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The famous sword Excalibur is stuck in that darn rock again and every family in all the villages have named their son "Arthur" to try and get it out! Using Tom Jolly's new Lightning game system, players use their own Arthurian legend characters in this pseudo realtime strategy board game to grab the sword first so their village can be named Camelot.
Well, Tom's review was about as detailed as you can get (thanks Tom!) so I won't go into the rules and mechanics of the game. We played this game twice in my gaming group and I really enjoyed it. We played for awhile the first time without the lightning system, in order to get the hang of the game. This was very fun for me, but the game went extremely long without this system (4 hours and counting) so we switched to the lightning play. (it was over about 15 minutes later)
The main problem with the lightning system is that you are in such a hurry to make your move that you have no idea if the other player moving is moving legally. Even unintentionally, it's very easy to cheat. Your pieces are getting killed and handed to you on one front while you're so busy fighting on another front that you have no time to verify if your pieces really should have been killed or if it was a mistake. I guess if you have very experienced gamers than it might be okay, but otherwise it can be pretty frustrating. I think this game would be perfect for an online game, where the computer can regulate your moves to determine if they are legal. Unfortunately I haven't found a site yet that hosts it.
I also feel that the components of the game could have been better. I would have liked plastic figures instead of little tiles.
Absolute chaos. A descent into unbridled madness. Anarchy in a board game form. I think that Tom Jolly's Camelot (Wingnut Games, 2005 -- Tom Jolly) could easily fit any of those descriptions. Our first game was a madhouse, and subsequent games were no different. Camelot has made some news since the main mechanic of the game, the "Lightning System", was patented -- something odd for a board game mechanic. Was the patent warranted, and the game any good?
Opinions are going to vary widely on the game. Some of the players absolutely hated the speed and chaos of the game. Others, including myself, reveled in it and had a blast! Either way, the Lightning system, which I found quite innovative, certainly prevents downtime, as players struggle to play the game as fast as they can. I found the insanity full of merriment, but it's certain that Camelot is not for everyone. Still, if you have someone who is afflicted with "analysis paralysis" (takes forever to do their turn), then Camelot is a lot of fun to introduce them to!
The theme of the game is based on the fact that there were many "Arthurs" in the days of ancient England, and each player uses their "Merlins" and others to try to get their "Arthur" to claim Excalibur. A mapboard is placed in the middle of the table, depicting a hex grid of England, complete with stone, forest, and water hexes. An Excalibur token is placed on a hex near the middle of the board, and each player takes fifteen adventurer pieces (five Arthurs, four Galahads, four Lancelots, one Merlin, and one Morgan) as well as four other tokens (teleport, fireball, death touch, and entry hex) in their color. Players place their pieces face up in front of themselves, and two players are randomly determined to get one each of the two "Turn" tokens. Players, in turn order (starting with a high roller), place their entry hex somewhere on the board -- on the edge and at least five spaces away from another player, and the game is ready to go.
The way the "Lightning" system works is thus: When a player has a turn token in front of them, they take their turn. After finishing, they pass the turn token to the next player on their left who does not already have a turn token. Therefore, if a player takes a long time on their turn, the other turn token can pass right by them, and they lose turns as a result! On a player's turn, they simply place and/or move two units on the board, starting from the entry hex. Each character has different attack, defense, and move values:
Players may move but not through water, rocks, or trees. If a piece is next to an opponent's piece, they may not move away unless both players agree to disengage. Players may not move through other pieces, even their own.
Players may declare attack, but must do so before they move. They can declare as many attacks as they wish, as long as the attack is possible. For an attack to succeed, a player must be able to EXCEED the defending player's defense number with one or more pieces. Ranged units are blocked by trees and rock, but not water. If the attack succeeds (everything freezes for a moment to check), then the defender dies and is removed from the game (not permanently, if Arthur). If the attack does not succeed -- because of some oversight by the attacker, then one of the attacking pieces is killed. Each unit can only attack once per turn (except Lancelot, who can attack all adjacent units with one attack, rather than two.) Merlin and Morgan also have special attacks (fireball and death touch) that they can use for more damage, but the counter representing those attacks is then discarded. Also, Merlin can discard the teleport token to move anywhere on the board.
The first person to get the sword (which only an Arthur may carry) back to their starting hex is the winner! If the Arthur carrying the sword is killed, then the sword drops to that hex.
Some comments about the game...
This is certainly a game that will be divisive. I think it's either a like it or hate it type game, because some of those who played swore they would never touch it again. Others said that it was a fun experience, but they had their fill. Still others, including me, thought that it was a hilarious game and were willing to play again easily. Which group do you belong to? It depends if you're in the mood for a frenzied, fast war-type game in which speed is important and strategy isn't.
"Real men play board games."