Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
I’m working my way through the Dark Tower series from Stephen King right now and I just happened to learn in passing that alder is a genus of tree. Makes you wonder why they used that in the title. #themoreyouknow
AlderQuest is a game for 1-4 players ages 10+ and is listed to play in an hour, but this could inch up to 90 minutes. This preview will discuss a 1 v 1 setup, but the final game is slated to be playable in teams and solo.
The goal of AlderQuest is to have the most enemy acorns gathered by the time winter comes. Using the minions, heroes, and cards from your factions, players will fight for the resources and points they need before the frigid end comes.
Some of the most important actions will take place on the matching board, a separate board in the game that employs a match-3 mechanic. If you’ve not heard of that before, matching 3 of something on this board will make something happen. A great video game example is Bejeweled and this mechanic is used in other video games as well, but the designer wanted to implement this in a board game.
It’ll be very important to understand the path players will need to take in order to score acorns; but in broad strokes, players will need to use their minions to gather enemy acorns and tribute them on the tree. Those acorns will then need to be matched on the matching board in order for the player to gain those points before the end game trigger.
Here’s an overview of those steps a bit more in-depth:
Get minions out on the board. A player uses runes they have matched from the matching board that corresponds to their faction colors. If I have 3 orange runes and orange is one of my colors, I can spend one of these and deploy one of my orange minions.
Move minions onto an enemy’s acorn. Acorns will initially have hidden sides. On the backs will be points, snowflakes, or bombs. If a player chooses to reveal the enemy acorn and its points…Move the minion with the revealed enemy acorn to the tree canopy, where those acorns are offered up as tribute. Once tributed, the acorns are added to the matching board.
Match 3 enemy acorns to be added to your end game scoring. Do all this before the 4th snowflake is matched.
I’ve left some things out, such as how movement works, that the board will continue each turn to fill with acorns that players will have to place in empty spaces, and hero actions which help you manipulate the matching board among other things, but hopefully, this gives you a sense of how the game plays.
This game took me a minute to digest. There are lots of moving parts in order for players to move toward their ultimate goal of scoring acorns and this path has to be understood for a chance of victory. But once I understood it, which for me was smoothed out after a few rounds and double-checking rules, things actually flowed really nicely.
Player rounds can go really quick if a person knows exactly what they want to do. I found myself focusing on one or two things, like gathering and matching runes so I could get minions deployed, especially when I saw my opponent was getting more out than me. I really wanted to get certain runes because of cards I had that would be helpful defensively. It became a game of what do I need to do most. In some ways, it reminded me of an efficiency puzzle, where you have to make the most of your turn in order to be most effective. Otherwise, your opponent might get closer to tributing acorns, which gets them closer to scoring.
I found myself weighing some decisions that were difficult during the game. Do I smash my opponent’s minion only to lose my own? Do I take those runes I need at the risk that my opponent will benefit from what I’ve removed on their turn? Did my opponent psych me out by putting a 3 VP acorn by my side or is it a trap, and how badly do I want to know? Pretty bad actually, because I’m impatient and it’s a numbers game for me. I was only blown up like twice, guys. It’s fine. Who cares if I still lost.
I’m not going to lie: the match-3 mechanic spoke to my heart. Any game that employs some Tetris- or Bejeweled-like actions is super appealing to me, especially when you pull off satisfying combinations. I never could because I suck at planning that far ahead. But to know the possibility is there keeps me hoping.
What was also interesting was how the matching board soon became a second skirmish location, fighting either for runes or those sought after acorns. You might forego matching your runes to gain them and instead match runes of your opponent’s color, which removes them from that board and lessens resources they might’ve needed. You really have to pay attention to what your opponent has because that can inform your decisions. With that in mind, this game can get mean. Confrontation is inevitable in all aspects of this game. So if that’s not your bag, you might want to steer clear.
I think this game has a lot of potential for scratching that itch for those Everdell fans that wanted a tree they actually use in a game. Joking aside, I really enjoyed the options this game presents to you during your turn. When your opponent understands all of their options as well, turns can happen quickly so the game didn’t feel that it dragged on too much.
There could also be some potential for analysis paralysis. Alderquest was a little grindy when we were both trying to get points, and almost becoming a sniping match. But with all the strategic options for other things that can be manipulated on the board to push your agenda, I think this can be mitigated a bit. If direct interaction coupled with lots of strategic decision making is intriguing, this might be worth checking out.
AlderQuest launches on November 19th on Kickstarter, so head over to the campaign page for more information or to become a backer.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.