Going Solo: Age of War
Age of War is a dice game set in feudal Japan. Your task is to gain control of as many castles and clans as you can in order to gain more victory points than your opponent and bring stability to the land. The game uses custom dice featuring infantry, cavalry, archers and daimyo (a powerful feudal lord). Each castle is represented by a card showing a number of battle lines which indicate the dice results required to conquer the card. In the beginning you roll all seven dice and can use your first result to conquer any battle line on any castle card. Then you must use your remaining dice to conquer another battle line on that card, continuing until the cards battle lines are filled. If you fail to fill a battle line when you roll you must spend a die in order to re-roll your remaining dice. For a solo game, Boardgames and Bourbon came up with the idea that when your attempt to capture a castle fails then that castle goes to the AI player. You can also attack castles already belonging to the AI player but you usually have to roll an extra daimyo battle line, and if you lose then the AI takes one of your castles ( I decide which one randomly). When all of the available castles have been claimed, you count up the points value of your castles, taking into account that if you conquer all the castles belonging to a particular clan then you take the clan’s point value rather than the values of their individual castles. If you have more points than the AI player, you win.
Age of War is a really light push your luck game. The dice are great and the artwork style on the cards is really nice. The solo variant will fill ten minutes with some dice chucking fun. It’s like a very light version of Elder Sign.
Going Solo: Mistfall
Mistfall is a game of card-based fantasy combat. It is similar in some ways to Warhammer Quest the Adventure Card Game, and also has some similarities with Mage Knight. Players travel across a series of location tiles trying to overcome enemies, earn extra items and gain new skills before defeating a boss, all within a time limit.
Mistfall has a similar adventure structure to Warhammer Quest ACG in that you enter an area with your characters and engage in combat with enemies and try to defeat them, as you work towards a final showdown with a boss. But in Mistfall you are using a deck of cards to accomplish actions, rather than having a few action choices which are resolved by dice.
The artwork is nice although each character’s feat cards all have the same picture.
The rulebook is terrible at teaching the game and, as this is a very convoluted game with many fiddly details to take account of, this is a big problem. The game just boils down to: enter new area, fight enemies, enter another area, fight enemies. It does not have the engaging back story of Warhammer Quest ACG. WHQACG’s peril track is also more exciting than Mistfall’s time track.
There are errata available online for about 16 of the cards due to typos, and if you are not someone who wants to sleeve their cards you are essentially buying a slightly broken game. This lack of attention to detail is very poor for a game that relies on keywords.
Due to the fiddly nature of the rules I find I have to do a refresher course whenever I play, which is tedious and irritating. WHQACG is far easier to pick up and play as the rulebook is better to begin with, and the rules are easier to remember.
I am new to Mage Knight/Star Trek Frontiers but I can see why people have compared that system to Mistfall as you use your card deck in a similar way, but Mistfall doesn’t have the freedom and exploration that the Mage Knight system has. I would also say that the Mage Knight system is easier to get to grips with.
I liked the idea of Mistfall being about wilderness encounters and I like the artwork and theme, but I find the rules unnecessarily counterintuitive and obtuse. The extensive learning of convoluted rules and the onerous set-up time does not justify the gameplay. It is not as fun as it should be.
Going Solo: Legend of Heroes
Legend of Heroes is a family adventure board game which was published by TSR in 1987. You could see it as a less well-known cousin of Dungeon! The aim of the game is to enter the underground complex shown on the board, defeat monsters and hazards, and when all the rooms are explored the players add up the amount of treasure they’ve found and the player with the richest haul wins. In the basic game each player plays a Fighter, but in the expanded rules each player has a full party of Fighter, Cleric, Magic User, Dwarf and Rogue. The Magic User picks one of seven spells at random to start with, the Cleric is good at fighting undead and can heal his comrades, the Rogue is good at disarming hazards, the Dwarf is good at fighting certain monsters and the Fighter is good at fighting others. The leader of your party can be changed throughout the game when you know whether the Action Card coming up is a Monster or Hazard.
The most enjoyable part of the game is that when you enter a room you take and read the Room Card. This will then direct you to take another card, a Monster, Feature, Hazard or Treasure. When you have read and interacted with this card it may direct you to take another card which continues the story of the encounter. This means that no game will be exactly the same.
There are fifteen different monsters including a dragon, gargoyle, skeleton, vampire, ogre, cyclops, but whereas there are two hobgoblins and two giant spiders the text on their cards is not the same.
In combat you match up the monster card next to your party leader’s card and must roll the number indicated in the top half of the card by a red dot, or higher to hit and defeat the monster. If you fail the monster tries to hit a number indicated on the lower part of the card or higher to hit you. If it succeeds then your hero is flipped over to the wounded side of their card and can either try to hit the monster again, let another hero become party leader and try, or retreat from the room. If an already wounded hero is hit then they are dead. Wounded heroes can be healed at the Magical Fountain or by a Cleric by missing a turn. In a solo game you can suffer eight wounds before retiring from the dungeon exhausted and in the basic game your Fighter recovers at the start of their next turn automatically.
Legend of Heroes is not a difficult game but in my own solo games I’ve used some of the optional rules and some house rules to spice things up. I use the ‘heavy treasure’ rule so each of my party can only carry one treasure. When travelling through a passage from one red square to another I roll a d6 and on a 6 I draw a Monster Card as a wandering monster. These wandering monsters do not carry treasure so any instruction to draw another card after the monster is defeated is ignored. I have also ruled that the Cleric cannot use healing so the only way to heal your heroes is to go to the Magical Fountain. Previously I ruled that the Party had to miss a turn and roll for a wandering monster while the Cleric was healing party members, but ignoring the Cleric’s healing ability adds more peril. Lastly I’ve made the aim of the game to find the three 500gp treasures, along with two of the 400gp treasures. This isn’t always possible but it makes the game slightly less like an aimless wander.
I’ve read some negative reviews of this game but when I fancy a simple, fun dungeon adventure then Legend of Heroes is ideal. The board is nice and colourful, the hero characters have a great deal of variety in their card artwork, and the mechanic of reading the cards which lead to other cards is really fun.
The box art is not great but overall I find Legend of Heroes a fun, simple and adaptable game. It’s a game I play regularly when I don’t want to play anything too demanding and just fancy a quick adventure. It’s definitely not for everyone as a lot of people will find it too simple and too random, and I’ve read complaints about the quality of the cards, but I really enjoy it and it’s definitely one of my favourite light games.