Do you like the adventurous life and the clink of gold coins in your pocket? Perhaps you have the soul of a warrior who wants to kill monsters and have fun at the same time? Or maybe you simply owe someone a favor?
If so, I invite you to go on an adventure in the world of dark fantasy, where criminals can save the world from destruction at the hands of the mysterious Necromancer, who reveals himself to us in the game with the help of the Hand of Doom marker. Yep, you read that right. Here the main role is not played by knights in shining armour, noble and righteous rulers or helpful and law-abiding citizens. The depraved and decaying land of Würstreich is filled with strange and dark monsters just waiting to take your life. You can't forget about bandits waiting for a perfect opportunity to loot your purse or unusual wanderers and inhabitants of cities and settlements offering not always legal goods with strange names and properties. As if that wasn't enough, the representatives of the law are on your heels all the time and all they want is to have you handcuffed and thrown back into the prison dungeons of Bruttelburg. Fortunately, as you travel through these hostile lands you are not alone. The game is a co-op type of mission-based gameplay, where together with other fugitives you form a team of up to 4 people. Of course, as it happens in life - nothing is certain and permanent, so the player can travel and roam the land alone, without having to submit to the group leader and follow his guidelines. However, it is worth noting that wandering alone is not safe and you can lose your life very quickly.
However, before I delve into the description of the game and the mechanics itself, it is necessary to mention that the game was launched in 2017 as a crowfunding project on Kickstarter and in a short period of time it gained the community's recognition and a large group of supporters. The fact that the game has already seen three printings proves it. The publisher of the game is Goblinko from the United States. People who are behind the creation of the game are: Sean Äaberg who is responsible for the graphics, Eric Radey - a main designer who wrote, laid out and coloured the whole game, and Katie Äaberg who handled the production. If you are interested in the game, I would like to invite you to visit the Goblinko store's website, where you can get not only the game itself but also pins, T-shirts, posters and many other things related to the game.
Now let's get back to the point and the game description. To begin with, the game was released in English only. At the moment there are no other language versions of the game available. I'm even tempted to say that people with basic knowledge of this language may have problems with translation of some special card rules, descriptions or names. So what do we actually get after opening the box? Inside you'll find the board, 8 basic character cards along with cardboard standees for each of them. You can buy separately metal figurines for the heroes and some of the monsters in the game. Currently, additional characters are also available in the expansion packs, which gives a total of 16 different adventurers to choose from.
In addition, the first thing that strikes the eye are the card decks and tokens, the amount of which is really large. There are 120 monster cards alone, and then there are also such cards as Danger, Encounter, Doom, Skill, Weakness, Power and Loot. Why are there so many of them? Well, each of the four regions of Würstreich has its own deck with unique monsters and encounters. On the board, these regions are defined by specific colors, which also correspond to the color of the cards. So we have The Badlands (red), Highlands (yellow), Lowlands (blue) and Wetlands (green). It is worth noting that there are also special rules for monsters, which relate to the territory in which they occur. For example, a creature from the Lowlands, inhabited by outlaws, witches or cultists, may have the Undead or Summoning rule. In turn, the swampy territory of the Wetlands abounding in water monsters will have the rules Slime or Regeneration. I highly praise the ingenuity of the game's creators in coming up with so many different monsters, which means that fighting them will not get boring quickly.
It is very nice to use regular D6 dice (included in the box) in three colors. They are responsible for attack, defense and power. Of course, the content also includes the game rules, their summary (which is very useful during gameplay), the Hand of Doom indicator and the mission booklet. Yes, yes - you can not forget about the missions. After all, completing them is the main goal of the game. The booklet contains a set of 20 different missions, which are interconnected, i.e. completing one of them leads to the next. In this way, a chain of missions is created, which, depending on the players' choices, may change during the game.
If you add to that the ability to develop your character and buy or acquire equipment that goes with you to your next adventure, it's safe to say that the game has quite a bit of the RPG genre I know and personally enjoy. Of course, everything is in a simplified version. And so, each character has the opportunity to develop their skills from a card to an advanced level after reaching a certain number of experience points needed for its development. We get experience after killing a monster. In the city our outlaw adventurer can learn a new skill, but here you have to be careful because the skill deck also contains monsters and illnesses. In the town you can also buy a new weapon for the gold received after killing the monster.
The quality of all the elements is excellent. The colors are vivid and what strikes the eye easily are very bright, even exaggerated. However, the text is easy to read and after a few minutes of playing your eyes get used to the shades without any problem.
Also noteworthy are the character cards, which, in addition to great graphics, have a clear layout of all the features needed during the game. On the card there are places for a luck token, which helps us to roll one die when fighting a monster, there are also tokens of life and various conditions. Our character can catch different types of condition during the game, which lower a certain attribute. Some of them require a rest action, and others last until the end of the fight or the next turn. Among them there are poisoned, stunned or fatigued. I really liked the short history of the character on the back of the card along with the crime they committed. The professions of the characters themselves are unusual and some of them are comical. For example, Vermin Hunter specializes in exterminating all rat-like creatures, so monsters with the Vermin rule have an uphill battle against him. The same goes for Witch Smeller, who tracks down witches. Bloodsport Brawler, on the other hand, is characterized by high strength and endurance, which, combined with his appearance, makes me think of a wrestler.
A few words about the mechanics. A player's turn is divided into 3 phases: map action, danger and encounter. During the first one the players move on the board. Before setting off, the team decides how they will cover the distance, i.e. whether they are Cautious or Bold. This has a significant impact during later actions. While the solo adventurer is free to choose how to move, the team members must choose one option for all. So, after deciding on one, players can travel along the paths and roads marked on the board, rest or sail from one port to another. Interestingly, during the rest, you can not only upgrade your character, but also regenerate your lost life points. For this task, it is necessary to take the MRL test. Fortunately, a failed test regenerates half of the lost life points, so there is no fear that our hero will die so quickly during the game. Even if that happens, we can choose another hero and simply join the game that is already in progress.
I haven't yet mentioned the lurking danger that is the titular Hand of Doom. Completing missions is one thing, but players must also stop the Necromancer from destroying the world. During gameplay, the level of danger increases and the world is less safe. In order to reduce the risk of it, players should invest in developing cities by contributing gold, which lowers the danger level when it gets too high or spend their Luck to prolong the inevitable in the case of playing a campaign.
The last phase of encounters is connected with fighting monsters and meeting unusual inhabitants of the Würstreich. Before the battle itself, each player must choose one of two combat stances: Assault or Guard. In other words, whether the player is on the offensive or on the defensive stance. It is important because the use of certain abilities or items depends on it. In addition, being in a defensive mode means we have a chance to reduce the damage we received from the monster. The situation is similar in the case of attacking, with the exception that we can inflict more damage to the creature. A great solution is one dice roll for all monsters that attack us in a given turn. At the same time we consider if we received damage and if we inflicted it to the monster. Who is attacking whom is very simply solved. Everything is on the opponent's card, e.g. the down arrow with the MRL trait means that the monster attacks the adventurer with the lowest MRL in the team. On top of that, there are also special rules for monsters that can affect the outcome of the battle. The opponent's card also contains the number of his life points, attack, armour or gold and experience received after killing him.
All in all, the game appealed to me. It was a great experience to work on the animation for the video where I used the original graphics with the permission of Sean Äaberg himself. I like both the mechanics, its atmosphere and style. Additionally, the very idea of putting criminals outlaws in the role of heroes is fresh and interesting, which also encouraged me to spend some time on this game. The RPG element fits very well here. However, the number of cards and how they are played can be difficult to grasp at first and requires some practice in controlling the gameplay by one of the players. Therefore, the game setup is long which may discourage many people and cool down their enthusiasm for the game. Interpreting card descriptions or rules also takes a lot of time.