Review: 12 Realms – a dozen kingdoms and princesses available for rescue
The darkness of the evening exceeded all our worst expectations. Shadows totally disappeared and even candlesticks failed to disperse greedy tentacles of dark matter. Something terrible is happening and we monks feel it. It takes light from us and darkness sows. Unseen horrors and an insurmountable forces form their fists in a joint effort to subdue our twelve kingdoms. But people will not be afraid. It starts with a silent prayer, a hum that comes from our towers and end up in a bloody storm. The people will find their savior..
It is said, that our country has many heroes. Some speak loudly and proudly of their actions, while others rather just whisper. Their fiery temper could bear great inconvenience. Their powers are legendary, although only some of them work for the good of the people, while others think only of themselves. Each of them is just completely elsewhere in the world, where call hits them. The common voice of all the people calling: „Help us“.
It is in such a seemingly hopeless situation, when we come to distant country in the board game 12 Realms. All players must join forces to defeat Lords of Darkness, who joined in the latest attack on the realm of humans and animals. Author of this game, that originally came out back in 2010 and was nominated for the Golden Geek Best Print & Play price, is Ignazio Corrao. Along with Jerome Jaquinto and Michael Andresakis, he also participated in the creation of the final graphic.
Cover illustration will welcome you not only with faces of heroes, but also enemies, who are looking down on them. Just as it happens. Fortunately, you look down on the dark ruler and you can divert your gaze for a moment to look away. Just to take cover and lay it aside and you are safe. The first thing that occupies you about this box, is not its content, but the slim design of walls. They do not seem too solid and provide a insecure impression. We can only hope, they can sustain the evil army of darkness within. At least for now until you defeat it once, twice and more times. But beware, their powers will not diminish.
But now you are welcomed by a brochure in several different languages and with them also sheets for punching out filled with tokens and smaller boards. There is a wide range of tokens for individual talents and heroes (blue and red chips talents) and gold coins, that are not made of wood, but rather look like little wrapped chocolates imprinted with name of the game.
On your sice, also chips of treasures and artifacts will remain. In contrast, dark forces will be accompanied by invasion tokens, which are square, so you easily can tell them apart. They have same color as the Lord to whom they belong. Each of them contains some symbols of skills, you need to defeat them.
Each hero has its own double-sided card with a portrait and also a list of possible actions in turn. In the box, there is also a big deck of cards in exactly two species – small square card of objects (you can buy) with a specified price and talents, it can bring you.
And then there is a much larger deck of larger cards containing not only random events, but also individual empire cards. To identify them, you can use coat of arms in their upper left corner. Some of them contain enemies, others artifacts, treasures, but also dark lords – your arch-enemies. While they have all force necessary to defeat in the corner, some have also an ability written in a yellow box.
Every empire also includes one large cardboard board divided into six areas numbered in Roman numerals and the city in the middle. At the bottom of each board, you find a scale ranging from one to twenty, which is important for the survival of the kingdom. It is called invasion scale as the growing forces of evil will add new and new wrinkles to your forehead. The most important component of all are miniatures of heroes, that you will be representing on the board. At the beginning, you have to attach their legs to a stand with glue.
In each game, you only need some realm boards, depending on the number of players, who will participate in the game. And their number usually corresponds directly to the number of heroes in the game. Individual kingdoms are places on table and you have to find all the right tokens, cards and enemies for them (by their coat of arms). For each realm, you can randomly or intentionally select one of the dark lords, who will plague the inhabitants of this place. His card is put beside the board, which is then filled with one random artifact, two treasures and invasion counter starting at zero (next to board). You can replace it with a miniature of the enemy, if you have one (not included in the basic box).
Each player chooses a hero, takes his card and places a miniature of this courageous fighter into any city in the empire. There can be more heroes training in one city, while another may be empty at first. It depends only on decision of players. You then put talents for your character (red chips), which correspond to the symbols shown on the hero’s board, and you cover these icons with them.
Only thing left to prepare are decks of cards, both of which are simply shuffled. For the city offer, this is not so surprising, but it is important to emphasize, that you mix thoroughly together also all the cards belonging to ALL active realms.
All participants in 12 Realms join forces to defeat enemy forces, but even then gameplay is divided into turns. At the beginning of each round, before getting starting hero into action, you always have to evaluate progress made by the forces of evil. In all except the first round, you always move invasion token one step forward to destruction.
Then discovery of new dangers awaits you, which will swarm your and neighboring countries. It is a revelation of two cards per realm plus one more, which always guarantees an odd number of events. They usually mean, that new enemies appeared on the borders of your land, which are randomly determined as all cards are in one deck and each belongs to one realm.Their specific location inside this empire is decided with roll of the dice. This determines position, where character enters your world. At this place you put its token. Start of turn is also the moment, when some stronger opponents use their powers to raid or summon other creatures.
Now can heroes respond to the events and try to protect vulnerable people. You correctly guessed, that this will be the place, where you use several times mentioned talents. You have choice of a total seven actions, of which the simplest is movement. For this you simply pay a token of swiftness and move to the next area. These tokens of basic properties, however, are only exploited and you do not throw them completely away. You shift them from the place with icons to the right on character portrait, where they will wait for refreshing. Second option is to travel, which allows you to visit another realm. Your character must be in the city to travel, plus this quest ends your turn.
But while we’re in the city, you can for another swiftness token draw random pair of cards from the city deck. Out of them, you can choose one and purchase it for coins of hoarded gold. The other one is put on discard pile.
The most important situation occurs, when you get to same place as enemies. At this point, you can find enemy and challenge him. You need to exploit enough tokens on your card (possibly using some improving items) according to requirements of the monster. At this point you win and enemy token is removed from the board. You can continue in carrying out the actions, until you have no more active (unexploited) talents, that can be used.
At the end of the round, when all players have played their turns, it’s time to recover all exhausted all skills and return tokens back into place. Thus begins the next round and token darkness again moves one step forward. At the moment, when invasion token enters red zone on invasion track, dark lord materializes in the world and starts to attack it personally.
For his defeat, you do not need talent. You must be in possession of a powerful artifact instead, because only this way can you drive it away from our world. These powerful items are scattered around the map at the beginning of the game and players must work together to collect them and exchange them, if needed.
Game continues until heroes join forces to defeat the Dark Lord. But there is only limited time for the whole task. Once one of the tokens on the invasion track reaches the last frame numbered twenty, all the heroes lost and the kingdom fell into darkness. You can free it again next time, when you start playing again from the beginning.
12 Realms is a beautiful fairy tale game with a classic theme of fight against evil. First of all, it offers all participants the opportunity to participate in the alliance to banish the dark lords back into their world, where they belong. But the journey is not easy, because even heroes are human and are not omnipotent.
The mechanism of clearly given talents, which allow you to take some actions each turn, is simple and yet very sophisticated. You always have a limited resources and many things to do. But you can freely determine for yourself (together with other players – remember: cooperation!), what you want to do in the round. Often your decision will be influenced by events from beginning of the turn, when the board is swarmed with new enemy units.
What forces you to defeat units in all realms? We probably did not emphasize this enough, but simply number of enemy troops in the realm determines, how deep darkness fell onto the kingdom. The invasion token is moved for each present unbeaten unit for one position to doom, so sometimes it can also easily jump two or three boxes in one turn! And twenty is very close..
Most of the game contains absolutely no luck, because fighting uses talent tokens, that are available. On the contrary, the whole match and success depends on how effectively you use these chips. Players can consult and assist each other, which can re-create the classic problem of most cooperative games. One of the players can dominate and control the entire game. Such a dominant player then may even spoil experience for others, who do not feel they somehow contributed to the final victory. But the dice are still present and determine not only the location of new units, but even when some abilities. And chance is hidden also in drawing cards of units every turn, which can create some unbalanced situations.
The biggest difficulty of 12 Realms are not imperfect rules, although there is number of small details missing in the text. Fortunately, the authors published a detailed PDF with answers to frequently asked questions. But in some parts of the game, it may happen, you do not have much choice and there is not so many monsters, which are in your powers to defeat. Therefore, the biggest problem lies in the lack of choices, you can have in your turn.
Monster skills are not listed directly on their tokens, but you can find them on their cards. You should put them aside, but you will keep them. That’s probably not such a big issue, although it reduces the clarity of the game. Difficulty in individual games can really differ based on cards drawn and with the same number of realms and heroes, you can often get an easy win and sometimes die hard.
12 Realms is huge attraction mainly because of its beautiful and fabulous graphics and processing. That’s why you’ll want to play this game right now with your children (and they really love this game!), but you will not feel badly even with match full of adults. 12 Realms will surely satisfy both beginners and experienced players, because the underlying mechanisms are clear and easy to understand.
Because it is a cooperative game, number of players, who are trying to rescue residents, is very important. According to the quantity, you also get different size of the world. That is, why scalability is at a very high level, which is great news.
Variability stems from a lot of different options to set the difficulty, but also from different combinations of realms available for each game. The more kingdoms for protection you take, the harder you have to work with their protection. But the game also benefits from a number of heroes, you can choose at the beginning of each game. This makes you focus on each other’s talents and search another tactic perhaps leading to success.
And not to mention, that the game already includes a basic expansion, which further increases the complexity. It’s called The Black Fortressand enemies construct it, when invasions reaches a certain level and it provides protection to all attackers, who stand in this area on the map. But you can also find other variations in the rulebook, that bring new experience to the game, such as municipal buildings or events. One of the players can even go on the dark side and play for it. Further exploring the options is up to you, but we will reveal, that they work great.
Unfortunately, the very action icons on heroes boards are not exactly intuitive. In an effort to include them, too much information is overcombined. But the rest of processing deserves a very good mark. Perhaps the need to assemble the pieces by gluing everything is not as good as getting everything out of the box in fine and perfect condition.
12 Realms is a game, that gives you complete freedom in play. It is only up to the heroes, whether they focus only on some of the realms and act together or divide and run into battle alone. Yet they can meet the occasional boredom stemming from the small impact, thay can have on everything. The larger number of components may scare less experienced players, but fortunately it quickly passes, because rules are simple enough. Then you will be able to fully concentrate on defense of fairytale kingdom, that will soon become your home.
Review: 12 Realms – a dozen kingdoms and princesses available for rescue
12 Realms brings players into fairytale world filled with many familiar characters, but also with danger and evil, which is secretly lurking and reaching for power. Throughout the whole match, darkness grows in all your kingdoms and it increases according to monster influence in that land. The more of them is haunting citizens at start of the round, the worse it gets. Match is different every time and not only thanks to different herores with unique skills you can choose from, but also thanks to random selection of the bad guys and even the whole kingdoms. All player numbers bring fun to your table, but not only your skills will define your success. You need to have some luck too, at least when kingdoms are first formed and you are drawing their random starting characters. Beautiful looks of the whole game (ranging from great miniatures all the way to beautifully drawn pictures) will be a little ruined by less transparent icons, but mostly through need to glue stands to those miniatures yourself. 12 Realms is excellent family cooperative game, which has few small flaws, but altogehter its real fun and definitely worth attention.