Andor – The Family Fantasy Game
- Designers: Inka and Markus Brand
- Publisher: KOSMOS
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 7+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Played 4 times with review copy provided by Thames & Kosmos
OK, I’ll admit it, when Andor first came out in 2012 – I was not thrilled with it at all. I tried it, got frustrated by the game that looked like a campaign game but was really a puzzle game in disguise. The game quickly fell out of favor, and it took me a long while to want to try it again…. After a few years, along with the arrival of both party games and my acceptance of cooperative games, I was ready to try it again at a gaming weekend with some friends. With a better framework in my mind to accept the game, I ended up really liking it – and in fact, the Andor series has become the mainstay of my pandemic remote gaming, as my online group has plowed through all the legends in two or three boxes over the Interwebs. We also had a chance to try the Liberation of Rietberg which was a simpler entry point to the series.
Now, a new “family adventure” version has come to the US market – and I’m interested to try it out. It was released in Germany in 2020, and was acclaimed by the Deutscher Spiele Prize as their Children’s game of the year. The story in this version (from the rules): Following a massive storm, a wolf mother is seen anxiously lurking around Rietburg without her cubs. The three young wolves were last seen in the mountains on the opposite side of the river. Could they be lost in the dwarven mines? You should investigate right away! But before you can start your search in the mine, you still have some tasks to complete. Mart, the old bridge guard, will only unblock the bridge after you have solved his tasks.”
Before I get into the details, it might be enough for you to know that this is a simplified version of Andor. In every game, the overarching story/goal is the same, you must rescue the cubs from the dwarven mines. In order to enter the mines, your team must first complete 2 to 4 task cards (based on your chosen level of difficulty). If you can find the cubs before the dragon moves into the city on the time track, you win.
So the board has Reitburg in the upper left corner. There are a bunch of spaces between the city and the river on the right side. Past the river is the Dwarven mine, but you can’t enter the mine until you finish the tasks of the bridgekeeper. At the top of the board is the Dragon track – 13 spaces in length, though in a 4p game, the dragon starts only 7 spaces away from Reitburg! There are eight large numbered rock outcroppings and forests; these are the spaces that Gors will appear on. They will always move to the next lower numbered spot, eventually making it to Reitburg if they are unchecked.
To start the game, each player chooses one of the heroes, and as in the base game, chooses to play either the male or the female side. Take all the dice of matching color to your hero and fill all the available spaces on your player mat with sun tokens. Each of the heroes is a little different – some have more dice than others, the Archer gets extra sun tokens, the Dwarves are able to use the caves on the board as shortcuts, etc. All the heroes start the game in Reitburg.
The board is set up. Place the 3 well markers face up on the wells, place a facedown fog token on each non-well, non bush space on the left of the river, place a face down mine token on the ten spaces in the mine to the right of the river. Put Mart, the bridgekeeper, in front of the bridge. The dragon is placed on the track on a starting spot corresponding to the number of players in the game.
The start and end task cards are put next to the table. In between these cards, place two to four task cards. When you first play the game, the first four games have specific task cards that are used. Once you are familiar with all of them, you randomly choose two (easy), three (medium) or four (hard) task cards. Read the task cards and set up the board with any other necessary things that are required by the particular tasks in play this game.
The player who holds the night marker starts the round by taking his turn. Each turn has two phases: Moving/Standing and then taking actions in your space.
First, you decide if you want to move. For each space that you traverse through, you must spend a sun token. If you decide to stay in the same space, you still have to spend one sun token to do that. Remove the appropriate number of sun tokens from your player board. If you are a Dwarf, you have one extra option – you can use the cave system to shortcut around the board. You can enter any cave entrance and emerge from another cave for a single sun token.
Second, once you are in your target space for this turn, first check if there is a fog token in your space. If so, you must reveal it. Many of the fog tokens give you things that you can put in your loot bag. However, it might cause a Gor to appear or it may allow the Dragon to move closer to Reitburg!
Then, depending on your space and what is in it, you may take further actions. If there is a well, you could choose to drink from it and gain 3 sun tokens back. Flip the well over to the dry side; it will not refill itself until nighttime. If you are at the watchtower, you can place a wood token there to light the fire and move the Dragon back one space (max 3 times/game). If you are at the merchant tent, you can but a torch for 1 gold (found on fog tokens) – max 3 times/game.
If there is a Gor in your space, you can fight it. Roll all your dice, and set any sword faces onto the matching spots on that space. If you have a fog token with swords on it in your loot bag, you can also use this token now to cover a space. If all the spaces are covered, then you have defeated the Gor. (Note, if you are the Magician, you only have a single die, but if you roll the Flash symbol, you automatically defeat the Gor!). Discard the Gor and move the Dragon one space away from Reitburg. If you did not fill all the Gor spaces, you must wait until your next turn to try to roll all your remaining dice. Of course, in between then, one of your teammates might move into the space and use his dice to try to fight the Gor as well! Your sword dice remain on the spots to show that you’ve already damaged the Gor in a previous round. You must defeat a Gor in a single day or else you lose your progress.
When you are in the mine, you have the option to search for the Wolf Cubs (but remember, you can’t do this until all the tasks are done!). However, this is a bit more difficult than the fog…. When you reach your target space, you must first roll your dice. If you get a torch icon, then you can reveal the mine token in that space. Alternatively, if you have a torch token (purchased from the merchants) in your loot bag, you can spend it as a torch icon for this turn. Most of these tokens will either force the Dragon to move forward or give you one of the three Wolf cubs.
Whether you choose to take an action in your space or not, there is no cost in sun tokens. You only use sun tokens in movement! As you are moving around and taking your actions, you can always pick up or drop off stuff in your space. In this way, you can exchange stuff with other heroes. If another hero is in your space, you can hand them stuff directly.
After the action phase, check to see if you still have sun tokens. If you do not, your hero is tired and he/she falls asleep immediately. If you are the first to fall asleep, take the Night Token. Play then goes to the next player clockwise. If your turn comes up and you’re already asleep, you are simply skipped and the next player goes.
Also check to see if you have finished any of the tasks – this might be finding specific things, or taking a token from point A to B. Once it is complete, you can remove it from the task area. If all of the tasks are complete, then Mart allows you to cross over the river into the mine.
So, the heroes keep taking actions in clockwise order until everyone is asleep. Then, you can follow the icons on the back of the night marker to take care of all the upkeep that happens as the heroes sleep. First, the Dragon flies towards Reitburg – roll the red die and move the dragon based on the roll. Then, move all the Gors to the next smaller numbered space – starting with the Gor on the lowest numbered space (therefore, there is no leapfrogging!). If a Gor reaches Reitburg, the red die is rolled and the Dragon moves accordingly. Then, based on the space where the Dragon currently is, introduce new Gors to the map, always placing them in the highest numbered available space. Next, refresh all the wells, take back all the dice and replenish all the sun token spaces on the hero boards. The player who holds the night marker starts the next round.
The game goes on until either the heroes have rescued the third wolf cub from the mine (they win!) or the Dragon reaches Reitburg (they lose!).
My thoughts on the game
So… at some point, I plan to play this with some younger kids – but as my current household only has adults, for now, I’ve only played this with adults… and to be honest, it is probably best suited for families. It is a great way to introduce the basic concepts of Andor to the littlest gamers, and once they have mastered this, it honestly wouldn’t be that big of a leap to get them to play the full game. The fighting is obviously much simplified, as is the monster movement (there is no leap frogging!) – but learning how to move around the map and manage your sun tokens is the same as the base game.
But the teamwork and planning is similar. You still have to roam around the board to accomplish your goals, learning how to transfer objects or leave them for others to pick up. As the heroes are asymmetric, you also learn to leverage the strengths and weaknesses of the heroes to best solve the task cards. That part of the Andor experience is still here, and with the slimmed down game, it’s easier to concentrate on this part of the game – definitely a plus with beginners. The puzzle solving is also a bit easier; as you don’t have to worry about the timing chart, you are free to attack enemies with abandon – only positive things happen when you attack; and that definitely reduces the complexity of the game.
I have played the game in person as well as online with a homebrew version on Playingcards.io. It’s been fun in both setups, though obviously a little bit more cumbersome online – but due to COVID – i’m still trying to get in whatever gaming I can!
Overall, the game is easier – but that’s what you would expect with a “Junior” version – but that’s not to say that the game can’t be made challenging on the hardest setting… However, the game also isn’t as compelling. Having the same end quest at the end of each game turned out to be a bit repetitive. The finding of the lion cubs in the mine is a bit of a lottery quest – i.e. find the three correct tiles out of 12; knowing that almost every wrong guess moves the dragon forward. Other than the one falcon tile, you have no way of looking ahead, so it really is just a guessing game. Due to the asymmetric roles of the players, for us, the same two characters usually went into the mine while the other two stayed out to fight off gors to push the dragon back a bit. While it builds some tension just due to the uncertainty of the flip, it is somewhat unsatisfying when repeated, and completely anticlimactic on the off chance that your first three flips are the cubs – as we had in our third game.
I think this would be good for teens or pre-teens, but mostly in the sense of getting them ready for full Andor. The tasks can be challenging, but ultimately, not as compelling as the stories in the full Andor game. I do believe that the game delivers what it promises – that is, a “Family Fantasy Game” and for those expecting that, this will be a good fit.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor
So, it’s a reskin of Andor. I played it with 2 kids. Neither liked it, they hated the die roll mechanic. Adults kinda-liked the puzzle aspect, but it was easily solvable. Myself, I don’t like this kind of puzzle, and constantly looking for a number to place a gor on specified area, wasn’t that fun.
Everything felt very dated, as in 1970, and it frankly will NEVER win from the other games in my collection, but if this is your only game, it will get played.
Thanks to both of you gentlemen for your insights. On on the “skip-it” side of the fence for my family of edgy pre-teens.