Tag Archives: Cooperative

Aventuria: Adventure Card Game

Aventuria : Adventure Card Game. Ulisses Spiele, 2017 (English edition). Designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach. 4 Heroes, each with 1 Hero and 1 Skill card, 30 Action cards, a Life Point counter, and a Hero marker; 1 Starting Hero token, 4 6-sided and 4 20-sided dice; 50 Henchmen, 29 Adventure, 14 Reward, and 29 special cards; 1 pad of Hero documents, 70+ tokens (Life, Adventure, Time, and Doom), and a 24-page Rules and Adventure book. 1-4 players (1-6 possible with expansions). Ages 14+. About 1 hour per Act.

In Aventuria each player assumes the role of a hero, represented by a 30 Action card deck and a Hero card. The four core heroes include: Arbosh the dwarven smith, Layariel the elven scout, Carolan the half-elven rogue, and Mirhiban the Tulamydian mage. The Heroes’ cards represent weapons, spells, armor, equipment, talents, and advantages that can be used in combat to defeat opponents.

Each Hero is very different, for example Arbosh the Dwarf blacksmith has a lot of armor, where Carolan the Rogue has less armor but a much better chance to Dodge. Cards are thematic and allow Heroes to excel in their differing areas of expertise. For example, Arbosh’s Ox-Herd weapon (a multiple headed flail) does huge damage, but subtracts from close combat skill due to its difficulty to handle. To use it effectively, it would be wise for Arbosh to improve his close combat skill by using his Talent “Warfare” first.

The game comes with 4 pre-built decks, one for each hero, making it quick and easy to get started right out of the box. There are also build-your-own-deck rules if you wish to experiment with other possibilities. The cards are black edged, so be prepared to sleeve your decks or see the edges quickly show chipping.

The rules are very well organized and clear. Action cards might be black or red bordered, being “permanent” (staying in play) or “one-off” (having an effect then discarded); and are either played during your turn (white circle with black number for cost) or as a “Free Action” (black circle with white number for cost) during someone else’s turn. Every card has specific iconography and text that defines how the card is used. In a world of confusing card play, the clarity in Aventuria is amazing.

Dice introduce the element of chance, with a 20-sided die being used to roll “tests”, including combat, where you roll the die against your Hero’s numeric skill; equal to or less than succeeding, greater than failing. Damage is done using the 6-sided dice. The system includes Critical Successes (on a 1, draw a card) and Critical Failures (on a 20, discard a random card).

The luck element can be mitigated by several means. Players can improve their chances by increasing their Heroes’ skill levels, playing cards that gain modifiers, or cards that allow rerolls. Whenever an attack roll fails, players gain a Fate Point which can be turned in on a later test for a reroll, or to draw a card, or to gain an “Endurance” (the game’s resources used to purchased cards and activate effects).
The game provides two modes of play: the Duel (PvP) and Adventure (Solo and Cooperative).

Players are encouraged to play the Duel mode first to learn how the combat game plays, and their hero’s specific cards work. In Duel mode, the opponents are other players in either a one-on-one combat or team melee to the last man standing.

Every hero’s deck is very different and play styles feel thematic and unique. And yet, they also seem fairly balanced. During the Duel, players attack each other, performing up to 1 Ranged, Close, and Magic attack per turn, until there is only one Hero remaining.

But before a Hero can do anything, he must have Endurance. At the start of their turn, after drawing 2 cards, you can play 0-2 cards from your hand face down to become part of your Endurance pool. Endurance cards and then exhausted to pay the cost to place cards from your hand into play or activate effects on cards in play.

This system requires players to make some really hard choices. Do you keep that Ox-Herd major weapon in your hand or put it face down as Endurance? At a cost of 9, it will be many rounds become you can afford to play it, so maybe it’s better to keep cards you can pay for now and put Ox-Herd down as Endurance, but if it’s later in the game and your Endurance pool is large, it’s probably better to keep it instead. And then of course there are also cards that can allow you to draw back a card you previously placed in Endurance. Hard choices you have to make every turn.

The Combat system really shines. Every turn your Hero will be able to attack since even her starting card has a basic attack on it. However, most attacks have an Endurance cost to invoke. So you have to decide between cards that are all important while you have just a limited budget of Endurance cards to pay for them plus any effects from cards in play.

Do you use your Endurance to play a card raising a skill? Or a new weapon? Or armor? Or a special effect? Or to cast a spell? Or to heal? Or do you keep some Endurance so you can play one-off defensive cards during your opponent’s turn? Or… Your decisions will define your Hero and ultimately how the game plays out.

Once you’ve played a few Duels and come to understand the game play and what cards are in your Hero’s deck, you’re ready for an Adventure!

In the Adventure mode, having selected heroes, you start off by reading a few paragraphs that both outline the story and provide several challenges, whose results will define some of the parameters for your upcoming combat.

Each Adventure is divided into Acts, either 1 Act “short” Adventures, or full Adventures of 3 Acts. Each Act includes the narrative tests plus setup instructions for using Henchmen and Leader cards, as well as specialized adventure cards, to challenge the heroes who must band together cooperatively to defeat them.

Once setup, you return to the game’s Combat system, only this time your opponents are the enemies the Adventure sets before you. In an Adventure, not only do you have the choices about how to spend your Endurance in Combat, but you also often have other Adventure-related effects that require Endurance in order to advance your quest. Another call on your limited resources, requiring judgement as to how best to balance it all in order to win.

The Time Scale cards provide four levels of difficult and act as a timer to various effects that will challenge players the longer they take. The Henchmen and Leader cards have personalized charts on each card that randomize what that opponent will do on their turn, ensuring that you’ll never quite know what the enemy is going to do on their turn. While you might know you’re facing Pirates, you may be surprised when Hook Joe shows up and does his special “Hook Swing” attack!

After each Act and Adventure, the game includes a system of experience points and reward cards that allow heroes to advance and are recorded on the Hero document sheets. However, there is no larger campaign , and no rules for linking Adventures, beyond playing one Adventure after another as you choose. Probably best to increase the Difficulty level for experienced Heroes, but again there are no rules guiding this.

The core set only includes one 1-Act and one 3-Act Adventures. Since the Henchmen decks are built and randomized for each Act, there is some replay ability, but ultimately new Adventures will be needed. Luckily, there are several expansions planned. And the core game does include “Chance Encounter”, which allows you to create randomized games from your Henchmen pool with four levels of difficulty.

While the Combat system shines, the Adventures feel a little lacking. The Combats with the Leaders and Henchmen are entertaining, but the overall feeling of involvement in an epic quest seems secondary. Players cannot really affect the stories. There is one, linear path to victory, and while the mechanics to achieve it may vary, player choices cannot really alter the path.

I find myself wishing for more engaging Adventures, with alternative paths through the Adventures and the Acts, such that the narrative guides player choices that then define the story that unfolds rather than just modifies the set challenges in minor ways. Using narrative to present multiple choices where player decisions alter the flow of the game causes players to become more invested in the story. Play should affect how the story unfolds, not just the story unfolding affecting play.

In summary, if you enjoy fantasy adventure games, solo, head to head, or cooperative, where your role is a single hero represented by a card deck, this is a must have game. The Heroes and their cards (pre-built or self-built decks) are awesome and thematic. The Combat plays fast with constant, tense decisions. The Adventures provide a framework for variable Combats with interesting Henchmen and Leaders that will entertain as well as challenge. With more heroes and Adventures coming in expansions, Aventuria will only get even more spectacular.

This review was written based on a privately purchased Kickstarter copy. No compensation was involved.
c2017 by Richard A. Edwards

Arkham Horror the Card Game – A Complete Review

Arkham Horror is a cooperative card game set in the world of the Lovecraft Horror mythos in which each player (1-2 with one core set, 2-4 with two core sets) plays as a single Investigator (from the 5 available in the core set) against a scenario where their enemies are controlled by the game itself. And while standalone scenarios can be played, the beauty of the game is that it provides a series of linked scenarios that create a complete narrative campaign.

The whole concept is really quite different than any other card game I’ve ever played. As in a role playing game, each player plays just one investigator . Each scenario is its own story, but all of them fit together into a larger narrative in a developing campaign. And each scenario has multiple endings which make every choice important to the overall campaign and makes the game highly replayable.

The deck you build at the start of a campaign continues to be used for the entire campaign. Between scenarios your Investigator spends experience points, gained during play based on events during the game, which can be used to upgrade cards in your deck or swap out old cards for new within character defined limitations. This gives AHLCG the feeling of almost a true RPG, where your character stays much the same through slowly developing and creating a unique experience.

This is one of the most interesting and engaging games I’ve ever played!

Investigators and Deck Building

Once you select your Investigator, you build a 30 card deck that includes a unique helpful card and a unique weakness, a random weakness, and a mixture of cards from two specific classes out of the five class decks.

For example, Daisy Walker, the Librarian, starts with her Tote Bag, the Necronomicon, 1 random weakness, Seeker class cards levels 0-5, Mystic cards levels 0-2, and Neutral cards level 0-5.

The core set comes with starter deck lists for all 5 Investigators to help you get right into the game, so you don’t have to make any deck building decisions for your first game (or any games if you don’t want!)

With only a single copy of the 10 different level 0 cards for each class (and 4 higher level cards which require experience to add) and 10 different neutral cards (with multiple copies of each), deck building is very limited with just one core set. Two core copies allows you the maximum of 2 copies of any given player card, and allows the game to be played with 3-4 players. But even with two sets the available choices are very narrow given the small card base and class limitations. No doubt future expansions will expand the potential starting card base for deck building.

The Scenarios

The Learn to Play book guides you immediately into building the listed Investigator decks and setting up the first scenario (The Gathering). The Campaign Guide (Night of the Zealot), provides the story narrative and campaign setup information.

Your enemy consists of a Encounter deck, made up of specific, thematic encounter sets for each scenario (much like LotR LCG) and an Agenda deck. The Agenda deck represents what the enemy is trying to achieve and advances most turns as time steadily runs out, though various other effects might speed or delay its progress.

The Act deck represents what you, the Investigators, are trying to achieve and requires clues or other actions to advance. If the Investigators can complete their Acts before the Agenda completes, the outcome is usually much better for the Investigators!

Locations are really unique in AH:LCG. When these cards are put into play they form almost a game board of linked locations between which Investigators and enemies move. Each location may provide clues with varying difficulty to gain as well as unique effects building a thematic experience. The location cards can vary from rooms in a single house to many locations around a city!

The difficulty level can be adjusted by the token mix in the “Chaos Bag”. To resolve tests, a token is drawn from the chaos bag, so the mix used can increase or decrease your chance of success. Also, each Scenario has a reference card that defines the meaning of particular chaos bag tokens differently depending on the difficulty level chosen.

Once you’ve built your Investigator decks and setup the scenario (Encounter cards, chaos bag, Agenda and Act decks built) and at least one Location is in play, you’re ready to draw starting hands, take 5 resources, and place investigators’ mini-cards (which track where investigators are located and whether or not they have acted yet this turn) on a location.

You start by reading the narrative, which is critical since it gives clues as to what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re facing. Then you read the Agenda card to see what the enemy are going to do to you if they gain enough Doom tokens to trigger it. Then read the Act card to see what you’re trying to achieve and how many Clues it’s going to take to advance.

Game Play

Each Round consists of:

1. Mythos Phase [skipped first round]

2. Investigation Phase

3. Enemy Phase

4. Upkeep Phase

At the start of the game, the Mythos Phase is skipped so the game can begin with Investigators acting first to prepare for the horrors to come! I’ll describe it after the Upkeep Phase.

Investigation is the phase in which each player (you can choose in what order every round) takes a turn performing 3 actions from among: Playing a card, Drawing 1 card, Gaining 1 resource, Investigating, Moving, Activating an ability (which might be on your card or on an encounter card or your location or on the current act or agenda card), and finally, Engaging, Evading, or Fighting enemies.

The phasing and Action options are very well organized in a Reference card provided for the players.

Playing cards brings your Investigator Assets (including Items and Allies) or can provide Skills and Events. Playing cards costs differing amounts of Resources as noted on each card. Assets are limited based on “slots”. For example, you can only have 1 Ally or 1 accessory card in play at a time. If you’re going to be fighting, you’re going to want that Knife. If you’re going to be investigating, you’ll want your Flashlight.

While all investigators draw one card and gain one resource during the Upkeep Phase, during your turn you may want to draw a card to have more options or gain more resources so you can put them in play.

Often you’ll want to Investigate a Location in order to gain Clues. If a Location has Clue tokens, you can use an action to Investigate. Usually this means you draw a token from the chaos bag, add (or subtract!) it to your skill, and see if you’ve discovered the clue based on the location’s “shroud value”. Gaining clues is how often how you advance the Act which is, after all, your goal. If you advance the last Act card, you’ll be directed to a Resolution in the campaign guide winning the scenario!

Usually you’ll also want to Move around the “map” created by Location cards in order to gain more Clues and also often for other scenario or encounter driven purposes. AH:LCG’s Locations and movement play give this card game an almost board game like feel.

Many cards will offer various Abilities which you can trigger using an Action. The type will often vary depending on Class and so different Investigators will be better at different things making the game feel, again, like an RPG.

Inevitably, you’ll face various mythos monsters and enemies. You can Evade them to get away, Engage them to pull them off comrades and get into combat, or Fight them to defeat them. Like most actions, Evade and Fight usually involve skill tests so the outcome is seldom certain. Having helpful Assets in play and having good cards with the right skill icons in hand can mean the difference between winning and defeat.

Enemy Phase

“Hunter” keyword enemies move to hunt you down! Then Enemies that are ready and engaged with an Investigator will attack, doing either physical damage, horror or both! The combat system is simple and deadly if you’re not careful.

Upkeep Phase

A general clean up phase that includes readying exhausted cards, each player drawing 1 card and gaining 1 resource. Hand limit is checked at this point and is usually 8 cards.

Mythos Phase [skipped first round]

A Doom token is added to the Agenda, then the number of Doom tokens in play is compared to the Doom Threshold of the current Agenda card and if equal or more than the number required, the Agenda card is flipped (no doubt doing nasty things to the Investigators) and then the next Agenda card is put in play. If the final Agenda card is advanced, the game ends and you’ll be told which Resolution to read from the campaign guide (which basically explains what horrible things happen because you lost!)

Then each player draws a card from the Encounter deck. Enemies are placed into play (usually engaged with an Investigator). Treachery cards cause many evil things to happen, though sometimes you get a chance (skill test) to see if you can avoid them.

Strategy

Build your character up by getting Assets in play. Gain a strong hand of events and skills. Gain Clues and advance the Acts to finish your goal before the enemy finishes their Agenda. Evade or defeat enemies. Gain Victory Point cards which turn into experience points at the end. Don’t let your Investigator get defeated by taking too much damage or horror. Keep Doom tokens to a minimum so they don’t advance the Agenda any faster than necessary.

HOW you do all those things varies depending on your Investigators, card draws, scenario, etc. Good luck!

One thing to keep in mind is that some cards offer a “Resign” ability. There will be times you’ll want to use it. If you’re about to lose because the Agenda is about to complete or your Investigator is about to be defeated, it can be better to give up and live to fight another day with fewer negative effects than to end the scenario in defeat.

Agenda Resolutions often come with campaign affecting negatives that will haunt you. And any defeated Investigator will take permanent Trauma which will make them start the next scenario with damage or horror before even beginning!

This game is really about the long campaign game, which reinforces the RPG-like feel.

Campaign

The design is brilliant. Though the core set only includes a 3 scenario short campaign, it’s easy to envision what a longer campaign cycle will do for this LCG.

After each scenario, a Resolution is read (good or ill) and the Investigators are affected in various ways. You might note a detail in the campaign log which will come back to haunt you in a future game. You might gain cards for your Investigator deck (good or ill!) You might gain experience points and be able to add or upgrade cards in your deck.

In any case the story you’ve written during your game play of the scenario WILL affect the next scenario. And with only a few experience points or specific cards added by the Resolution, your deck will slowly change, developing your character in true RPG fashion.

The campaign is only won or lost after the final scenario which is, of course, in many ways dependent on how you performed in the previous scenarios and how well you developed your Investigator to face the challenges.

While it is possible to play scenarios as stand-alone adventures, but the game really shines in campaign play.

Between the narratives at the start and end of each scenario, and the narrative on Agenda and Act cards, a story unfolds that is more engaging than any other card game I’ve experienced. The possibilities for future story telling are horrifyingly endless.

Solo

Yes, you can play just 1 Investigator with only 1 deck to manage. There are several game elements tied to the number of Investigators so they scale well. However, be aware each Investigator can be specialized so in a group you can have some better at fighting or investigating whereas a solo player needs a well-rounded character deck to somehow manage all things.

Luckily, the ability to add Neutral cards as well as often lower level cards of a second class, lets you create a fairly balanced Investigator that stands a chance at winning solo.

And of course if you really want to manage multiple investigator decks yourself, you can.

Cons

By now you no doubt realize that I’m a big fan of this game. It quickly became a favorite of mine and I have played about two dozen games upon which this review is based. But nothing is perfect…

The rules. This Learn to Play guide is the first I’ve seen that directs you to the Rules Reference for specific, needed rules. Usually the Learn to Play rules give you everything needed for the game and only when there are clarifications needed do you go to the Rules Reference, which is just a long glossary of terms. But not in this game where such common things as how to resolve a Weakness card requires you to see the entry in the Rules Reference from the start. Even some basics, such as the Card Anatomy illustrations explaining each card graphic and value, are ONLY located in the Rules Reference.

This is a great, light, cooperative game. But the rules, especially the Rules Reference, are a nightmare of tournament level competitive LCG game speak. This wonderful game, which will appeal to casual players new to LCGs (after all, it’s really not a competitive deck builder but a story driven card game), but its 48 pages of rules are likely to drive many novices away shrieking in horror once they open the Rules Reference.

As previously mentioned, the core set contains only a very limited numbers of cards. To build a non-starter list deck, you’ll probably want two core sets. And deck building fans may be disappointed. The game really revolves around playing more than deck building. With the small card selection, 2 copies maximum for any card, and a 30 card deck limit, there really aren’t a lot of major choices to make. And once your deck is built it stays mostly the same throughout the entire campaign, only slowly developing a few cards using experience points during campaign play.

As for buying two core sets, you won’t be able to use the extra chaos tokens, Investigator cards, unique cards, Agenda cards, Act cards, Location cards, Enemy cards, or Treachery cards. This means about half your second core set is useless. But, if you want to play with 3 or 4 Investigators, then you must have two core sets.

Summary

Arkham Horror : The Card Game is a spectacular game. Absolutely brilliant! If you’re looking for an RPG-like, cooperative, Lovecraft mythos game with an unfolding campaign story told over several sessions, this is IT.

The basic rules are not difficult and the game plays easily as long as you don’t get lost in the maze of the Rules Reference book.

One of the great things about this game is its versatility. You can play it solo or with up to 4 players. There are four difficulty levels. While playing solo, you can play it with a single investigator or play multiple hands if you prefer. You can build new decks and replay any scenario as a standalone game or develop your starting deck slowly as you progress through the entire campaign.

While you might think a heavily thematic, story driven campaign game would be limited in replay ability, but the designers have woven a series of possible outcomes with many variables into each scenario which make replaying the campaign or even individual scenarios exciting every time. You will make choices that will haunt you in later scenarios, or fail to deal with something immediately resulting in a card haunting you throughout the campaign, or trauma may limit your options, or your performance may gain more (or less) experience which fuels your investigator’s development.

If you’re a fan, you might as well pick up two core sets and prepare your wallet to buy every expansion and pack in the upcoming cycles. More Investigators, more player cards, more scenarios, more campaigns, all adding to replay ability. It’s simply too awesome to contemplate!

Though I believe this review to be fair and objective, I feel obligated to provide the following information. This review was written using a Beta test copy of the game provided by Fantasy Flight Games. I was a beta play tester for FFG on this game and have played about two dozen games on which this review is based. No compensation for this review was involved.