Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 1 February 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Enchanters: Overlords

Game: Enchanters: Overlords

Publisher: Gindi

Designer: Rafał Cywicki

Year: 2018

Enchanters is a card-drafting game for 2-4 players, which was brought to Kickstarter by Polish publisher Gindi. The game has had four successful Kickstarters, releasing different expansions, but never game to retail, and as a result it certainly flew under our radar.

Mythic Games, famous for plastic miniature fests like Joan of Arc and Mythic Battles: Pantheon, have recently announced their new Phoenix line of games, which looks for games just like Enchanters. A game that has had Kickstarter success, which mythic will bring to Kickstarter with a new expansion, and then support into retail, alongside the original publisher. Their campaign for Enchanters: East Quest, will be the first Kickstarter campaign of this type. The campaign launches of 4th February 2020.

Gameplay

In a game of Enchanters, each player has an artifact, made of two attributes - an item and an enchantment. The two combine to become your attack and defense ability in order to fight the monsters in the adventure deck - one turn you might be using the 'Long Sword of Power', but later you'll have crafted the 'Axe of Fear'. Fighting monsters rewards you with victory points, of varying value depending on the strength of the monster and any effects of its card. Some items and enchantments also give you victory points and when, together, you've made your way through the adventure deck you'll tally victory points to determine the winner.

Each game, the adventure deck is created by mixing together the cards of two fantasy races (or four races in a two-player game). A new village card is also selected for each game, giving a variety of rest actions. Each race has its own unique feel, and contains items, enchantments and monsters. Six cards are flipped face up from this adventure deck to form a market and the costs of the cards are printed on the board - from zero gems for the card on the far left, up to 5 gems for the card on the far right. On your turn you can either pay the market cost of a card to interact with it, or rest, which normally gives you a small income of gems. When you pay for an item or enchantment, it is stacked on your respective column of cards and when you pay for a monster you fight it by comparing your attack and defense to its health and retaliation.


The core interesting mechanism in the game is how you stack items and enchantments. Each card may have attack or defense stats in a strip at the bottom, as well as stats at the top of the card and possible actions in the centre. The top card of your stack has all of this information visible, but as soon as you buy another card of the type, you place it on top of the stack, covering all but the stats on the bottom strip. As a result you need to be careful about the stats and powers you're sacrificing with every card you choose to add.

The Overlords are one of the available expansions which add and extra element to the game. Much like the villages, there is a huge supply of Overlords, which each act as a bit of a boss battle. The overlord can be punishing whenever you rest, because a discarded monster counts as an invader that might have a negative effect. However, the Overlord is also a monster that you can fight. Fighting the Overlord gives a special reward. With the villages giving different rest abilities and the Overlords giving a small amount of extra complexity, there's even more to explore in Enchanters with the huge amount of expansion content - they're not just extra factions.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Variety is the spice of life. It's also the 'je ne sais quoi' of Enchanters. One of the wonders of this game is that even the same stack of cards arranged in different ways can produce different results. You get weapons with powerful effects then they are on top, that become useless once you get a new weapon. But you also get enchantments that have powerful ongoing stats at the cost of essentially being a curse when you get them. Weapons and enchantments are the main way you upgrade your character, but when you play against certain factions you'll find monsters that give yous stat bonuses or even de-buffs against further enemies of that type!

Each faction has its own essence to it, from angels which encourage healing your enemies for bonuses, to demons which you can often give to another player, after all they are worth negative victory points. This huge variety increases as you add more expansions of course, but add that to the villages and potentially overlords and you'll soon see that no two games of Enchanters are anything close to alike!


The core gameplay tends to focus around you trying to improve your character by collecting all the weapons and enchantments you can nab before you really want to start tangling with monsters. However there are only so many items around, so you'll soon find that combat is inevitable. It's all about minimizing the wounds you take, while maximizing the points you earn. Ideally also add in a hint of getting the good things before your opponents can. For that you'll need crystals and since you usually only get those by resting (and therefore wasting a turn) you have to consider how much value does that new card really have to your strategy?

We did notice a few sticking points at two players, particularly with the angel faction which often healed your opponent for almost as much as the point values of the cards. Since wounds are simply negative points the point swing of these cards became negligible. There was also the possibility of the rich becoming richer. Not having enough attack to fight means you have to spend gems to get the bonus attack you need, which means you have to rest more and are less likely to have gems when the new good items come out. So your opponent gets them and the power gap widens. Fortunately, while this did occur, it always seemed to rectify itself by the end of the game. Overall Enchanters is well worth checking out if you're looking for a smart and funny dungeon delving card game!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

When I finally finished unwrapping cards and using the very user-friendly insert in the Enchanters Overlords box, I stepped back and saw Smash Up. I was worried, because I really dislike Smash Up. Thankfully, besides the appearance in the box, the only common element with Smash Up is the way that your game is governed by two (or four) mashed together factions of cards. In many cases, the factions are quite subtle with how they demonstrate their unique play-stye, but some of the factions we've tried have really showed the true exciting possibilities that are offered by this much content. Perhaps playing with two players, and therefore four factions dilutes the powers, but additionally the expansion factions are more complex which has allowed more opportunity to make each faction unique.


Enchanters is not revolutionary in terms of mechanisms. You're drafting cards from an open market - buying them to improve your statistics, to ultimately become better at defeating monsters, which are worth most of the points in the game. The exciting spark in enchanters is the way that you build yourself up - each turn sacrificing the ability you have on your existing cards, to replace it with the card you just bought. That sacrifice makes each decision really excruciating as you try and balance out your attack and defense to suit different monsters in the deck. What can start as a slow game, eventually builds up to the end of the game where you can basically take on almost all of the monsters in the deck and it's just a case of figuring out which one has the best benefit for you or your opponents.

Enchanters is such an easy game to pick up that you can learn it from a single sided rules sheet. It's one of those games that's just a whole lot of fun to throw out on the table for a 30 minute game that'll be different every time. There's a nice mix of unique and familiar elements that make it a really strong card game, that I hope more people get the chance to check out.


You Might Like...
  • There's huge variety already in the different races in this game, with even more to come!
  • Many of the races have very different feels - with more or less player interaction so you can make a game that suits your preferences.
  • The way that you build up short and long term stats for your character feels really unique and causes lots of tricky decisions.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game can be slow to get going as you try and build up your attack and defense.
  • There are moments when the adventure cards might just not be a very exciting field of cards for you to add to your tableau or fight.

The Verdict
7/10 Enchanters is not revolutionary, but it does do something quite unique with how you equip yourself in a monster fighting game. The stacking of cards adds new layers of decision making and change the game up, while you're playing. There are now a huge number of unique factions in the game, which give almost endless possibilities to give you something new in each game, plus new ways to play. Enchanters is a really easy card game to pick up and play - if you enjoy wanted to enjoy Smash Up, but perhaps don't enjoy the antagonism and area control, then this one might be for you.


Enchanters: Overlords was a review copy kindly provided to us by Gindi and Mythic Games. Mythic Games are bringing a new expansion and reprint to Kickstarter on 4th February 2020.

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