March 21, 2011

Legions of Darkness - Can You Hold Off the Legion Until the Final Twilight?


Legions of Darkness is the new 8th installment in the States of Siege solitaire line from Victory Point Games. Designed by Chris Taylor, Legions looks to take the series into the fantasy realm with a small rag-tag band of defenders and heroes trying to hold off the advancing fronts of the greenskin or undead armies. Will Legions of Darkness hold off the adversary or will the walls crumble under the pressure?

The Game
Highmoor castles is under attack by the legions of darkness, the Greenskin Horde and the Undead Scourge, on five different fronts. It is up to a small force of man-at-arms, archers, and priests, with assistance from a few heroes to hold off the legions using whatever means necessary, whether it be building castle upgrades, casting spells, or peforming melee or ranged attacks against the invaders. If the defenders can hold off the advancing legion from breaching the castle or defeating all of the defenders until final twilight on the third day, then reinforcements will arrive and save the day.

Game Pieces
If you have read my review of We Must Tell the Emperor, then you will already have some idea of how I feel about Victory Point Game's component quality; Legions of Darkness is no different in this aspect. The game pieces lack the quality that most designer games have. However, compared to the 70-100 dollar designer titles, the price point of these handmade games seems to be in line with the quality that is received. Also, to VPG's credit, they have a very aggressive release schedule for a board game publisher and having easy to produce, handmade game pieces allows them to produce games at such a pace.

The artwork for the pieces is sufficient, but not spectacular. One good thing that I can say about the artwork is that there is not much confusion about what each piece is for even though many of the pieces are dual-sided. The Legions map is on the smaller side and feels pretty busy, which for the most part is okay, however due to the way that the token markers work for the build upgrades, heroes, and gate breaches, it is possible to have 3 tokens stacked up on each other in one castle slot. Increasing the size of the map and adding specific slots would fix this, but I found myself just placing the build upgrades next to the number 1 track slot; this was a sufficient alternative for me. I am also worried about the game board, as it feels like folding and unfolding the map too many times will cause it to rip.

The instructions are six pages long and well organized; it is not tough to find information when needed. The player aid card is a nice addition to have as a quick reference guide on the heroes, spells, and build upgrades. All of these are used frequently throughout the game, so having the ability to examine and compare options before choosing actions and heroic actions is very helpful.


Game Play
The game is driven by an event card system. The player draws a card either from the day or night draw piles depending on where the timer marker is located. The only difference between the two decks, that I am aware of, is that the Terror track is only active during the night so the day cards do not have movement icons for this track. The player then resolves the card from top to bottom which involves advancing enemy tracks, performs any required events, and then executes their actions based off the number listed on the card. Finally, if the card has a bloody battle marker or timer marker, those are performed and the turn is over. If the player can hold off the advancing armies from breaching the castle or killing all of the defenders through 16 timer spaces, then victory is achieved.

During the player action step, they are allowed a specified number of two different types of actions: standard and Heroic. Standard actions include attack a track, build traps, cast a spell, chant to increase divine magic points, memorize an arcane spell, and pray for a divine spell. Heroic actions allow the player to move a hero, rally morale, or, if a hero is present in the castle, heroic attack or heroic cast. There can be a huge difference between a regular spell cast and a heroic spell cast, so using the player card to understand which to use can be vital to success.

Final Thoughts
As with my other experience with the States of Siege line, Legions of Darkness comes out of the gate swinging, even more so than some of the other titles. There isn't much build up in Legions, it is an all out assault right from the get go. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is the very short and doubly painful Gate track. The track is the only one that contains multiple monsters and is only 4 spaces long. If both units are on the same tile space and are marked for advancement, then both units move forward. This is a great mechanic, as it forces you to take a different approach against this force, as it makes more sense to split them apart and keep one held back the entire game. In addition, the shorter Terror track adds another element of intensity to worry about during the nighttime. I was both looking forward to and dreading Dawn as the Terror track would be removed, but I would take a morale hit; morale determines any + or - to actions.

While Legions of Darkness did not seem to be as difficult to come out victorious, the game was challenging for both the Greenskin and Undead scenarios. There are six different unit placements, determined by a dice roll, for each scenario so there are at least 12 different combinations to try out. I may have been lucky thus far and haven't faced the toughest combination, but I do have a victory streak going currently, whereas I still haven't beaten We Must Tell the Emperor.

Legions of Darkness looked to take the States of Siege line into the fantasy realm and was successful in doing so. The game is fun, challenging, and intense from the first few draws of the event cards. The States of Siege titles are some of the best solitaire games on the market and Legions of Darkness is no different. The only thing keeping the game from getting a near perfect score is the quality of the game pieces, which is the Achilles heel of Victory Point Games. If you are able to look past this and are more interested in solid mechanics and game play, then I recommend this game to you without hesitation. I give Legions of Darkness a 4 out of 5.

At Legions of Darkness

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at March 21, 2011 9:58 PM

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