Friday, 22 May 2015

World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game - A review




So the exam is done (man it was hard going) and the show is out of the way too, "Up Pompeii" for those of you who are interested (was that a tumbleweed moment there???) Anyway here is a picture for the one of you interested

I can see the number of hits from the p0rn sites shooting through the roof now.

Anyway moving swiftly on, now that all that stuff was out of the way it was time to get some gaming done. Ruarok and Cammie are still at Uni, Kev is busy training to get his brains bashed in a Charity Boxing match and with the cricket season in full swing, Gary couldn't manage so it meant that only Stevo and Neil could manage along to the Kingsleypark Cabin and Neil was on standby as his wife is due to go into labour at any moment with their fourth child (he really must start putting the heating on during the winter months).

So the question was what to do when there were only 3 of us. Time to scour the shelves of the Cabin and out popped this -



Like many millions of others I have played World of Warcraft Online. It was many, many years ago now and I never became a subscriber, just played the free trial and created, I think, a Dwarf character and wandered about Azeroth for a while. However, I wasn't prepared to make the time commitment to really go anywhere with it and after logging in one day and finding the Dwarf had been ambushed and all my gear stolen during a raid, I'd had enough (no I didn't go in a huff, I just had other things to do with my time alright?).

So although I wasn't a hardcore fan, I still found myself picking up World of Warcraft - The Board Game (and all of it's expansions) and it's little brother, World Of Warcraft - The Adventure Game (and all of it's expansions) when they were released by Fantasy Flight Games.

The Adventure Game and The Board Game side by side


Now as the ladies will tell you, size doesn't matter but the problem with World of Warcraft - The Board Game (I think I'll call this "WOW TBG" hereafter) was that it was huge. The base set was packed with stuff and the expansions added hundreds of more bits and an additional board. It took forever to set up and even longer to get a game played so no surprise to hear that I've only played it 2 or 3 times and it seemed to be incredibly biased towards the Horde characters (the Orc Warrior in particular), or did it just seem that way because I lost every game as an Alliance player?

Anyway when World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game (I'll shorten this to "WOW TAG") was announced it sounded like it might be WOW TBG lite and thus a much quicker set up time and play through. So it was duly purchased.

And yes, there are fewer bits and according to the blurb on the box a 1 1/2 - 2 hour game, but it soon became apparent that this was a totally different game and still involved a big time investment in set up and play through.

The game board all set up and ready to play

The base set comes with 4 characters (2 Alliance and 2 Horde characters who had all appeared in WOW TBG), nicely detailed  soft plastic figures (and no I haven't tried painting them) with each character having a unique deck of ability cards which can be used throughout the game to assist in movement, healing, combat and so on. The characters also come with 4 "level" cards, the idea being that you start at the lowest level (the grey card) and go up in level by completing certain encounters until they reach the highest level (the red card)


The level cards are double sided with a "starting side"  and an "improved side" 

The "improved side" contains a special power that the character can use at the appropriate time, in Brego's case "combustion" which allows him to treat a 5 on the combat dice as a 6 (and at higher levels , a 4 and 5 can be converted to a 6 and as you may have guessed, higher numbers are better).

Each character card had a combat value (either a ranged attack - the bow symbol shown on Brego's card or a melee attack - crossed swords symbol) a character will either have a ranged attack or a melee attack - not both, although some items and abilities might allow a character to do both, defense value (the armour symbol) and damage inflicted (the axe symbol) and the number of health points (the figure in the top left corner) that the character can suffer before it is "defeated" - characters in the game don't die as such.

The level cards also display a number of icons which depict the types of item that the character can use so in Brego's case, being a sort of Hunter type of guy, he is restricted to light armour etc.

The object of the game is to accrue 8 "valour" points. These points are earned by completing quests and/ or by defeating the big baddie "Overlords".
Brego's starting quests

2 quest decks are provided - one set of starting quests and an "elite" set of quests. Certainly there are enough cards in these decks to ensure that you will see different quests being attempted each time you play.

So once the player picks his character, collects his level cards and ability card deck,  backpack and log book tokens and their 9 character tokens (used to mark locations you are trying to reach etc) they place the figure representing their character in one of the 3 City spaces on the board (if you are trying to complete a location quest, you'd probably want to start in a City nearest to that location - other quests may require you to kill certain beasties, or cause damage to other players) deal yourself 3 cards from your ability card deck to form your starting hand ( you can never have more than 10 ability cards in your hand) and then the game can begin.

There are 4 phases to a player turn - movement, exploration, challenge and maintenance.

Ironforge City

The various locations on the board are connected by various pathways along which the characters can travel to get to their desired location. In certain locations it is possible for a character to fly across the board thus speeding  up their progress. The character's movement is determined by the roll of a special dice -
The blue movement dice flanked by the red and black combat dice

It seems, reading the posts on the forums at Boardgamegeek that the movement dice comes in for a lot of hate. 

The 6 sided dice has numbers ranging from 1 to 4 which is the number of spaces that the character can move that turn and each face also contains a number of symbols representing the amount of energy available to the character for the turn. Energy is key for allowing the character's ability cards to be cast, or in some cases to allow the character to flip his level card from it's starting side to it's improved side. People criticise the dice for being too random and at critical times not giving the character enough movement/ energy when they need it and a number of alternative methods have been suggested to reduce this randomness. But I don't mind using the dice. To me, it represents the possibility of the character getting lost (if he rolls a 1, for example) and hasn't made as good progress as he would like that turn, or if his energy for the turn is low it may be as a result of him not eating his Weetabix that morning.

The character can move as few or as many spaces as allowed by the die result. He can even stay where is (sometimes that's obligatory - see later) but you would still roll the dice in order to determine how much energy he will have that turn. Also, the character can only access spaces that are the same colour as his level or less, so a green level character can only access green or grey spaces, not yellow or red spaces. 

Again this is another aspect of the game that some people on BGG don't like and are off the view that you should be allowed to go anywhere on the board without restriction. I haven't tried playing that way so far. Certainly it can be a pain if your starting quests require you to get to a red location  but quests can be abandoned and new ones drawn, so I'm still of the view that this restriction as per the written rules is not a game breaker.

When the character ceases movement in a space, that space will contain one or more of the following symbols (the exploration phase)
The symbols tell it all.

If there is not a Discovery Token in the space then the character can choose one of the icons to activate. If there is a Discovery Token present then this must be revealed instead of activating an icon. These tokens can range in effect with some being boons (gold, extra movement etc) or curses (disease, bomb, ambush and so on).

Once the Token or icon has been resolved, then if there is no other player character in the space the space must be encountered by drawing a card from the appropriate coloured deck. If another character is present then you can choose to encounter him instead but you don't do both (the challenge phase).

The encounter cards are double sided so the card must be drawn from the bottom of the deck. There are 2 types of encounter - a creature or an event (the latter being either a location, special or global event).


If an event card is drawn then you follow the text on the front of the card which may then involve you flipping over the card once you had achieved the stated objective, but you would keep on drawing more event cards until eventually you draw an encounter card and fight the beastie that has been drawn. Again the creatures have a combat value, defense value and damage value.

Combat is pretty straightforward and is the same for fighting beasties or other characters - if you have a ranged combat value then you get to strike first and you can use energy to cast ability cards that may help boost your combat value, you roll the red D6, add the score to your combat value as modified by any ability cards and/ or weapons and if you equal or exceed the opponent's defence value you hit and you do damage according your damage value (again as modified by any ability cards played or weapon used). If both combatants have a ranged combat value then combat is simultaneous, if only one has a ranged combat value and fails to defeat his opponent with that attack then the opponent will get to strike back with his melee combat value. If both have melee combat values then again the combat is simultaneous.

Some weapons/ items or abilities have special powers if a particular result on the attack dice comes up.

The beasties all have one damage point so they are defeated straight away if their defence value is matched/ exceeded. If the beastie wasn't defeated then they would stay on the board until they were eventually defeated. To stop the board getting too cluttered up with cards these beasties are marked with a counter on the relevant space and the card then placed in the encounter track on the edge of the board.

Some of the beasties have the aggro trait which mean that the character can't move out of that space until the beastie is defeated.

If a character takes cumulative damage to equal or exceed his health points then they are "defeated" which basically means that they lose any abilities that were attached to their player card, get "resurrected" in the nearest city and start their next turn from there. 

If the character is defeated by another character then the victor gets to steal one of the loser's items contained in their backpack but otherwise the loser does not lose any other equipment. A pretty lame result in my view, I would have thought there should be a harsher consequence for being "defeated" although I suppose it prevents the possibility of a player falling too far behind but that is one aspect of the game that I feel could be beefed up.

If a beastie is defeated then the card is flipped over to reveal an item which the player can then keep and use, provided it is not of a type that can't be used by the character.

There are loads of different items that can be picked up and as you would expect not all of them can be used by a character. Although your backpack has unlimited capacity for you to keep unusable items in, these items can still be put to good use. Each item will have a potion icon(s) printed on it -  health, energy or movement - and these items can be exchanged in return for getting one point of health, energy or movement. So if you are trying to move round the board quicker but you keep rolling that "1" then you can use movement potions to speed up your progress. And any number of items can be discarded in a player's turn to get those bonuses.

After combat you then go into the maintenance phase whereby your character can equip/ unequip items and fulfill any quest conditions. If they have defeated an encounter that allows them to go up a level then they take their character's next level card and put that into play, restore their health points and draw 3 more ability cards,  then the turn passes to the next player and so on until one player character eventually obtains the required 8 valour points and wins the game.

Simple!

Well yes and no. Given that it was my first game for many a long while and neither Stevo or Neil had ever played it, it took a while to get into the rhythm of the game and some of the cards took time to read and understand what was required - there is a lot of small text on some of these cards!!! 

Our respective starting quests varied in difficulty, with Neil getting some particularly hard quests to try and complete. Also Neil's character - "Sofeea Icecall" seemed to have an ability, which although handy in avoiding attacks by other players seemed to render some of the improved abilities on his ability cards defunct.
Sofeea Icecall, unsure of what to do next

Stevo was playing "Wennu Bloodsinger" and despite carrying about a pretty useless weapon found himself with 6 valour points and looking good to getting the final 2 points he needed for the win.
Weenu Bloodsinger trying to flap a Murloc Streamrunner into submission

We had randomly picked our characters so I ended up pulling a little gnome (I think - do they have gnomes in WOW?) guy called "Brego Bigshot"
Brego away to give a Bigshot to a Daggerspine Naga Shorehunter (they do like their long names don't they!).

The board starting to fill up with undefeated encounters and event cards


For ages, Sofeea and Brego were stuck on 3 valour points each and were lagging behind the sleekit Weenu. Suddenly, however, I managed to complete a quest which gave me 3 valour points and then pulled a quest which gave me 2 valour points for defeating 3 undead creatures and lo and behold there were 3 undead beasties all within close proximity of each other. So although Stevo made a vainglorious effort to grab his last 2 valour points and Neil suddenly completing his quests which put him on 7 points, a few Bigshots from Brego saw him triumphantly claim the win.

However, it had taken 4 hours......... (and that didn't include set up time, as I had set the game up before the boys arrived).

As I said earlier, some of this was down to us not being up to speed with the game rules and having to spend time reading the various cards in order to be sure what they meant - mind you Stevo seemed to spend every turn checking the ability cards in his hand, even where he hadn't drawn any new ones. And we did lose some time tucking into the Dominos Pizza that the guys had brought with them (yes Dominos has reached Arbroath), but it was a bit of along haul.

I'm sure though if we play again we will be able to speed things up and I certainly think given the number of different characters, quests and encounters available, no 2 games will be alike so I would be keen to give it another try.  

Certainly the forums on BGG have a number of suggestions for speeding up the game, varying the movement rules and also a variant for solo play so I will look at these and give them a try

The 12 available characters perched bravely on top of their level cards and ability card decks

The bad news for any of you that might be tempted in giving the game a try is that it has been out of print for many many moons and it seems unlikely that Fantasy Flight will do another print of the game.

And no I'm not selling my copy any time soon.

Next up Ruarok and I head South to the UK Games Expo in Birmingham so if you are going to be there, give us a shout and let's get some gaming done!









3 comments:

  1. 'Up Pompeii' as a stage show? Excellent!

    A couple of years ago I saw an amateur theatrical production of 'Dads Army'. In Australia. It was actually pretty good.

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    1. I've not seen the stage version of Dad's Army but would certainly like to do it if the chance ever arose. I can see myself as Private Fraser "We're all doomed"....

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