Monday, January 26, 2009
Board Game Review - World of Warcraft Adventure Game
With all the hubbub about World of Warcraft (otherwise known as WoW), I thought it would be cool to have another theme week. I have three World of Warcraft games - the adventure game, the miniatures game and the collectible card game. I'm going to review all of those this week, starting with the adventure game. And I'll warn you right up front - the adventure game blows goats. I'll leave you in suspense on the other two until later this week.
WoW Adventure Game is kind of like Runebound, in that it's almost exactly Runebound. You wander around, you fight bad guys, you get treasure, and you try not to get killed. You level up, you get stronger, you get more bitchin' gear, and you explore the world. So far, this is Runebound, but with a Blizzard license.
But there are differences. For one thing, the Runebound board is a really pretty overland map with a cool hex grid, while the board in WoW Adventure Game is a bunch of trails that connect circles, and it looks like it was crapped out by an artistically inclined brontosaurus. Runebound lets you pick from a huge stack of characters, and the WoW game gives you exactly four to choose from. Runebound has very straight-forward, basically sensible rules, and WoW has some weird crap that will take you two read-throughs to understand. The placement of discovery markers is almost absurd. The resource tokens aren't a bad idea, but they're poorly executed. There are only four characters in a game that would play best with six.
A huge difference - and one of the only two places where WoW outshines Runebound - is the quest system. In Runebound, you're all racing to defeat one guy. In WoW, on the other hand, there's a big deck of quests, with different points for completing each one, and you win when you get eight points. This means you're not four people trying to do the same thing, which is nice, because now you're not all hustling around the board trying to recruit enough allies that you can throw them away when you finally get up the nerve to face the big red dragon.
The biggest difference between Runebound and WoW, though, is the ability to punch the other players in the junk. Where Runebound almost ends up being a solitaire game that six people can play at a time, WoW provides ample opportunity and motive for attacking, slowing, and otherwise irritating your opponents. In fact, many of the character abilities focus on causing harm to your fellow players. Blocking an opponent in WoW means more than just taking the encounter they were after. Now it means putting a bomb in their underpants drawer to slow them down long enough that you can run up and jab them in the eye with a sharp stick. That's a lot more fun, and let's face it, a far more hilarious picture.
Unfortunately, when I consider these two elements that I like about WoW, I don't find myself wanting to play it again. Instead, I find myself trying to figure out how to add quests and more player fights to Runebound. In any way that really matters, Runebound is just plain way better than the WoW Adventure Game. The rules are easier to follow. The combat is more engaging, and actually requires a little strategy. The theme plays out better. Runebound takes the WoW Adventure Game outside and beats it until it cries, then steals its lunch money and pushes it into the girls' bathroom.
For me, the WoW Adventure Game is an exercise in wasted potential. The character interaction could make this a really tense game, but they would be fantastic with six people... only the game gives you just four. The quests would add a lot of diversity to the game, and more replay value, if only you didn't have to wade through all the anti-climactic battles and pointless token placement. And when I play a game just for the theme, call me a spoiled little artiste, but I want it pretty. I don't want it to look like a two-year-old painted the board with the contents of its diaper. Why bother giving me all these cards with cool art if you're going to dump this bucket of hospital waste and call it a game board?
Basically, the World of Warcraft Adventure Game comes to the table with some cool ideas, drops them and then wanders away to pick its nose. If you want to play a game that's a lot like Runebound, just play Runebound.
The quest mechanic could really help Runebound
The player interaction could make some really frenetic, high-energy games
Tweaky little rules all over the place don't seem to go together
Not enough characters to play
Like Runebound, but not as much fun
Great ideas with crappy execution
If you want a game like Runebound, just buy Runebound. You can get it here:
Posted by Matt Drake at 3:40 PM