Time for another game day here at spalanz.com! I’ve been wondering if I should try to have some kind of structure to these things, so that each month sees at least one first look, one in-depth look, or whatever, but that might be too complicated for my easily-distracted mind to cope with, I’ll be honest. However, today we are indeed seeing a first look, as I delve under the lid of the newly-arrived kickstarter game, Journey: Wrath of Demons!
This was originally a kickstarter game from late 2013, which my friend Tony put me onto (as is normal for kickstarter games, if I’m honest!) but, as I was already heavily-invested in Shadows of Brimstone at the time, I was a little sceptical. I actually went in when an early bird pledge came available – still $170, but it was the sort of all-in deal that I usually go for with these types of games. As the campaign drew to a close, I was somewhat more invested with SoB, but still decided to go for a few of the add-ons, including scenery bits and some expansion stuff.
The campaign was actually pretty exciting, with a lot of additional stuff that really fired my imagination. Tony is really big into Oriental myth and legend, and while I have more than just a passing interest also, I wouldn’t say I know a lot of what I could expect in this game.
My goodness, there is a lot of amazing stuff in this game, though! It’s a co-operative adventure for 1-4 players, which is perhaps the principal reason I was attracted to it. A quest-based game is always to be enjoyed of course, and with all these minis, well it was kind of a no-brainer!
The campaign ended in November 2013, and it seemed to just languish in the ether until it finally started shipping a month or so ago. To some extent, I’d actually forgotten about it – definitely, my enthusiasm for the game had cooled. Of course, I had Shadows of Brimstone last Christmas, and while that was something of a let-down in quality, it still overtook pretty much anything else!
Until last Wednesday…
I took delivery of the game and, if I’m honest, right from opening the box I was really impressed with the production value. This is a miniatures-heavy game – in physical terms as well as game mechanics! – and the storage solution is perhaps the most elegant I’ve yet seen for a game. Three boxes, in which the miniatures are stored in plastic trays. It sounds so damn straightforward, but it just looks great in the box. There are cards and tokens, but the miniatures are really where the game shines, and are what add so much to the game.
So how does the game play?
As I said earlier, this is a quest-based game, with each quest having a different set-up. There are four pilgrims, characters controlled by the players, who are used in every game – if there are less than four players, someone is controlling more than one. I don’t really know enough about Chinese legend to comment on these, but the “main” pilgrim is a chap called Tripitaka, and if he dies the game ends. The pilgrims are doing something – in the above photo, I’m playing the introductory quest where the goal is to save the villagers being terrorized by the bull demons – and are opposed by the monsters, predominantly bulls of some sort in the base game, though expansions for undead and for spiders were part of the campaign, along with other random bits and pieces. Anyway!
Each pilgrim has skill cards and a weapon which upgrades as you gain experience throughout your games. On your turn, you can do the usual sorts of things like move and attack, rest to recover health, and “meditate” which causes you to spin the Fortune dial and potentially gain some useful Fortune cards – the dial is a ying-yang design, and should you flick to black, you must draw a Misfortune card, which can be damaging to you.
When attacking, you roll the custom dice – red dice are attack, and blue are defense. Each pilgrim rolls the same dice, but the skill cards give each something of a unique feel. In addition, you roll one, white pilgrim die, which determines how effective your weapon is. (There’s also a black die that some of the greater demons use). As you may know, I love custom dice, but these in particular feel really great. Combat is fairly exciting as you only have one chance to defeat each demon – if you don’t defeat it in one roll, then it’s staying around for later.
Something that’s really interesting about this game is how the combat works. If you roll enough attack power to defeat the monster, you now have an interesting decision to make – do you merely kill the demon, or attempt to cleanse its soul? Merely killing it will give you bad kharma points, while cleansing the soul will reward you with good kharma, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion it will work. You roll the white die in an attempt to equal or exceed the demon’s soul value – if you succeed, then all is well and the demon is removed from the board; if you fail, the demon is fully healed and you’ll have to go up against him once again.
I feel I need to mention the production quality of the game. The miniatures are superb, and the map tiles are really good, thick cardboard that feel really sturdy. The custom dice are also excellent. The cards, however, are much thinner than, say, CCG-style cards. The most worrying thing, to me, is the quality of the hero character sheets. They have three wheels – much like a FFG game – but the card for the sheet itself feels too thin to support them. Furthermore, there’s a movable plastic thing that tracks your health, but it isn’t really all that secure, and overall, the hero sheet is a real disappointment. Hm.
I only played the intro game last week, and it’s actually a whole lot of fun. I mean, it’s really easy, once you get the rules down, so I’m definitely looking forward to playing this a lot more and seeing more of the nuances of the game. I’ll hopefully get round to another blog, once I’ve managed to really get my teeth into this bad boy!