Lords of Xidit
- Designer: Regis Bonnessee
- Publisher: Libellud/Asmodee
- Players: 3-5
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 90-120 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Asmodee
Lords of Xidit is another game that looks awfully familiar to another game already in my game collection – Himalaya. I still remember my first game of Himalaya – being blown away by the novel-to-me scoring system. That system remains in place with a few small changes to help the game flow better.
At its heart, Lords of Xidit (LOX) is a pick up and deliver game that uses action programming. The board is made up of 20 locations. These locations are inhabited by either a supply of people OR by mean ugly monsters that are defeated by the right combination of the aforementioned people. Once you defeat a monster, you can take victory points in any of three different “currencies”. That’s about it… sounds simple, right? Not so fast, my friend!
The game is played over 12 rounds, each following the same pattern. To start, players choose their actions for the turn. Each player has an action board with 6 slots, and in each of these slots, they rotate the wheels to select an action. There are only 5 different choices: move on red path, move on blue path, move on black path, take an action at my current location, and do nothing. Once all players have programmed their actions, then they take turns – going clockwise around the board – doing an action on their board. The round will continue until all players have taken all of their actions.
Moving is a simple thing – cities are connected to, at most, three other locations. You simply move your pawn down the path that matches color from your order board. If you choose the “do an action here” action, what you do depends on what is at that location.
If it is a people location, you select the least powerful unit available at that location. This is where timing can come in important, because if you need a specific type of unit, you may need to make sure you get there and take the action at the right time to get the guy you want. You are limited to only recruiting one person per city per game turn, so you’re constantly on the move.
If it is a monster location, you fight the monster. To defeat the monster, you spend units matching the “cost” on the bottom of the monster tile, and then you get to collect the spoils. There are three different types of rewards: 1) you can take X gold coins as stated on the tile, 2) you can place Y influence markers in any adjacent territories to where you fought, or 3) you can build Z levels of tower next to that space – assuming that no one has built there yet!
Once your turn is over, if you defeated a monster OR you took the last unit from a people tile, you then get to fix up the board. You discard the used tile into the discard pile for that type, and then you take a tile of the other kind to place on the board. There is a little waiting area for each of these two types of tiles, so players have advance knowledge of which tiles are going to show up, and where on the board they will appear (because these tiles are all numbered and they are always placed on the board space that matches their number).
That’s pretty much the whole game. You just move around collecting guys and then use them to defeat monsters on the board and collect spoils in one of the three victory currencies. You do this for 12 rounds of 6 actions each. At the end of each group of 4 rounds, there is a little bonus paid out to whichever player has the most of each of the five types of units. The winner of each of these little contests gets a small bonus in one of the three victory currencies.
So is that it? Not quite – I still haven’t gone over the fairly unique victory determination system. At the beginning of the game, one of the players randomly orders the the scoring tokens (one each for gold, towers and influence). They are placed on the board at the start of the game for all players to see. When it comes time to see who wins, you take the first category and score it. Whichever player has the least in that category is immediately eliminated from the game. [in a 5p game, two players are eliminated at this first stage!] Then you move onto the second category, and again, you eliminate the player who has the least. Finally, with the final scoring objective, you see who has the most to determine the winner. (Or if you want to keep the parallelism going, you look at the third criteria, eliminate the player who has the least, and then the player left in the game is the de facto winner!).
Money is simple to score. You just count your coins. The towers are also fairly easy to score – you simply count up the number of tower sections you have on the board. The influence one is a little bit more difficult. Each region on the board has a scoring chart on it, showing points for the most influence markers and second most influence markers on that space. The central space on the board offers a much larger reward, but there is also a box on this space so that influence markers are hidden from sight. To figure out your influence score, you simply score each of the regions on the board and award the appropriate influence points to the players – and again, the player with the fewest influence points at the end of the round is eliminated.
My thoughts on the game
It had been a long time since I had played Himalaya, and having had another taste of it here, I’m sad that it took so long for this game to get back on the table. The unique scoring system makes you constantly worried about your standing in the three different victory currencies, and this makes the game a tight affair as you’re always trying to figure out where you stand. Ideally, you want to second to last in each of the first two scoring criteria and then concentrate your efforts on the final one to guarantee victory.
However, in practice, this isn’t such an easy thing to do! You’re somewhat at the mercy of the monster tokens that you are able to fight – because each of them offers a slightly different array of rewards. Even if you’re trying to concentrate on tower sections, it’s hard to pass up the offer of an easy-to-beat monster that might give you 5 coins or 2 tower sections. Additionally, with the hard-to-predict nature of the troop drafting, you sometimes have to settle on fighting the monsters you have the people to defeat.
The programming nature of the game has never been my favorite, as I find it very stressful. There are only 12 rounds in the game, and if you get knocked off cycle even once, you’ve lost a good portion of the game compared to everyone else. As there is only one path of each color from a given space, there’s not a lot of room for making up for an error in programming or an unexpected action of an opponent that then screws you up.
However, I think that LOX makes up for this by being a bit more predictable in how the tiles come up on the board. In this version of the game, you can always foresee the next tile of each tile – both its identity as well as its location on the board. This allows for some advanced planning if the board is set up ok. For instance, if I see that there is a recruiting spot with only one unit left on it, I might expect someone to go and collect that last guy. When that tile disappears from the board, a new monster tile will come up – and I might already be headed to the location of that new tile to defeat the monster as soon as it poofs on the board. In the old version, you rolled a d20 to decide where the new tile went, and this was a very chaotic experience!
The new art is done by Naiade, and it certainly continues the theme started with Seasons. There are a bunch of figurines in the game which are quite nice. I wouldn’t say that they are 100% necessary, but they certainly add a bit of heft to the game and make it an enjoyable experience.
On the whole, I find this a more refined version of Himalaya, and I would prefer to play LOX over its predecessor. It is a challenging take on the pick-up-and-deliver mechanic and the game forces you to be tactically responsive to meet the changing victory conditions in each game.
Thoughts from the Other Opinionated Gamers
Karen M – I just wanted to comment on the planning-your-moves-out part of the game. I normally dislike this mechanic in games because I have a hard time seeing too far into the future, but in this game I thought this system worked beautifully. I never felt like I screwed it up so bad that I lost a whole turn; maybe I missed recruiting one unit but that was it. The game length seems just about perfect–I dislike it when game extend beyond the point of being fun.
Dan Blum – I liked some aspects of Himalaya, but the random placement of the tiles was just too chaotic for my tastes. LoX improves the game significantly by having the tiles placed in fixed locations with some lookahead possible. The other changes are smaller but I think also good: it gets rid of the different sizes of villages (in LoX any village can have four towers on it) and adds monsters that can be fought from anywhere with any units (they provide lesser rewards than the others, but that’s still better than being stuck in an area of the board where there’s nothing you can defeat).
The only element missing from the original game is the set of event tiles used in the advanced rules, which I do not miss since I never used them. I suspect that if LoX is successful we will see something like them in an expansion.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, John P, Karen M, Dan Blum
- Not for me…