Monday, July 21, 2008

World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game - Review

At the WWI 2008 I saw that Fantasy Flight Games had brought out a second WoW board game, called World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game, which is a lot smaller and easier to play than the huge World of Warcraft - The Board Game. I couldn't get it at the WWI, but then managed to pick it up in a local games store for €30 (it costs $40 in the US). So now I played it first solo to learn the rules, then with my wife, and we both liked it a lot. Here is my review:

World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game (WoWTAG) is played on a 84 x 56 cm board, which is just small enough to fit on a dining room table with all the cards and counters around it. The board depicts the Eastern Kingdoms continent, pre-TBC, from the Plaguelands to Booty Bay. There are 3 major cities, Undercity, Ironforge, and Stormwind, and lots of other locations from WoW. In WoWTAG you play one of 4 possible classes (warrior, mage, hunter, or warlock), so a maximum of 4 players can play. The winner is the first player to collect 8 valor points, by solving quests or collecting trophies. Each game takes around 2 hours, once you get the hang of it. If you want longer or shorter games you could modify the number of points needed for victory.

In each turn a character first rolls a special movement die, which allows him to move 1 to 4 spaces, and also is marked to give 1 to 3 energy at the same time. After movement comes the exploration phase, where the character either interacts with discovery tokens placed by him or other players, or with resources printed on the space he landed on, which can for example heal wounds or give him new ability cards. The next phase is the encounter phase, where usually an encounter card is drawn. Finally there is a maintenace phase, where quests are finished and items are equipped, and then its the next player's turn. Most things in WoWTAG can have 4 levels: grey, green, yellow, or red, and the game comes with 4 stacks of 40 encounter cards for each level. There are nice card holders, which not only make finding the right color easier, but also allow you to draw from the bottom of the deck easily. Cards are drawn from the bottom, because every card has two sides: Usually a monster on the front, and an item on the back. In an encounter you draw the card, fight the monster, and flip the card to get the reward if you win.

Combat is a simple roll of two dice: One for you, one for the mob. You add your attack value to your die roll, and if you roll your enemies defence value or higher, you hit him for as much damage as your damage value is. Same thing for the monster. The 6 on the die is marked with a sword symbol, and often triggers special abilities or effects. The dice are only rolled once per combat, even if both combatants survive. Monsters all just have 1 health and die from any damage, but defeating another player is rather difficult due to this one-round combat; if he wasn't wounded before, it is unlikely you'll defeat him in just one round. There is both melee and ranged combat, with ranged having the advantage that it is counted first.

The 4 different character classes each have a deck with 23 spells and ability cards in it. Some of these can be played in the movement phase, others at the start of combat before rolling the dice, and a third class can be played at any time, or under special conditions listed on the card. Combat abilities modify your attack, defence, or damage values, or they are "weapon replacement effect". For example a frostbolt is such a weapon replacement effect, which works like a ranged weapon of attack value 3. You start with 3 such ability cards, there are various ways to draw new ones, and you can hold a maximum of 10 in your hand. Most of them use the energy shown on the movement die, but you can use mana potions and other effects if you didn't roll enough energy for all the abilities you wanted to use this turn.

What makes every game different is not only the randomness of the encounter cards, but also the quests. You start with two starting quests, which give one or two valor points each, and then go to elite quests, which give two to three valor points. As you need 8 valor points to win, you'll need to do four to five quests. Or you can attack a boss mob like Hakkar in Zul'Gurub for a 4-point trophy for a quick win, but of course these aren't easy to beat. Many quests ask you to visit specific locations, or kill a number of specific monsters. There are also "PvP" quests, in which you need to damage or defeat another player. If you don't like the quest you got, you can go to a quest giver in a city and get a new quest, discarding the old one. You always have two quests active, never more, never less.

World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game is cleverly named, because gameplay has a lot of adventuring in it. The board starts empty, but then fills up with quest locations, global events, location event cards, and undefeated monsters, making it different every time. You always need to make decisions of whether you want to hang around killing easy monsters, hoping for some good weapon or armor to help you, or whether you want to visit the special dungeon spaces to level up, or whether you want to pursue quests right away. Luck plays a big role in WoWTAG, but clever planning and use of abilities is also very important.

WoWTAG can be played with 2 players, although then you might want to add some house-rules modifying the PvP part; like allowing players to redraw when they get a quest requiring them to kill another player, because otherwise you get lots of stupid chases. With 3 or 4 players you can do PvP as intended, and the more players adding more stuff on the board also makes the game more fun. This is a fun adventure game, not a highly serious strategy game. I don't know for sure, but WoWTAG looks as if Fantasy Flight Games could release expansions, adding the other continent of Kalimdor, and more character classes for example. World of Warcraft - The Adventure Game is fun even for people who don't know WoW, but of course meeting familiar monsters and places makes it even better for people who played the MMORPG. Recommended!

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