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Kickstarter spotlight - Boardquest: Tales of Liria

If Boardquest: Tales of Liria doesn’t make you think of Warcraft III, then you either don’t know Warcraft III, or you don’t know Boardquest: Tales of Liria.



In Boarquest: Tales of Liria (live on Kickstarter for a few more days), you pick one of four factions: Humans, Orks, Elves, and Undead – oh, sorry, Demons. The Demonlord is invading the world and the three other factions need to set aside their feuds and eons-long distrust to overcome this threat. Mechanically, the game is at the crossings of a strategy game and an RPG: you hire units, upgrade them, move across a map, capture buildings, and fight of course. But you also have a hero, who may level up through experience points, kill neutral monsters across the map, cast spells/use skills, and equip all sorts of gear. However, to fit the board game medium, everything is turn-based, but with an economy of actions so tight that it should give a real-time flavor: each round, each unit may either move (up to their speed) or attack, and that’s it.



It's not Warcraft III though. You are limited to three kinds of units besides your hero, and each one can be spawned once and only once. They act like secondary heroes in a sense, except you upgrade them with gold, not XP, but they may also equip loot. The goal of the game is to slay the enemy hero – or to conquer five forts, but I don’t foresee this happening often. Since there is no economy (income is fixed, only slightly modulated by how many forts you captured, and how many units you already own), the game mostly boils down to clever positioning, a thoughtful use of your skills and spells, and some strategic vision regarding whether to hire more units or upgrade those you already got, whether to engage monsters for XP or focus on enemy units, etc.



In solo, you fight an AI that acts rather simply: each unit has a priority goal and will take the action that best allows it to fulfill it. The enemy side has a set number of units on the board, so you don’t need to worry about their strategy. The AI is therefore a rather odd adversary, but since you play through a succession of scenarios with precise configurations, you don’t need it to run an economy of its own to give you some punchback. The rules themselves are simple, smooth, and since they have been implemented as a video game, they cover all the corner cases. That’s pretty good of course.



Except this video game (which is only a demo at this point) may have killed my interest in it. The video game is clunky, ugly, and infuriating – non-intuitive mouse controls and the tight “one action per unit a round” rule conspires with the devious absence of an undo button to trigger an endless series of frustrations. The campaign has no save system and you are forced to restart from the first scenario each time you leave the game or die. In basic skirmishes (because the video game AI can handle things the tabletop one cannot), the AI has already optimized the use of skills, so playing against it feels crushing. If things were fast and smooth it wouldn’t matter, and going through the learning curve would be part of the deal, but here, restarting from scratch, going through the same loop of waiting to get gold, moving your slow, basic level units across the map one round at a time, engaging monsters in tedious dice-based fights to get XP, gets boring and dry all too quickly. Also, being limited to play as humans (no other faction is available for the player in the demo), who don’t seem to be a very engaging faction (the human hero’s special skill is to absorb one point of damage every time, which is possibly the most unexciting skill one may think of), does not incentivize much to keep playing.

 


I played about five or six times. I finally won a game. I feel it boils down to a lot of luck: whether you may seize a fort easily at the beginning (to get more income every turn), whether the random loot you find on the tiles is good or not (some loot gives you +1 in one stat, another one will enable you to shoot from a range and to stun your enemy at the same time), determine all too much the outcome of a duel that is otherwise too constrained. I also felt has too strong a feedback loop: if you fail your first fight against a monster, you need to recover, while if your opponent succeeds (because of, say, better dice rolls), they will get XP, become stronger, waste less actions, and as a result, get a headstart that you may never get to catch up. There are just not enough variables to act on. And just to stress that point: when a hero levels up, it has more HP, a stronger attack rate (it hits you more often), it deals more damage, has a stronger defense (so it becomes harder to hit it), and moves faster. So they also take down your units more quickly, gain XP, and so on. There is no catch-up mechanic that would make the whole game suspenseful.

 


It pains me to write such a negative review. I was rooting for the game. I like that it features just the right amount of minis to be cool without getting huge and needlessly overproduced. The loot is varied, and the basic system works well, with simple rules that don’t get in the way of playing the game. I feel that the production level matches exactly the meat of the gameplay, and I am very appreciative of all the choices that have been made in this regard. But after playing it a few times, I don’t feel any lust to experiment further with the game system. People in the KS have started to propose a crazy list of variants, which never feels really good: it means that the game’s mechanics are not fulfilling enough. I like it when games are refined in such a way that changing one part of it would threaten to break a finely tuned system. Here it seems you can just change anything. It doesn’t matter in the end. 

 


I still have a hard time letting go of my pledge. I like supporting indie games and this is typically the kind of game I like to play. But I failed to enjoy my virtual time with it. Would the physical management aspect of it (moving all the units one by one all by myself, rolling the dice for fighting) increase my enjoyment of it? Somehow, I very much doubt so. But at least I would no longer need an undo button.

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Behsaad Ramez
Behsaad Ramez
21 de mai.

Just wanted to share an update on this: We have implemented the undo last move action and various other balancing and quality of life updates as planned so if you are still interested please check out our website and store on https://www.playboardquest.com/.

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Behsaad Ramez
Behsaad Ramez
08 de mar.

Thank you for covering our game Zerbique and for your pledge on Kickstarter! Please note that the video game will still receive a lot of quality of life features like an undo button and improved UX before we release it. The Demo is there to give you a glimpse of the game system and have a chance to play around a bit. I have playtested the game hundreds of times with our community, organized tournaments and let me assure you that balancing and catch up mechanisms were a big part of the design process. A higher opponent hero level can be overcome with strategic decisions. The game is balanced so that luck plays a role but I assure you that…

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Behsaad Ramez
Behsaad Ramez
09 de mar.
Respondendo a

Thank you for your explanation. It does sound to me that you would enjoy our Solo Mode and our game in its board game version. We are still on Kickstarter for some days, so maybe you decide to back the board game version after all :)

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