At first glance, Legends of Andor appears to be your standard fantasy themed cooperative hack-n-slash adventure game. It has four typical fantasy-trope heroes, hordes of monsters, stacks of cards, and a handful of dice that could lead you to believe that the game is all about gallivanting around the countryside, slaying monsters and grabbing loot. In short, the game looks like dumb fun. There is a lot more to Legends of Andor than dumb fun though. This game has some smart, interesting tricks hiding behind its fantastical veneer.
Legends of Andor tasks up to four heroes with completing a story-based objective dependent upon which of the five included scenarios is being played. This seems straightforward initially. There are monsters on the board and an objective to complete, so kill the monsters, accomplish the objective, cash your check and throw a party! The fly in this particular fantasy ointment is the fact that each scenario is on a timer, and the timer counts down not only at the end of each game-day, but also with each monster that is killed by the players. Players have to be smart about how they spend their time and even smarter about which enemies to engage, and when to engage them.
Every time a scenario is played, the story, and overall objective, will be the same, but there are enough random aspects that the players will have to be smart with budgeting their time while searching for their objectives, and fending off encroaching monster hordes. Player efficiency and teamwork are key. The timing system makes the game feel as much like a puzzle that needs to be solved as an adventure that needs to be overcome. Thankfully, due to the random elements, there isn't a set in stone set of steps and procedures that will suffice, even when playing the same mission multiple times. The missions do get easier once players know what to expect, but they still need to be judicious with their actions in order to succeed.
The downside to the story-based scenarios is that repetitive play of each scenario can feel a bit samey as players will already know how the story plays out. Thankfully, each scenario has two difficulty levels, which adds a bit of spice to the mix, and each scenario is fun enough to hold up to at least a few plays, so there are still easily 10 or more plays in the box before the scenarios start to feel repetitive, and for players who particularly enjoy one of the included scenarios, or who want to challenge themselves by tackling the scenarios with fewer than four heroes, that number can be much higher.
The fantasy theme is bog standard, and the heroes will be traveling around acquiring loot, engaging in dice chucking battles with monsters, and raising their stats, but the game really succeeds because of its puzzle-like nature. You don't just feel successful because you went out and ground out monster after monster until you were a world beating behemoth, although the game can make you feel like a powerful hero. Instead, you more often feel that your success was due to proper planning, and strategic thinking. The game can come down to one lucky die roll, but you have to make the right decisions to set yourself up for success, and it's possible, and quite likely, that if you are in that situation where it is down to the final roll, you probably could have made smarter decisions on the way. The ability to mitigate luck, not just with in game mechanics, but with smart play, is really Legends of Andor's strongest feature.
A note on hero count: Legends of Andor gives the option to play with less than four heroes, although the scenarios can be significantly more challenging when played with less than four heroes even though the objectives usually account for hero number, and get easier for fewer heroes. I always prefer playing with four heroes, regardless of player count, unless I am actively seeking to challenge myself or my game group because more heroes means more time, and time management is vital.
A note on solo play: The puzzle aspect and need for tight coordination between heroes means that Legends of Andor is a great candidate for solitaire gamers, as long as they are comfortable controlling multiple heroes at the same time.
A note on “chrome”: The art and cardstock quality in Legends of Andor are all very good. All of the figures are represented by cardboard standees rather than miniatures though. The art on the standees matches the theme perfectly so, while plastic minis would have been nice, the game doesn't suffer for it.
The bottom line:
Legends of Andor is a sharply produced puzzle game masquerading as a typical fantasy cooperative game. While it looks like an open ended fantasy beat-em-up, each of the game's five included scenarios requires tight teamwork and proper planning to complete successfully. The only downside to the game is that once you have figured out how to best solve each scenario, there isn't a whole lot that will surprise you, although there are random elements to each scenario, so victory isn't assured even when you do know the proper path to take. Fortunately, this is also offset somewhat by the ability to change the difficulty of the scenarios. Legends of Andor is a great game system for people who enjoy cooperative games that are about more than simply killing as many monsters as possible.
Get this game if:
You enjoy cooperative games.
You want a game where you puzzle solving skills are as important as your dice rolling skills.
You like to play cooperative board games solo.
Avoid this game if:
You are looking for a true dungeon crawl that focuses on combat.
You prefer competitive games.
You don't like games that cater to one alpha player telling everyone else the best moves to take.
The copy of Legends of Andor used for this review was provided by Thames and Kosmos.