My favorite type of game to play is a cooperative game. Cooperative games work perfectly with my family, my primary gaming group. I can learn the rules, teach the rules, and assist everyone during the game since we are all on the same team. Notice I said ASSIST, not quarterback… I swear I am not the Aaron Rodgers of cooperative games… 56most of the time.
In March 2015, I posted my Top 10 Cooperative Board Games list. Legends of Andor squeezed onto the list in 10th place. Today I am going to do a full review of Legends of Andor. Will it stand the test of time and retain its place in the Top 10 or have newer games surpassed it?
Legends of Andor is a cooperative fantasy game for two to four players who take on the role of one of up to four heroes (warrior, dwarf, wizard or archer; none of whom shot the food) protecting Andor from various baddies and evildoers over a span of five legends (scenarios).
Games can be played between 60 and 120 minutes, depending on the number of players and which legend is being played.
NOTE: Because the game is scenario driven, my review will cover gameplay mechanics and my thoughts on those mechanics. It will be spoiler free.
The components for Legends of Andor were really good, with a couple of exceptions:
The game board – The board is gorgeous. It is double-sided and both sides are beautiful. I had the game out and a non-gaming friend of mine saw it and commented how cool it looked. That being said, it does have one issue (see below)
Note: The game’s designer, Michael Menzel, was also the illustrator for the game’s components, including the board.
The large cards – These cards are tarot sized and provide the instructions, scenario rules and changes as the story progresses as well as thematic story and flavor for the five scenarios. They are intuitive, explain the gameplay and rules well and several of them are illustrated.
The player Boards – Each hero has its own double-sided board, with one side being a female version of that hero and the other male, something my daughter appreciated. The illustrations are nice and the layout and presentation of information is well done and easily understood.
The number of components – Legends of Andor is chock FULL of components. There are many cardboard standees for the heroes and monsters. There are over 130+ cards. There are a TON of tokens. To be honest, several of these tokens are used in one scenario only. I am glad the decision was made to produce components that may be used only once versus printing less components and making them double-sided so that we would have to play the mini-game of “where is the token I need.”.
I did not like:
The numbering sequence on the game board – My only frustration with the components is the numbering of the spaces ON the board. The spaces are numbered to assist in placing pieces on the board. More often than not, spaces that are adjacent are not sequential. I spent more time than I would have liked searching the board for the correct space to spawn a monster or token. Another friend of mine owns this games and felt the exact same as I do, so I know that I am not alone with this complaint.
How to Play:
Below is a high level summary of the game; however, you can download a pdf of the official rules here.
At the start of each day (round), the first player takes an action. Actions take up time and are tracked on the time track.
The actions that are available are:
- Move – Each space a hero moves is equal to one hour. Heroes can move between one and the number of hours remaining on the time track for that hero.
- Fight – If a creature is in the same space as a hero, the hero can engage the creature. One round of combat equals one hour.
- Pass – For strategic reasons, a hero might not want to move or fight yet due to wanting another player to join them in a fight or to do something else that may impact what action will be chosen next. This will still cost the hero one hour.
Note: There are various free actions – these do not cost time and can be done at different times. These will need to be considered when planning what actions you want to do.
After the first player has completed the hero’s action and recorded the time spent on the time track, the next player in clockwise order will take an action.
At the start of a player’s turn, instead of taking an action, the decision to end that hero’s day can be made. This will remove the hero’s marker from the time track and place it in the sunrise box. The first player to end the day will be the first player the next day.
Taking actions will continue around the table until all players have ended the hero’s day.
At the end of the day, the following happens:
- An event will be resolved
- Creatures move following the arrow on the space they are on
- Wells are refreshed if no hero is in the space
- The narrator is advanced one space on the legend track and, if appropriate, the next legend card is resolved
The day/end of day cycle will continue until the scenario end game is triggered. What these are depend on the scenario and, as previously stated, I will not spoil anything, so you have to buy the game (or read reviews/watch reviews online) to see what the scenarios are like!
Legends of Andor is a difficult game to review. It is unique and has several great ideas and mechanics, but at the same time it definitely has some drawbacks.
The cooperation between players is what truly drives the fun of this game. Trying to decide who should do what and balancing the time track is the main challenge Legends of Andor presents the players. Do you want to run ahead and activate that well to increase your will power? Or should you pass so that another player can join you for a difficult combat?
The time track is a great mechanic and requires clever management to succeed at completing your objectives. Players can burn all of their hours or as few as one hour as their action. Players can even exceed their seven hour allotment by spending willpower. The turn does not end until ALL players have ended their day.
So if one player were to burn all of their hours in one turn, this will not prevent the other players from spending their hours using multiple actions in small increments even after the other player has ended their day. Finally, players cannot choose who goes next, it is done in clockwise order. This creates another variable in determining your action during your turn.
I loved the way the narrator track is used to reveal how a scenario will play out. At the end of every day, the narrator pawn moves up the track one space. If it reaches a space that was identified as a trigger for a new legend card, the card is revealed and resolved. Sounds simple… except the narrator pawn also advances EVERY TIME YOU KILL a monster. Basically, killing monsters speeds up the game and gives players less time to complete their objective. Zombicide this is not… unless you want to lose REALLY quickly.
Finally, I liked the heroes included in the game. They are not overly complicated, yet had enough variance with their special ability that they played differently. Willpower not only allows heroes to spend more than seven hours in a turn, but also impact drives how many dice are rolled during combat. This will benefit the warrior, who simply rolls more dice as his willpower increases, but does not benefit the wizard, who rolls only one die no matter how much willpower she has (but can flip the die to its opposite face, basically guaranteeing a four, five or six).
All is not roses, 100% perfection, and Kennerspiel des Jahres awards… well, except that last one isn’t true since Legends of Andor did win that award in 2013. That being said, it is not perfect.
The main gripe I had with Legends of Andor is replay value. There are five scenarios included with the game, one of which is mostly a tutorial. The events do add a random factor to the game, but not enough avoid a scenario feeling repetitive after more than two or three plays. The designer also included alternate, easier legend cards for some of the legends; however, if you are the type of player who doesn’t like to play on an easier mode, this will not help. Unfortunately, a random scenario generator was not included with the game, so many of the components that are only utilized in one scenario will remain that way, unless future expansions utilize them.
Another issue I had was that combat can be a bit swingy. As previously mentioned, you cannot win the game by killing every monster on the board. Like a precise assassin, you must choose your targets and only kill those monsters that are impeding your objective. But, like most games with dice, a series of bad dice rolls can really be detrimental (monsters have a base combat bonus that the heroes do not begin the game with). This is by no means game breaking, but it can be frustrating when so much of the game is based on precise planning.
Finally, the game feels like a very thematic puzzle. You have to figure out how the monsters are going to move to determine where you should go. They move following arrows on the board and only one monster can occupy a space. If a monster lands on a space that is already monster occupied, it moves to the next space. This can lead to a train of monsters moving rapidly across the board, so you will need to figure out how to best derail that train.
Also, while fantasy themed, there is not much in the way of equipment that can be earned to power up your character. If you are looking for a loot piñata game, this is not it. You receive gold and willpower for vanquishing monsters, not a Vorpal Sword of Beheading and Other Nasty Side Effects +2.
Unfortunately, Legends of Andor would not make my Top 10 Cooperative Games list if I redid it today.
The cooperative aspect in balancing actions while figuring out how to handle the problems the game presents the players is fun; however, Legends of Andor can get very repetitive if you play the same scenario multiple times.
Players looking for a dungeon delve or a dice fest will be disappointed with Legends of Andor. It is really a puzzle in a fantasy setting.
Please do not get me wrong, it is a good game if you are looking for a story driven game, a lighter game to play with your family, new gamers or younger gamers, or to solve a very thematic puzzle.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Legends of Andor, you can get it for about $45.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A puzzle game hides under the skin of a fantasy adventure game. While fun, Legends of Andor could use a bit more replay value.
• Requires intense cooperation among players
• Unique game play with a great story
• The game is beautiful
• Playing the same scenario can get repetitive and there are only five available in the game
• No random campaign generator to increase replay value
• Space numbering is annoying
PLEASE update your top 10 coop list for 2017! 🙂
Brian has been lobbying to update his Top 10 Cooperative games list…but we still have so many other topics to cover!