Review: Legends of Andor04 Feb 2019 3
Review: Legends of Andor
Released 24 Jan 2019
The board game version of Legends of Andor has been around for a number of years. It was designed by Michael Menzel, who is better known for his wonderful and prolific work as a board game illustrator, rather than as a game designer. Andor is a cooperative fantasy game in which a band of heroes work together to complete quests and defend the realm.
The thirteen scenarios follow a linked narrative. Cleverly, as you progress through the quests new features are introduced, which means that you can start playing the initial quest with hardly any rules to worry about. A large part of Andor’s charm is the way that the story develops allowing you to constantly discover new stuff. With this in mind, I will do my best to ensure that no spoilers pass my lips, although this may mean glossing over some of the game’s more advanced elements.
The cooperative nature of Andor means that you can enjoy a pass-and-play game with each person controlling their own character, or you can play solo, taking control of multiple adventurers. There are four characters and they fall into the usual fantasy stereotypes. There’s a frenzied dwarf, a fighter, a sneaky archer and a mage; pleasingly, you can also choose the sex of each adventurer. Your heroes only have two characteristics; willpower is a measure of health and also helps determine the number of combat dice rolled (as you get weaker you roll less dice) and combat strength increases the power of your attacks. Each character has their own unique special ability; the wizard can flip combat dice whilst the dwarf can sacrifice willpower to enhance attacks. Characters can also improve their abilities by purchasing extra equipment from a merchant.
Although the landscapes are often littered with monsters, the biggest threat to your party’s success turns out to be the tight time constraints. Each day, your party members will each have only have seven hours in which to perform their actions. Moving to a neighbouring area of the map costs an hour, as does a round of combat (I guess our heroes must fight in super slo-mo). When needs must you can squeeze out a few more actions, but this will cause a drop in willpower and should be avoided whenever possible. Progress in the game is measured by an event track; this marks the deadlines for completing sub-quests and the overall objective. Once all of your characters have completed their actions for the day or you defeat a monster, a marker will progress along the track, giving you less and less time to complete your mission.
Combat is straightforward; each hero rolls their six-sided combat dice, chooses the best result and then adds their combat strength. The party’s total combat value is then compared to their opponent’s and the difference in values is the amount of damage applied. A bow will allow a hero to attack a monster in an adjacent territory, whilst a helmet increases the combat strength of dice rolls that show doubles. It is a fast and simple system that is easy to understand but can be quite ruthless. It might not be the stuff of legends but most of the monsters are tough and the best strategy is usually to go into combat mob-handed.
If you are used to playing games where the aim is to rush in and defeat as many monsters as quickly as possible, then you really will need to realign your thinking. Fighting burns up an entire day so often discretion is the better part of valour. Sometimes your objective means that you will have to fight and at other times you will need to battle in order to stop your home city from being sacked. The added perk of defeating a monster is that you will earn extra gold or willpower.
The graphics, being the work of Michael Menzel, are excellent and for me, the app worked smoothly, perfectly capturing the feel of the board game. This is especially true when you zoom in from the overhead view and switch the angle, revealing all of the 2D standee models in their full glory. The major issue is that at the time of writing Andor does not work on all devices. I have had no problems whatsoever playing on my iPad Pro and I know that the developers are hard at work fixing the issues.
However, it’s hardly a satisfactory situation and must be very frustrating for many customers. Other issues are relatively minor. The tutorial feels a little long-winded and once you have reached the story’s end there isn’t really that much incentive to play through again. Also, the way that the game works means that the heroes do not develop as the story progresses. Each new quest will see all statistics and equipment resetting, which may leave some players feeling hard done by.
Initially, Andor appears to be all about rolling dice and beating up monsters, but you will soon realise that the game is actually much more puzzle-based than that. You are forced to manage your precious time and coordinate the actions of your individual heroes, which often climaxes in a tense showdown. One massive advantage of the digital version is that you can start playing straight away. Setting up the board game is time-consuming and involves scanning the map for specific locations and then placing the relevant monsters and other objects.
Legends of Andor may be an older game but its appearance on touchscreen makes perfect sense. There is a generous amount of content (the original game only had five quests) and it plays brilliantly solo. The slow drip-feed of new ideas shows a designer at the top of his game.
Please refer to the comments section for the latest information regarding the technical state of the game.