Thoughts on Prophecy
Jeff, Michael, and Rob were tremendous sports by agreeing to play the new board game Prophecy with me last night (see pre-game discussion a few posts down). Here are my post game thoughts on the game:
First the bad points:
- Downtime and Length. The game is officially playable with 2-5 players. The designer himself on BGG posted that he recommends the game as best with 2-3 players. Throwing caution to the wind, we played with 4 players. With 4 players, I think downtime was a minor but measurable factor as the game went on. We kept the turn order moving well, so each player had maybe 5-10 minutes max between turns. Still though there was enough action on the board that I was pretty engaged in watching each player's turn, so downtime didn't bother me too much. However, with 4 players (and no expansion sets added in), we cycled all the decks several times, which became a tad repetitive towards the end. I'm sure 2 players would work well, but I think you might lose some of the theme where you're competing against a group of other adventurers rather than just going head-to-head. I think this may be the odd game where 3 players is actually the optimal number of players.
- Endgame. The end game did seem a bit unnecessarily drawn out. Again the designer speaks to this issue on BGG. He recommends to cut the number of artifacts required to win down to 3 rather than 4, particularly with more than 3 players. I think this makes a lot of sense, as once one person has 3 of the 5 artifacts, a man-hunt essentially ensues where everyone else's optimal move is to run away from the angry juggernaut. Since this is a designer recommened approach, I'd consider it an official variant if not errata. Another thing that would improve the endgame would be more than five possible minor and major guardians. Return of the Heroes does this well (as does Arkham Horror) where you can get a different end-game boss (or bosses) to fight against each game. This would improve replayability quite a bit, and I suspect this point is addressed in the expansions.
Now the good points:
- Theme. I think the game really did a good job of capturing the fantasy adventure and questing theme. The wide variety of encounters, monsters, weapons, and guilds really made the game interesting. The guilds you belonged to gave your character a unique feel, but I also liked how you could still Each character really can choose multiple paths to to develop into a superhero. You can go after gear (which I did); you can build abilities through training at a guild (which Michael seemed to do most); or you can chase adventures that will add to your mana and strength stone capacity (which Jeff did). Each was an interesting strategy, and I'm not sure that one was vastly superior to the other. But this leads to my next point...
- Runaway Leadership. I think at various times we were all convinced that Jeff, Michael, or I were "running away with it." Both Michael and Rob seemed firmly locked in 3rd and 4th place most of the game, or so it seemed. But, then out of nowhere at the end Rob made a major rush to victory, slaughtering me while I was napping in the forest, then going to toe-to-toe with mega-paladin Jeff. Alas, my epic gear which included Thor's Hammer and a Mace of Death and Destruction didn't save me from being soundly zapped my the Holy Monk Rob. Michael jumped in after biding his time on the sidelines giving selective advice to Rob and began a colossal beatdown of epic proportions on both Jeff and Rob. We called the game due to time before the issue was finally decided, but I think there were many ways to win and lose the lead repeatedly throughout the game.
So, like the recent playing of Avalon Hill's Dune, I'd say there is a good game here if played with just a couple tweaks. Unlike Dune, I think we had all the rules correct and just hadn't implemented designer-recommended patches to how the game is played. I'd happily play this game again, and I look forward to playing Runebound for comparison.
PS to our Wargamers: We need to get it back together, guys! I'm offering Wilderness War lessons/refresher courses to anyone interested. With four games now under my belt, I'm feeling pretty good about how this game is played. I think my next game to tackle will either be BtB or PoG, since I've been begging off a lot of PBEM offers for both. Victoria Cross should be a good light snack as well. The new scenario book for C&C: Ancients looks very good, with some well-balanced Scipio scenarios being added to the mix.