Calvin Reviews Enchanters - a deck building game of loot, combos, and slaying monsters
Deck building games are everywhere, fantasy has been done to death - so when I tell you that Enchanters actually has something to add to the genre, you understand that this is worth your time.
Beyond the loads of differently-themed factions affecting your play experience (choose your own every game) and the humor which runs through the game (Normaltown, the dice-based village of Alea, a castle literally made of cheese) and the often hilarious flavor text which is unique to each copy of each card - and even the various bosses, locations, and dragons that make tangling with each game of Enchanters unique - the gameplay itself is executed with aplomb.
'she smites neutral too.' I love it.
Each piece of equipment in the game (purchased from a shared central row) is either an item or an enchantment. In the picture above, my Long Sword has been paired with an of Regeneration enchantment, giving me slightly lower defense but a way to purge my wounds, which are worth negative points at the end of the game.
Wounds are gotten from tangling with monsters, which you must defeat by raising your combat stats - acquiring new equipment is not that simple however, as new cards must cover up older cards, leaving only the stats on the bottom available.
That Long Sword with its +2 attack +2 defense is only mighty as long as it's the top card of your item stack - cover it with anything else, and those stats disappear forever.
Sometimes you'll have to take a card with awful upper stats - but amazing lower ones, meaning you'll want to cover it up with something good straight away - if your opponents will let you. As you build a mighty stack of stats, you'll be able to contend with more and more powerful monsters, and perhaps the game's dragons, each worth a mountain of points.
Each of Enchanter's many decks offers new ways to approach the game, from throwing in extra wounds to manipulating your opponent's equipment and your own. you can bury that Long Sword... only it bring it back up to the top again with a clever card acquisition. No matter which set of Enchanters you buy (as of this writing there are 4 - but I don't recommend one of them - more on that later) you'll use this equipment to fight an array of beasts, minions, knights, demons, flying unicorns, angels, goblins, bandits, technomancers, dragons, or even hulking overlords that can ruin your day.
Gindi was kind enough to send me the base set and the overlords expansion, both of which have a truly ridiculous amount of content, even moreso when combined. The Odyssey expansion, on Kickstarter now, adds even more stuff - as does East Quest.
East Quest is the east-asian themed expansion, and despite being almost certainly filled with quality cards and loads of good stuff, I recommend that you do not buy it.
There is an unfortunate tendency for many board games to draw from other cultures without hiring people from those cultures to work on them. An east-asian artist for East Quest would have given the character design more flavor, originality, and charm than the chopstick-in-hair treatment. This is not a knock against the Polish artists, whose work I love in the other sets - only that as Polish artists, their perspective on China, Japan, and Korea are limited. Again, I'm sure that the content of the box is great, but in good conscience, I advise you to not purchase this expansion - especially when there are three other great boxes of Enchanters to enjoy.
Fantasy and board games have a long history of borrowing liberally from cultures around the world while not giving anything back to those cultures - think of japan in gaming and you'll think of neo-tokyos awash in rain and neon, or stuck hundreds of years ago with cherry blossoms and samurai.
To reduce an entire people to its stereotypes - when those people still exist - is a habit I hope game publishers can leave in the past.
Despite all that, I still highly recommend Enchanters. It's an excellent game with a very creative core idea, tight decisions, and can be very very funny, especially when it's time to count wounds at the end.
You can back the game here, and if you do pass on East Quest, I hope you let the publisher know why so that they can hire artists or cultural consultants to work on their future expansions. We've seen from my last review how a more diverse range of perspectives can only be a positive step for our hobby, and that's a trend I hope that Gindi continues into the future.