Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition) Review

Lord of the Rings the Confrontation game in play

I recently received the gift of gaming from my wife (thanks, wife) in the form of Lord Of The Rings: The Confrontation Deluxe Edition.

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation is Stratego on steroids (or, put another way, what Stratego Legends wished it could have been). One of the players selects the role of the free peoples, and the other player takes on the role of Sauron's minions. In order to win, the good guys must get Frodo to Mordor (as in every Lord of the Rings game), and the bad guys must either kill Frodo (again, as in every LotR game) or get 3 of their units in the Shire. To start the game, each player takes their 9 units and places them on their side of the board to where their opponent cannot see them, with 4 of them in their back-most territory (Mordor or the Shire). From there, the players will take turns moving one of the units forward. If their unit enters the same region as an opposing unit, then they will battle. First, the units are revealed and the special text of each of the units will occur (good guys first). Next, each of the players will select one of their fight cards to play, and (if they are text cards), these will resolve (bad guys first). Finally, if nobody has wimped out of the fight and retreated somehow, then the units will compare their strength total, and whoever has the highest total wins (and in a tie, they both die).

The first pro that I like about The Confrontation is that the sides play very differently and are thematically tailored pretty well. If you are playing as the free peoples, then your units are weaker but are more tricky. They have several units that are able to run away, kill certain units instantly, etc. If you are playing as Sauron's minions, then your units are much stronger, but fight primarily with brute strength.With these differences, you will obviously have to have a much different strategy depending on which side you are playing.

The next pro about The Confrontation is that it is ridiculously replayable. This is especially true with the Deluxe Edition. I believe that there are about 5 different variants on the game that can be played. Each unit has two different sides that can be played, and there are also some "special cards" that can be used in a couple of different ways. And then there is even the previously mentioned difference in using the free people versus the minions of Sauron and the replayability involved in switching between sides.

The main con of The Confrontation involved the special movement rules involving the mountains. The middle territories were mountains, and they prevented units from moving sideways in them, unless something specifically stated that they could. This causes you to constantly be referring to the rulebook to see if they really can move through the mountains there or not, and really should have been simplified somehow.

The other thing to note about The Confrontation is that I think it will ultimately live its life as a filler game. Like Stratego, I don't really see a lot of people getting together specifically to play it. I think that some people may do this, as it is a very good game, but it is brief enough that I don't think that people will make a point of meeting up to play it.

Overall, I give Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition) an 8.5/10. As a disclaimer, my wife would horribly disagree with this score, as she hated the game and thought that the sides were unbalanced - you may want to be aware of this if you are considering buying this to play with your spouse. However, as a whole, I would recommend checking this out if you like how Stratego works.

For more reading, you might check out the Board Game Family's Lord of the Rings: Confrontation Review, or my reviews of Mage Wars, King of Tokyo, and Mice and Mystics.

Power Grid Review

Power Grid board game setup to play

A game that regularly hits my gaming table is Power Grid (shown in the picture with the Power Grid: New Plants Expansion.

In Power Grid, each player takes on the role of a power company that is attempting to power the most cities. In order to do this, however, he must both own power plants to generate the power and build enough infrastructure to transmit the power to the cities. How this works in game terms is that at the beginning of each round, new power plants will be auctioned off. After this, resources will need to be purchased to power the (non "green") plants. Third, the players will purchase "cities" (which represents bringing power to that city), by paying the connecting cost from one of their other cities plus the cost to build the city itself (10, 15 or 20 depending on how many other players are already there). Finally, each player will power their cities and generate income (and the resource market gets restocked).

There are several things that I like about Power Grid. The first thing I like is the mechanic where whoever is in last place gets an advantage for that round. This seems to be a trademark mechanic for Friedemann Friese (the designer), because I have also seen this in Furstenfeld. Either way, I like it as it adds a new level of strategy to the game - when should you go ahead and take the lead (and have a slight disadvantage) as opposed to purposely staying behind. Fortunately, the advantage given to last place is useful enough that it is worth sometimes staying behind to acquire it, but small enough that it does not prohibit someone from wanting to be in the lead. It is an incredibly nice balancing element that keeps almost every game of Power Grid very close all the way until the end.

The next aspect of the game that I like is how the auctions work. In many games, there are a certain number of whatever that are available each round. Starting with a certain person, they choose one of the things to auction and once they have bought it there is one less item available on the market. In this situation, the person who picks last has a bit of a disadvantage because they have no chance of getting something at list price, and their options are also very limited. This is not the case in Power Grid. Instead, you can see both a "current" and a "future" market of power plants. Whenever a plant is purchased from the current market, a new plant comes out and the cheapest one from the "future" market goes into the "current" market. This does two things: it makes it advantageous to go last (and hence the person losing gets that position), and it also makes you strategize when you want to lose auctions in order to get to the plants in the future market. Again, this is a really nice mechanic - I like it a lot.

Another pro of the game that keeps it balanced is the diminishing returns on powering cities. For the first city that you power each turn, you get around $15. However, if you power 20 cities, you get $2 more than if you power 19. This is another aspect of the game that keeps it very balanced and keeps all of the players close together throughout. Also, this gives the players more to think about - should I burn the resources to power these cities this turn, or would it be better to keep them just in case (the winner is the person who powers the most number of cities on the last turn). After all, sometimes you can actually lose money on powering cities if the resources needed are in high demand.

Overall, I give Power Grid a 9.5/10. This is one of the best games that I have played. I was incredibly skeptical when I saw the theme (I used to work for a power company, and so I didn't think it was very exciting), but it is a well balanced, well implemented, innovative game that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  If you have never played Power Grid, I think you should either go buy a game or convince your friends who have a copy to bring it so that you can play it.

For some more opinions on this one, check out Games With Two's Power Grid Review, or this other Review of Power Grid by Play Board Games. Alternately, for even more reading, check out my thoughts on Mice and Mystics, Risk Legacy, and King of Tokyo.

Mutant Chronicles Review

One of the games that amazed me with how quickly it died off was Mutant Chronicles: Collectible Miniature Game. (And so I got it free. I'll play most any game if it's free. Keep that in mind if you're a game company looking for someone to review your games.... anyway, I digress.)

In Mutant Chronicles, each player constructs an army of units, order tokens and special cards. These are all marked as Gold, Silver, or Bronze and the players are allowed to use a certain number of each rating. Once they have constructed their armies, they place them on the game board. Each round consists of the players taking turns back and forth by placing two order markers on their unused figures until they run out of figures or orders. Depending on the rank of the order used (Gold, Silver or Bronze), the player can take up to 3 actions with their figure. The actions can consist of moving, attacking, taking a special action or guarding (but they can only perform each action once). To attack, they must have a clear line of sight, and then roll special attack dice to determine accuracy and hits. Going "on guard" allows the figure to attack one enemy unit when it moves (assuming that your unit has clear line of sight), and moving and special actions should be self-explanatory. Rounds go on until one of the players reaches a certain number of victory points - by destroying figures or by controlling victory point locations (or a combination). Once the pre-defined number of points has been reached, the game is over.

The main thing that I liked about Mutant Chronicles was how they broke down the dice (and determined accuracy). Each unit got a certain number of dice when attacking (for example 2 green dice). The different dice represented the different kinds of attacks: green for example, was light, long range fire. After the dice were rolled, you used the highest number on any of the rolled dice to determine the accuracy of the attack; if you rolled an 8 and were within 8 hexes of your target, then you scored hits with all of the damage icons that were rolled. If your accuracy was less than your distance, then you missed.

The next pro that Mutant Chronicles had was how the orders worked. First,  I thought it was interesting that when building armies your order markers were factored in. Secondly, which order to use and when you used it was important in the game. You wanted to make sure you got the most "bang for your buck" with your gold orders, since they both give you the most actions and cost an important spot when building your army. The orders also were able to do some other interesting things like buying back your special action cards. Overall, I think the interplay of the orders with the units and cards would allow for some very interesting army building strategies.

The final pro of Mutant Chronicles was the production quality of the figures. The figures (as seen in my poorly taken photo at the top) are top notch. I don't know that I've played another game with such high quality figures.

However, this leads directly into the reason that the game died: it was overpriced in my opinion. I paid nothing for my set, and so I feel that I got a bargain, but the list price of the game was about $15-$20 for a booster that contained 2-3 figures. The pricing was closer to Warhammer, but I think that the target audience was more like the people that play Heroscape (in which you got twice as many figures for quite a bit cheaper). This factor doesn't really affect the gameplay, so it doesn't affect it's score in my opinion. I just thought it was worth noting.

Now for the actual cons. First, though the figures production value was incredibly high, the map was pitiful. It was a fold-out piece of paper (not even cardstock). In addition, the map was incredibly cluttered and thus it was very hard to see what was going on. I think that if I were to play this game more often, I'd at least attempt to use my Heroscape terrain as I think that it might work (I haven't really checked the scale - I know that the Mutant Chronicles figures are quite a bit bigger, but I think the size of the terrain on their map is comparable to the size of the Heroscape terrain.) As it was, there was only one map included with the game, so there was no versatility and no way (out of the box) to change the fact that I didn't like the default map.

The next con of the game was the unbalance between the different factions. This part may be a figment of my imagination, but since I'm the one writing the reviews I get to pretend that it's factual. All of the humans that I looked at except for 1-2 seemed to be long range sniper figures with very few hitpoints whereas the demons all seemed to be close range heavy hitters with lots of hitpoints. This is normally a decent balance, but ideally you want to build armies that include both types. This may be because the game went away so quickly, but there didn't appear to be enough diversity to do this. Also, when using the default map, there was too much clutter to actually get long range shots off on your opponents and thus the humans are reduced to running to claim Victory Locations and hope that they can take down a few demons before they get slaughtered.

Overall, I give Mutant Chronicles a 7.0/10. The gameplay was not too bad, and the figures were incredibly nice, but the game didn't seem to live long enough to mature into a title that would keep my attention for longer.

Mr. Jack Review

As I've been playing through my latest wave of games, one of the ones I held out the most hope for was Mr. Jack.

In Mr. Jack, one of the players takes on the role of Jack the Ripper who is posing as a detective. The other player takes on the role of the detective who is trying to determine which person Jack is impersonating. (I have no idea why it is based on Jack the Ripper - it is basically Hide and Seek as a board game). Each round there will be 4 of the 8 characters flipped. Next the players alternate controlling these characters in a 1-2-1 pattern (I go, you go twice, I go again). To mix it up a little bit, each character also has a special ability like lighting gas lights, moving manhole covers, etc. Once all 4 characters have moved, the player who took on the role of Jack announces whether he is witnessed - and the detective then eliminates all of the characters that can logically be eliminated. This continues until 1) Jack escapes (he had to not un-witnessed the previous round), 2) the detective accuses a character (if he is right he wins, if he is wrong he loses), or 3) 8 rounds have passes and Jack has not been caught.

The biggest pro of this game is that it is a game with actual gameplay value that could be played with children. Now, with that said, for some reason the publishers decided to name it after Jack the Ripper! I have no idea why this is. They took a game that is incredibly kid-friendly and named it after a mass murderer... bravo. (Just gloss over this fact with your kids). Either way, there is a decent amount of strategy and thinking that goes on in the game, and yet the rules and gameplay are simple enough that it could be played with just about anyone - it says 9+, but I wouldn't really be shocked if a 7 or 8 year old could play it.

The other thing that I liked about Mr. Jack was that they added enough variety to each of the different characters that you actually must determine what the best moves are from round to round. It is interesting to try to figure out the best way of having Jack blend in (or completely isolated depending on which role you're playing). All of the different character abilities were used and important in the games that I played, and so I liked that there weren't any characters that were useless.

Now for the gigantic con (if I only have one, shouldn't it at least be large?). I thought that the gameplay got stale pretty quickly. There aren't that many different ways that you can try to hide. Here's the strategy: if you're the detective, split the characters that you are unsure of into as even of groups between witnessed and un-witnessed as possible to eliminate the most each round; if you're Jack, do the opposite. How many times do you need to do this?

Overall, I give Mr. Jack a 7.5/10. For a game that can be played with kids, I think that it's phenomenal (thus the high review - if it were for adults only, I'd give it something closer to a 6.0). With that said, I don't have kids, so I don't really plan on keeping my copy.

If you're looking for games that can be easily taught, you might try the Monopoly Deal game, as well as Sorry! Sliders (which is a dexterity game), and Ticket to Ride.

Nightfall Review

One of the latest games that I was incredibly excited about playing was Nightfall.

Nightfall is a deck building game (think Dominion and Thunderstone), but with several innovations. To start a game of Nightfall, each player is dealt 4 "draft" cards. From these draft cards, they select a card and pass the rest, select a card and pass (again), and then select a card for the "common" pile (the fourth card is discarded). Using the first two cards that they selected, they form 2 "archives" (piles) from which only they can purchase cards (there are also 8 "common" archives from which all the players can acquire cards). After this happens, the game actually begins. On any given turn, a player first must attack the other players with his minions in play (another new element to deck building games). After this, they can play new cards (actions and minions) by forming a "chain" of similar colors (yet another innovation). Finally, they are able to purchase new cards and draw their hand back up to 5. The game is over once the "wound" pile is depleted, at which point whoever has the least number of wounds is the winner.

There are a lot of pros for this game (especially because I'm a sucker for innovations in games), so here we go. First off, I really like the chain system. How it works is that each card has a primary color (a large moon), and one or two secondary colors (smaller moons next to the large moon). There is also potentially a "kicker" (large moon at the bottom of the card), but I won't go into that. In order to play cards, you form a "chain". First you play any card. Next, you play a card that's primary color matches one of the previous card's secondary colors. You continue this process until you are content with the chain you have built (or just can't play any more cards). Now, each other player can build onto your chain in turn order. After the chain is completed, all of the cards are resolved in the opposite order in which they were played (last in, first out). This is a really interesting mechanic and adds a lot of strategic decisions to the game. Should you focus on a few colors so that all of your cards work well together? Should you try to get all of the different colors to increase your chances of being able to build on another player's chain? How many of a certain card should you buy, since you will need to be able to chain it with other cards in order to play them. Should I play on the chain that you built, or wait until my (or a different player's) turn? This mechanic is excellently implemented.

Secondly, I really like the draft system. I love that you have certain cards that are only available to you and that you also have input on which cards are (and are not) used in the common piles. This is especially important and strategic because of the chaining; if you do not plan ahead when drafting cards, you will select cards that do not work well together and wind up shooting yourself in the foot to start the game. At first, I thought that this aspect of the game needed to be more prominent, but the more I played, the more I liked that it gave you just enough control that you were able to help flush out a strategy (which is incredibly important, because Nightfall forces you to be much more diligent with your deck building than most other deck building games - if you don't select cards that work together, your chain will never consist of more than one or two cards). Overall, I think I've completely fallen in love with this draft mechanic and may start using it when I play other deck building games (though, again, without the chain it will be less impactful).

The third thing that I loved about Nightfall is how the "wound" cards worked. When first reading through the rules, this was truly my main concern. I thought to myself "with the number of wounds that you're bound to receive, your deck will get watered down and won't be able to function worth a flip." (Yes, I recorded my thoughts... isn't that normal? "Yes, that's normal." Thanks, self. Anyway, I digress....) Fortunately, wound cards are actually somewhat useful. At the end of your turn, after you draw back up to 5 cards, you are allowed to execute a single "wound effect". In the base game, this wound effect is that you can discard all of the wounds in your hand and draw two cards for each wound discarded. Yes, this means wounds actually help you have a better hand. That is awesome, as it means that there is actually a strategic option of allowing wounds to be received early in the game to enhance your ability to draw.

Some other things were also very nice about Nightfall, but if I talked in depth about everything this review would go on forever. In brief, I liked:
  • You do not have to discard all of your cards at the end of the round
  • The system to purchase new cards worked well
  • The art throughout the game was incredibly gorgeous
  • The way that you kept track of damage on minions was well executed 
  • I like that your starting cards automatically remove themselves from your deck

Unfortunately, I must admit that there were a few downsides to the game. The first one was that the cards are very busy when first learning the game. A normal card may have 4 different colors on it, and you must remember what each color is for. There are also two different numbers on the minions that are differentiated by color and location on the card. This causes there to be a decent number of "whoops" moments when players are first learning the game as they get colors mixed up or forget how certain elements work. This all resolves itself after the first few plays, however, so I didn't think it was a major drawback.

The second con, and the one that I think bothers me more, is that after a few times playing through the game the first several rounds all feel the same. I do not know if other people wind up with this experience, but after about our second game, we all played our first 2-3 turns exactly the same. (Specifically, there is a card that gains you two extra "influence" on your turn (the currency that you use to buy cards), but only if it is in "your chain". We wound up all playing this card as our chain and then nobody would build on the active player's chain (no sense, since it would not be "your chain").  Next, the active player would discard everything else to buy cards.) I wish that there were some way to mix this up more. To be fair, I am willing to concede that this may be that we are just all incredibly unimaginative on other strategies that might work better than the one we came up with.

Overall, I give Nightfall a 9.0/10. I would highly recommend that anybody who enjoys deck building games try this one out. We wound up playing back to back games in a rapid succession that I haven't done with a deck builder since first trying Dominion. In all honesty, this game left me already looking for the expansion so that I can play it even more - but don't worry, we're not done playing through the one we have.

I would like to thank AEG for providing me a demo copy of Nightfall to review.

Zertz Review


One of the latest games that I stumbled upon a demo copy of (thanks to Great Hall Games in Austin, TX) was Zertz.

Zertz is one of the games of the "GIPF project" (which also consists of Dvonn, Yinsh, Punct and a few others). To start the game of Zertz, the players create a playing board consisting of round discs arranged in a hexagonal pattern. From here, each of the players takes turns by either placing a marble from a shared pool (and removing a disc along the outer edge of the board) or by jumping marbles (like in checkers). If a player is able to remove a section of the board when he removes his disc, then he is able to capture all of the marbles that were in the removed section. If he is able to jump one or more marbles, then he captures each of the marbles that were jumped. Once one of the players has either 2 marbles of each color, 3 white marbles, 4 gray marbles, or 5 black marbles, they win the game.

The first pro of Zertz, like all of the games that I have encountered in the Gipf project, is the interesting spatial reasoning strategy that goes into the game. Whereas most board games that I play consist of attempting to defeat the other player by gathering resources, defeating troops, earning money, etc, the Gipf project focuses on completely abstract spatial reasoning. Zertz is no exception. The placement of marbles and which discs to remove are both vital to the strategy of the game. Another element of strategy that we encountered was in whether or not to jump marbles at any given time - you may be able to jump a single marble and collect it, but you would leave your opponent in a position to jump several others on his next turn.

Another pro of the game is related to removing the pieces of the board. First off, this is a mechanic that I have never seen before (and it was well executed, so kudos). This dynamic nature of the board causes the game to not be played the same way twice. Yes, the early pieces to be removed will be along the outer edge, but as the game progresses, you may find large parts of the board cut off from each other, and you may also find that the marble you were about to jump can no longer be captured in that way because there is no longer a disc behind it.

Unfortunately with the dynamic board comes the first con - the board is a pain to set up. This con will lessen over time, as I found that the board wasn't nearly as hard to setup the second time as it was the first time, but the first time I was pretty annoyed at this element. (Here's a hint, set it up one row at a time instead of trying to build the hexagonal grid and then fill in the middle.)

The other major con was that the strategy did not seem to be quite as in depth as in other games in the Gipf project. Specifically, when it came to preventing your opponent from jumping pieces, it seems like the key is simply to not place two marbles next to each other. Also, capturing pieces by removing discs from the board become essentially a non-factor because it was easy enough to see that a player had all but two discs removed. From there, it became a stalemate because whoever removed one of the discs would allow the other player to capture the marble(s) by removing the second disc.

Overall, I give Zertz a 7.5/10. I enjoyed the game, and I would be happy to add it to my collection for the right price. If you enjoy spatial reasoning games, I would encourage you to check out the project as a whole, but also to try this one. If you don't like spatial reasoning games, then stay away, because this isn't the game for you.  As one final note, if you enjoy the game but want to play it on a larger board (this is what my wife would recommend), you can find the means to do so using the GIPF Project: Expansion Set 2, which includes pieces for both Zertz and Dvonn.

If you enjoy abstract strategy, then you should check out My top ten abstract strategy games, Gipf, and Punct.

Race for the Galaxy Review

Race for the Galaxy card game in play

A game that has entered my classic card game category is Race for the Galaxy.

In Race for the Galaxy (which, along with San Juan, is the card game adaptation of Puerto Rico), each of the players controls his own intergalactic empire. In order to grow his empire, a player can explore (draw cards), develop new technologies, settle and conquer new worlds, consume goods, and produce new goods. Like in Puerto Rico, which actions are performed each round are based on which roles the players take. After the players choose roles, those roles are performed by all the players (with the person selecting the role getting a bonus). After all of the victory points have been collected, or (more likely) once a player has 12 cards in front of him, the game is over. At this point, each of the players adds up their total victory points from developments, worlds, and victory points earned through the course of the game, and the person with the most victory points wins.

The first major pro that I have found in Race for the Galaxy is related to how the roles system works. Whereas San Juan simply re-implemented the same mechanic as Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy adapted it. In Race, all of the players select their roles at the beginning of the round and reveal them at the same time. If a player selected a role, then they get the bonus for that role, and there is a possibility that several people will choose the same role (and each get the bonus). Whereas in Puerto Rico most of the roles are performed each round since you cannot select the same role as someone else, Race for the Galaxy often will have rounds in which very few actions are performed. This game mechanic was amazing to start with, and I think that Race for the Galaxy's adaptation makes it feel fresh, while still working incredibly well.

The next pro for Race for the Galaxy is how quickly it can be played (this is also why some people believe it to be a filler game). However, though Race is fast and portable (the ideal game for waiting on your plane at an airport), it is deep enough to get together with friends to play. This is the best game that I have found in the "small and portable" category. (As a side note: when I was carrying this game around, I used a small 200 count card box instead of the original packaging, as the box is a bit bigger than needed once you remember the rules.)

The only con that I have found in Race for the Galaxy is that there are some strategies that are very hard to defeat, and whether a player is able to implement that strategy can be based solely on card drawing. Specifically, if I a player is able to grow a strong military force in the game, and then they get the card that allows them to score a victory point for each point of military that they have, it is very hard to defeat them. (Unfortunately, if two players are both working on the military strategy the winner will often come down to whoever draws better, since there will only be one copy of most cards in the deck.)  Because of this, some of the other roles of the game such as Consume and Produce often get neglected. I wish that there were more strategies that seemed viable so that the different roles in the game would play a more equal role.

Overall, I give Race for the Galaxy a 9.0/10. This is one of the games in my collection that has received the most use, and I would recommend everyone check this game out.

Want to read more about Race? You can see another Race for the Galaxy review at Play Board Games, or a third Race for the Galaxy review by I Slay the Dragon.

Beowulf: The Legend Review

A game that I was able to find for cheap and thus tried out was Beowulf: The Legend.

In Beowulf, each of the players takes on the role of one of Beowulf's companions in all of the epic quests of his life. At the end of the game, after the "Death of Beowulf" quest, whoever has earned the most fame during their quests with Beowulf takes on the role of his successor. How this works is that there are different "episodes" in the life of Beowulf along the board. There are "major" and "minor" episodes. In "minor" episodes, each of the players will be able to draw new cards, heal scratches, and perform "Risks". If the player chooses to take a "Risk" then they reveal the top 2 cards from the draw deck, hoping to draw cards of a certain type (there are 5 types plus a wild). Each of the cards of the correct type the player gets to keep, and if there were none of the desired type, then the player receives a "scratch" (thus the title "Risk"). In a "major" episode, each of the players attempts to play the most cards of the correct types. There are two types of major episodes: one where the players reveal their cards all at the same time, and another where the players go around clockwise in a "one-upping" fashion - each player must match or exceed the number that the previous person had played. In these "major" episodes, depending on how each player ranked, they will get to select their reward (or misfortune) in descending rank with the winner selecting first. Yes, this probably sounds confusing, but it is actually pretty simple when you get into the game.

The first thing that I really liked about Beowulf was how the major episodes worked. Specifically, the "one-upping" episodes worked really well and were pretty fun. One of the best parts of these episodes is that each player must decide two things: how badly do they want to win, and how badly do they want to avoid losing. Many of the episodes a player simply wants to not lose, whereas some of the others the players will desperately fight to win - and the episodes that the players do this on may be different from one player to the next. There were several situations in which we were fighting desperately until someone lost the episode (and wound up receiving a misfortune) and then all the other players gave up because they were less concerned with whether they won, they simply didn't want to lose.

The next thing that I liked about Beowulf (which is only in the "advanced" game) is how the treasure works. There are various opportunities for the players to earn "treasure" - sometimes as a reward for a major episode, sometimes during a minor episode. How this works in the "normal" game is that all treasure is worth victory points at the end, just the same as fame. This makes the game not as intricate. However, in the full game, there are "treasure episodes" in which the players are able to bid their treasure much like in the "major episodes", and only the winner receives the prize. This added some extra strategic elements to the game, and I'm glad that it was included.

Now for the cons. First of all, the game will play very similarly each time, thus reducing the replayability. Since the board depicts the episodes of Beowulf's life, there is no randomization between the order of things. If a player picks a strategy for when they want to win episodes and when they want to lose them, they don't have to adapt their strategy much. The only thing that will be randomized is the cards that they received.

The next con that I found about the game is that sometimes the "Risk" can get pretty ridiculous. Specifically, this can occur on a major episode. If it is a "one-upping" major episode, then at the start of each player's opportunity to play new cards, he can choose to "Risk" before playing a card - if he's successful, then whatever he received is added to his pile, and if he is not then he is out of the episode and receives a scratch. In one of the episodes we had, we had approximately 14 successful "Risk"s in a row (this is not an exaggeration). That seemed excessive to me, though I'm not really sure of a good way around it.

The final point of note is this: we played a 3-player game and Beowulf functioned well. I believe, however, that the game will work best with 5-players, and will not function very well with 2 (though it claims you can play it with that many). The reason for this is that the available results of each major episode are tailored to the number of players - if you only had 2 on each episode, then you wouldn't have as many negative results, and you also wouldn't have any of the in-between results that are somewhat good but not great.

Overall, I give Beowulf: The Legend an 8.0/10. I was pleasantly surprised by it, and I will play it more. If you run across this game, I think it is worth giving it a try.