Many a legend has been shared over the centuries, of brave adventurers and their heroic deeds, of vile creatures slain and obstacles overcome. Well now I invite you to delve with me into the ‘Legends Untold’.
"Only a few of the Sax remain, driven from their homes by the invasion of the Newcomers. You’ve saved those you could and now you are gathered at the outskirts of the mighty city of Dun Mordhain. A group of unlikely heroes, the final hope of a conquered people, will use nothing but their wits and crude weapons to explore and gain access to the great free city."
Preparing for my first adventure I reached into the box, fishing out the rulebook and player aids…and then it hit me. There are 4 of them. Four player aids, printed front and back. Plus a comprehensive Rulebook. With some trepidation I ventured forth and, despite the learning curve, it took surprisingly little time for me to take my first steps into Legends Untold.
Starting Your Adventure…
The world unfolds from five, shuffled decks of cards, the contents of which are determined by the scenario or episode you play.
Location Deck – the locations you will explore;
Event Deck – this is your timer, use it wisely;
Obstacle Deck – these may block your way into the next location;
Barrier Deck – you might find loot or a campfire… if you can pass through;
Adventure Deck – anything else you could find in your journey: foes, traps, loot and discoveries.
The ‘board’ is built from location cards (creating a different layout each time you play) which provide a wealth of iconography detailing how your adventure will progress. Sometimes an obstacle will block your entrance, and this must be resolved before you can progress further. Once complete, the left-hand side of a location card details things that must be resolved once you enter, usually a foe or a discovery (inhabitants or ‘curiosities’ to be found) or sometimes both! Once you have successfully resolved these you are free to explore further, dealing with barriers which often block camp sites (where you can heal) or opportunities to search for loot. All of this takes time and you will need to prioritise this during your travels as the Event Deck acts as your timer, more on this later.
Although I found set-up takes longer than the suggested 5 minutes it was not difficult, and the Rulebook does a good job of walking you through this the first time. Both ‘The Great Sewers’ and ‘The Weeping Caves’ Novice Sets come with eight ‘one-off’ scenarios plus eight ‘episodes’ which form a longer ‘Cinematic Campaign’. All of this, as well as the variety of cards provided, guarantees that no two adventures will play out the same way.
Legends Untold: Delving Deeper…
The characters of Legends Untold are not what you’d immediately expect. They are ‘normal’ people, they’ve armed themselves with whatever they can find and rely on their ‘normal’ talents to survive. Characters begin with a weapon, a skill in using that weapon and two talents. I love that my labourer is a ‘Fungi Expert’ who can find spores and use these as a ranged weapon or that the guttersnipe can use his resourcefulness to turn loot into an advantage in battle. Although there are some suggested character builds you can build your character as you wish and there is plenty of choice available. Each time you complete a scenario or episode successfully you level up, adding talents or kit or upgrading your weapon.
Right from the outset there are big decisions to make and the co-operative nature of the game means this involves everyone. Characters are not individually represented as you travel through each location, rather a single party token represents the group’s progress. Will you leave through the brightly lit exit so you can more easily spot hidden traps or the dark one so that potential enemies won’t see you coming? Will your party storm into their next location, or will you take your time to sneak through?
Marching order matters and to start each round you’ll need to select a Scout to lead and a Guard to watch your back. You won’t ‘take turns’ as such, characters come to the fore as their skills and talents are required, all of which leads to the potential for much discussion and little down-time around the table.
Don’t Forget Your Watch!
Legends Untold is no laid-back wander through shiny caverns or stinky sewers. The Event deck acts as your timer, with ‘time’ being spent as you explore new locations or take longer than expected to get around that cave-in. Reaching the last card in the deck triggers a punishing event, losing that card from the game and leaving you just a little less time until the next one. This results in a careful balancing act; do you spend time looking for elusive loot whilst one of your party is nearly unconscious? That event might just knock her out, you’ll be forced to camp and bring another event one step closer! Now, running out of time won’t always outright kill you but it will make life much, much more difficult.
Test Your Luck. If You Are Lucky Turn To 142
If you grew up like me with your hand clutching 2 D6 and your head buried in a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, you’ll be no stranger to skill tests. That’s a good thing because you’ll need them…a lot! Want to enter a new location? Think you can jump that chasm? Need to persuade the thief not to kill you? Take a test. Your fate is firmly in the hands of 3 D6 with mitigation provided by the skills and talents of your party plus any loot you’ve been lucky enough to pick up along the way. Although the tests are plentiful there is a lot of variety and care has been taken to make sure each one is thematically strong.
Rather than a ‘you fail’ or ‘you succeed’ resolution a selection of outcomes is presented and, on some occasions, that little bit of flavour text will convince you to back away slowly with your hands in the air. Some will require one hero; others involve everyone, and a particularly successful roll on a Party Test can lead to one character leading another safely through the latest peril. I particularly enjoy the Staged Tests, a chance for the greedy amongst us to push our luck towards the best outcome.
Let’s Go Kill Something!
You’ll certainly face some brutal battles fighting the monsters of Legends Untold, however, I found the joy of bashing a drunken goblin round the head was marred by a somewhat ‘clunky’ combat system. You establish surprise then this determines advantage for the engagement round with additional rounds following. Each round characters have their choice of using a ranged or melee attack, dependent upon their previous decisions, with ranged attackers going first, starting with the heroes. You need to ensure the correct ratio of ranged/melee heroes to enemies as well as remember modifiers that may apply as a result. Ranged monsters do roll to attack though melee creatures do not. Scores are counted then applied to a table to establish the result.
Although it makes a lot of thematic sense for a ranged enemy to be disadvantaged when a labourer is waving an axe in his face this is an example of one thing that makes my list of ‘things I might not have remembered to do’ a little longer.
Yes, it’s fiddly to begin with; yes, there’s a lot of text to get through and icons to decipher, but the deeper you go the more there is to love. This game does a good job of replicating that RPG feel and those of you playing this style of game regularly will probably find the flow of this game much more natural than I did at the outset. I love to throw some dice around so the myriad of tests required was no problem for me but there is a lot to get your head around. Having said this, even on my second play-through I found things starting to make sense and the more I looked up from the Rulebook and Player Aids the more I gradually fell further into the Legends Untold world. There is so much attention to detail here, every card fits seamlessly into the theme and adds detail to your surroundings.
I’ve found myself growing quite attached to these simple characters. If your highly skilled warrior misses a hit you may be disappointed, but when my simple student lands a critical hit against a Goblin Brave I find myself cheering at my gaming table. As a relative ‘newbie’ to the hobby Arkham Horror: The Card Game is the only other card-based ‘adventure’ game I’ve played (though with a very different theme) and I found the game-play here far smoother, although set-up time can be a lot higher. Read about Arkham Horror here.
Legends Untold plays comfortably solo (I’ve been running it solo with two characters) and offers a ‘true solo’ option as well as the co-operative mode (though I suspect this could suffer from ‘alpha’ issues in some groups). A Games Master could lead the adventure through preparing the order of cards, there is the chance for free-form exploration and the ability to combine both Novice Sets for an even bigger experience. That’s not mentioning expansions that are available: the Alchemist Booster, the Treasure Booster, and the Druid Booster.
Overall there’s a lot of game in these little boxes and this certainly won’t be the last time they make it to my table.