A Review of the Sentinels of the Multiverse: Rook City Renegades (An Expansion for the Definitive Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse)

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Sentinels of the Multiverse (Definitive Edition): Rook City Renegades was on Kickstarter back in March 2022. It delivered to me in the USA about 4 days ago, January 19th 2023. It promised delivery in January 2023. It was on time!! Holy cow, that’s an event unto itself: if you follow our blog, we’re usually “happy” if a Kickstarter is only a few months late. Kudos to Greater Than Games for getting their games out on schedule!

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This expansion only expands the Definitive Version of the Sentinels of The Multiverse: see our review here to make sure you understand the differences between the 1st, 2nd, and Definitive Editions before you get this. Essentially, if you have the yellow box (below left), you have the proper edition.

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Let’s take a look below!

Components

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This is the Kickstarter version we will be looking at: it includes the expansion itself, foil card replacements for many of the bigger cards, and sleeves: see below.

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This is an expansion in the simplest sense: it just adds new cards with minimal new rules. The only “real” new rule is the Suddenly! keyword (see below): it forces cards to be played immediately when they are drawn.

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The box itself is the same size as the Definitive Edition (so that’s good for consistency and storage): see the box below with a can of Coke for perspective.

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There are a few tokens that will be specific to a hero/villain/environment, a few more one damage tokens (we were always running out of those, so that’s good), and a new damage tracker. Why a new damage tracker? Because The Chairman has a second supporting Villain (The Operative) that has enough hit points to merit a new damage tracker.

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They also included another wheel. Not sure why? It doesn’t seem to go to anything. It seems to just be a backup piece of cardboard.

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The rest of the game is just cards: see above and below.

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I spent the first night just sleeving those cards. Sigh. No fun.

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Everything in Rook City Renegades is nice quality and consistent with the Sentinels of the Multiverse Definitive Edition.

Foil Cards

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The first thing I opened and sleeved were the foil cards!  These are just “embossed foil” versions of all the larger cards in the expansion.  (So, you will have two copies of each of these cards: the original and the foil version).  I’ve said this many times: I love the foil Cards! Why don’t more games have foil cards? I think they are so thematic: Comics in the late 80s ad 90s used the use foil covers as a marketing gimmick to get noticed! And it worked in many cases!  (You don’t see foil covers as much anymore in comics).

I have heard some people say they are too shiny to read, but I haven’t had that problem.

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The first set of foil cards are all the Heroes of Rook City Renegades! There’s at least 3 different versions of each Hero!

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There’s also a few alternate version for some of the base game Heroes included: I think the Haunted Fanatic (above) may be my favorite.

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Sentinels also really embraces the “first appearance” and “last appearance” ideas: there are alternate versions of the Heroes and their powers, depending on their “first appearance”! These are kind of cool because it really feels like you are embracing the Sentinels of the Multiverse universe: it feels like it adds some depth and backstory (even though there was never really a Sentinels Comics).

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Each Villain also has an equivalent foil card (see the right hand side above).

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I didn’t even sleeve the “original” non-foil versions of any of the cards. I will always pay with the foil versions! I love them so much!

New Heroes and Villains and Environments

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Like I said, this is an expansion that just really gives you more cards!

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There are six new Heroes. Interestingly, most of the other Heroes (Setback, Expatriate, Mr. Fixer, Nightmist, and Harpy) appeared in the 2nd Edition or in an expansion, but Alpha is brand new!

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There are five new Environments: Rook City, Pike Industrial Complex, The Realm of Discord, and The Temple o Zhu Long, and Diamond Manor. All but one appeared somewhere in the 2nd Edition, but Diamond Manor is new!

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There are ten new Villains: Ambuscade, Apex, The Chairman, TheOperative, The Fey Court, Gloomweaver, Kismet, Plague Rat, Spite, and Terrorform. Of those, The Chairman and The Operative operate as one unit, so they are one villain. All of those Villains have appeared somewhere in 2nd edition except for Apex, The Fey Court, and Terrorform.

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Luckily, everything fits pretty well in the box: see above.

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One problem I had with the base box was the at names of the heroes/villains/environments were hidden by the sleeves!

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Luckily, they have fixed that and you can read the dividers (even when the cards are sleeved) in the Rook City Renegades expansion.

Rulebook

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As an expansion, the rulebook is less important. Or is it?

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I still like seeing the components with correlating pictures: we have that here. See above.

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The rulebook passes The Chair Test with an A-:  it fits well on the chair next to me, but I had to break its spine and fold it back a few times to get the pages to stay open. 

What this rulebook does well is that it has a FAQ, and explanations for each Hero/Villain/Environment in great detail: this inlcudes both thematic explanations as well as rules clarifications. I think this was pretty great: I had to go looking for a few clarifications, and they were either there in the FAQ or by the Hero/Villain/Environment section of interest.

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Interestingly, Greater Than Games chose to use the back cover as an ad for the next expansion. I wish they had used the back cover to replicate the Turn Sequence and Useful Terms that are on the back of the main rulebook: see below.

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Since this was an expansion, I didn’t expect too much from the rulebook: but Rook City Renegades delivered! This is what I want in an expansion rulebook! FAQs and lots of discussions of new content!

Gameplay

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In all version of Sentinels of the Multiverse, most of the rules for the game are on the cards, with the Turn Sequence simply providing the main flow. The first few times through play, it will be slow as we will have to read everything closely to get a sense of the decks. But this is just how Sentinels flows. You need to play a Hero a number of times to get familiar with the deck, and then it begins to flow much quicker.

The basic gameplay with the expansion is still the game as the original game: the game does’t really really change with this expansion. If you were looking for Rook City Renegades to change up Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition significantly, then you will be disappointed. The Suddenly cards are the only real “new” rule … they add some chaos, as those cards that have to be played as soon as they are drawn.

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Solo Play

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My first Villain, randomly chosen, was Gloomweaver (Gloomweaver originally comes from the Infernal Relics Expansion in 2nd Edition). As I looked through the Heroes, it made sense to have some mystic Heroes fight!

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Nightmist seemed the obvious first choice, as she is the spellcaster and mystical foil to Gloomweaver (and she also comes from the same  Infernal Relics Expansion from the 2nd Edition)  Which version of Nightmist should I take?  There are a bunch of versions to choose from: Base, Dark Watch, Magical Mentor (see above).  I liked that I had a choice: in the end, I went with the Dark Watch version … somehow that seemed apropos. 

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And Harpy seemed a good joiner, as her abilities are sorta weird and mystical. And Expatriette, with her hardcore gun knowledge seemed a good backup for the vaguely mystical other two.

What’s a weird place for Gloomweaver to appear?  The Diamond Manner!

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To me, this was all about building a story: Nightmist finds out about Gloomweaver’s incursion into our world. She recruits her friend Harpy to help her, and Harpy suggests some real world firepower in the form of Expatriette! “Just In Case“. The three form the Dark Watch and track Gloomweaver to the Diamond Mansion … and an epic battle begins!

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Nightmist leads the group!

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The Harpy will follow Nightmist to hell and back!

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And Expatriette covers their back!

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And so we set-up for our first solo game of the “Into the Dark” with the Dark Watch!

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So, this game was very intense: there were a lot of rules to follow! Even though I have played all three Heroes in the 2nd Edition, you might think it would easier to play, but they weren’t! The Heroes are similar but not similar enough, so I had to read each Hero’s abilities very closely so I didn’t “accidentally” assume some rules from the 2nd Edition! …which I still ended up doing for Gloomweaver.

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In fact, I had won the game earlier than I realized, as I had taken out three Chosen earlier in the game! I was remembering the rules in the 2nd Edition, where you have to take out 3 Relics (instead of 3 Chosen).

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I did win my Dark Watch game, beating Gloomweaver back, but I made a few mistakes … even though I tried really hard to follow all the rules. Simply speaking, there are a lot of rules to keep track of. Those mistakes and missteps are simply part of the learning process for Sentinels of the Multiverse: it’s always been that way. It always takes a little bit to learn the decks.

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These Heroes in Rook City Renegades in general seem more complicated than the Heroes from the base game: caveat emptor.

But, I had fun as a solo player: I wrote my own story in my mind, I formed my own team, I played out the battle, and I had a ball discovering how all the Heroes and Villains and Environments work! That’s part of the fun of Sentinels of the Multiverse: discovering how the decks work. If you don’t enjoy that, you will probably never enjoy this game.

Cooperative Play

Our only real constraint for cooperative play was that we must play with as much new content as possible! Everything came from the new set.

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Like the solo game, we tried to tell a story as we set-up the cooperative game.

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Terrorform (with his cool foil card) had appeared and taken over the Diamond Manor!  (I know, it seems like a popular place for the Bad Guys to go).

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Setback, the young kid, found out about Terrorform coming while monitoring the coms!  He knew that Diamond Manor was all “magical and weird” (his words), so he went to find the mystic Nightmist!

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Turns out Nightmist was having wine party for her two friends Alpha and Harpy, so they were all happy to help!

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In the end, it was Setback, the young pun kid, helping out the 3 experienced heroes!

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The little story we told kind of “got us into” the game a little, as we felt a little more closer to our characters and each other.  Again, like the original game, there was some downtime as we read cards and tried to figure out how all the characters worked.

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In the end, we defeated Terrorform: it took a little longer than we expected (2.5 hours?), but we also had all new content for all us, so there was definitely a learning curve. We all had fun.  The characters seemed just a little more complex than the original game.

Trust Enhances Cooperation

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I’ve had a good friend (none of the people here, but he’ll be reading this blog entry soon) tell me he doesn’t like Sentinels because “I don’t know what other people are doing!”  I actually kind of like that: I don’t have to know what everyone’s doing because I trust them!  This is a cooperative game!  We are all doing the best we can, and if you take your turn and feel like you did it right, I am happy!  We are working together, we are not micromanaging each other!  

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Sentinels definitely needs that trust factor to move forward: each character (especially in the new set) has a lot of rules to learn.  I actually think that enhances the cooperation a little: it forces us to trust each other and have faith that we all played our turns the best we could: I trust my fellow heroes.

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Standalone Expansion?

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I was always annoyed that the Token box from the base game didn’t really fit into the box (yes, yes, I know there are ways to make it fit, but I didn’t like how tight it was: we discussed it on our review here).  However, it ended up being an unexpected benefit: if you have the Token box, you don’t need the base game!  All the counters and condition counters that you need are all in the Token box!  So, if you really want to, you could play with JUST Rook City Renegades and the Token box! You would get all new content with the expansion!  The only thing you need from the base game is the Token box!

I mean, that’s what we did for our first solo game: 3 new Heroes, 1 new Villain, and 1 new Environment with just the Token box from the original game.

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In fact, I would argue you don’t even need the Token box! You could play Rook City Renegades without the Token box! Back in the 1st Edition, there were no tokens: you had to either supply your own tokens, or use pencil and paper. I played many a 1st Edition game with just pencil and paper … I didn’t need no stinkin’ tokens.

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… but you still have to know the rules of the game. The base box has the rulebook, which might be the one thing you have to have from the base game.

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If you were very enterprising, this could be a standalone expansion: You could lookup the rules online, and use your own tokens/pencil-and-paper to form Rook City Renegades into a standalone expansion.  

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But why would you? The tokens and damage trackers from the base game (in the Token box) really are a step forward in making the game easier to play: don’t step back to 2011 and opt for pencil and paper like I had to! Use all the modern tools to make your game more fun!

Conclusion

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Rook City Renegades is a great expansion, adding 6 new Heroes, 10 new Villains, and 5 new Environments! It expands the game in whatever direction you want: do you want new Heroes to play? New Villains to fight? New places to fight? Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition Rook City Renegades makes it easy to add new content, whatever you want that to be.

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I don’t think you need this expansion right away, as the new expansion does add more complexity: each new Hero seems just a little more complicated: For Example: Nightmist, with her spell-casting, adds more rules and complexity to the game. This is a great expansion, I just don’t think you need it until you feel like you’ve exhausted the base game.

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Back in 2nd Edition, Rook City was my favorite expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse: I loved the new Environments and new Villains … fun fact, I didn’t love the new Heroes as much, but I loved that I could expand my favorite game. The Definitive Edition of Rook City Renegades does the 2nd edition justice: it adds fantastic new Villains, Heroes, and Environments.

Rook City Renegades is a great expansion: When you are ready for it, it will be fantastic.

A Review of X-Men United: First Class

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X-Men: Marvel United First Class is part of the giant box of expansions that arrived in the mail a few months ago (see here: X-Men Marvel: United and the Expansion Absorption).

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This expansion requires one of the two base games to play: Marvel United (which we reviewed here and here) or X-Men: Marvel United (which we reviewed here and here); preferably the latter since it’s more X-Men themed.

Depending on how you look at it, this expansion represents either the X-Men comic book (from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) X-Men #1 from 1963 or from the 2011 Movie X-Men: First Class. Either way, this captures that moment in time when Professor X founded the X-Men when they were all “young and hopeful” mutants. They were the “first class” of Professor Xavier’s school! They are still learning to use their powers. Their costumes were even similar to show they were part of the same school (and hadn’t embraced their individuality yet).

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Unboxing

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First Class comes in the standard Marvel United sized box.

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This is a fairly traditional expansion, in that it offers 5 new heroes and 2 new Villains (but who operate as a single unit, see below). There are some new rules, but they aren’t really any game changers (like there were with X-Men Marvel United: Days of Future Past, see here). We’ll discuss those change below. The rulebook is pretty minimal: it’s a one-sided page.

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There’s some new tokens for Ice Man, 3 new Locations, and the Danger Room!

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There’s 5 new Heroes and 2 New Villains (taken as a pair when playing). Even though Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are heroes later on in the comic book world, they are JUST villains in this expansion: there’s no good guy cards for them here! This seems like a missed opportunity, because I don’t see them as heroes in any of the other expansions. EDIT: See correction after the Conclusion!

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The minis are, just like all Marvel United minis, really nice.

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Overall, the game looks just like I’d expect: good. It’s also consistent with other expansions so this fits right in the Marvel United universe.

Training Cards

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Since this expansion represents a young, naive group of X-Men, one of the new rules to make the game a little easier is the Danger Room attachment (see above). On your starting Location, players can use the Danger Room (one they’ve dealt with the threat there) to get an ALTERNATE END OF TURN effect (see above) which gives a training card.

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Instead of the normal “good thing” you get at the end of the turn, you can choose to get a training card instead. See Beast’s training card above. These training cards don’t count towards other cards limits, so you can have as many of them as you want! Some (like the permanent above) are permanent attachments to give your young X-Men some extra abilities to help them out. Others are one-shots you can use later.

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By my second game of First Class, I was embracing the training cards pretty heavily (see above: each mutant has at least one).

If I am playing with a new player who loves the X-Men but is a little intimidated by Marvel United, I would probably add the Danger Room/Training cards: They make the game a little easier.

Chaos

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Although incredibly thematic to Scarlet Witch’s Chaos Magic, the Chaos Magic threats (above) are something to be leery of in a beginner’s game. If you end your turn on a Location with Chaos Magic, you will simply play a random card at the start of the next turn. While you can work with this/around this, be very careful to steer naive/new players away from these Locations. It is NOT FUN to just randomly play cards!

If you want to turn off new players to Marvel United, by all means, start them on a Chaos Magic space. My first game started like that and it was not fun.

A Panorama of Solo Games

I have been able to play both two hero and three hero solo games, and they worked great.

Cooperative Play

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This was a pretty typical cooperative Marvel United game: it was fun using Ice-Man’s token to have an “Ice Slide” to allow us to move quickly between Locations.  We had a good time.

Conclusion

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X-Men: Marvel United First Class is a fine expansion. The lack of Hero cards for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver was a little bit of a disappointment, but the 5 New Heroes made up for that. I think, in general, this expansion (with the base game) might be a place I’d start new players! The Danger Room/Training Room attachments can give the new players a little extra oomph to enjoy the game. I would just be very careful to avoid the Chaos Magic threats on the first set-up: those can be incredibly frustrating for new players.

EDIT: Update! Careful reader John Q.T. Nguyen . pointed out that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were part of the Stretch Goals for the first Marvel United Avengers Kickstarter! See below!

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It turns out I had Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver all along! This does reinforce my point about the Expansion Absorption being very difficult with so much Marvel United stuff! Anyways, special thanks to John Q.T. Nguyen!!

A Review of Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge

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Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge is a cooperative tile-laying game (with push-your-luck elements) for 1-6 players. It’s a stand-alone game in the Sub Terra universe. The II might imply you need the original to play, but you don’t: this is a stand-alone sequel. This game was on Kickstarter back in November 2019. But I didn’t back it.

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Part of the reason I didn’t back Sub Terra II was because I already have Sub Terra (the original): See above. I like the original, and it came out quite a bit in my game groups for a while, but it had fallen off the radar: the original Sub Terra was a just a teensy too random for some of my groups. I think I was worried Sub Terra II would simply be more of the same. Would it be worth buying it for “almost” the same game? In the end, I needed $40 or so to make a GameNerdz order get free shipping, so I added Sub Terra II in to my order. I am interested in the base game, I am just not interested in the $100s in expansions for the game. (The Kickstarter all-in was more than I wanted for a tile-laying game).

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This just arrived a few weeks ago! (Late Dec. 2022,/Jan 2023) Let’s take a look!

Components and Gameplay

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See the box with a Coke Can for scale. It’s a deepish box, but not too tall or wide: it’s about the size of a piece of paper.

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In the game, each player takes on the role of one or more explorers: ideally, each player gets their own explorer, but there must always be at least 3 explorers in play, so a solo game will get 3 explorers, and a 2-player game will probably have 4 explorers (2 per player).

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Each explorer has their own corresponding meeple to mark where they are on the board.

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Each explorer also has their own unique powers: see some examples above.

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Each player has two action points: on their turn, they can typically do 2 actions (some actions cost 2 action points). They can do any of the things above, which are pretty much what you expect (move, reveal a hidden tile, run, etc). Interestingly, players can also choose to exert themselves for one damage to get an extra action.

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At the end of each player’s turn, some “bad news” happens! The player, after using two action points, gets some Bad News from one of the bad news dice! See the orange dice above.

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This is a tile-laying game: the explorers need to explore the temple (laying tiles to “explore”), find 3 keys, retrieve the artifact, then finally escape with their lives! This is cooperative, and it’s best if all players survive, but if some players don’t make it out alive, everyone else still wins … to be clear: there is no incentive to subvert other players! The game is fully cooperative!!! It’s just that, sometimes, circumstances dictate that not everyone can survive, even if players try really hard, so the game recognizes this reality and allows for most people to survive. It’s really not a semi-co-op. (Except Joe might play it that way. Joe.)

The tiles (after being punched out), end up in the bag above. This bag was “okay”: I think it might have been a little small. When players “explore”, they draw a tile and put it on the board:

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As the game unfolds, the template starts to take shape … (my example above is off because I took the left boundary too far .. mea culpa!).

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This game has push-your-luck elements because you have to choose between revealing and/or moving as you play. If you just reveal a title, you won’t suffer the ill effects of the revealed tiles (the white Guide just REVEALED the trap tile above, so he doesn’t suffer the effects), but now he has to spend an extra action to MOVE to it. The push-your-luck comes in if you decide to MOVE and REVEAL in one move (called EXPLORE)! You get more done, but you may move to a room that hurts you! If you play too conservatively, you may never get the temple explored in time! If you play too aggressively, you may die quickly from ill effects! It’s a push-your-luck game.

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The volcano tile (above) is your timer: at the end of every round, the volcano tracker moves up one (for a beginner game, you can see the tracker start on place 27). If the volcano erupts before the players have found the Artifact, they lose!

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Once the volcano erupt and you have the Artifact, you can still escape … you are just racing for your life against the lava flow! Tiles starts turning to lava and follow you Get out! Get out! See above!

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Luckily, the Veteran above was able to get the Artifact!

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And they all made it back to the entrance! Note, that the game gets significantly harder after Artifact is obtained: you’ll be rolling two bad news dice per turn!

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The components look really nice, are very readable, and fairly thematic. I suppose I would have preferred some cooler tokens other wooden meeples, but they were fine. (I suspect the Kickstarter had some really great component upgrades).

Rulebook

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The rulebook was good.

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The first few pages contained nice annotated Components list and Introduction: they worked fine.

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The Set-up was easy to use and well annotated. See above.

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The main game ideas are discussed quickly and easily after your set-up. See above.

The rulebook had great pictures and a nice easy-to-read font. Overall, a very good rulebook.

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The rulebook passed the Chair Test with flying colors: an A+! It fits perfectly on the chair next to me, so I can keep it open and easily available.

This was a good rulebook, but I do have a few very minor complaints.

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First, they didn’t use the back cover to convey any game info. This is a wasted opportunity in my eyes, but it’s definitely personal opinion: it’s not a flaw.

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Second, the rulebook was 32 pages. I love the big font, but maybe it was a touch TOO big? I felt like there could have been a slight adjustment of whitespace, margins, and font size to make the rulebook just a smidge smaller. But I shouldn’t complain, because I’d MUCH rather rulebooks err on the size of “font too big” than the other way around! It’s just that a 32-page rulebook looks a little daunting, but it’s quite good: It’s easy to read and has lots of pictures.

Solo Play

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The back of the box proclaims 1-6 explorers (see above), but the solo rules are a little hard to find.

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The solo rules are in a parenthetical expression on page 4 of the set-up: I actually missed them the first few times through the rulebook. It’s just one sentence: If playing solo, you can choose three to six explorers to control.

The difficulty chart chart shows a minimum of three Explorers (and a max of six), so if you miss that single solo sentence, you might deduce “OHHHH!!! A Solo game has the solo player taking the role of three explorers!” It’s not real emphatic: part of the reason I knew this was because the original Sub Terra worked the same way!! So, you must always have at least 3 explorers for any game, and a max of 6 explorers. This game does follow Saunders’ Law.

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So, the solo player must rotate through three players as he plays. The variable powers are fairly straight-forward, so there’s not too much context-switching as the solo player rotates through explorers. That’s always the question when you play multiple positions, right? “How much context-switching is there?” There’s not too much context-switching here: It’s very manageable.

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In general, I liked the solo game. I would play it again. Most importantly, it gave me the chance to learn it so I could teach my friends.

Cooperative Play

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My group had a good time playing this!  We liked that the powers were very different and felt “powerful!”  When we used our powers, a lot happened!  My rogue was fantastic at avoiding the traps (I enjoyed pointing out this was a Mark IV trap: don’t step here), the Marksmen kept the guardians under control, the Aristocrat kept the ruins under control (by placing her Journal tiles exactly where we needed to avoid Ruins problems), and the Veteran kept us going!  They were all arguably critical to getting the game done, and we really enjoyed that!

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The game also seemed to elicit a fair amount of talk: we cooperated, but we still had our own turns and a lot of agency.  There were a few turns (especially for the Veteran) that weren’t fun because she got stuck (see Randomness and PTSO  sections down below), but in general we had a good time.

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We had a winning game, and it was dramatic and fun.

Rating: In general, the group seemed to think 7s to 7.5s all around. Everyone had a good time (modulo a few issues we’ll discuss).

It’s always a good sign when the group says “I’d love to see how this game played out if we used very different characters”.  They want to play again!

Things I Liked

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I liked that there was a decent amount of agency in the game: For example, I can choose to “exert” myself to get an extra action point. That allows the players some latitude to “try real hard” when its really needed! That’s very thematic that every so often I can “exert” and get myself out of an obvious bind! I am not always stuck at just 2 actions points: extra agency.

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The components are pretty darn fantastic.

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I like that the tiles are very easy to read, have some cool spot art on them, and the iconography is pretty easy to read.

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I like that the game is simple, easy to teach, quick to set-up, quick to tear-down. The 60-minute gameplay is pretty accurate (unless you are prone to analysis paralysis). Sub Terra II has a nice “simplicity” permeating it.

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I want to give a major shoutout for the new idea of “running out of the temple while the lava follows you!” That is so cool of a mechanism (lava following you), and it is just flipping over the tiles as you run out. It looks great and is very thematic. It’s so simple to do, but it’s such a nice touch.

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The explorers powers were cool and very interesting: those powers seemed more useful/powerful than the original Sub Terra.

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It’s a pretty nifty game.

Minor Complaints

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I wish the bag to hold the tiles was just a little bigger. It felt cramped and a little small.

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I wish a few more rules having to do with “knockdown” had been specified. Is the explorer above allowed to move away? He’s at 0 health, so all he can do is move, but the guardians do damage when you move away? How do you rectify that? Also, do the powers of the guide still work when he’s knocked-down? Probably? These are minor questions, but I can’t be the only one who had these questions. A FAQ might have been helpful.

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You’ll notice that I messed up and went “too far to the left” with my temple: you are supposed to only go as far left and right as the leftmost and right most edges of the bottom piece. Whoops! It’s in the rulebook, but I think a simple component (a piece of paper? A cardboard edge?) would have helped me to not make this mistake. It’s really minor, but it could have been fixed.

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Actually, though, I do have a solution that comes with the game!! In the future, I will use the punchout skeletons to enforce the edges! See below. (Hey, this is another reason to keep Punchout Skeletons!)

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Major Complaint: Lack of PSTO

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But my biggest complaint, without a doubt, is the lack of Player Selected Turn Order (PSTO). I can’t tell you how many times I had one of the explorers “do nothing” on their turn because they had to wait for someone else to do something out of sequence! Consider the case above: I’d really like the Guide to venture into the room above and do two looks around him (his special ability). But he can’t, because the room has a pit trap and he’ll likely die! Luckily, the Rogue is with us! As long as he Rogue is with us, we can avoid traps! Huzzah!

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But …. because the Guide goes before the Rogue in turn order (and turn order is very specific: see above), the Guide would have to wait for an entire round to go up! So, the Guide does nothing for a turn. Not fun.

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It seems very thematic to say “Rogue! Why don’t you go in that room first and I’ll follow!” It’s very thematic, and probably what we’d do in real life!! I feel like this game would be a lot more fun with Player Selected Turn Order: allow the players (per round) to choose the order of their turns! More importantly, it allows players to avoids turns where you don’t do anything.

I understand that Player Selected Turn Order (PSTO) makes a game harder to learn/deal with (see a long discussion of PSTO here), but I think it would easy to notate each taken turn with a simple token (just flip it when your turn is over).

For some reason, the lack of Player Selected Turn Order dates this game for me: it feels like more and more modern cooperative games are embracing this mechanism (The Reckoners, Marvel Zombies: Heroes Resistance (which we’ll see soon), CO-OP: the co-op game, to name a few) because PSTO makes the game feel more cooperative! We all decide, as a group, the best way to proceed through the temple, and can change as circumstances change! It gives us choice! Agency!

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I can see it being harder to teach newer gamers PSTO: it’s not what most newer gamers are used to! So, maybe some chart like this in the book would help:

  • Newer Players: Use the tradition round structure: clockwise order
  • Advanced Players: use coarse-grained Player Selected Turn Order! Players choose per round the order that each explorer acts: For example:  Player 1, then Player 3, Then Player 2. 
    If you use use coarse-grained PTSO: increase the volcano tracker by 5
  • Very Advanced Players: use fine-grained Player Selected Turn Order! Players choose the order of actions and may intersperse actions: For example: player 1 takes action 1, player 2 takes action 1, player 2 takes action 2, then player 1 takes action 2. 
    If you use use fine-grained PTSO: increase the volcano tracker by 10

Of course, PSTO makes the game “easier to win”, so you probably want some adjustment of the difficulty: luckily, Sub Terra II makes that easy by just adjusting the timer on the volcano.

Is It Still Too Random?

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In a word, yes, but I like some of the new stuff the game does. I think the randomness of Sub Terra II is consistent with the amount of randomness in the original Sub Terra, if maybe a touch less random.

I understand that randomness can breath life into a by-the-numbers game, and I do think the amount of randomness of Sub Terra II is apropos to the game. That cave-in at “just the wrong time” is both infuriating and exciting! It’s such a thin line: too much randomness can feel crippling, too little randomness can feel predictable. This game can feel too random at times, but it generally straddles the line between too much randomness and too little randomness fairly well. Again, some of my gaming groups thought it was a shade too random.

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For example: in one cooperative game, all the collapsing caverns came out right next to each other (see above). It was very scary trying to figure out how to deal with that: it was exciting and fun, but at the same time, had the randomness gone slightly awry, we would have had no chance whatsoever.

That swingy randomness is a double-edged blade: it cuts both ways! Exciting and tense but possibly unwinnable. And Sarah echoed the thoughts of my game groups from years ago, “It was fun but it feels like it could be too random“.

Needs a FAQ

Every time we play, I feel like a question comes up that we can’t answer.  For example: In one play, the final Sanctum tile could only go two places, but there two were competing concerns: put it as far as possible but keep within the boundaries.  As a two-tile final tile, you could argue it couldn’t go to the furthest away (upper right) because the artifact would actually extend over the boundaries!  We argued “maybe that was thematic” because that’s why the artifact is so hard to get to! But, if we have to keep within the boundaries, it must go in the other spot.  But what if the other spot had the same problem?  It was very close to being right on the edge too … what would we done had that happened?  (Probably just chose the furthest and moved forward, but it felt like it was underspecified).

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Every game I have played, some question has come up that the rulebook didn’t quite answer. Most of them were simple, and we could always move forward with a reasonable guess, but I feel like this game needs a FAQ! Little questions seemed to crop up a lot. Minor ones, to be sure, and not enough to hold up the game, but enough that it was annoying.

Conclusion

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Sub Terra II is a minor improvement over Sub Terra: the theme might be more interesting, but some of the new ideas are quite invigorating! The most interesting new idea, both mechanically and thematically, is the lava chasing you out at the end of the game! It really adds to the excitement of the end game!

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Do you need both Sub Terra and Sub Terra II? Probably not: they are similar enough that you could do with just one or the other. I suppose it really just depends on which theme speaks to you more: trying to escape a cave (Sub Terra) or hunting for treasure in a temple (Sub Terra II).

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I think that, for a variety of reasons, Sub Terra II (and Sub Terra) should be embracing Player Selected Turn Order (PSTO). The lack of PTSO is sometimes very glaring in the game: sometimes players can’t do anything because of the constrained player order!! I feel the lack of PSTO makes the game feel a little dated. Without PTSO, I’d probably give this is a 7.0/10. If we add PSTO into the mix, I think that jumps it up to a 7.5/10 or more! This game just feels like it needs a little more agency to counteract some of the randomness and empty turns.

We had fun. We’d play again.

A Review of Artisans of Splendent Vale … a story in progress…

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Artisans of Splendant Vale was on Kickstarter back in October 2021, and just delivered last week Dec 31 2022. It had originally promised delivery in August 2022, so it was about 5 months late.

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I think we’ll still count this is a 2023 release even though it got here Dec 31 2022.

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Artisans of Splendent Vale is a cooperative adventure legacy game for 2-4 players. I was very interested in this game, because it was by designer Nikki Valens who had done The Initiative, one of my favorite games of 2021! The Initiative made the #2 spot on the Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2021see review here, so I was very interested in seeing what this game was.

The Elephant in the Room

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Before you get any further, there are a few things you should know. If you have trouble with non-binary characters, non-traditional pronouns, gay, lesbian, or transgender characters, you probably should probably stop reading now. This game embraces those worlds fully: the four main characters are very steeped in their gender/sexuality: one character is gay, one is transgender and so on. The theme is not just pasted on: as the stories in the game progress, events further these characters in those areas.

It’s probably best to stop reading now and avoid Artsians of Splendent Dale if you have issues with any of that. This game embraces the stories and lifestyles of these characters.

Unboxing and Components

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This box is surprisingly large!

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But the art is very nice … it almost reminds me of a kid’s storybook.

To be clear: this is a campaign legacy game! You will put stickers on forms, write forever notes on characters, and generally mark up sheets. My version came with one recharge pack (with new sets of sheets to reset the game): see above.

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The rulebook is very fanciful. We’ll discuss its contents below.

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The game comes with an folded map: this is the land we will explore! See above and below.

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The front of the map is the lands you will explore. On the back side of the map is the ledger of your adventure (this is one of the legacy components that will be marked up: see below).

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As you explore, this map is marked up further and further, on both the front and the back.

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There’s a bunch of punchouts: most of them are status/condition tokens (sick, slowed, etc) and some dials for health.

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Next come the character sheets: these will be written on and change as you play through the campaign.

There are exactly four characters in the game, and they are all very different! They have different level-up/tech trees, different backstories and the like. So, the character sheets are all distinct and very different from each other.

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Up next is the Action Scene Book (called storybook in other games). It’s really nice! See above and below.

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The Action Scene Book is essentially a map of where you fight bad guys (like the storybook from Jaws of the Lion: see our review here). We’ll take a closer look at the map later.

Under all those components are the main character books and tuck boxes.

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These character books are fantastic! I feel like I just went to the book store and got a new collection of books! There look like a series like Chronicles of Narnia or something!

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These books are really nice: see below.

The rest of the tokens are in the box:

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Most of these tokens in the box are the monsters meeples you’ll be fighting: see above.

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The four main characters in the story (see above) have markers that almost feel like erasers … I made the joke that they were erasers because we might lose a limb! I realized that after I said it, because this is a legacy game, I might be right! Oops, I hope that’s not a spoiler.

As the story progresses, a lot of items and stickers (like I said, this is a legacy game) come from the card repository: see above. 

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As a legacy/campaign game, you will have to save state between games, so there are little tuck boxes to store your cards and such.

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In the end, this is a beautiful, colorful production with great components. See above.

Rulebook

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I didn’t love this rulebook. I felt like it should have had a better vector into getting us into our first game (a First Play book like Tainted Grail would have been nice). The rules were all there, but a little scattered throughout.

As we played, I was the one who had to look up the rules, and many times I kind of struggled to find stuff. I generally found everything, but I didn’t love the organization.

It seemed almost like there was too much white space? I’d rather related things be clumped closer?

In the end, we were able to play the game using the rulebook, but it just seemed like the rulebook could have been better: maybe a First Play, less white space/better layout, slightly different organization?

We learned the game from the rulebook. I guess it did its job.

Solo Play

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This game does NOT follow Saunders’ Law: there are no solo rules for this game! This game is strictly 2-4 players.

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After opening everything up, I thought “I can just play two characters and alternate between them.” Nope! Each character has to operate their own book, backstory, relationships with other characters, … and I think it just looked like too much work to try to play multiple characters at once for the solo mode.

Is there a way to play a single character? Maybe you could read through the storybook as a single character, but when you get to combat, that won’t work: the combat part of the game has been balanced for 2-4 characters, so you need at least 2 characters there.

I think if this were my favorite game of all time, or I were on a desert island with the game, I think I could handle playing multiple positions.

In the end, however, this is a social game: the characters tell the story together, they work together, and they read their books together. The lack of a solo mode is disappointing (I couldn’t learn this for my group), but it is understandable. This is a complex game that is quite social and cooperative.

What is This Game?

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This game surprised me because I was expecting a simple storybook game, but I got a pretty complex beast! it seems to be an amalgam of three major games:

  1. Crusoe Crew or Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars 
  2. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion 
  3. Forgotten Waters

What do we mean by that?

Shared Script Game: Like Crusoe Crew and Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars

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Crusoe Crew was a collaborative storybook or script book game from a few years ago (see our review here and here): players together read from their books at the same time (see above). These books are like scripts from a movie … everyone is following along with their own copy. These books are Choose Your Own Adventure type scripts: players would read along together and occasionally come to a decision point. At the decision point, players decide as a group where to go next! What’s interesting is that occasionally the books will slightly diverge for one character! For example, one character may be very tall, so he’ll read a slightly different entry because he can see something up on the shelf!! But the stories always converge back to the main plot. Players read cooperatively from their books. Both Crusoe Crew and Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars (see review here and here) were fantastic experiences in this shared script game.

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Artisans of Splendent Dale absolutely follows this model! Players read out out of their books together, with occasional diverging text (that always converges back), with special entries for each character.

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You can see what a book looks like above: entries are labelled with numbers so you know where to go.

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These storybooks are mostly text, with a few pictures (as opposed to more cartoons and maps), but it serves a shared script that everyone is reading. I love this format, and this was the main reason I got this game! See above as Andrew and Sara read together from the shared books. I loved both Crusoe Crew and Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars, with the latter making the #1 spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2020! So, I loved the shared scripts (character books) here!

But this game is much more than just a shared script game.

Fighting Game: Like Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

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This game flits between “reading the shared script together” and “fighting stuff”.

When you fight stuff, Artisans of Splendent Dale feels like a simplified Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.  When you are ready to fight, you open up the storybook and fight some bad guys! 

The storybook in Jaws of the Lion was the major advancement in Gloomhaven system: it was so easy to get set-up! Just open the book (instead of hunting for tons of cardboard in the original Gloomhaven).  See our review here.  See the Jaws of the Lion storybook below.

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The storybook is the play area! Set-up is easy! Just turn to that page! Artisans uses this same model, but they call it in the Action Scene Book rather than the storybook.

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The fighting  for Artisans, though, is simplified in many ways: the bad guys are just little wooden meeples (see above)  [instead of tons of punchouts], and the initiative order is already set-up (below) [instead of being determined by lowest card]  …

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In general, the set-up is very quick: just open the book and set-up some meeples!

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This system worked well!

I was surprised how much combat there was in the game: I had expected more of the shared script game. About a half of the game is combat, and the other half is reading and advancing your characters.

Advancement: Like Forgotten Waters

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I expected this to be a game with character advancement … it is a legacy campaign game after all! What surprised me is how much that advancement lifts from Forgotten Waters it was! See our review here.

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In Forgotten Waters, you fill in little dots in a “constellation” as you advance.  When you get to major points on your grid (the ! above), stuff happens. This is the only game I’ve seen this with  this “constellation system”.

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… until I got to Artisans of Splendent Dale! As you get more more experience points, you fill in the dots in your “constellations” and fill in towards certain items/abilities you want … very much like Forgotten Waters. Except every character is very very different. Maybe that’s why they chose the “constellation” system: it works well for disparate characters.

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Dice For Actions

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Artisans of Splendent Dale uses the “roll dice to get actions” mechanism. One your turn, you roll a number of dice, and add them to the pool. On the storybook pages, you get two actions per turn, using the dice for attack, movement, boosting, “wild”, and defending (depending on what’s showing). Once you use a dice for its action, it leaves the pool.

Generally, I don’t like this mechanism: we discussed this heavily in our Batman: Shadow of the Bat review as well as our King of Monster Island review. It always feel like you have do what the dice tell you to do, not what you want to do.

This mechanism didn’t seem too bad when we played Artisans: it seemed like we were generally able to do what we needed. I still don’t love this mechanism: Batman: Shadow of the Bat should have been in my Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2022, but it didn’t make the list solely because of this mechanism.

Overall, Artisans of Splendent Dale worked okay with the “roll dice to get actions” mechanism. I still just don’t love that mechanism.

Cooperative Play

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The cooperative play worked well in this game! The game suggests you have “one reader”, but we chose to rotate the reader (from the script books) so that everyone had a chance to read frequently. I would have probably made that the default rule: “rotate the reader every turn”: this promotes more involvement from everyone.

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Also, even though I didn’t love the dice combat (“role for your actions”) with the shared pool, the shared pool did seem to elicit more cooperation: “You need to leave me an attack symbol so I can take out that guy!” Just having the shared pool seemed to encourage a little more togetherness.

Generally, the game did elicit a lot of cooperation: it really worked well on that front.

What I Didn’t Like

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I didn’t like the “roll dice for actions” mechanism, but it wasn’t terrible. It worked.

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One thing that I really didn’t like was the enemy actions weren’t well specified. The rulebook (see page 19 above) literally says “Instead, just go with the most obvious best choices you can see”. We spent an entire blog entry talking about how we didn’t like this in the Resolving Ambiguity in Cooperative Games. We made it work, it wasn’t a big deal to the group, but it did rub me the wrong way. If we compare the enemy actions rule to something like Gloomhaven, where they are incredible well-specified, Artisans looks very poor. However, that specificity in Gloomhaven has a cost: much more complex rules. I know why Artisans of Splendent Vale chose to let the characters run the bad guys in a more free-form way: in a word, simplicity. But it still rubs me the wrong way: it always feel like a cop out.

But the game worked: my group as a whole didn’t have a problem with the free-form enemy rules.

What I Liked

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The components are pretty darn amazing.

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The script books are fantastic: easy to read, well-written, and nicely laid-out. They work well.

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The combat story book (Action Scene books) works well.

The Characters

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The game can be played with fewer than 4 characters, but to get the most of out of the story, you should probably play with the full character count: each character seems to have an interesting story that unfolds and helps reveal plot points.  We saw early on that we would have missed certain entries in the character books if we didn’t have all the characters.

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Also, the characters in the story are well-defined: they seem to all have very strong personalities which will influence how you play them!  When you play Javi, you will tend to be more stoic.  When you play Ramani, you will need to be very inquisitive and ask lots of questions, almost to the point of annoying (if you believe Soraya’s POV).  You will have to play that character’s personality to get the most out of the game.  If you were hoping to just lightly engage, the characters don’t really allow that: that that for what you will.

Conclusion: The Story Progresses

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There is a lot here! The script books are pretty huge, and the overall story looks like a fairly long campaign. And the components are phenomenal.

My group really liked this game: they want to keep playing! The general feeling was that Artisans of Splendent Vale feels a lot like a simplified Gloomhaven with a cuter theme, but with a much better story (as guided by the script books like Crusoe Crew).

But be careful: that theme is a little misleading: it is still very cute, but the game still has mature elements. One of the things that came up was “my sex life”: it wasn’t explicit or anything, but apparently we will see discussions of our sex lives in the game? That makes me think some people might have problems with the 14+ age range? I guess it depends on what you think is an appropriate age to discuss your sex life (of your character). Be aware if it might be an issue for you or your group?

Interestingly, none of my game group is transgender, gay, or lesbian, so we weren’t necessarily the target audience (or arguably, we were). We just enjoyed this for the game it was: it was a good game. I suspect the theme will be what entices many people to the game, but luckily the game is good. Just be aware that this game is much more complex than it looks: this isn’t a game for newer players without much experience in the world of modern games. (Seriously, it felt a lot like Gloomhaven is lots of ways).

Overall, my group liked this game better than I did: they have entreated me to keep playing! My problem is mostly I don’t love the “roll dice for actions” mechanism, but I do love the script books, streamlined combat, and the quality components. I think my group would give this a 7.5/10.0 and I’d probably give it a 7/10. I suspect some people will adore this game and give it an 8 or better! Hopefully this review will help you decide if you would like this game.

Appendix

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The joke was that I didn’t like the game as much as the group because I was the one who had to handle the condition tokens! Our second combat had so many conditions to keep track of! Oof! This is another way that Artisans is like Gloomhaven: there are lots of conditions in the game that change up combat. Tip: Maybe consider sharing the responsibility of the conditions when you play so one person doesn’t get stuck with all the tiny condition tokens …

Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Board and Card Games of 2023!

As we close down 2022, we saw some great cooperative games and expansions: see our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2022 and Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2023! But what’s coming next year?

From last year’s list (Top 10 Anticipated Board and Cards Games of 2022), many didn’t even arrive for us to examine. Of the 10 (+1 Honorable Mention) we anticipated last year, six of them still haven’t arrived (The Stuff of Legend, Valor and Villainy: Lludwick’s Labyrinth, Earthborne Rangers, Arydia: The Paths We Dare Tread, Rat Queens: To The Slaughter, and Union City Alliance). Here are the ones that did arrive and we have been looking at:

Below are our Top 10 Anticipated Cooperative Games of 2023!  Like years before, we will provide a link the the project (either Kickstarter, Gamefound, or BacketKit), the promised delivery date, and a quick summary from BoardGameGeek!

10. Gathering Gloom: A Killer Co-op Game for 1 to 5 monsters

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Platform: Kickstarter Gathering Gloom: A Killer Co-op Game for 1 to 5 monsters
Promised Delivery: September 2023
Summary: The Charming family is an eclectic family that lives in a manor on top of the hill in the town of Banebridge somewhere in New England circa 1932. They own the local mortuary as well as a mining company. All they want to do is live in peace, take care of their ancestral home, run their businesses, and get along with the townsfolk. The villagers of Banebridge, however, see it differently. Many of them are firm of the opinion that at least some if not all of the “Charming” family are up to nefarious deeds and are, in fact, “monsters” of various sorts. To that end, they are constantly turning up evidence that implicates members of the family in foul play. Some villagers even start stalking individual members. Sometimes (well, a lot of the time really), the family members are forced to take action to deal with especially difficult villagers or incriminating evidence. Actions include Murder, Terrify, Beguile, Deceive, Extort, Bribe, Coerce, and many more. Of course, the family would NEVER take such actions if the villagers weren’t constantly interfering.

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We literally backed this on Kickstarter 3 times: it failed to fund the first two times, but their tenacity paid off and they finally funded!  This game looks really interesting … although the art may be divisive … but I am really looking forward to this “Adams Family” co-op game!

9. Tamashii: Chronicle of Ascend

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Platform: Gamefound https://gamefound.com/projects/awaken-realms-lite/tamashii-chronicle-of-ascend
Promised Delivery: 2023???? 
Summary:  Tamashii is a cyberpunk adventure board game with a post-apocalyptic vibe. Players will struggle to survive and pursue their agendas in two worlds at the same time – the physical one, filled with deadly machines and merciless human survivors, and the virtual one, prowled by tracking software and vicious viruses.

Players will try to achieve their goals on a modular city map. They will find new locations, fight against strong enemies and search for important information and files needed to win the game.

The second part of the game takes action on a virtual map. Here you will try to hack your opponents, unlock special bonuses or get one-time bonuses for completing the sequences.

The game may be played in different scenarios. You might have to cooperate with other players, play against them or even make an alliances with your enemies. But watch every step you take; every conflict, cooperation or alliance might be a double-edged sword.

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Another cyberpunk inspired game on this list!  We know that Awaken Realms make gorgeous and high-quality games, so hopefully this will be a great game as well!  We don’t really know a delivery date, but we hope it delivers in 2023.

8. Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall

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Platform: Kickstarter Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall
Promised Delivery: August 2023
Summary: In Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall, a 1-4 player co-operative, quest-based RPG board game, players take on the role of seekers, adventurers who are fighting to push back the darkness threatening to change and destroy the world of Atios. The game plays as a campaign of 15+ quests, and each quest takes an average of 45-60 minutes to complete. Within each quest, players can expect to make choices related to adventures, battles, NPCs to speak to, and more. These choices create a branching story in the game, allowing the entire campaign to be replayable.

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What makes this very interesting for us is that Kevin Wilson is on the team of designers: we love most everything he does!  The acrylic standees look great, and this looks like a lighter fun dungeon crawl campaign!

7. Daybreak 

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Platform: BackerKit https://www.backerkit.com/c/alex-hague/daybreak
Promised Delivery: May 2023
Summary: Daybreak is a co-operative game about climate action. Each player controls a world power, deploying policies and technologies to both dismantle the engine of global heating and to build resilient societies that protect people from life-threatening crises.  If the global temperature gets too high, or if too many people from any world power are in crisis, everyone loses. But if you work together to draw down global emissions to net-zero, you all win!

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Daybreak is a new cooperative game by Matt Leacock, the designer of Pandemic!  That fact itself is exciting, but the game looks really interesting romp like CO2, but perhaps a little easier!

6. Doomensions: Pop-Up Mystery Manor

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Platform: Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/curiouscorres/doomensions-pop-up-mystery-manor
Promised Delivery: February 2023
SummaryInvestigators wanted they said… Safety guaranteed they said…

As a newly commissioned paranormal investigator gather your thick scrapbook of evidence and pay a visit to the fully assembled, 8 room, 3D popup Mystery Manor — no assembly required! Secrets lie hidden in every dark corner, behind every closed door. Making repeated exploration of the manor crucial to your investigation.

Packed with clippings, foldouts, and other curious ephemera, your case file will guide you through your time at the Manor. At key investigative milestones, your answer wheel will allow you to confirm your deductions before you return to the manor for more clues.

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When did Pop-Up adventures become a thing?  We saw The Shivers deliver at the end of 2022: it’s an RPG lite adventure with pop-up rooms!  See our review here!  Now, we see a more “serious” mystery in Doomensions with more pop-up pieces!  This kind of reminds of The Cursed Dollhouse game … that’s great! We loved that game  See our review of thre Cursed Dollhouse here!

5. The Dark Quarter

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Platform: Kickstarter The Dark Quarter
Promised Delivery: October 2023
Summary: In The Dark Quarter, a co-operative app-driven adventure game set in a dark, fantastical vision of 1980s New Orleans, players each take control of a Beaumont agent and work alongside one another to solve the worst crimes that New Orleans has to offer. It’s a world full of magic, where hexing curses are sold on every street, where voodoo priestesses and creatures of the night are lurking around every corner, and where even the most mundane crimes have a tinge of the supernatural to them.

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Lucky Duck has done some pretty amazing app-driven games; They’ve also done a great job on mystery games like
Chronicles of Crime!  This looks like a more thematic supernatural Mystery deep in the lore of New Orleans!  We love our Mystery Games here at Co-op Gestalt, and we we are looking forward to this!  See our Top 10 Cooperative Mystery Games!

4. HACKTIVITY – A Highly Interactive Cooperative Board Game

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Platform: Kickstarter link  HACKTIVITY – A Highly Interactive Cooperative Board Game
Promised Delivery: February 2023
Summary: A new virus has been detected in cyberspace. According to your investigation, the virus’ origin is linked to the activation of quantum generators, a new source of infinite energy. You and your team will dive into the depths of cyberspace and attempt to break through the generators’ defenses to short-circuit them once and for all. 
Hacktivity is a cooperative story-driven campaign card game for 1 to 4 players. Immerse yourself as one of the four unique characters.

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There’s a lot of cyberpunk activity on the list this year!   This is another hacking game that looks cool as players play unique characters working together.  The component looks pretty cool too.

3. Set A Watch: Forsaken Isles + Doomed Run

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Platform: Kickstarter (not up yet, here’s a link to the manufacturer’s site).  This should be up on Kickstarter in Feb 2022.
Promised Delivery: ???
SummaryA continuation of the Set A Watch series, Forsaken Isles features a new band of adventurers sailing to islands and other tropical locations to face new monsters and challenges.

Defend your campfire from a horde of creatures and unhallowed bosses using each hero’s unique abilities to survive the night. One hero stays in camp to rest and maintain the fire while the others battle. Each round, you draw a new location to setup camp in. Survive all 8 nights (rounds) to win the game.

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This sounds very interesting, not only because they are adding more content to the Set A Watch system (which we love: we’ve reviewed it here and here, and it’s made our Top 10 Cooperative Dice Games as well as Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2021  as well as Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2019), but it’s also adding a campaign called Doomed Run! We are really looking forward to this! Hopefully we get it this year!

2. Legends of StormCity

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Platform: Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/printandfun/legends-of-stormcity
Promised Delivery: January 2023
Summary: Legends of StormCity is a roll & write game, in which each player takes the role of one of the heroes of StormCity who will fight against villainous leaders and their henchmen who intend to carry out their evil plans to conquer the city.

Each player will control a hero sheet in which they will write down the damage they receive and the powers they can use. Villains and minions have their own game sheets.

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Given the ubiquity of Roll and Write games, it’s surprising how few cooperative Roll and Write games there are!  (One was the Escape Roll and Write which we reviewed here).  Legends of Storm City has the distinction of being a cooperative Superhero Roll and Write and a Print and Play from Kickstarter!  This looks really neat and we will probably review this ASAP!

1. Tesseract – A Cooperative Dice Manipulation Game

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Platform: Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/smirkanddagger/tesseract-a-cooperative-dice-manipulation-game/
Promised Delivery: July 2023
Summary: Tesseract is a compelling, cooperative dice-manipulation game for 1 to 4 players. The focal point of the game is a block of 64 dice, the Tesseract, which sits at the center of the board on a raised platform. Players will remove cubes to place in their individual labs, transfer them as needed to others, adjust the cube’s values and, importantly, isolate the cubes into the containment matrix, neutralizing them

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Although the metal dice gives this Kickstarter some “wow factor”, the game also looks interesting: cooperative play rolling dice from the cube looks really interesting and different.  But, it’s probably #1 because of the metal dice.