Legends of Andor - In-Depth Review
This is a review for Legends of Andor the board game, not that Star Wars movie. We freaking love Legends of Andor. Glowing review to follow.
- Unique game. Seriously, let me know if you find something like it - I want to play it.
- Rewarding gameplay - actions feel awesome
- Something for everyone
- Strategic depth
- Built-in tutorial (legend 1) actually teaches you how to play
- Asymmetric game - each character plays differently
- Theme is kinda sorta copy-pasted from Lord of the Rings
- No protection from Captain Know-It-All quarterbacking everyone's move (you know who you are)
- Limited number of scenarios
- Setup takes a long time
Note: this game came out in 2012. Many games don't age well, so I was hesitant when the Warehouse Bear picked it for our game group in 2020. I'm glad he did - this is my favorite game that our group has played together. Every time we have to pick a new game, I always request something like Legends of Andor. But there is nothing like Legends of Andor.
Legends of Andor is a cooperative board game that looks like a common adventure game. All the elements of an adventure game are there. Andor’s setting is a vaguely medieval fantasy world. The party is composed of a warrior, an archer, and a wizard (with a dwarf. His class is dwarf.) Monsters are slain for loot. A witch sells potions. But Andor is not just an adventure game. Andor is a puzzle game, and this is why it is so amazing.
If you try and murder-hobo your way through like an adventure game, you will fail. Each scenario has a solution, and you need to figure out how to crack it. Turns are precious. Every action counts. Killing monsters has a price; time passes. There is more to do on the map than you have time for. You have to balance gaining power with actually being close enough to use it in combat.
We lost horrendously the first time our game group played together. We cheated, time traveled back a few rounds, changed a few things, and still lost. We didn’t lose because a few dice rolls went bad or our luck wasn’t in – it was our strategy that was lacking. We spent the week between game nights texting each other strategy ideas and figuring out how to best spend our precious turns. I will always recommend Legends of Andor because of how engaged it kept us between plays.
Learning Andor is not hard. The first scenario is a tutorial mission that does an adequate job of explaining the rules. It covered a lot rather quickly; we all had a baseline idea of how to play after the initial game, and follow-on missions introduced additional mechanics in a manageable way. The game balanced a complex experience with very few fiddly bits to keep track of. There were a lot of fiddly bits to set up though. (Seriously, setup takes soooo long. Like an hour.)
Characters all play differently, an asymmetry it shares with games like Root or Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth. We each found our favorite characters quickly and rarely discussed swapping around. Archer - Push your luck dice mechanic, ranger. (Best character!) Wizard - High Roller, can’t roll lower than a 4. Warrior - Tank. Dwarf – Strong, hits hard.
Actions in LoA are rewarded. Smashing a huge monster in the face feels awesome. Killing monsters grants gold to buy strength or powerful items. Saving farmers and exploring the fog grant powerful bonuses. The strategic depth comes from prioritizing these extremely rewarding actions versus the ever encroaching darkness. Focusing too much on sidequests takes time. Time is the greatest enemy. Our wins were always by extremely thin margins. We either defeated the final monster right before time ran out, or ran out of time just before we were able to win.
Exploration had a risk/reward feel that I absolutely adore. There is a fog that covers certain spaces in the map, which introduces some randomness. Inside the fog can be helpful loot or monsters. I always wanted to uncover everything. Between the potential for monsters to jump out and eat my beloved peasants and the time constraint, I had to carefully weigh whether I could explore or focus on the mission. Combat uses dice (with a lot of mitigation for characters without a lot of brute strength like the Wizard). I felt like there was enough randomness that the perfect strategy could still run into unforeseen problems, but not too much randomness that all strategy was worthless.
Legends of Andor works so well because there is something for everyone. Our ameritrash enthusiast gets to roll dice and smash things with a hammer. Our euro strategist loves the deep strategy. Our game group wizard found exploration extremely satisfying. I set up Uber for Peasants and had a blast carting them around. (I believe they are the farmers from other worker placement games).
Cooperation is huge in this game. Since time is so tight everyone’s actions matter. Proximity to other players grants bonuses in combat. Since cooperation is key to victory, quarterbacking can be a problem. Quarterbacking is when Captain Know-it-All attempts to save the day and tells everyone what to do. (Quarterbacking doesn’t work in our group because three of us are confident we are the smartest person in the room - the fourth just wants to have a good time.) If your group is vulnerable to quarterbacking, the game mechanics will not mitigate that.
The main problem I had with Andor is that it ends. It comes with five scenarios. You can replay the scenarios (and crank up the difficulty) but the joy of solving the puzzle is gone. The third scenario has a lot of random setup placements to stretch it, but it didn’t feel the same way the second time. There’s also a lot of additional print-and-play content on the game’s website as well as some expansions to try. Our group dabbled with those, but we preferred the Legends of Andor original game. It didn’t have a lot of replay value for us for that reason, but this game offers a ton of bang for your buck. It comes with my highest Guest Geek recommendation!
Remote play score: 4 out of 4
What our remote score means: We've played this over Zoom with two households and it worked great! Legends of Andor is a great choice for a virtual game group.