Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WoW:the Boardgame Expansions

I was playing the WoW boardgame before I ever touched the MMORPG, and it's a testament to the latter that having played it improves the experience of the former. Some things in the original game didn't work all that well (independent monsters, some of the boss and war events, too many "right place right time" issues, serious downtime problems on occasion), but in general I love it as a solitaire or two-player game if I have the table space and time.

So it was that I was very excited about the Burning Crusade expansion, which added a bunch of new critters, overlords, quests, an extra board of the Outlands, and an implementation of dungeons/instances. I finally got a chance to set it up and play, using both it and the Shadows of War expansion that mostly doubled the talents and powers for characters, as well as trying to fix a few issues in the original game. While this "review" is based on only a single play, here's a breakdown of how I feel the various elements worked and an overall impression of the gameplay using both expansions. I'll begin with the Shadows elements and go from there.

Blue Quests: The blue independent creatures that populate the board via quests do a good job of simulating the dangers of traveling to your destination in the online game, although in the base system they only slow you down without any of the experience gains you get from combat, not to mention drops. In the online game, some players grind away at these creatures for that very reason - to level up themselves and their gear. SoW added blue quest cards that would give rewards for clobbering a certain number of these creatures, and it works to some extent. The problem is that there are only so many blue quests in play at a time, and the chance of getting that one or two XP to level up can be a crapshoot in some cases. BC adds more cards to cover the new creatures, but it's still a matter of having the right creature in the right place with the right card showing. I give these a C+ for effort, but I've rarely used them.

Destiny Cards: Event cards on steroids, they shift the rules around rather than just add quests or give one-off effects. For example, you might have a boss on the board that causes items in the merchant deck to be more expensive. They also only last for a certain amount of time. While there is no real corollary for the online game (festival periods are the closest events), I'm in favor of using this deck as it adds variety to the game. I find these cards to be more interesting than events in general, although getting the right card at the right time will affect the game outcome in some cases (which I think we can all agree permeates the game, making it a better ride than a game, but I'm cool with that). There are specific cards for the original overlords, too bad they didn't add them for the BC overlords in that set. B+

Expanded powers/talents: Nine classes, now with double the choices for talents and powers, and with BC up to six levels. There are a lot of choices to be made, and while I can see potential for "optimal path" problems it won't really affect me as I'm unlikely to play this game enough to discover them. Probably the best addition to the game, period. A

Horde Paladin/Alliance Shaman: Nice to have these classes added to the game, ending fights over who sits on which side of the board, but a very minor addition. Lets you play the BC races, although race is such a small factor in the game it's hardly worth mentioning. N/A

Outland Board: More stuff to do, more places to go. More table space taken up. I barely fit this beast on my gaming table with one of the two butterfly leaves extended. On the plus side it gives additional space to play, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. Perhaps I'll feel better when my online rogue gnome hits level 59 and I decide to visit the Outlands. Necessary, but same ol' same ol'. B-

New/Improved Critters: A whole lot of new critters, many of whom I haven't run into yet in the Outlands. There are also purple quest creatures that are even tougher than the red ones. My biggest gripe is that they are larger and their bases tend to cover the quest markers on the board. While it's nice to have such big plastics, in the end it only requires more table space. Again, necessary but not a lot of newness here. B-

Dungeons: A completely new mechanism to simulate instances in the online game, this works fairly well. In a brilliant move, FFG made these into a push-your-luck system that offsets the stuck-with-luck element and adds a lot of tension. You draw cards for each stage of the dungeon until you get to the boss. Some cards give you goodies if you beat the boss, some add to the boss's abilities. Once you draw a boss, you can keep drawing cards to try to get more loot. Knowing the decks kinda ruins this for me, but with two bosses in many of the levels you never quite know what you'll face, unlike the online game. All three new overlords require traveling through dungeons in the Outlands to get to the endgame, which means that you tend to be a bit more banged up as there's a forced march element involved (only one action per turn, then on to the next level, so you better rest while you can). XP rewards seem a bit high in the later dungeons.

On the downside, the dungeons added to the original board heavily favor the Horde, as they are almost all a couple of turns away from Alliance flight paths (other than Caer Darrow). The two early instances are very close to Horde flightpaths. My game was Alliance characters (solo), so I only did Lady Vash's dungeon. It helped my 4th level rogue get up to sixth level quickly (the Draenai Shaman was sixth when we went in), but I never felt like pushing my luck. First phase had four henchmen, second had two, third was (of course) just Lady Vash. I'll give this an A- for concept, B- for implementation in my game. Definitely made Vash very tough to beat, but did ramp up my weaker character to take her on.

New Overlords: Only one played so far, but Vash was *tough*. You couldn't reroll or change 1s and 2s, killing a lot of my talents for my rogue, and any 1/2 rolls you got ended up getting removed from the damage box. After two rounds I was *losing* ground on causing damage, and her power left me with no energy to cast spells causing a downward spiral. I suspect these new overlords are a bit too tough, but time will tell. And this with 30% more dice available in each color! B- for my experience with Vash only.

Play Time: I can usually play the base game (or with SoW) in about two hours, with a good 30 minutes for putting away if I sort the expansion out. BC doubled the play time as well as the pack up time. There were some good elements, but I may play this without the Outlands board elements in the future (there are rules for this, plus one extra overlord). As such, it's hard to recommend BC, nor am I even sure that it will see much playing time in the future, at least the Outlands parts. Great concept, but way too long to little effect. Of course, the same can be said for the game if you leave out the raids and other cool endgame changes, which were not added into this expansion (such as honor).

1 comment:

Laurent said...

Note about Wow online:

You can hit The Outlands at 58 through the portal. In fact you can reach The Outlands a lot faster than that using a summon from a Warlock or using the Battlegound trick.
I would advise to go as soon as possible as the first few quests give you nice upgrades on gear (specially for STA).

I would not mind playing the Board game again.