The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Defending the Realm … from the plague

The new game? Pandemic Defenders of the Realm.

Do I need to write a review or describe components? No

Was our game close? Yes! We were in dire straits, staved off an outbreak taint loss, and won the game on the last possible turn. If we had drawn an infection darkness spreads card, we’d have lost.

Was this random luck? Perhaps, but there are several tweaks designed to make close games (the special  one shots are removed from the game as compared to typical hero cards, and the Infection rate war status worsens when you cure a disease defeat a general).

Was it amusing? Enough.

Am I annoyed that this is nothing but Pandemic, including the same loss and victory conditions, complete with research labs portals, just with a pasted on “We’re totally not ripping off Tolkien either” with our hobbit Eagle Rider, Balrog Balazarg, Entwood Father Oak Forest, and performing a special skill isn’t represented, iconically, by Gandalf’s hat.

Not as much as I expected. (Just to be clear, they are totally ripping off mechanics and tropes from everyone. I spent the first 10 minutes of the game pulling the “Oops, I said the name of the thing they stole” joke and I could have kept it up for much longer. But you don’t expect originality in a fantasy D&D type setting, do you? I don’t.  One of the selling points is that artist is famous enough to be ripping off himself. Kudos to you, Mr. Elmore).

Anyway, there were nice touches:

  1. Each hero has a quest. (Go here, roll dice). Once you finish the quest, you got a bonus (perhaps a one shot, perhaps permanent) for the game. You balance fighting the enemy with running around the board. Thematic.
  2. The “Enemy General Marches on Helm’s Deep Monarch City” loss condition is a better timer than “the deck runs out” timer in Pandemic (which I never liked). It does mean you could lose very quickly, but that’s always a challenge and you can do something about it.
  3. The characters (and diseases, and specials) have a lot more chrome. Paladins fight well, hobbits hitch rides with eagles, the sorceress can infiltrate the lizards, the rogue picks up better rumors at the inn.
  4. The game contains 184 euphemisms for sex, liking “flying with eagles”, “infiltrating the lizard”, and “picking up rumors at the inn.”
  5. Defeating the general requires the players to converge, so it feels like teamwork. We’re the fellowship defenders of the realm!
  6. The dice add tension.  A disease takes 5 cards, but here each card gives you a die …. do you save a few cards or spend the extra for the (gross) overkill to prevent bad luck? (There’s probably a right choice, but I’m not sure it would be obvious).

On the other hand, the game takes 90-120 minutes.

So I’m lukewarm on the game, but it was a reasonable experience. OK to middling.


Written by taogaming

August 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

Posted in Reviews

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3 Responses

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  1. “The game contains 184 euphemisms for sex” – that had me cracking up!

    Thanks for the articles, they’re great! Keep up the good work!

    Shalom Craimer

    August 23, 2010 at 4:00 am

  2. Funny stuff. I think Pandemic+OTB is nicely themed, but sans expansion, it felt awfully abstract. It’s clear that Defenders comes at it from a very theme-driven approach.

    Did you like the role (roll?) of dice in the game? I’ve got to think helps distinguish it from Pandemic….

    Jon W

    August 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

    • I thought the dice added some tension (that is missing from Pandemic … “I’ve got 4 cards, can anyone pass me one?” More logistics. The fact that (euphemistically) slay the dragon in a specific place … and he may move, also adds tension (whereas Research Labs in Pandemic don’t disappear … barring a bioterrorist).


      August 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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