I was first introduced to Role Playing Games (RPGs) when I was in college with the RPG books Vampire the Masquerade. It was only one night and the game group fizzled fairly quickly, but it was a fun experience of pretending to be someone else and uniting against a common enemy. I never tried an RPG again after that, not for lack of interest, but lack of finding a committed group and no desire to be a storyteller. Recently, I discovered the game Legends of Andor. It is technically classified as a cooperative adventure board game, but I have heard many people describe it as an RPG in a box. Therefore, I knew I had to buy it. The game plays 2-4 people, ages 10+. It takes between 60 and 90 minutes to play, and retails for $60. Normally, I’d tell you how to set up and play the game, but the manual has an introductory adventure that does that, so I’ll leave that for you. Instead, I will tell you about the game in general.
The Base Game
The game takes place in a typical fantasy realm with your tried and trusty roles — a human warrior, an eleven archer, a sturdy dwarf, and a wizard from the North! There are also brutish monsters with new names: gors, skrals, trolls, and even a massive dragon. Within the box is a massive deck of cards that form five different adventures. These range from an introductory mission to familiarize yourself with the game to searching and mine and culminating in fighting a dragon.
Each game you will set up the board, give people their player boards and dice, and follow the deck of cards to embark on your adventure. Unlike a traditional adventure story, where the main goal is to slash your way through your enemies as quickly as possible, this game requires a balance. You have a limited amount of time each day to perform actions and certain actions (like killing enemies) can speed up your game. Therefore, the game is like a puzzle that you must solve to prevail. You’ll win some games and probably lose more than you win, but it has an epic feeling to it, and can be played with children and adults alike.
What I like about it is that it has a bit of a Tolkien-feel to it, and it gives you an experience of living out a story he could have written. Now, if this game was all that the Andor universe had to offer, I think it would be a fun place to visit with your family or friends and once you’d played the five adventures several times, move on. Thankfully, Andor has both sequels and expansions, which I will briefly touch on.
New Heroes is a “small box expansion” that retails for $20. Within this box are four new heroes – a guardian, a tracker, a protector of river lands, and a Taurean fighter. These four characters not only give you new ways to mix and match your adventurers from the base game, it also adds the ability to play with up to six players. There are also some twists on the game (fending off a drunken troll) and a way to increase difficulty if you find the game too easy (not a problem I have encountered). Even if you don’t have six people you normally play with, this is a good buy to give you variety among adventures.
The Star Shield
The Star Shield is another “small box expansion” that retails for $20. Within this box is an adventure called The Era of the Star Shield. The story goes that all the records were lost from this time period, so there are a number of different events that could have happened including a dark temple, a siege tower, or a water monster. Therefore, this adventure is a giant deck of cards which will make up a different adventure every time you play it. You will be writing the history books of Andor and trying to save the castle from any of the aforementioned perils. This was a nice box to have and it is compatible with the New Heroes. It gives your base game and all the pieces in it a little more life and replay value.
Journey to the North
Journey to the North is a “big box expansion” and sequel to the base game that retails for $50. I classify it as both because you need the base game so you have access to heroes to play, but you also are embarking on a different journey with a different map and different monsters to face. With the exception of your faithful dwarf companion, you can use all the heroes from the base game. There was apparently a Battle for Cavern waged and Kram is the new prince of Cavern. (I’m still waiting for an official English translation of this adventure.) Never fear, he has been replaced with a Sea Warrior. The Sea Warrior is a welcome addition, because the majority of this map is made up of water. In the Journey to the North, you have a new way to travel (boat), but it comes with complications of its own. The wind will be your friend or your foe at various times, and if you want to beat the four new adventures in this game, you better properly harness it or you’ll find yourself losing repeatedly. Unlike the base game, combat is a bigger deal. You will fight aboard the ship, upgrade your ship, position your people on the ship strategically, and live or die by the choices you make. This adds a fresh concept to the game and makes it a new challenge which I thoroughly enjoyed!
Other Expansions and Sequels
Recently, Thames and Kosmos released another “small box expansion,” called Dark Heroes and a “stand-alone sequel” called The Last Hope, which is the finale to the Andor trilogy. Dark Heroes is going to add four more characters to play with, but I don’t know what is in The Last Hope, but I am eager to find out. There are also several different single card mini-expansions you can find at the BoardGameGeek Store, which adds some more wrinkles to the game play.
I really love this game, and I can’t wait for my son to get a little bit older so that I can play this with him. If you love adventure and high fantasy, this is the game for you and your family. The stories are great. The replay value is high. And the artwork is brilliant and well though out. Don’t let the price tags intimidate you, as most of these boxes are generally on sale. However, don’t also dive in headfirst, buying everything. Start with the base game, and make sure you love it enough to get everything.
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Copyright 2018 Stuart Dunn
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