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Subject: Live The Odyssey! - A view from a playtester rss

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Eric Jome
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This past fall and winter, I've had the very good fortune of playtesting and enjoying Venture Forth and, I hope, in some small way contributed to making it better... and it could only be a small way because this was an excellent game before I even got a chance to try it out. I was immediately impressed with the careful thought and consideration the designer put into the game. Even among a field of other great opportunities, like Nitro Dice Racing and The Manhattan Project, Venture Forth stood out to me as a great game. Even the rules were clear and expertly crafted in the earliest outings, showing the solid attention to detail and clear thinking that went into the design.

The essence of this game is managing a party of adventurers - classical heroes of the great myths like the Odyssey. As your party travels between the great cities of the world, you face many horrible monsters of myth, like the medusa, sirens, and werewolves, but also you meet new heroes to add to your growing band and find items magical and mundane to augment their prowess. If you are the first to brave the wilds between a city, you earn more points, but the dangers between towns are actually seeded by the players - a great mechanic that lets you play offense and defense at the same time, using monsters you can beat as opportunities for you or as obstacles for others.

This game takes this "outdoor dungeon crawl" experience of rival bands of heroes and meshes it perfectly with solid mechanics and tight game play that one might find in less thematic euros - here, it hits right on the mark. Fame for the greatest band of heroes, who face the toughest challenges and live on in legends - that's your victory points. This is a competitive game, unlike most adventuring party games, but it has a good breadth of strategic play as well. This is no mere monster bash - there are creative ways to mix and match different kinds of adventurers in your party to win through different means, defeating monsters, blazing trails, or other tricks. The variable board positions and dynamic game play for this game will keep it fresh for many plays.

When I had the pleasure of enjoying this one, it was a playtest prototype copy with rough appearance and borrowed art. Now that I can see some of the great artwork Minion Games has had commissioned for it, I'm all the more excited to own a copy in the future. Originally, the theme was more open ended and generic, but it was clear to me from early plays that the style really fit the classic myths of Jason and the Argonauts, Perseus, Theseus, the Labors of Hercules, or other great Greek adventures. I'm so happy to see the excellent realization of this great fit for these mechanics - I'm a huge fan of the Classics, so maybe it means more to me than to most, but that's what you should really think of when you ask what this game is about.

It's The Odyssey in a game. Heroism and adventure in a strategic board game. This one I highly recommend as an up and coming title. Visit the kickstarter page and help Minion Games launch this one - you won't be sorry you did.

If you have questions about this game, I'll do my best to answer them - ask away.
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Marc von Canal
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Hi Eric,

Thanks for the overview. I am considering backing this project, but would like to know a little more about the game first. Could you tell us a little bit about the game mechanics?

How is combat handled?

How do you recruit characters?

What kind of stats do the characters and monsters have?

How is travel handled?

Do parties have inventories and, if so, how does equipment affect play?

How is replayability?

Thanks!

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Eric Jome
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Swampfox01 wrote:
Thanks for the overview. I am considering backing this project, but would like to know a little more about the game first. Could you tell us a little bit about the game mechanics?
I'll try. I wish I had a copy of the rules in front of me - some of this is a little fuzzy as it has been a couple of months since our last playtest date.

Each player starts with one hero in their band of heroes and some tiles in hand. The images of the board show rectangular locations between circular towns. You seed the rectangular locations - essentially encounters - with tiles from your hand. When the path is full, you can attempt to cross it. The first band to cross gets the most points, but each following trip is worth points too. As you cross it, if you clear a challenge, you get the results, like hiring an adventurer for your band or the fame of having defeated the monster - and the tile is removed. Towns at the end of trip provide special actions, like trading up treasures or exchanging tiles.

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How is combat handled? How do you recruit characters? What kind of stats do the characters and monsters have?
Generally, everyone just has a simple strength. The party's total power exceeds the monsters or your charisma exceeds the requirement for the unaligned hero to join your band. Items and specials on everything tweak the rather basic model in all sorts of ways.

Generally, all the heroes have not only basic abilities and stats, but as they make successful journeys, they level up to better and better abilities. Level is a tile grouped with the hero - and gaining levels is worth points. Levels provide class aligned powers, like hitting harder or better trades and treasures. The level up mechanics let you form combinations and specials with your individual characters.

Quote:
How is travel handled?
On your turn, you either seed a location or you attempt a journey. If you journey, you go along a path from your current location to the city at the other end, hitting the encounters along the way. This makes an interesting tension - play an easy encounter to make an easy path for your band and risk someone else trying it first or make it hard and prevent yourself from moving, the main source of points.

Quote:
Do parties have inventories and, if so, how does equipment affect play?
This is a warband or party based game. You don't have inventories on the individual heroes, but you do find magical treasures which you can use to augment the abilities of your group or one hero in your group. So, you have a pool of heroes and items and re-arrange them and activate them as needed. It is not like the classic dungeon crawl with head, weapon, body, or feet slots...

It's like mythology. Jason has the Golden Fleece. The gods help Perseus with a magical shield so he isn't turned to stone by the medusa.

Quote:
How is replayability?
I feel it is very high. Different parties of adventures will specialize in different approaches to scoring points, like passing through routes earlier for more points at the cost fighting strength or fighting hard at the cost of having a harder time hiring other heroes to your band.

In effect, heroes are like parts of combinations and the set of challenges you draw and play between routes means the board setup is constantly changing, not only between games but during each game.
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Eric Jome
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I suppose a little perspective might help here...

I really like the Classics and mythology. I also really like both adventure games, dungeon crawls, and good games with complex choices. This game does bring a lot of that together very well, but it isn't going to be all things to all people.

This is an attempt to wed two sorts of genres. It's got a lot of euro interpretations of classic AT type mechanics. I like the way this works, but if you're a hardcore AT fan, this is not the dungeon crawl you may be looking for. This game has more in common with Tigris and Euphrates than it has with Descent. It's not a cold hard logic game like Caylus or Puerto Rico - you've got a hand of tiles that are random, you draw treasures that are random.

Tigris & Euphrates has some rudimentary similarities, but that game is much more abstract and less intricate. I do think this is an excellent and innovative game, though, so it is very hard to compare it to other things directly. If a very talented designer for a big company was challenged to do their best to build a dungeon crawl type game with their usual sensibilities, it would turn out like this - a nice mix of classic euro game play with excellent AT style theme.
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Andy Van Zandt
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I got to play this at protospiel south, i'm glad that it looks like it's going to see print

The interesting thing about combat to me is that if you can't beat a monster, you don't die (and neither does it, of course), you instead generally have to give one of your party members a despair marker (unless it's a monster that accepts bribes). Despair is negative points at the end of the game, but you can get rid of it if you accomplish that party member's "life goal".

It's both narratively AND mechanically interesting, IMO. You'll do things like "venture forth" to snag a particular new party member (or deny it to someone else) knowing that you have to lose a fight or two to do so. you can see the other characters' goals, so you also have to figure out when, for instance, it's worth venturing forth for little or no gain to yourself, just to prevent them from sweeping up a full path worth of stuff that's beneficial to them.
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Marc von Canal
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Thanks Eric and Andy for the additional insights.

I am a big fan of euro-style resource management/decision making games (Tigris & Euphrates, Agricola, Settlers, and Knizia's Lord of the Rings are some of my favorites) but also enjoy a good Descent-style dungeon romp.

This game intrigues me, as it seems to marry euro-style play with a classical heroic theme. I love the artwork and the greek theme.

Based on your comments, I have decided to support this game. I look forward to my first session!

Marc von Canal
Dreamer's Guild Games, LLC
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DIMITRIOS KANOS
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I'm a big fan of euro style games, but we play only cooperative games. I'll buy this game, if there is a cooperative variant in the rules.
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