- Designer: not credited
- Publisher: Power of Gamers
- Players: 2 (in version I was sent), reportedly will play up to 4
- Age: 14+
- Time: 60-90 minutes
- Preview prototype sent to me by publisher
So I don’t normally do Kickstarter previews, but the timing worked out right for Altenor Secrets this summer. I was sent a preview prototype copy which is a limited 2 player only duel version of the game. Normally this sort of game doesn’t make it to the table, because I rarely have only two player gaming sessions. However, due to the covid pandemic, I have had a much increased amount of 2 player gaming. And due to the infrequent nature of my two player sessions, I don’t have many games for this player count in my collection and it was nice to have something new to play.
In this head-to-head game, each player controls a team of 6 characters. Each of these characters has actions and abilities which are specific to them (based on their guild), so you have to use them wisely and at the right times to achieve your goals. The goal is to fight for the Tower of Altenor, which is represented by a circular board consisting of nesting rings. These rings can move during the course of the game, so you have to continually monitor the board situation and continually adapt your strategies to the changing set up of the board. Each ring is composed of 8 areas representing grand halls with specific rules. The board center is occupied by a Nexus, a node of power deep in the tower of Altenor.
To prepare the game, the board is placed in the middle of the table, and the five concentric rings are placed on the appropriate places. In the innermost ring, Atorium tokens are placed on their matching symbols. Each player gets a deck of dial movement cards as well as a deck of battle cards. A starting player is chosen, and then the players choose an available Guild, I didn’t bet for the game, the composition of their team, and skills for those team members. Each player then places a team member on their base camp and three of the entrance Halls which circle the exterior of the board. It is important to note that you have 60 members, but only four will be activated in each round. Two of your team members will be in reserve. Your character could be a fighter, and would have a +1 bonus on attacks. Your character could be a runner, who have benefits with easier moving and pushing actions. Alternatively, your character could be the dial holder, this is the only player on your team who can use the dial cards and therefore change the board layout.
The overall format of the game is simple. The game is played over four rounds. In each of those rounds, players will alternate activating one of their team members and then performing actions with said team member. When all 4 characters on both sides have taken their actions, the round is over, and some interim scoring is done. At the end of the fourth round, end game scoring is done by resolving the hidden bets.
So on a normal turn, when you activate one of your characters, you generally get take two regular actions. Most actions can only be done once per turn – with the exception of staying in the same place, and moving to another room. Other possible actions include impact ( that is, pushing a character into an adjacent space), attack, rob ( where you try to steal a treasure from another character), or run (where you move 2 spaces in the same direction).
In cases where the action is challenged – such as an attack or an attempt to rob, the action is resolved using battle cards. Each player has a deck of 5 cards with numbers 2 through 6. For the action, a card is chosen, and the value on that card is modified by any bonuses or penalties from the character or the board. The player who has the higher value wins the encounter. If players do not wish to use the cards, they can also use the more random die roll. When the entire deck of number cards is exhausted, they are all picked back up to be used again. If you win an attack, you push the losing defender out (As if it were an impact action) into an adjacent space.
There are also some free actions which can be taken as often as you like. For instance, if you are using your dial character, you can use one of your dial cards to change the orientation of one of the Rings of the board. When you make a move on the board, you place a token onto the ring which was moved, because the next time a ring is moved, it cannot be the same ring in the opposite direction. This prevents players from simply undoing a change made by the previous action.. Other free actions include picking up or dropping off Treasures.
So, you’re doing all these things in an attempt to score points. There are six main ways of scoring in Altenor Secrets.
1] Hold both objective halls at the end of an activation – score one point at the end of any of your turns when you have a character in both of the objective halls
2] Carry Atoriums – The atoriums are the treasure tokens found in the center of the board; at the end of each round, score 1 point per atorium in your possession
3] Control both base camps – at the end of Rounds 3 and 4, if you control both of the base camps, score 4 points.
4] Knockout an opponent – each character has 4 life points, if your fighter is the character that reduces an opponent to zero life points, score 5 VPs
5] Abilities – some special abilities grant VPs.
6] Bets – at the start of the game, you choose a bet (might be atoriums, base camp control, opponent eliminations, etc). Depending on how well you meet the criteria on the card, score 0, 3 or 6 VPs at the end of the game.
The scoring can be a little complicated, but there is a game sheet which serves as the scoreboard – as you play through the rounds, you place markers in your color onto the sheet to remind you how many points you have scored. The player with the most points wins. No tiebreaker is listed in my prototype rules.
My thoughts on the game
Altenor Secrets is an interesting duel – players use similar pieces to try to control the different areas of the board. There is a lot going on, and you are constantly pulled in different directions. In the short term, trying to get control of both objective halls can rack up the points quickly; especially since you keep scoring points at the end of each of your turns where you hold both. Trying to lock down the treasures for the end of the round is also a reliable way to gain points. On the other hand, the long play – controlling both base camps and maximizing your bet payout – can score points in huge chunks in the end game. Thus far, we haven’t found a dominant strategy, and that has given us a lot to explore in this game.
The game does allow for some planning; you can definitely set up long term objectives and slowly work towards them. However, the shifting nature of the board can also allow you to make quick tactical changes that may surprise your opponent. Trying to find these opportunities where you might be able to rotate a ring and then quickly grab a treasure or take control of an objective room makes this game interesting.
The game takes us just over an hour. Our plays have gotten a little faster with the increased comfort with the rules, but successive plays have taught us some of the nuances and more advanced strategies, and we now also have a bit more to think about on each turn. (For instance, we’ve now seen how powerful a successful bid can be – and in order to accomplish most of them, you need to be thinking about them throughout the whole game!) Though the board state can change, I often like to take a minute at the start of each of the four rounds to figure out what order I’m going to activate my forces as the timing on this can be crucial. You’ll want to save your Dial holder character until the time where you want to shift the rings – maybe this is to open up a passage for a later character of yours, or maybe it’s to slam the door shut on an opponent’s character so that they can’t access a particular room or character. You might also be able to set up a nice ambush for your fighter so that they can come and deal the killing blow on a weakened opponent. The 5VP bonus for this kill can be a big part of your final VP total.
A lot of work has been done to develop the universe in which this game exists. Both the website as well as the printed prototype rules have a lot of backstory and world-building to try to bring theme to this game, and it also appears that there will be more games set in this universe in the future. I am admittedly generally not swayed by the theming of games, so I may not be the best judge, but it certainly looks like the world of Altenor has plenty of detail for you to explore.
It is hard for me to really comment on the components, as everything I have is clearly a pre-production prototype. However based on the quality of their pre-production stuff, it certainly looks like the finished product will be quite impressive. They did include samples of some of the Miniatures they plan to include in the campaign, and if you like that sort of thing, they are pretty nice.
The kickstarter campaign just went live this week, if you are interested in this game with its extensive back story, you can head over to their campaign page for more information and likely updated rules and graphics. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/powerofgamers/altenor-secrets-the-board-game
I am hoping that I will get a full version of the game later as I’d like to see how this plays in the multiplayer setting (whether teams or a free-for-all) as I like the ideas here, but honestly, I don’t see myself converting to a 2p only gamer. The rules for the multiplayer game are supposedly coming soon.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor