Defenders of the Realm
Defenders of the Realm has been hitting the table a lot lately, going over particularly well with my Monday night group. This time we decided to work in the free mini expansions that Richard Launius provided on BoardGameGeek. Here’s a quick look at the expansions and what they bring to the game:
(image by holepuncher @ BGG)
Winds of War – Winds of War adds a side board and a new deck of cards. Whenever Quiet Night darkness spreads cards are revealed or heroes play special cards they are stacked up on the Winds of War board. Every three cards triggers a random event that the heroes must deal with. These are extremely nasty but usually may be canceled by discarding cards or making other sacrifices.
We’ve played with this twice now and I would almost consider it an essential expansion. There are some very powerful special hero cards and little reason to not play them all. Now with the Winds of War events players need to think very seriously about when to play these specials. Is it worth the risk of the event that may happen? Can we afford to negate it if it’s too harsh? Those added decisions add a lot of fun to the game.
Forging of Heroes – With Forging of Heroes, the players level up their heroes and unlock their three special abilities instead of having them available from the start. Experience points are earned by killing groups of enemies, completing quests, building magic gates and wounding generals. To make up for this increased difficulty the evil generals start off of the map and slowly enter the game, giving the heroes more time to deal with the threat.
I think Forging of Heroes is a good addition as well. It puts much more importance on quests and building magic gates; generally you only did those when absolutely necessary in the main game as you often just had to fight fires all the time. With the slower start you have time to work on quests and will need to so you can level up and unlock your powers. Like Forging of Heroes it adds in more decision points which is great.
My only complaint is that players rolling poorly in combat or stuck with a tough quest will struggle to earn experience, preventing their heroes from reaching their full potential. It can be a little disheartening to see your teammates fly through levels while you are stuck at level one. This variant may also add more time to the game which may or may not be a good thing depending on your group.
Be sure to print out Winds of War, it is an incredibly simple way to add in more fun decision making. Forging of Heroes is a clever way to add in a leveling-style system and encourages players to take time performing actions you may otherwise ignore in the base game. It does increase the complexity and length of the game, though, so it will not be ideal for everyone.
(image by aqwerty @ BGG)
We’ve had Carson City on the shelf for awhile now but haven’t had a chance to table it up until recently. Homesteaders really captivated us so we got a bit distracted!
Carson City is a worker placement game where players are cowboys settling a new town in the Western frontier. You earn points for the buildings you contribute and money you’ve earned. Overall the game is a fairly straightforward worker placement style game but does have a couple of things that make it stand out:
Parcels – Purchased buildings must be placed on the land grid. A building’s income is determined by adjacent squares; for example, the bank’s income is increased by adjacent mines and homes. I like having that spacial competition in a worker placement game. It also adds in another level of player interaction which is sometimes missing in these types of games.
Duels – What’s a Western town without duels? Most worker placement games only allow a single player per action. While that’s true in Carson City, multiple people may attempt to take the same action but must duel to see who emerges victorious and performs the action. Duels are resolved by a simple roll of a (massive) six-sided die plus your on-hand weapons and cowboys in reserve. Worker placement games tend to be fairly passive-aggressive so it’s fun to see some serious direct competition.
We played two games back-to-back and my feelings are still mixed. At its core, Carson City seems like a very solid worker placement game. There are multiple paths to victory and you get that delicious tension of not having enough actions to do everything you want. It also plays fairly quickly – around 90 minutes – but doesn’t feel like it is lacking in decision making. There are a couple of things that are keeping me from instantly falling in love with it, though:
Story Arc – I’ve talked about the importance of story arc in board games before and Carson City falls a little flat. With only four rounds of play you don’t build much of an internal engine; the game seems to end at what I would generally consider to be the midpoint of most other games. Given the game’s fast play time I don’t mind as much but you do feel like the game is ending just as you’ve started to get going.
(image by francobollus @ BGG)
Luck – Generally I enjoy a bit of luck in my games but I think the duels may hurt Carson City. I’ve only played two games but both were essentially won and lost on duels. Risk management seems to be central to the game; you can take measures to increase your odds in a duel but it also seems like you’ll have times where you just have to take a chance. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but seems very counter to the solid euro underpinnings of the design.
I need to get more plays of Carson City in before I pass judgment. If every game comes down to the last couple of duels I think the game will lose a lot of its luster, but if over time strategies emerge that better incorporate risk management and solid planning I think it could have some good staying power. I certainly enjoyed it enough warrant revisiting, which is a good thing!