- Designer: Mike Elliott
- Publisher: Queen Games
- Players: 3-5
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 60-90 minutes
- Times Played: 4 with review copy provided by Queen Games
I first noticed the signs for Lost Legends at Essen 2012 – but at the time, there wasn’t much information available about it than some spiffy art. The brief description that I was able to get was: “It’s a card based dungeon crawl that uses a draft mechanic”. I was able to get a copy at GenCon 2013, and we have played it a few times since then. It should be in wide release at Essen this year (and thus, this review is part of our Essen Preview series).
The game is a competitive card-based dungeon crawl. Each player takes on the role of an adventurer and will explore the three levels of the game along with the other players. For each level of the game, players will get a chance to acquire new skills and weapons – and then they will get a chance to defeat monsters in order to score points.
Each player has their basic information laid out on a personal board. This board records their experience, mana, and life force on three separate tracks. The outer edges of the board also give the players specific areas to store their different types of cards (weapons, armor, spells, artifacts, skills and defeated monsters).
As I mentioned earlier, the game is mostly driven by cards. There are 6 separate decks of cards in the game – for each level, there is an equipment/skill deck and a monster deck. These are each shuffled separately and placed beside the board. For each level, you will use the entire equipment deck and you will use 3 monster cards per player in the game. Each level plays pretty much the same – the differences will come from what shows up on the cards. The more basic equipment and skills are found in the first level deck, and the least terrifying monsters will also be found here!
Each level follows the same pattern of: 1) getting stuff, 2) fighting monsters.
In the equipping phase, each player is first dealt a hand of 6 equipment cards. The players are also dealt one card from the monster deck for the particular level. (It’s helpful to know what monster you might have to fight first in the second phase as it may influence what sort of stuff you want to get in this first phase!) After getting a chance to look at the equipment cards as well as their first monster, each player chooses one of the equipment cards, plays it face down near his board, and then passes the remainder of the cards to the player on his left. All players simultaneously reveal their cards and then each player must somehow use that card – either adding to his adventurer’s skill set OR acquiring a new piece of equipment.
All of the equipment cards have two possible functions – skill or equipment. The skills that come on any particular card are found at the bottom. If you choose to use a card for its skill, you turn it upside down and place it under your board in the top left corner where you keep your skills. The only part of the card that you will see is the skill icons. There is no cost for doing this, you simply acquire the skills. In fact, you actually earn money for learning a new skill – you get a number of coins equal to the current level of the game. Of course, when using a card this way, you do not gain the ability of the equipment pictured on the card which is now hidden under your board.
If you choose to use the card for the equipment pictured on it, you pay the cost in coins to the bank – this cost is found in the upper right of the card, and then you place the equipment in the appropriate section surrounding your player board. Many cards can be had at a discount, and this discount is determined by having certain skill(s). If you have the right combination of skills, you might actually be able to get an equipment card for free!
There are four different types of equipment: weapons, armor, spells and artifacts. Your adventurer can have no more than 3 of any given type. The weapons are further broken down into 3 sub-types: melee, ranged and magical; the armor is broken down into 3 sub-types as well: breastplate, shield and helmet. You can only have one of each type of weapon or armor.
Once all players have done something with their chosen card, they pick up their new hand (just passed to them from the player on their right), and the whole cycle is repeated. This is done for a total of 5 turns. On that final turn, the card which is not chosen is simply discarded from the game – so that players always have some sort of choice when drafting a card.
In the second phase of each level, it’s time to bash skulls. Each monster card can be of one of four different types: animal, humanoid, dragon or undead. Each comes with its own life total as well as damage potential. There are potential damage modifiers on some monsters – particular types of weapons can be more or less effective against different monsters. Finally, there is a set amount of gold and experience that will come with vanquishing each monster.
The fighting part of the game also has a bit of a draft-like feel to it. As I said earlier, each player has one face-up monster in front of them which is dealt out in the first phase. The remainder of the monster deck (again, made up of 3 cards per player) is in the center of the table, and the top card is flipped face up next to that supply deck.
On your turn, the first thing you do is to make sure that the deck in the center has a face up card next to it. Once you do that, you have a few options. The simplest one is to just decide to fight the monster in front of you. I’ll get into that fighting bit in a second. If you don’t like the monster in front of you, you can pass it to the first counter clockwise player who doesn’t have a monster face up in front of him already. Then, in order to fill up the empty space in front of you, you select either the face up monster in the middle of the table or choose the mystery meat monster face down on top of the deck. In either event, it’s time to fight now.
Fighting is pretty simple. You get to choose any ONE of your weapons (Assuming you have more than one weapon) and you are allowed to boost its effects with a scroll or artifact if you have something that helps. The artifacts and scrolls that you use can only be used once per level, so you need to choose the timing wisely. Additionally, many of these cards require you to expend mana to get their benefit. You calculate the amount of damage done – being sure to modify it with any damage modifiers inherent to the monster. If you have done damage in excess of the monster’s hit point total, then you win and you resolve the battle. If you have not done enough damage, you mark down the amount of damage with chits and then the monster attacks back.
When the monster attacks back, he creates as much damage as it printed on his card. You can then modify this amount of damage with your armor cards. Additionally, you may have artifacts and scrolls which can also reduce the damage. Whatever damage makes it thru your defenses needs to be subtracted from your life total on the chart on your player board. If you’re still alive at this point, your turn is over, and your battle is on hold until your next turn.
If, however, either you or the monster is out of hit points, you resolve the battle. If the player is out of HP, the player must lose one of his skills and then sits out the rest of the fighting phase. He will come back into the game at full strength (minus the skill he forfeited) at the start of the next level.
In the case of the monster dying, you get gold and experience as printed on the lower right corner of the monster card. Your experience is marked on the left-sided track on your player board. If you look closely, you will note that a few spaces are slightly larger (3, 6, 12, 20, and 30). If you reach one of these spots, you will level up and you get a one-time bonus then:
- Receive 2 gold from the supply
- Move your life token and max life amount by one space
- Move your mana token and max mana amount up by one space
The gold is passed out in a unique manner as well. The active player first gives himself one gold piece. Then one to his left hand neighbor. Then one to his right hand neighbor. Then to himself… This pattern continues until all the gold (found on the monster card) is distributed.
You then see if you earn the challenge trophy for that type of monster (unless you already have it). You check to see if you are tied for the most number of defeated monsters of the type just vanquished. If so, you take the challenge token and place it next to you. You also take a 1VP marker at the same time.
The active player should also check to see if he qualifies for one of the bonus trophy tokens. There are 6 different types:
- Defeat 2 animals
- Defeat 2 humanoids
- Defeat 2 dragons
- Defeat 2 undead
- Defeat 3 of any one type
- Defeat one of each of the 4 types
These are worth 6 or 8 points to the first person to claim each type and the VP amounts go down as you are later in order to collect them.
Finally, the player takes the monster card, turns it over to show the monster type icon and slides this underneath the upper right hand corner of his board to show which monsters he has been able to vanquish thus far in the game.
This pattern of fighting monsters goes on until the entire monster deck is depleted. When the last monster card is taken from the center of the table, each player gets one more turn to defeat the monster in front of them. As there is no deck left in the center of the table, you cannot switch monsters anymore. You just get one more chance to fight. If your battle is still unresolved after this final turn, the moster just “escapes” and no rewards are handed out.
Now there is a little bit of cleanup to finish the level. First, bonus points are awarded for the challenge trophies – remember, these are the ones that move around as long as you are tied for the most of a particular monster type – if you are the current holder of a trophy, you score a number of VPs equal to the current level number.
All players also get to reset their board. Their life and mana amounts are restored to their maximum levels, and all cards are brought back to their unused status so they can be used again in the next level. The game then moves onto the next level – new equipment cards are dealt out, and you add even more skills and cards to your player board.
At the end of the the third round, there is a bit of final scoring.
1 VP per trophy token in your upper right corner of your board
VPs based on your experience track standing (between 0 and 20 VPs)
6 VP for most gold, 3VP for second most gold
Winner is the player with most points. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
Lost Legends is an interesting take on the dungeon crawl type game. You definitely get the enjoyment of creating a character and going toe to toe with some monsters. Blissfully, unlike most other dungeon games of late, this one isn’t cooperative – as that is a genre that has never been my favorite. It has gone over quite well with my kids and went over better than I thought with my regular Euro-game group.
For both of those groups, I think one of the positive aspects of the game is the limited game length. There are only 3 rounds in the game, and each takes about 20-30 minutes; the time of those rounds goes down as you become more familiar with the cards and the monsters. There is a little bit of a story arc to the game because all of the abilities and skills are additive to your hero – and trust me, you’ll need to have lots of weapons at your disposal to fight the level 3 monsters!
The card system is nice; I like the way that each of the equipment cards has dual purpose. It helps to ensure that you have plenty of choices when you are choosing cards/items. It also allows you a bit more latitude to play defensively – because if you are trying to keep your opponent from a particular item (which you might not really need/want), you can at least turn it over to use it for the skill icon.
The cards are also the weakness of this game (though I think this will be rectified with soon-to-come expansions). Each level only has 50 cards, and you have played the game 4 or 5 times, you will have seen all of the cards, and there isn’t much to surprise you anymore. Admittedly, the draft mechanic still prevents you from having a fixed strategy, as you never know what cards you’ll be able to choose from – but I feel that the game could benefit from more cards. I would bet that there will be expansion packs of more cards coming – as long as the game is successful. I think the game would be much better with a little more variety in item cards as well as some added variety in monsters.
The only other thing that I wish the game had (and this is because I’m a euro-gamer at heart) is some sort of catch up mechanism. If you get stuck with a creature that you can’t defeat early in the battle phase, you could end up being eliminated early on while everyone else gets to fight on gaining more experience and more gold as they defeat those monsters. Any defeated players have nothing to do and get no benefits until the next round. With only three rounds in the game, there just isn’t a lot of room to catch up.
The monster passing mechanic is cumbersome at first, but I think it is necessary. As i just mentioned, there are some times when you will realize that you simply don’t have the right combination of weapons and scrolls to defeat a certain type of monster (i.e. you cannot cause any damage to it). In this case, you just have to try to survive a round with it and then pass it off clockwise. Or, if you are lucky, you get a chance to pass it around the table before you even go into a futile battle with it. There is definitely benefit to staying in the round as long as possible because as long as you are still fighting, you can still collect gold from your opponent’s victories.
I would also caution first time players to make sure that they buy a weapon as soon as they see one in the draft. It is possible to make it through the first round draft without gaining a weapon, and if you do, you’re pretty much screwed. You cannot defeat any monsters without a weapon, and that means you lose one-third of your VP gaining ability. (Well, it’s actually not quite a third because the later level monsters are worth more VP, but still… who wants to be a spectator for a third of the game?!)
The artwork is the game is well done, and while there is a lot of information on the cards, the layout is simple enough that all of the information is easily found. The cardboard components are thick and easily punched as you’d expect from Queen. Rules come in 2 parts – a 16 page rulebook and a card appendix which outlines the abilities of all the different cards. The rules are a bit thicker than you’d expect for a Eurogame, but there are plenty of large illustrations to make sure that you don’t miss anything while learning the game. (I have in fact taken pictures of some of these explanatory figures in the rules and used them in this preview).
I think that Lost Legends is a solid entry point to the dungeon crawl/hack and slash sort of game, and it gives you the chance to play this sort of game without the 4-6 hour investment in Descent or Mage Knight. And I don’t say that in a bad way… After all, this is a release from Queen Games, a company whose target audience are Eurogamers. For gamers who are looking for a more complex, immersive dungeon crawl – I would expect those folks to be buying the games from FFG or Wizkids (Descent, Mage Knight, etc). For the Eurogamer headed to Essen, they can stop at the Queen booth, see something a little out of their comfort zone, but be reassured that they are getting the production quality and development of a known entity, and they can try out this 60-90 minute game. If they find that they like this sort of thing, they can graduate on to more complex battlers. But, for cube-pushing-loving gamers, this is probably just enough for this type of game.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Joe Huber (1 play): While Lost Legends isn’t my type of game, a friend had picked it up through Kickstarter, so we gave it a play. But while the base idea behind the game was solid, the game struck me as greatly in need of development. There’s a major issue with the pace of the game – it _plods_, frankly. There’s an issue with the uniformity of the cards; there really isn’t nearly as much variance as one would like to see. And there’s a huge random factor in which monster you start with; this isn’t always critical for the later players in the round, but is always an issue for the first player, and frankly doesn’t feel very thematic. (Why can’t I go kill the creature I see another player struggling with?) While I was not alone at the table in seeing these issues as flaws, most of those rating the game on BGG don’t seem to be as bothered, so perhaps the fact that the game wasn’t really a fit for me amplified these issues.
Craig Massey (6 plays): I’m not sure if this is my type of game, but in the half dozen plays, the game has not failed to entertain. I found the decisions on how to go about drafting equipment to be challenging and dealing with the random factors equally so. While I can understand some of the issues that Joe and Dale have with the game, I’m not sure they are serious enough to detract from my enjoyment – certainly in the short term and likely in the long term. I’m betting this finds a permanent spot on the shelf.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Craig Massey
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale (awaiting expansion cards)
- Not for me. Joe