Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Formidable Foes: The Worst of Both Worlds?

Formidable Foes is a Euro/Dungeon crawl. It feels like Power Grid's resource market mixed with a dungeon crawl. My favorite part of Power Grid is the resource market, and I'm partial to fantasy/dungeon games.

The game is about freeing a faerie from a dungeon. You must defeat 2 boss monsters to free her, but she'll marry the player with the most money (and that player wins).

The only negative that I care about is that the game has downtime problems when played with 6 players (might also be applicable to 5 player games). The one time I played with 6 players 4 of them had never played the game before so downtime might have been exaggerated.

There are 4 resources in the game: wisdom, spells, power stones, and money.
You gain wisdom, gold, and spells from defeating monsters (there are other ways to get wisdom and gold, but they are minor compared to defeating monsters). Power stones are gained by waiting out your turn (I like to think of this as resting and healing).

Wisdom determines the monsters you can fight. You need more wisdom to fight harder monsters. Monsters who are too easy just die of fright (and you get less gold from them). Generally the harder the monster, the more Wisdom you get from it, but if it is too hard for you to defeat it then you only get 1 Wisdom (and no gold since you can't defeat it).

Monsters get harder in a linear progression. There are organized stacks of monsters. Easier ones on top. When new rooms are encountered, an equal number of monsters are taken off the top of the stacks and shuffled. This keeps the monsters challenging and the shuffle keeps the layout of the dungeon fresh. The are also intersections which randomly connect different chambers each game so even the paths between monsters changes from game to game.

Power stones are kind of like your health. You roll dice when fighting monsters. The numbers rolled determine how many power stones you lose in the fight. If you don't have enough power stones to pay then you lose the fight. Every time someone fights one of the power stones lost in the fight goes on a track. Every time more of the dungeon is explored more stones are added. You can forgo your usual move/fight options on your turn to take some of the power stones.

There is only one way to gain power stones. Wisdom can be gained by following players who are wiser than you, from chests, and by defeating monsters. Power stones are only gained by taking a whole turn to take some off the track.
If you find yourself at the end of the game without enough power stones then you are in trouble.

Money is gained from lucky rolls (1 in 36 chance), by defeating monsters, and opening chests. Chests appear randomly at the end game (once every monster except the 2 boss monsters have appeared). Chests give gold and wisdom, but you don't need to fight to gain them. Money is only useful at the end of the game in determining who won.

I'm neutral on games which help "last place". The game does give a special power to the "dumbest player". Dumbest player has the lowest wisdom. If you are defeating lots of monsters then you have lots of special powers already from spells. It should be noted that the "dumbest player" power is more directly confrontational then the spells. If you like "take that" mechanics then the "dumbest player" shouldn't disturb you.

Monsters are seen before you fight them so you always know what your odds are (most of the time you will enter fights where you know you'll win, but don't know how well you'll do). If you are scared of luck or dice then you might want to avoid.

I've enjoyed every fantasy game I've played to date, and Formidable Foes is no exception. Euro gamers might be put off by the luck and the grind of leveling, and the "take that" elements connected to "dumbest player". Straight fantasy gamers might be put off by the resource management of the power stones, but both elements work wonderfully for me.

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