Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice
By: Triton Noir
Overview: Ted Cheatham
After about nine months of painting and 40 hours of play time, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice has been completed. Due to its vast length and campaign format, I doubt this is a game many people will get a chance to complete without pure dedication. I was lucky enough to have two great friends who love campaign games like Lord of the Rings: Journeys to Middle Earth, Descent: Legends in the Dark, and Gloomhaven for example. And, we spend four straight days to play this to completion in about 40 hours. Your play time may vary with speed, but I still think you will need at least 30 hours. It is an expensive game with lots of components. Even at 30 hours of enjoyment, it is worth the price at $5 or less per hour.
Assassin’s Creed is a true campaign game based on the video games of the same name. Although I have seen the video game played, I have not played that much of it. One of my players has played them all and attests that the board game follows the video game very well. It uses a similar system as the game V-Commandos. The game comes with a series of envelopes called “memories” (you can equate these memories to chapters or scenarios in other games). Each memory will provide a new board set up and specific mission objectives to be accomplished. When you complete the memory, you pack most things up and open the next envelope and start a new set up and memory. As you progress you collect equipment and experience which can improve your character over the course of the game. So, like the other campaign games I mentioned above, there is no way to really play just one scenario. This does not mean that people and player numbers cannot change, it just means they need to take over where someone else left off in the campaign because the game permanently changes after each scenario and the decisions you made and outcomes of previous memories affect your current state.
Here is a general overview of how a memory works. Turn to the memory in the campaign book and build the map with guards, travel stations, hiding spots, etc. Next, open the envelope for the next memory. These memories can have all kinds of things in them such as, new equipment, new guards, rewards, etc. And, all of them have a “tower” sync card. I think all maps have a tower. And, if you have seen the video game there is a big tower and “the leap of faith”. Staying true to the video game, if you climb the tower, you do a board/tower sync. From the tower you get an eagle eye view to see things you may not have seen on set up. Most notably treasure chests. Gathering chests does not advance the mission but it does provide some neat rewards and adds to the difficulty of accomplishing the mission. I would say we thought the rewards were worth the risk of opening treasures most of the time. The memories have a story arc that not only explains the mission but how this mission fits in the overall scheme and goals of the Assassin’s Guild in Venice in the 1500s. The memory also has a way to complete a 100% sync. If you complete a 100% sync, you can earn a sticker reward on your campaign log. Some are very easy and some seem extremely difficult. Some examples of 100% syncs could be, do not use a hidden blade in this memory or have all assassins leave the board with no damage. We completed 20 of 42 reward stickers and got all of the treasure chests. The 100% sync in most cases was a way to add some extra difficulty to a memory as a challenge. If we ran into trouble and things got tight, the 100% sync goal was the first to be abandoned. One memory looked so bad on set up, we lost the 100% sync on the first turn!
Stealth is key. The assassins are like ninjas moving in stealth. And, if they are incognito, no guards will come after them or shoot at them. Assassins can move almost anywhere except through walls. And, if everyone stays incognito, guards reinforce at a leisurely pace. And, here is the rub…. if you move into a space with guards or they move into you, you must roll one die, per guard, for detection. And, if detected, the alarm will be sounded, guard reinforcements ramp up significantly, and guards chase you and shoot at you. It is difficult if not impossible to turn off the alarm once it is turned on. You may be able to become incognito again, but the guards will keep coming.
After you finish setting up the memory, you will head to the headquarters to program what your allies will be doing while you are out on your mission. (Note: there are two styles of HQ and this is a onetime game decision and I don’t want any spoilers). There are four places people can work in the headquarters. In the hospital, they can heal wounded assassins or provide minimal health for returning assassins. In the workshop they can build blueprints for new equipment and weapons. In the store they can get random available equipment. In the Contract area, they can fulfill a contract to slowly raise the level of the HQ. There is a separate story line that runs with the contracts in the HQ. Like any worker placement, you cannot do everything and must prioritize what you need at the time.
This game is a bit of a puzzle. On your turn, you turn over an event card which will give you something good or something bad for the round. And, it tells you which way the guards will move (unless you are adjacent to guards and are exposed, then they always move to you). From this you must plot your path and risks for mission success, 100% sync and treasure. After assassins move, the guards reinforce (remember that nasty alarm) and move and attack.
Overall, we really enjoyed it. As the guards got more powerful, so did we with new equipment and skills. Some lucky dice rolling and events did not hurt. I would definitely play again but, it will have to be 3 or 4 years to make it fresh again. I would play with the other HQ and choose different skills on upgrading next time.