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Legends Untold: Illuminations of Deepsorrow

Published by Inspiring Games, each 'novice' set of Legends Untold is an individual standalone game but Kevin Young and Hugh Ducker have actually designed Legends Untold as a gaming system that allows all the various sets and expansion packs to be mixed and matched together. Combining sets also allows you to increase the player count. The Weeping Caves and Great Sewers novice sets each came with four adventurer characters so took 1-4 players. The characters in each novice set are different, so if, for example, you have both Weeping Caves and The Great Sewers, you were able to choose between eight different playable characters. Now, with the Illumination of Deepsorrow novice set, there are even more characters to choose from. Tho' you can of course play Illuminations of Deepsorrow as a standalone game, we suspect many players will be adding it to one or both the previous novice sets, and, indeed, the box comes with scenarios specifically designed to be integrated with Weeping Caves and/or The Great Sewers. If you've played either of the previous iterations of Legends Untold, the core game of Illuminations of Deepsorrow will be immediately recognisable but this new game does introduce some tweaks, mainly to help advance the plot if you are playing through the scenarios in campaign mode.

Legends Untold is a dice and card-driven dungeon crawler. It's fully cooperative. For the various scenarios, your party of adventurers will be exploring a network of caves that is formed from a map deck, so it's modular and therefore different every time you play. Most tests in the game, including combat with monsters, involve dice rolls using three regular six-sided dice, and that includes movement between the cards you place out to form the board. You get to choose the pace at which you want to proceed: Marching takes one unit of time but gives no bonus or penalty to dice rolls you make in tests for scouting or being surprised; Sneaking takes twice as much time but gives you a plus on tests; while Rushing will take no time at all but will impose a penalty on dice roll tests; for example, when you encounter trap cards. If you draw loot cards as part of an encounter, these stack under the monster card you eventually draw, and you'll only get it when the monster is defeated. Adventuring in Legends Untold is not a get-rich-quick scheme, however: the loot you find is mostly meagre...

Characters each have a card that gives their basic stats. These are not exactly the same as the characteristics and die-roll modifiers that will be familiar from Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast) but they are obviously comparable. You'll get to take a very basic weapon and add skills or 'Talents'. A neat and rather effective feature of the game is that the number of additional cards corresponds to your character's hit points, so if you lose a hit point you have to flip one of your Talent cards and lose its ability until you restore your health. It's a simple system but it makes damage rather less abstract than in most role-playing games (RPGs) and so more meaningful.

We've been similarly impressed by the timer mini-deck. As previously mentioned, actions such as moving between caves use up time and so you move a card from the timer deck. It's only when you get to the bottom of the deck that you flip that timer card to reveal an Event that has to be actioned. That card is then discarded so the timer deck is thinner every time it is re-set, reducing the gap between Events...

There are quite a few tiny icons to decipher on cards but these are all well referenced in the very comprehensive, if hefty, rulebook. There's a campaign book that reminded us of the multi-path 'choose your own adventure' books of old. The game also comes with a 'Start Here' tutorial that walks players through their first game. Tho' Legends Untold is not an unduly complicated game, there's inevitably a rules overhead which could deter some potential players. The walkthrough tutorial then is another well thought out feature that helps make Legends Untold very accessible for new players. You can add further complexity by degree: in addition to introducing two more playable characters, the Potions & Preparations Expansion and the previously published Alchemy expansion, add a crafting system that allows players to collect resources to brew into potions or use to create low-level magical devices.

There's a lot of adventure in each set of Legends Untold and the modular board and card-driven design make the game highly replayable, whether you play through it as a campaign game or just play and even re-play individual scenarios. If your character gains 'Mastery' in a test, they get to roll four dice and discard the lowest die. Similarly, characters who suffer a Weakness roll four dice and discard their highest die. Again, these are simple but effective devices.

For some, it may be a disappointment that players are only moving counters on the modular map to represent the party and to indicate characters' relative marching order. Arguably, minis or standees would be more immersive, but if that's an issue for you, it's simple enough to press into service the character minis from another game.

You level up (add a hit point and Talent or weapon upgrade) for your character when you succeed in a scenario, so you gain a modest but noticeable improvement. Tho' you might, in other RPG-type games, get a sugar-rush buzz from being showered in riches, the relatively slim pickings in Legends Untold mean players prize even more their hard-won gradual progress. And if you find the game initially too tough or eventually too easy, the rules offer various options for altering the difficulty level. They even suggests a method of playing the game as a full-fledged RPG with a Dungeon Master taking control of the scenarios in place of random card draws. We're not claiming the designers have thought of everything with Legends Untold but, if they haven't they've come darned close!

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