Set in the world of Andor (as first introduced in the game Legends of Andor), the Liberation of Rietburg hones in on a specific event from the story of the original game. Rietburg Castle is being overrun with enemies, and our heroes (the four from Legends of Andor plus two new ones) must fight off these monsters while completing four tasks. Completing these tasks fulfills and ancient prophecy, but it must be completed before the dragon Tarok reaches Rietburg in order to exact his revenge and destroy the castle.
How It Plays
In Liberation of Rietberg, players must complete 4 tasks to fulfill prophecy and eventually defeat the dragon Tarok (but not in this game). However, the exact tasks required are not known at the start of the game. Instead, players will have to reveal tasks by clearing each of the 6 locations on the board of monsters.
Players take their turns by playing a card from their hand. To start, players have unique hands corresponding to their chosen hero, and each card offers a choice of 3 ways to play; essentially, you resolve the effect of the chosen icons. Eventually you can gain items (one time use cards) or ally cards which have more specific abilities.
Icons allow you to attack face-up monsters in your location, or move, or flip over face-down cards, or gain willpower tokens (which let you boost your combat). Each hero has some actions unique to them, including destroying face down cards, summoning a water-spirit to aide in combat, or attacking monsters at a different location.
Moving and flipping cards are nice, but combat is where Things Happen. When you play a card to attack, you generally have a simple combat value; if it exceeds the targeted monster’s attack value, you kill the monster and collect its card as a reward. Sometimes you gain other rewards, such as destroying face-down cards, earning money, or gaining ally cards.
You can boost your value by spending Willpower tokens, by using certain item or ally cards, or most commonly by teaming up with other heroes in the same location. Any other heroes who want to join in have to play a card from their hand with a combat icon on it.
Instead of playing a card on their turn, a player can instead take all of their played hero and ally cards back into their hand. When they do so, however, they must also resolve a Narrator card, which adds new enemies onto the board.
Again, players must clear a location of monsters in order to reveal the task at the location. These require players to meet certain conditions (such as clearing multiple locations, or trading in certain defeated monster cards) or defeating a powerful enemy in order to claim them. There are 6 locations and thus 6 possible tasks, but players need only accomplish 4 of the tasks to claim victory.
As the Prophecy Foretold…
If you’ve played the original Legends of Andor, you may expect (correctly) that the combat in this spinoff isn’t particularly flashy or exciting. Andor was never about bombastic heroes roaming around slaying monsters with aplomb. While each hero did (and does) have unique abilities and dice were involved, Legends of Andor rewarded calm, deliberate planning, thinking ahead, building up resources, and tackling enemies in a calculated, almost puzzle-like way.
As in Legends, Liberation gameplay is less about fighting big scary monsters with a big shiny sword, and more about solving the puzzle of how to complete four tasks in limited time.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with that. The game itself has no broken mechanisms, nothing that brings the game to a grinding halt. It plays in a reasonable duration of time, matching the advertised 40 minutes – possibly even less. You have short term responsibilities – fighting off an endless stream of monsters – balanced against the long term goal of completing 4 dangerous tasks.
Yet as I was playing, there was nothing that really sucked me into the game. Nothing really engaged me, either with the story or the mechanisms. When it was over, it wasn’t that I hated the journey… I just fell no call to return to it.
The advantage that Legends of Andor has over this game is an actual story. Events lead one to another in that game, resulting in narrative that makes sense while allowing players to play through the game without feeling railroaded. That made it easier to get into the story, and more exciting to find out what happened next.
Here there’s a “story” with an attempt at being loose and open-ended so you can play the game repeatedly without experiencing the exact narrative again and again. This falls flat, however, since the flavor text jars with what’s actually on the board.
“You hear a noise in the dungeon,” a card reads. “What could it be?” (I paraphrase but…)
An intriguing sentiment… except that you look at the board and see the dungeon already has a stack of cards on it including a face-up monster. So much for intrigue. It would have been more immersive to just leave off flavor text entirely.
It also does not help the game that all six locations are identical. There are no special attributes or functions, and you can move directly from any given location to any other given location.
Even the whole “prophesy” setup feels weak, given that you can freely choose which of the tasks you’re going to complete, and there’s no deduction involved in sorting out which tasks will help fulfill the prophecy.
The point I’m trying to make is that the theme just has too many holes to serve as an engaging part of the game.
That leaves the mechanics, and like I said there’s nothing particularly wrong here. It just doesn’t quite hit. There’s always something to do, and players have choices as far as what thing to tackle next, but none of it feels particularly interesting to me.
I think what it is, is that the short term problems are not really a threat. In that sense, there aren’t really any short term problems. You can leave a given stack to pile up with monsters and never have to worry about consequences. Thus, the game lacks tension. It fails to make decisions feel meaningful. Sure, you can choose to tackle stack 2 or stack 5 of monsters, but the differences are slight, and you never have to choose between dealing with short term problems that could end the game and long-term goals you need to win.
I can remember only one time when a newly dealt monster card forced us to re-think our strategy for the next turn, when that should be happening almost every time.
I’d say this is a game for Andor fans, but honestly it doesn’t seem to add much to the Andor experience, or deepen the lore in any way.
And again… it’s not a bad game. I don’t hate it. But with thousands of games releasing each year, a game has to do more than “not bad” to keep my attention or earn a recommendation.
There are better puzzle-y games out there. Better castle defense games. It doesn’t deepen the lore of the Andor universe. I suppose if you absolutely love Andor but want a quicker, more portable game featuring your favorite heroes from that game, this might be worth adding to your shelf. Other than that? I don’t see the point.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Thames&Kosmos for providing a review copy of The Liberation of Rietburg.