Review of The Forests of Adrimon (Hexplore It!)

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HexPlore It! The Cover for The Forests of Adrimon

The Forests of Adrimon is the second in a series of three HexPlore It games.  The third just recently funded on Kickstarter, and I think the second one (The Forests) just came into retail distribution.  I knew it was a Kickstarter, but I picked it up from a retail store.

Fantasy Cooperative Game

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Basic Set-Up

So, TFOA (The Forests of Adrimon) is a cooperative game for 1-6 players.  It’s an exploration game (within a forest) in a fantasy universe.   It’s probably called HexPlore It because the world is made of … wait for it … hexes.

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The Floromancer Character Role

Each player in the game takes on the role a single hero in the game: you choose both a Race (see below) and a Role Mat/Profession (see above).

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Races

The Heroes all work and move together around the hex map, trying to level up to beat … the big Bad Boss … Adrimon!

First Play: Solo Experience

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So, my first play was a solo adventure.  They adhere to Saunders’ Law and have a very viable solo experience.   Set-up took a while: there are A LOT of components.

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Here’s the thing: I HATED my first play.  I lost within a few rounds, even after I “cheated” a few times to stay in the game.  I HAD to be doing something wrong!  I felt like I had no chance to level up, and the Dice just work against me!

And I was doing something wrong:  so here’s a public service message if you play the game:

You can use gold to update your Abilities and Skills and Health and Hit Points. 

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Skills! The first update costs 3, then 4, then 5 … around the rim of the skills!

I missed this rule in the first playthrough (which is clearly on page 13 of the rulebook), and didn’t think I had a chance.  Once you know you can spend gold to update these, you realize how precious and important gold is!!

10-Sided Dice Rolls

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10-sided dice for Navigate, Explore, Survive

At the beginning of every turn, each player rolls 3 10-sided dice for Navigate (green), Explore (yellow), Survival (blue).  If you fail (roll over your skill value), there are consequences (get lost, no gold, lose food).  In the beginning of the game, your stats are very low and you are just barely surviving!!!  So, you find yourself barely getting by.

Public Service Announcement: spend your gold to up you Explore ASAP:  this makes it more likely to get 2 gold per turn, which you can use to up your other stats!

Second Playthrough: 2-Player Game

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Our second game went MUCH BETTER once we realized that we could use our gold to up our stats.

The game, in broad terms, seemed to play out like this:

  1. In the first half of the game, we explored and found Relics (special items needed to beat the big Bad at the end).   We tended to avoid combat, and in fact our first combat was halfway through the game!
  2. In the second half of the game, we embraced combat and fought a few more things.  We also ended up spending a lot of time in the cities trying to up more of our stats, getting ready for the final combat (and trying to get more Relics).
  3. The final combat was pretty intense: almost a half hour and we should have died, but we won!

We had fun, but there are a lot of things that were … suboptimal.

Dry-Erase Markers and Mats

Each player in the game uses a mat which works with a dry-erase marker.

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Dry-erase markers

So, because 8 (?) role mats were dry-erase, almost ALL mats in the game were dry-erase, even though they didn’t need to be!  There were 10 mats for a lot of BIG BAD villains, and they were dry-erase, there were Location mats, Game Turn Mats, Sentinel Mats, .. 18 total!  And frankly, the only ones that “really needed” dry-erase were the character mats (as you constantly updated stats, and erased and drew).

“Why is this a big deal?  The dry-erase of the other mats didn’t get in the way did it?”

No, but here’s the thing, the dry-erase didn’t quite work in the game.  Here’s why:

  1. The dry-erase markers in the game were TOO FAT!  They SHOULD HAVE BEEN ultra-fine dry-erase markers!
  2. The area (for the backpack) for writing equipment was too tiny and didn’t work for keeping track of your stuff!

Take a look at your mat:

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A Character

Now, take a look at the “backpack” area:  it’s a small 2 inch by 2 inch area where you have to write TONS of stuff, with a fat marker!

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Backpack

Can you read that? I can’t and I wrote it!

Suggestions for the Mats

There are 3 suggestions to fix this:

  1. Get rid of the dry-erase mechanism altogether and use pencil and paper
  2. Use ultra-fine markers and make the backpack area a little bigger
  3. Use the back of the unused characters as your backpack instead of trying to fit your backpack in a smaller area.

The back of the character mats is pretty cool: they have pictures:

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The backs of the character mats

These pictures are REALLY COOL!  But I don’t think I EVER looked at the picture in the entire game!!   BUT, if you just had a “blank” tableau on the back, then the characters could use two mats to play: one for the character, and one for the backpack!  You might even be able to keep the fat markers!

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Use two mats! One for the normal character stats (left), and the back of an unused character (right) for a backpack! Here, the back of an unused character is a cool but never seen picture!

It’s weird that SO MANY MATS are in the game, and only the character mats (and Battle mat) need to be dry-erase; it seems a waste that the other 11 are dry-erase.   All we could figure out was that they did that for manufacturing: it was cheaper to make ALL 18 mats dry-erase.

The dry-erase works “ok” for the stats, but it doesn’t really work for the equipment.

Time To Play

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The back of the box says that the gametime 60-180+.  Um, it took us EIGHT HOURS!  After the first FOUR HOURS, we set the game aside (see above) so we could come back to it later.    The second play took ANOTHER FOUR HOURS!!

Granted, it was only the second game, but I feel like I had most of the rules by that point, so maybe an hour of that would be “learning stuff”.

Be aware, if you play the game and get to the end, it may take you 6-8 hours.  We joked that it was only 60-180 minutes if you died early.

The Rulebook

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The rulebook

There were a lot of problems with the rulebook.

  1. Black background, white text.  This is a personal pet peeve of mine: it’s almost always harder to read!! But, people like to do it because it looks more “thematic” (Oh, this is a dark game).
  2. It’s too small.  This is a big game and the rulebook seems “too small”.  A lot of rules which would belong together on a page span multiple pages and make it harder to read.  For example, combat takes almost 28 pages to describe!  It was very frustrating to read about combat as you paged through the book!
  3. The rulebook won’t stay open.  If I wanted to keep the rulebook open, I had to “hold it” open!  I am used to board game rulebooks that just stay open when you put them on the table.  The binding of the rulebook forced you to hold it open to see things!
  4. The text was too close to the binding.  In other words, I had to “force” the book open to see all the text that was close to the binding.
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Black background, white text!  Have to hold rulebook open! Text too close to binding! 

The rulebook itself did describe most of the rules.  But, a lot of rules were also on dry-erase boards.    IMG_4584(1)

For example, a lot of stuff for the Waypost is on this dry-erase board (above).  Similarly, rules for Sentinels, the Battle Sites, the Enthralled Cities, and Elowen’s Grove were on other dry-erase boards.    We got used to it when we played, but it was non-intuitive that the rules were so spread out.

After we played, I was used to having the rules spread over multiple boards and in fact, I think I liked it: we weren’t “so tied” to the rulebook.   But, I think I wanted more in the rulebook.

Summary Overall

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In the end, my friend and I had a good time playing the game, in spite of the everything.   It felt fairly balanced.   We did “game the game” a little by spending way too much time in the Enthralled Cities.   We were surprised that Combat wasn’t more upfront (that could have just been the way we played).

We felt like there were too many rules for what it was.  The rulebook (grumble) was constantly held open as we had to look up stuff.

We played it, we won, but we don’t think we have a desire to play it again! It almost felt like a story/legacy game: once you’ve played it all the way through, you are done because you know what to expect!

Conclusion and Score

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A Winning game!

I’d probably give the components a 5-7/10 (it would be 8 or better but the dry-erase system didn’t work that well).  The pictures were awesome and thematic, and I felt like I was in a forest with the hexes.

The rulebook was a 6/10: it should be less, but because it actually taught the game, I have to give it at least a 6.

The gameplay was fun ONCE WE GOT INTO IT:   7/10 for gameplay.

The game was too long and doesn’t have a lot of replayability.   BUT I plan to give the game to some friends and have them play.  If you look at this game as a legacy game with a 6-8 hour playtime AND YOU KNOW THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE GETTING, then this game would be a lot more fun.

I am really conflicted on what to give this game as an “overall”: When we played it, we had fun, but that was despite the issues.    If you know what you are getting into, I think this could be a good game.

 

 

 

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