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Mortikar

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58 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

There are several reviews on here that discuss pros and cons already, and my review will be no different. However, I would like to use some analogies to give prospective buyers a little more perspective and clarity. I want to concisely break this game down into sections for easier reading. Here I go!

Packaging: The box is thick and sturdy and was nowhere near as big as I thought it would be (for storage purposes) when it arrived. The inserts are not nearly the quality of the box, but they do the job. You could very easily replace the inserts with some deck boxes and small containers or baggies for all different types of game pieces. That would actually speed up your game set up as well.

Pieces: The hero and city figures are very nice. The game counters, used for the random areas on the game tiles, are perfect for what they are – randomly placed tokens to count as locations or enemies. They are not as pretty as miniature figures would be, but they don’t need to be. They do their job perfectly. The mana crystals are pretty cool and very durable. The dice are the only weakness but, again, they do their job. The cards are fantastic and are different from any other card I have experienced. I can’t speak as to whether they are more or less durable, because I haven’t played enough games yet. They are very nice, though. The card art is not that impressive, but you really don’t focus on the look of cards, only the game mechanic text.

Rules: This is an area that I see many mixed reviews about, so let me be clear. This is not the game you bring home to the family, with age ranges of 8-14 plus spouse, bust out of the box and expect to sit down and play this game right then and there. If you can’t handle a boardgame ruleset that exceeds 8 pages and has no real depth, this game is not for you. It doesn’t make it a bad game. It simply is not a game for you.

With that said, it is nowhere near the comprehensive task some make it out to be. I have played RPG and miniatures games that require 200-400 pages of reading, prior to playing your first game. This game is NOWHERE near that type of complexity. The game walkthrough manual is brilliant and laid out in a manner that flows properly with the game sequence. It basically is explaining what things are as you are setting them up for your very first game.

After the setup, there is no possible way to perfectly lay out the walkthrough, because the enemies, locations and interactions with terrain tiles are random and were designed that way. You will have to decide what to do next, and then seek the rules out for your next action. It is not hard at all, though, as several pages are waiting there for you to look up the rule. For example, if the first thing you wanted to do was fight an orc enemy, you could search the 4-5 pages of following instructions until you find the section about combat. The sections are clearly marked and easy to reference. I don’t blame the game designer for this. Unless he scripted your every move in the walkthrough, there would be no way to do it linearly for you. As I said, the game isn’t designed to do that, and it would take the enjoyment out of the random experience. I played two walkthrough games, had to reference rules about 10 times, and I feel like I am ready to play the game confidently. The rules manual is only like 20 pages, with very clear section headers, so it is very easy to look something up.

Gameplay: You start the game as a basic hero with 0 fame and 0 reputation. Fame allows you to level up your hero, while reputation allows you to gain bonuses when interacting with terrain features like monastaries and villages. The interactions include things like recruiting units to join you, purchasing spells and advanced actions, and healing. You can also land on tiles that provide mana crystals (for using powerful actions or casting spells) or healing effects. Your initial action card hand is only 5, which limits the things you can do. In fact, I would say your card draw dictates what the best course of action would be for a particular turn. The great thing is that you can always play action cards on their sides for 1 basic action (i.e., move, attack, influence, and block). That means that there are no useless cards in your hand, ever. You can always find a way to play your cards.

As you level up, your card draw increases, which gives you more options each turn. You also add cards that you earn or purchase (with influence), which usually remain in your deed deck for the rest of the game. In essence, your deck is increasing, which is making you stronger all the time.

Combat takes a little getting used to, but once you get down the three phases (i.e., ranged/siege attack, block/damage, and attack), it is so simple after that. Some overland enemies are automatically revealed, so you know what you are up against. However, most are not. Combat is an easy, yet challenging mechanic in that you must develop a strategy to be successful. The damage effects to your hero is brilliant in that you don’t play for 2 hours and suddenly die…game over. No, you add Wound cards to your hand, that clutter your card’s max draw and limits your actions until you heal the wounds. It’s a great mechanic!

You explore new terrain tiles by using 2 movement, while on an appropriate tile edge. When the new tile is placed, a random new area opens up to you each time, with plenty of locations to explore and enemies to defeat for rewards. It’s all random and brilliantly done. Once you know how to play, you honestly could toss the scenarios and just keep adventuring until your little heart was content.

Cons: There is definitely an up-front time investment in order to play this game correctly, but it is not painstaking. Truthfully, that has been pretty consistent for most of my favorite games. So, no different here. The only other knock I can give this game is I do believe there would be too much downtime if you had 3-5 players at one time, especially if some of them were new. There are ways to speed things up in between turns, but new players or players with “analysis paralysis” will definitely add an uncertain amount of time to the game and probably make it unbearable for everyone else.

Overall: This is one of the best games I have ever played. Personally, I think the game shines more in a solo game version. It is fantastic, either way, but solo is very cool. I can play a scenario in 1-2 hours. The fact that you can sit down alone, and feel so immersed in a board game, is uniquely gratifying. I love playing it with my 13 y/o son too, but if he isn’t available, I am just as satisfied playing by myself. It is perfect for being in the same room with my wife for multiple hours while she is watching reality shows that I could care less about. LOL

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