Guardians Chronicles is an epic semi-cooperative board game of superheroes and villains. In the first boxed set, Episode 1, the players, as four brave heroes of the Liberty Patrol, attempt to stop the dark schemes of one of their worst enemy: evil Doktor Skarov. With one player playing the villain, safely retreated in his lair, the other players have to cooperate to enter his base and evade all his Acolytes and traps. Only by joining forces and working together will they succeed in stopping Dr. Skarov’s madness. Guardians Chronicles provides an intense, immersive game experience, thanks to its abundance of material (including miniatures of heroes, villains and Acolytes!) and simple yet comprehensive game system.
Guardians Chronicles is intended to be the first of a series of games telling the adventures of the Liberty Patrol against ever darker threats and enemies. As of the time of writing this I personally haven't seen anything new which is a shame as this game has definitely got legs.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
At the beginning of the game, the player playing Skarov creates his base by arranging 9 double-sided game board tiles into a 3x3 grid, with his control room being in the center. Each player takes his or her character sheet, miniature and 7-10 action cards. These characters enter the grid on one of the side tiles and need to move around the square – facing Acolytes and traps along the way – in order to achieve whatever objectives set for the current game, such as thwarting a nuclear missile attack.
Each turn, each hero player plays 1 or 2 action cards; each card can be played either as a special power or as modifiers to the hero’s basic features – movement, attack, defense and mental. Each hero player has also four actions in a round, that can be taken in any order; the available actions are to move across the base, to attack an enemy, or to use a special power on a played action card or on the hero’s character sheet. The villain player then receives a number of action points depending on the heroes’ actions, and uses these to activate Professor Skarov, his Acolytes, or his robots, with these figures also performing move, attack, or special power actions.
As the players complete (or fail to complete) objectives, the newspapers report on who did what, and the sum of those reports determine who comes out on top. Depending on the scenario, the players must achieve a certain number of objectives to attain victory, while the evil Pr. Skarov attempts to thwart their efforts.
WHAT DO YOU GET IN THE BOX?
4 Heroes miniatures, each with a character sheet and a set of 7-10 action cards. 1 Dr Skarov miniature, with his character sheet
3 Sisters Kinoichi miniatures with their character sheets 1 Supervillain miniature with his/her character sheet
20 Androids & Gynoids miniatures 9 double-sided room tiles 20 Event cards
4 Heroes dice 4 Villains dice 5 Neutral dice A heck of a lot of tokens!
The game comes with two comic-book style rules and and scenario booklets; A5 size, glossy and in full colour. The Rules can be found in storybook format throughout the Guardians Chronicles booklet #1 "The Threat of Doktor Skarov" whereas the second booklet contains the setup, goals, description and stories for six scenarios, growing from the initiation adventure which is short and sweet, and the five other tale parts that elongate the story through to its fruition with the possible end of Skarov.
If you are used to games having ABC style rules which show you how to setup each game with examples and directions then GUARDIANS CHRONICLES is going to be a very rude awakening for you as each scenario is complete on one comic-book page. There is a scenario title alongside the Scenario number, a photo-shoot of the boards (room tiles) required for the game (along with the title of the board and the positions of the extra dolors|) and then a few brief lines of text. There is no list of what miniatures you will need, just any points of interest on the map plus an entry and exit space. This is all very disconcerting for the average boardgame player, and even the avid comic-book reader may need some time to actually get their heads around the fact that this is the complete scenario - all you have to do now is play it.
Every scenario has the same Goal - to get a Good newspaper report. One player takes the control of the Acolytes under Doktor Skarov as well as the good (read "evil") Doktor himself, while the other players each control a super-hero. Every character, Good or Evil, has a character card (the Acolytes have one card per Acolyte type) which gives some detail and description of that specific Hero/Villain as well as Values for Speed (basically this is movement), Attack (number of Combat dice rolled), Defense (number of successful hits taken before damage ensues), Mental (Heroes only ability to avoid traps etc) plus Number of Actions, Health, Power, Type and Rank.
The Heroes are members of the elite LIBERTY PATROL and each has their own specific set of Power cards which can be used either for the Special Power itself or as a Modifier (adding to one or more of the character's stats). Hero Players begin the game as Rookies then progress to Normal (by flipping their ID card) and on to Veteran at which point they can add two special "veteran" cards to their set. Super Heroes also have a Weakness that may be used as an advantage by the Villains. Event cards can be used by Villains in similar ways to the Heroes Power cards, either for the Event itself or as a Modifier when butted against the Villains card to add or subtract points from the Villains abilities.
The area of adventure is made up from one or more gameboard tiles. Each of these tiles is different on each side, with rooms, corridors and other information (Control, Traps etc) clearly marked. There are separate tiles for Doors which are placed according to the scenario to allow entrance from gameboard tile to gameboard tile. Each Door (aka Air Lock) tile has an Open side (Green) and a Closed side (Red). On the Closed side there are two numbers which represent Mental and Attack requirements to open the Door. The Hero must be on the space directly in front of the door and then decide whether to open it using Mental power or Brute force (Strength). Other information on the gameboard tiles show any reinforcements (to the die roll) Heroes may get and a ? in a yellow diamond indicates how many dice to roll for a statistic check.
All Hero/Villain attacks are determined by die rolling, abilities/skills and modifiers. If a Hero or Villain gets hurt they are marked with Damage counters (Zap, Bam, Krak and Pow in good old comic-book style). The scenario ends when the Villain is beaten or the Villain escapes or the Villain surrenders. At this point The Guardian Chronicles Newspaper cards are arranged to report the action and depending on the overall view (Blue text is for Good and Red text is for Evil) a win can be an outright success, a partial success/partial failure or an out and out failure (aka Win, Lose or Draw). To fill in any blank spaces there are some grey adverts which give the Newspaper's front page a more realistic appearance. This is a great idea even though it is mainly only aesthetic. I would have liked a few more report cards just so that each game can still have the same result but be written up (reported) slightly different each time.
As well as playing through the scenarios in the booklet, players can make up their own scenarios or even simply randomly layout X number of gameboard tiles set up the pieces as shown on those tiles: Blue spaces are normal, Green spaces are where Heroes begin, Orange spaces are where the characters can interact with the environment around them and Purple are spaces where Doktor Skarov can activate one of the tiles in his base. White lines indicate walls and doors can be placed where corridors meet gameboard tile to gameboard tile or the corridor can be left open as a long passageway. Villains and Acolytes only appear on the tiles when a Hero has line of sight. Acolytes can attack without first having to move from the space where they appear.
Repeating what I mentioned earlier, GUARDIAN'S CHRONICLES is a game that takes a while to get your head around. It has elements of other miniatures based action games but also has its own unique mechanics, as well as its own specifically unique approach to rules delivery and scenario setups. You don't need to be a comic-book super-hero fan but in this case it really does help if you are a regular reader of action comics because you will immediately accept the visuals presented to you in the booklets. The game generates an excitement in the players unlike most, if not any, other boardgames, a sort of adrenaline rush usually only enjoyed by playing electronic games, especially those online. This is a good first boxed set of games which could grow into a series in the way Carcassonne or Catan has over the years. I hope we can expect an annual update from IELLO.