Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review of the Order of the Stick Adventure Game

You're probably thinking "Why the heck is she reviewing a board game?", but it's a board game based on a webcomic, and since that's kinda sort of a book (if you squint a little and like pictures), I'm going to review it. That and it's a whole lot of fun, so it deserves a review. ;) I'm going to stick this up on Amazon, methinks.

Seriously, this game is a lot of fun! And it's funny! (I love the cards that parody D&D spells, and most of Elan's cards are so silly, like "Gratuitous Nudity".) You don't even have to know the comic to enjoy it; one of my friends loves this game, and she's never read the comic. Then again, all my friends who have played this with me have been from my Dungeons and Dragons group, so it's probably to be expected that they'd enjoy a game that's based on a comic that's a parody of D&D. The characters that you get to play are the members of the Order of the Stick: Roy (the intelligent, lawful good, easily annoyed human party leader), Haley (the second in command- she's a loot-obsessed, chaotic good human thief), Elan (the moronic, cheerful, chaotic good human bard/swordsman), Durkon (the good, rather bland, dwarven cleric), Belkar (the probably-evil, bloodthirsty halfling), and Vaarsuvius (the good, gender-ambiguous elven wizard). The point of the game is to move into rooms (room cards get put on the table to create a map, or a kind of "Clue" board) and kill enemies to get their treasure, or "loot" as the game calls it. You can also attack other players for loot, but my group has its own house rules where we ignore that rule; so far no one playing Belkar has wanted to attack the others, and the rest of the characters don't really need to attack any of the other players.

In the game the characters all have their strengths and weaknesses, but balance out pretty well against each other; in theory, Roy and Haley would seem to be the best at the game since they're the ones with the most powerful attacks, but the other characters have just as good a chance at winning the game since beating the final boss (Xykon) isn't what determines the winner- the winner is the person with the most shticks (attack, stealing, and action type cards) and loot cards (these would be the equivalent of gold or money). The trick is to not let the other players pull ahead in how many of these cards they have.

For instance, I've read reviews online where people think Haley is too strong; the trick there would be to follow her around and stay on the same floor as her so she asks for help (since the loot without her face on them don't do her any good other than as bribes) instead of letting her go off on her own floor and kill things by herself, hence getting all the loot and making her start getting more powerful shticks where she won't need much help. Also, I've found that players really need to pay attention when there's a Haley in the game; when I played her, no one realized how often I was coming in and stealing their kills and loot until it was too late, which they could have somewhat prevented by not letting her get so powerful early on (make sure you kill an enemy before she can get there, and help, help, help!).

It also depends on the luck of the draw- what cards you get, how much loot you can snag in the beginning, and how many shticks you can get early on. I've kicked butt as Elan when I lucked out in getting lots of cards early, but last time someone played Elan without making him follow the other characters, so he ended up falling way behind on loot cards and shticks (the point of Elan is to help others and get loot that way, but you can't do that if you're not on the same floor as the other players). Really, you have to strategize and use what works best for the character you're playing, and everyone has an equal chance at winning.

The other problem I've read about in reviews is how long the game runs. It tends to run about 4 hours for my group; we've gotten the game down now so don't have to keep looking up the rules, but when we first started it took longer. But what my group does if the game starts to run long is to make up house rules- for instance, make it be three floors instead of four, or only need six shtick cards at the end instead of eight. The Board Game Police aren't going to come after you if you change the rules up a bit. ;)

This game is an awesome alternative to Dungeons and Dragons when some of the group can't make it (since my group doesn't play D&D if more than one person can't make the game). It also runs about the same time as our D&D game, which is perfect for us.

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