Friday, March 29, 2013

Legends of Andor

LEGENDS OF ANDOR

by Fantasy Flight Games

Published in 2012

At the first glance Legends of Andor would seem like a very generic adventure/fighting game, where a bunch of clichéd fantasy heroes fight against monsters and gather gold. To be fair, there has never been anything wrong with this setting, but we've seen it so many times.

In the evolution of these kind of games, Legends of Andor takes a bold step backwards: instead of adding tons of rules to make the adventure ever more complicated, this game keeps things simple and light - filling a niche that I've been hoping to see filled for some time now.

Legends of Andor takes place in a fantasy world called Andor. The game board is a beautifully illustrated map of Andor, and its most important location is the Rietburg Castle in the northwest corner.


The Rietburg Castle is under attack! Monsters from all over Andor are slowly but steadily marching towards the Castle, and it is up to some Heroes to make sure that not too many of them ever reach the Castle.
Two Heroes arrive to set things right:

Thorn, Warrior of the Reeded Lands.

Thorn's special ability is his warrior's physique, which allows him to heal quickly both mentally and physically.




Eara, Wizard of the North.

Eara's special ability is the magic she commands. With it, she can improve not only her own, but also Thorn's combat abilities.




The Heroes are set to protect the people of Andor, but there is more to it than just defending the Castle. A dark mage Varkur is also somewhere in Andor, and his evil plans are the real threat that the Heroes must fend off. At this point, Varkur's schemes are not known for the Heroes, and before they can be revealed, the Heroes must each fulfill their Fates.

Thorn's Fate is to find and slay a monster that has been dabbling with the potent magic of the Andorian rune stones. Rune stones are scattered all around Andor, and the legend says that if a complete set of three rune stones are gathered, they will grant powerful magical powers to their bearer.
The monster belongs to the race of Skrals, and their fighting abilities are not to be underestimated... Thorn is up for a difficult fight.

Eara's Fate is to help the defenders of the Rietburg Castle by supplying them with medicinal herbs and a Witch's Brew. The herbs should not be that difficult to find, but the Witch's Brew is a whole another thing. The helpful Witch of Andor, Reka, is currently hiding somewhere in the deep fog surrounding the banks of River Narne. The river is long, and there is not much time...


THE HEROES ARRIVE:

1st day:


Thorn realizes that a Troll from the Clawrock has gotten dangerously close to a small farm. With the weapons and equipment that the Heroes have at their disposal right now, attacking a Troll would be nothing short of a suicide, and so the only way to save the farmers is to lead them to the safety of the Rietburg Castle. Thorn does so.

The farmers can also participate in defending the Castle, if any monsters should ever reach it.


Eara decides to follow Thorn's example, and leads another group of farmers to the Castle. These farmers have their farm hidden in the cover of the Southern Forest, and no monsters are close by, but these lands just aren't safe enough to have people living scattered around.
Before reaching the Castle, Eara stops by at a well. She drinks from it, and feels her Willpower increasing.


Rescuing the farmers took the whole day, and the Heroes must rest and wait until the night passes. Before sunset, Eara explores a part of the fog surrounding the banks of the River Narne. She finds something nice that further increases her willpower...
The Heroes decide to camp together just outside the Rietburg Castle, facing the shoreline of the Sea of Hadira. They see a lone Gor approaching the Castle from the shore. Gors are not particularly strong monsters, but still - at sunrise - they plan to attack the creature together to make sure that it never reaches the Castle.


When the night falls, news from the east tell that some unknown monsters have polluted the well at the foot of the mountains
.
Also, a Wardrak is seen running down from the Grey-Mountains. Wardraks are fast and deadly creatures that are usually best left alone, for even the strongest of Heroes are unlikely to be able to stop them.


2nd day:


The Gor meets a quick end at the hands of Thorn and Eara. Thorn's initial attack was weak, but Eara used her magical powers to assist the warrior. A small bounty is divided between the two Heroes.


Now that the farmers are safe, the Heroes begin to fulfill their Fates. Thorn must stay clear from the rune stones, since right now he isn't strong enough to face the Skral. Eara must immediately begin her search for Reka the Witch.


Stumbling around in the fog, Eara finds some gold.

Meanwhile, Thorn goes to pick up some medicinal herbs from the shore.








Eara decides that exploring the fog like this would take too long time.

She travels south to the Free Market, and purchases a telescope from the traders, as well as some combat equipment.

With the telescope she will be able to look around in the fog much more efficiently.




Eara climbs the Olf Defensetower and scans the riverbanks with her telescope. She spots some useful equipment, and signals Thorn to go pick it up.
Thorn's fighting abilities increase.


Night comes again, and a biting wind blows from the sea, making the night most uncomfortable for the Heroes. Their willpower drops.



Another Troll appears from the Southern Forest, and begins marching towards the Castle.








3rd day:


Eara begins the day by crossing the Ropebridge into the great Watchful Forest. There she accidentally awakens another Gor in the fog. The Gor doesn't attack Eara, but rather begins walking towards the Castle like the other monsters do.
Eara scans the fog around her, only to find some scattered stashes of gold. Somebody has apparently tried to hide their treasures into the thick fog.


Thorn follows Eara to gather up the gold. Eara knows that fulfilling her Fate requires only searching and travelling, while Thorn must eventually engage a Skral in one on one combat to fulfill his! That's why Eara will gladly allow Thorn to pick up all the gold that the Heroes can find. Thorn will need much better weapons...



Eara crosses the Bowbridge and leaves the Watchful Forest. There she finds what she has been looking for: Reka the Witch!

Eara explains the situation to Reka, who gives Eara a bottle of Witch's Brew.
This one is for free, but if the Heroes should ever want more, they will have to pay for it.


Thorn ventures deeper into the Watchful Forest, finding more gold. Soon he will be able to purchase better equipment, and begin looking for the magic-crazed Skral.











Eara reaches the polluted well at the foot of the mountains. The well is useless, but Eara finds medicinal herbs from nearby.
The Heroes are almost ready to fullfill their Fates and thwart the plans of the dark mage Varkur.


Having no real need for the telescope anymore, Eara drops it. She finds a wineskin and pockets it. The Andorian wine grants its drinker more stamina and allows them to travel farther.


Just before sunset, Thorn reaches the well of the Watchful Forest and drinks from it, restoring a good portion of his willpower.




Night falls and another Gor appears from behind the Summerrock, quite close to the Castle. And while the Heroes are away, the other monsters draw dangerously close to the Castle as well. One Skral attacks the Castle; it is killed, but every monster that attacks the Castle also weakens its defenses.


The Wardrak from the Grey-Mountains also reaches the western lands as it crosses the Marketbridge during the night.



4th day:


Having gathered all the gold he could find, Thorn visits the Tree of Songs deep within the Watchful Forest. From there he purchases new weapons, as well as a sturdy helm that will come in handy during the most intense battles.



With his new and improved equipment, Thorn is ready.
He happens to know of a rune stone located nearby.

Thorn finds the stone and the Fated Skral appears...





Thorn attacks the Skral. He relies on his new helmet and executes a furious charge, leaving no chance for the doomed monster to attack back!
Thorn's Fate is fulfilled.




Meanwhile, Eara hurries west, towards the Rietburg Castle - she now has the Witch's Brew and the medicinal herbs. She stops at the Summerrock to challenge the Gor there. Eara defeats the Gor with relative ease, making a good use of her magical abilities.

A third Troll is seen!

But so is Prince Thorald. The young prince of Andor arrives from his adventures, taking accommodation at "the Drunken Troll" -tavern. He immediately offers to help the Heroes in any way he can.


Thorn spends the rest of the day looking for more rune stones. He finds one - now only one more needs to be found to complete the set! A complete set of rune stones would imbue their owner's attacks with very potent magic.
Thorn also purchases a falcon from the Tree of Songs. This crafty bird can be used to carry items back and forth between the Heroes.

Night comes again, and dark clouds block the sun, causing the Heroes to feel strangely ill...

Trolls and the Wardrak are now very close to the Castle, and the Heroes are probably too late to stop them. However, the Castle should be able to withstand the attacks from these monsters.
A Gor and a Skral appear near the Dwarf-Oak at the east, but these two are too far from the Rietburg Castle to be of any real threat right now.

5th day:

At the dawning of the fifth day, Eara enters the Castle to deliver the Witch's Brew and the medicinal herbs to the Castle's defenders.
Eara's Fate is also fulfilled, and Varkur's plans are revealed!

An empowered Gor!
The dark mage Varkur has empowered a Gor who is wreaking havoc across the countryside.

The Heroes must slay it before it reaches the Castle.



Thorn searches the Nothern Mine-entry, and finds some more medicinal herbs. He also finds a rune stone, but this one is yellow like one of the stones he's already carrying - not the missing stone from the full set.
Thorn leaves this rune stone, and - using his pet falcon - sends the ones he is carrying to Eara. Eara has a much better understanding on magic than Thorn, and so it is only fitting that she will be carrying them to battle. He also includes a letter that advises Eara to look for the missing rune stone from the west.

Eara kills off the last regular Gor threatening the Castle, and makes her way back to a well, where she makes her camp.

Thorn uses the rest of the day to travel west to meet Eara for the final battle against the empowered Gor.

The night comes and one of the Trolls, as well as the Wardrak attacks the Castle! The empowered Gor rampages around - the Heroes must hurry to slay it before it is too late!

6th day:

Thorn's falcon returns and brings more gold from Eara. Eara wishes Thorn to go back to the Witch, and to purchase another bottle of Witch's Brew. To help Thorn to make the trip faster, Eara also sends the rest of the wine to Thorn.

Meanwhile at the Southern Forest, Eara looks for the missing rune stone - and finally finds it from very near the farm where Eara rescued some of the farmers five days ago.

Eara is now ready to face the empowered Gor.

The Gor's empowerment makes it very resistant to physical damage, but with the help of the rune stones, coupled with Eara's own magic, and topped up with Thorn with his medicinal herbs and Witch's Brew, the Gor will fall!

Thorn finds Reka, buys the potion, and begins his way back to west.


A sleepless night before the final battle...

The rest of the Trolls attack the Castle, almost getting through the defenses. Not a one more monster can be allowed to attack the Castle, or else it will fall and all will be lost! The Skral from the Dwarf-Oak has moved fast and is getting too close...

7th day:

No time to waste! As soon as the sun rises, Thorn gets moving and catches up with Eara, who already was in the vicinity of the empowered Gor.

The Heroes must be careful now. Varkur's strange magic makes the Gor much stronger than the Heroes' strength combined. Eara's magic and Thorn's herbs and Witch's Brew will give the Heroes an edge, but the empowered Gor needs to be defeated quickly... otherwise it will use its enhanced speed to flee.

It all happens fast.
Thorn eats both of his medicinal herbs, takes a good sip from the Witch's Brew and charges on. Eara uses her magic at its full potential, and the dangerous empowered Gor is defeated before it manages to slip away.

The Heroes are victorious and Andor is safe!


CONCLUSION:

And that was a Legend of Andor! I won the game, but I have to say that this was an easy run compared to most others that I've had with this game. Luck plays a substantial part in form of the monster tokens, which determine where the monsters will be placed at the beginning of the game, and where they will appear during the game. In this game there was less monsters than usually.
Combats are resolved with dice-rolling, but the game still earned a "strategy" -label in this blogtext. That comes from the fact that in this game you CANNOT just go and kill every monster off from the board. Legends of Andor has a Legend track, and if this track reaches its end, the game is over. Now, many games have a track that advances at the end of every turn, but this track also advances every time a monster is killed! This controversial mechanic adds a lot to the stretegic level of the game, as now the players need to make an actual strategy on how to proceed: Some monsters have to be killed, or else the Castle will be overrun, but which of them?
Also, the time always seems to be running out, so a successful game really requires cooperation. In case of a solo game (with two Heroes), Legends of Andor becomes a nice little brainteaser where the player tries to use the Heroes in the most optimal way.

Legends of Andor actually have 5 different legends included. The first one is purely a tutorial, which makes up for the severely reduced rulebook, and serves its purpose by teaching the mechanics of the game for a first-time player. In legends 2 and 4 the story is always pretty much the same, but legends 3 and 5 offer more versatility. This game was played with a legend number 3.

Graphically Legends of Andor is very easy on the eyes. The (double-sided!) game board is very pretty and it features, I want to say, 'tranquil' artwork: Nothing harsh, just beautiful fantasy-themed imagery.
The game doesn't have miniatures, but the thick cardboard figures seem to fit the theme well enough. Other components are pretty standard chips and tokens, though made of strong and high-quality cardboard..

RATING: 8 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

Legends of Andor is a clever, simple and lightly strategic fantasy game, good for small groups and solo players alike.