to find something else!
Solution 1: Metal Rings
This wasn’t the first solution I first thought of (in fact, it was the last thing I ordered), but it was the first one to arrive from Amazon.
For $12.99 from Amazon (see link here), I got 60 metal rings. They are 4 colors that come with this were silver, gold, black, and gunmetal (brass).
The official title from the Amazon page:
Rustark 60 Pcs Assorted Multi-Purpose Metal O Ring 1 inch /25mm 4 Colors Thick Webbing Metal Buckle Loop Ring for Hardware Bags Ring Hand DIY Accessories (Silver, Gold,Black, Gunmetal)
I freely admit these metal rings were a little bit of a Hail Mary: “This will never work”. BUT! Holy cow! They actually worked really well! See below.
The Minions (above) have “black” base and look fantastic with the metal!
You can even pick them up and the rings stay on! See picture above. They also have a nice “heft” to them when you lift and move them around (the metal is heavier).
Now, the rings are a little bit fragile: if you move them around too much, they dislocate a little so they aren’t flush against the base. See Micro Man below:
But, sometimes the easiest thing to do is just find another ring in the pouch or “push the ring down”.
Check out some more pictures below: I chose to put the Silver ones on the Bystanders, Grey on the Minions, Bright Gold on the Heroes, and Brass on the Villain.
Finally, you see what they look like when we put them on the board!
They seem to work pretty well: I can tell the difference between the Bystanders, the Lackeys, the Minions, and the Heroes!
I decided, for the moment, to store the rings in the Bystander/Minion Upgrade pack. It worked pretty well! See above.
You can pick up the minis and move them around, and the rings still stay on the minis
Overall, this solution was a surprise that it worked as well as it did. Had I ordered it first, I may not have looked into the other solutions! (It was my last order from Amazon).
Price: $12.99 + tax (shipping was part of price) Arrived: Quickly. It took 1-2 days from Amazon. Looks: Great and classy (I mean, metal!) Feels: Nice heft Disadvantages: Rings don’t quite stay on/fit perfectly, but they still work well. Sometimes the colors aren’t as distinguishable because they are metal and the shine sometimes can obscure the color.
This solution gets an 8.0/10. Very good, not perfect. The metal really makes it look very cool and the rings generally stay on the bases.
Solution 2: Rings of Power
The Rings of Power are plastic bases intended for Dungeons and Dragons type miniatures to show “status”: invisible, hindered, and stuff like that. Most of the status tokens like this I found were already labelled with actual words (like “Invisible”, “Hindered”, etc) so those were non-starters. TheRings of Power were the first ones I found that DID NOT have any visible words … which would be perfect for distinguishing my Hour of Need minis!
The Rings of Power were $9.99 on Amazon (see link here). Note: from the Amazon description, and almost every place I found these, they have the numbers mislabelled! Its say 18 of the 25mm bases, and 54 of the 50mm, but it’s actually the other way around! There are ACTUALLY 54 of the 25mm bases, and 18 of the 50mm bases! I think the official title of these is:
Rings of Power – Tabletop Condition Markers – RPG Board Game Accessories – Colorful Ring Set for HP, Effects, Damage, Spells, & Stats – for DND & More Strategy Games – 72 Pieces, Standard & Mini Size
Mine came from Amazon after about 3 days: it got a little squished in shipping. See above and below.
The rings are just in a plastic bag inside:
I think I was most excited of all the three products to get these, because I love the way they look! They seem to fit the characters:
But unfortunately, the rings are a little too big. The figures just rest inside the ring and don’t bind to the miniature at all. If you lift the mini, the ring just stays on the table.
If you put jut a smidge of scotch tape on the bottom, you can get them to stay.
Overall, I chose a different color for each Hero: Orange for Majesty’s hair, Red for Stride’s color, Cyan for Micro Man’s color, and Green for Guerilla’s color. See below.
I chose to use the light pink for the Bystanders (lightest color): See below.
I chose purple for the minions: it was the “darkest” color: Note we are missing one because there are only 9 rings for each color (and 10 bystanders).
Overall, they look like this:
On the board, they look pretty good and are very easy to distinguish: See below.
If you want to use these rings without some tape, you have to just slide the miniatures around the board or deal with them coming off all the time. But they look nice!
Price: $9.99 + tax (shipping part of price) Arrived: Quickly. It took 3-4 days from Amazon. Looks: Cool with those little waves Feels: Fine Disadvantages: The rings are too large and the minis will pull right out of the rings.
This solution gets an 6.9/10. I didn’t love that the minis just slid right in and out: I could fix it with a piece of scotch tape, but that felt tacky. I wish there were 10 of each color (there’s only 9), but this is a minor gripe. This was the cheapest and easiest solution to use out of the box.
Solution 3: Plastic Bases from ETSY
These color rings from ETSY were the first thing rings that I ordered because they had all the colors I wanted! See link here!
I could ask for 10 whites, 10 greys, and 10 other colors etc. and get exactly what I wanted. The price was probably too much: I ended up paying about $40 for 30 rings. Let’s see how they look!
There were several mis-starts (my first order got lost, and a few colors were missing, and I had to get a signature from the Post Office), but I finally got these!
Take a look at a Bystander: they do fit underneath.
Unfortunately, they do NOT stay tight to the bottom of the minis! Oh no!
Luckily, you can put them OVER the mini and they stay on!
Putting them over the mini for the Bystanders seemed to work really well:
Similarly, the grey bases worked really well for the the Lackeys:
Unfortunately, the other colors don’t work over the Hero minis: they can’t fit around their costumes!
So you could still use them underneath of course, but then they slide off.
The Villains half-work: Dowager works but Curtain does not (over the mini that is):
Overall, these work great for ones that can go OVER the minis, and they still work “ok” for everything else.
On the board; they look like:
Overall, these worked really well for the Bystanders and Lackeys! You can use the bases for all the minis in the game, but unless you can slide it over the mini, you will need some tape to keep the bases in place.
Price: Total $40.64 = $27.54 (price for 30) + $1.68 (tax) + $11.42 (shipping) Arrived: It took a while: it came from Spain. It took 6-8 weeks? Looks: Good and consistent with the original Bases that came with the game Feels: Fine Disadvantages: Not flexible rubber/silicone like the base game
These are probably a 7/10 because they worked pretty well, but they lost points for a few reasons: they work great when used “over” the mini, but they slide around if place under (like The Rings of Power). They also lost points because they were so expensive compared to the other solutions! But, they were most consistent with the original game and looked like they “came” with the game.
The Best Solution?
The best solution would be if the game came with 40 of the silicon bases like the 8 above that came with the game. They all fit and stay on the minis. But I searched and searched and could NOT find these! (I may have found an Ebay site with a few). I admit being a little blown away that these were not really findable/viable.
EDIT: Well, it turns out they are available… sort of, not really. When I kickstarted Hour of Need, I could have added 12 more silicon rings to my pledge! See here. There weren’t any new colors, but at least they could have helped. The problem: at the time of this writing, you currently can’t order any new stuff from the Gamefound. It mocks me: “Oh, you want 12 new rings? Just like the base game? Sorry! You can’t order at this time!” Sigh.
Which solution works best for you depends on what you want: they all work, but each has advantages and disadvantages.
Metal Rings solution for the Hour of Need minis
The metal rings (above) gives the game some class and heft but are still cheap and stay attached to the minis pretty well.
Rings of Power solution for Hour of Need
The Rings of Power (above) are the cheapest and easiest solution. But the rings don’t stay attached to the minis without some help (either a piece of tape or just siding the minis around the board). They are loose enough to be annoying.
The ETSY bases (above) are by far the most expensive, but they are the most consistent with the bases that came with the game. If you can place the bases over the mini, then they stay attached so much better! Otherwise, you have the same problem as the Rings of Power (with bases sliding around).
Since I bought all of these products, I might opt for an amalgam solution which uses all three at the same time!! I am thinking Rings Of Power for the Heroes (they are VERY distinguishable with the wavy shapes, and the colors match them better: I’ll have to tape them to keep them in their rings, but it’s only 4 minis to tape), The ETSY white bases for the Bystanders, and the Metal Rings for all the Bad Guys!
Or maybe use the translucent colors from the Rings of Power (for the Heroes) since they are more distinctive?
Which do you like better?
Overall, Hour of Need looks so much better with distinctive minis. See the board below!
Appendix: Batman The Animated Series, Shadow of the Bat, BardSung, and Marvel United
For comparison’s sake (and to see how well these solutions scale outside of Hour of Need), how do these solutions work with the minis from the Batman The Animated Series, Shadow of the Bat game?
The metal rings just abut work, but they don’t quite fit on the bases, so when you move the minis around, they kind of slide off:
Worse, the Metal rings don’t work with some minis at all: Batman looks like he’s hula-hooping because the rings don’t fit!
The metal rings probably aren’t a good solution here: the bases seem just a touch larger than the bases for Hour of Need.
What about the Rings of Power? These work a little better, as all the minis just fit in the bases:
But they have the same problem as they do in Hour of Need: they are a little too big and fall off when you pick up the mins:
Just like Hour of Need, at least the Rings of Power work, and you can avoid the slide-off problem with either some tape or just slide the minis without moving them.
The ETSY solution works well with Batman, but not ManBat.
For BardSung, we have all the same problems as Hour of Need: if the rings can’t fit OVER the minis, they will slide around (and the metal ones seem to work pretty well).
Marvel United minis are too big for any of these solutions, in case you wanted to know.
This expansion delivered to us in the last month (early June 2022): Steelslayer was on Kickstarter some time ago. Although I got both The Reckoners and The Steelslayer expansion on Kickstarter, I have seen this game in a lot of online stores, so it’s fairly widely available.
To be clear, the Steelslayer expansion requires the base game of The Reckoners to play. You can play a game with almost everything new using this expansion, but you still need a lot of trays and tokens from the original box. The original Reckoners is a game that plays 1-6 players in abut 75 minutes, and this expansion continues that tradition (The game is typically longer, but that estimate is accurate enough).
The Steelslayer box is about the third of the size of the original box, see above. This is probably because the expansion doesn’t need all the trays and tokens from the base game (recall there were a LOT of GameTrayz from the original game).
The expansion is pretty densely packed in this box: there’s no way you are going to be able to combine the boxes into one!
The rulebook seems to be the same high-quality as the original rulebook (both of these are high-quality rulebooks). The first pages make it really easy to jump in with list of components (and their pictures) plus a quick discussion of replacements.
The game comes with a campaign sheet (two-sided, see above). If you want to play a campaign. I’ll be honest, I love this game, and I’m not convinced I would ever play the campaign mode: there’s no “story” there, just “a bunch of games”. Some people might like this as a framework to play a lot of content.
So much stuff crammed in here!
There’s a lot of great stuff in here! It looks like the original game!
This is a modular expansion (which means you only have to add in what you want), so let’s unpack it modularly.
Module 1: New Reckoners
The first module adds four new characters to the game: Val, Mizzy, Exel. and Sam: see above and below.
To support 4 new characters, the expansion includes 4 new boards (see above: you have to reuse the Game Trayz from the original game), new power cards (see above), and 4 new minis (see below).
All the minis come in a nice little case: see below.
The new characters have new dice allocations, so in order to support the new characters working with the older characters, new dice were included with the game. See below: notice they are just MORE of the same dice, except for the 8-sided die, which we’ll discuss later…
I’ve played all the characters in the new expansion, and they all feel a little different from the base game (if not revolutionary), but they do mix-it-up if you want. Of all the modules to add in, this is probably the easiest: just add new characters. I think Mizzy (below) is my favorite: she blows up stuff.
This module is incredibly easy to add in: just use one of the new characters!
Module 2: New Equipment
The new equipment is an interesting module because it can either completely replace the old equipment cards or just augment them! If you just want all new stuff, you can just use the new equipment cards: there are enough new equipment cards to do that! (There are a few equipment cards that use some new rules from the expansion, (ok, maybe it’s just the Kidnap equipment card) but even then they are still generic enough to be used with just the base game or just the expansion). You can also choose to just add these to your equipment deck for more variety.
Because of game balance, the expansion chose to replace some equipment cards (Med Kit and Fuel Cells) with more expensive versions.
This expansion is very easy to add in or replace the old equipment.
Module 3: New Epics
The designers chose to make an interesting decision here: with this module, you can completely replace all the old Epics (bad guys who aren’t the main villain) from the original game! This is a “use one or use the other” expansion: you can only use ALL the new Epics or ALL the old Epics (some enterprising players may try to find ways to mix them, but I wouldn’t). See new Epics below.
With these new Epics are a bunch of new rules and tokens:
This expansion includes a bunch of new tokens for these new rules and activations: strictly speaking, they all make the game harder!! The red shield must be removed before Enforcements can be removed, the blue shield must be removed before Epic sliders can be lessened, and the copy epic action (? tokens) repeats some of the Epic Actions. (The orange tokens are special rules for the main Villains).
The dreaded 8-sided die
The most feared of the new rules is the 8-sided die: some actions in the game require you to roll the dice and “do the bad stuff” on the dice. It’s all bad. And it’s random. Mostly, the new Epics use this, but there are other places in the game that use the dreaded 8-sided die as well.
This expansion is a little harder to add in because there are a lot of new rules with the new Epics. It also makes the game harder.
Module 4: New Boss Epics & Cities
This is by far the most complicated modular expansion, but arguably the most interesting. This adds two new Boss Epics to the game: Regalia and Limelight! See below.
If you choose to fight either of these Boss Epics (instead of Steelheart), you are upping the complexity of the game quite a bit. Both of these Boss Epics change the game pretty significantly!
For one, each new Boss has it’s own set of City Tiles: Regalia uses the Babilar cities and Limelight uses the Ildithia City Tiles! See below for a sample Babilar city tile: notice the special research track on the right hand side not in the original city tiles!!
Limelight even has his own book!
A bunch of content is exclusive to Regalia:
And a bunch of content is exclusive to Limelight:
It’s really cool that the game changes so much from Boss Epic to Boss Epic, but be aware: there’s new rules and complexity added for each new Boss Epic. Even though none of us likes extra complexity, arguably that’s the best way to give this game some new “oomph” as the game really does change.
This particular module is very hard to add in (so many new rules and complexity), but the most rewarding for new game play.
Before I played the expansion, I replayed a solo game with the original base Reckoners: I just wanted to make sure I remembered all the base rules! I wanted to jump into the expansion without feeling too confused. This was a reminder in two ways: I reminded myself of gameplay and rules, but secondly, I reminded myself how much I love this game! If I never played the expansion, but it just encouraged me to replay the base game, then it has done its job. This game is great.
I jumped on feet first into this expansion, using as much new stuff as possible! I am using all four expansion modules: two new Reckoners (Val and Sam), only new equipment, all new Epics, and a new Boss Epic. See set-up above.
Val and Sam (above) played well together: Val’s ability to move Sam or remove a barricade was perhaps underwhelming at first, but it was critical to winning my game. Sam’s weird re-roll ability makes sense once you realize Sam has all colored dice, which means there’s exactly one double symbol on each one! So Sam wants to try to roll as many doubles as you can, so Sam ends up rolling and re-rolling a little bit more because he really wants those doubles!
Regalia is interesting because her research track is essentially distributed all over the city. Each new Location has its own research track on the right (see Central Park above). When you kill an Epic, you (typically) cause that research track to go down. Only once ALL cities have the research track at zero can you try to kill Regalia!
Regalia also has a bad news decks and a good news deck to balance things out. When Regalia moves, she moves to a location with the new characters and “does a bad news card” (purple cards above) on them. The green deck (fortune cookie) gives the good guys some extra symbols to spend later.
Overall, the solo games work great: play two characters! Thank you the Reckoners and Steelslayer for following Saunders’ Law so well! And the new expansion seems to continue that tradition: the solo game works great, with the expansion providing all sorts of new content.
My only complaint is that I had to have two rulebooks open all the time: the original Reckoners rulebook (on the table on the left) and the new Steelslayer expansion rulebook (on the chair on the right). There are just a lot of things to follow, but luckily it’s easy to find things in both rulebooks.
So, I don’t know a lot about Brandon Sanderson (this game is based on his Reckoners books), but I think this game is a just a fantastic cooperative dice-driven superhero game. My friends, who are all huge Brandon Sanderson fans, wanted to play the game (and expansion) because of the tie-in to the universe of the Reckoners! My cooperative games went over really well with Brandon Sanderson (and the Reckoners) fans. They all thought the game was very thematic and consistent with the books!
From a game play perspective, we tended to pair up when needed: Jared and I tended to team-up early in the game (see above). But as the game moved forward, we tended to pair-up when needed: “I can take out this Epic by myself, go help Charlie!” The amount of communication and cooperative in this was just fantastic! You still feel like you can do things on your turn, but working together seemed so seamless in this game! I think a lot of this is due to the Player Selected Turn Order (PTSO): players can take their turns in any order they want! But the PTSO is even more fine-grained here, as we can intersperse our turns and intersperse when we play dice! “Hey, I’ll hang back and see if anyone needs anything: Oh! Allison needs one more research! I’ll move to her, Allison takes her turn, then I’ll move to Jared!”
All the players loved this game: I suspect the Brandon Sanderson theme helped them into the game, but once they got into the game + expansion, I think they all really liked it.
One possibly caveat: I had done my darndest to make sure I had all the rules internalized so the teach would go quickly. I facilitated the game, but to be fair, everyone caught on pretty quickly. The only game stoppages were to look up the new icons from the new expansion. Frankly, there are a lot of new icons and they aren’t always that intuitive!
Steelslayer is the best kind of expansion: it reminds us how great the original game is! With the Steelslayer expansion, our rating of the Reckoners has gone from an 8.5 to a 9.0/10.0 or maybe even 9.5/10.0!! As a modular expansion, we can add what you want to to base game to make it better: new characters and/or new equipment and/or new Epics and/or new Boss Epics (and cities)! Or we can choose to go all-in and get a completely new experience in the Reckoners with everything all new!
About the only negative thing about this expansion is that it can make the game more complicated, but only if we play with the new Boss Epics. But, again, since the expansion is modular, we don’t have to play the new complicated villains, we can just play with the new characters or equipment to augment the base game.
Overall, The Reckoners: Steelslayer is a fantastic expansion that we highly recommend: it gives more content to a fantastic game, thus giving it more replayability and a longer life.
As an aside, the Marvel United: X-Men expansions (see discussions here, here, and here) were an “obvious” choice for Expansion of The Year for 2022, but Steelslayer was so good, it may well supplant it. We’ll have to see how the year goes…