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Game review: Legends of Andor, Legends of Andor New Heroes and Legends of Andor Starshield

Fantasy themes and board games go hand in hand. The format allows designers to bring fantasy worlds to life and allows people to play in those worlds. Such is the case for an innovative new design called Legends of Andor by Kosmos. And it's not a repeat of the hundreds of fantasy game titles already on the market.

This award-winning cooperative game (everybody plays as a team against the game) is all about time. Two to four players work together as a group of fantasy heroes trying to perform certain tasks within a certain amount of time or they lose. The game centers around stories and those stories unfold as the game progresses. Some story events trigger other events, and the game's landscape changes. It's like playing in a storybook.

To begin, players each select one of four fantasy characters with their own special ability, player board and unique starting dice. There is a fighter, archer, wizard and dwarf. The board is double-sided, depicting a castle, countryside, mountains, lake, underground and forest realm.

Players choose one of five stories and read the description on the story cards to set up. The game does a great job of describing all the rules for play, and the first of five story quests is a tutorial that explains all the nuances of the game step by step.

At the core of the game is an action day track that limits each character to a certain number of actions before the day is over. Moving around the board costs an action and fighting or joining in a fight costs an action. The key to remember is that there are too many things to get done before the day is over, so players must choose wisely and never forget the specific story objectives. Spend time wisely.

Monsters also roam the land, causing problems, and some areas on the map have to be protected from their influence. This is another concern for the heroes among their other objectives because fighting monsters can burn a lot of time. But monsters give treasure and experience to heroes, making them faster and more powerful.

One thing to note is that when a monster is killed, the game's story track advances. Depending on the story, the story track can cause interesting things to occur when it is advanced. But if the story track reaches its end, the game is over.

To say that there are a lot of things going on in this game is an understatement, but therein lies its charm. Players really get a sense of tension and the dire need for cooperation as different challenges creep up. What should we do with our valuable time? That is the question.

Legends of Andor is fun in the same way that a suspenseful movie is fun to watch. The feeling of accomplishment one receives by beating the game is wonderful. And celebrating with your friends is even better. There is lots of fun, strategy and tension in this fabulous game.

I can't express in words how great this game is but I acknowledge it is not for everyone. Those who like deeper gameplay, cooperation, strategy and difficult challenges will love this game. If players are worried about running out of stories, there is an easy and hard mode as well as some expansions (see below). The recommended age for the game is 14 and up with a duration of 60 to 90 minutes. Find out more at Kosmos' website.

Legends of Andor: The Star Shield is the first expansion for the game and gives players a brand new adventure to play. The cool aspect to this adventure is that it can change each time it is played. So it's like having multiple new stories instead of just one.

In this adventure, players are trying to find a legendary magic item called the Star Shield. The search is on and players are tracking down the kingdom's prince and fighting ravenous wolves that can turn into powerful allies. If gamers thought time was tight in the main game, this will blow their minds. Overall, this adventure is tough and requires some hardy and experienced adventurers.

It is possible for players to find the Star Shield and use it, but if it falls into the wrong hands, watch out. There are also new magic items that are given out at the start of the adventure and can be used once each day. One item is the magic hourglass that can turn back the hands of time, which is too cool for words.

There are new monsters, hero items, a siege tower, dark temple, catapult, side characters and more. Depending on the cards drawn and introduced into the new scenario, the game can be quite different. But it's fun and it extends the life of a great game and gives it more teeth, even if those teeth belong to a pack of wolves.

Legends of Andor: New Heroes is the second expansion available for Legends of Andor. In this expansion, there are four new heroes to play: the warden of the Riverlands (cleric), a tracker (ranger), a renegade keeper of the black archives (thief) and a Tarus from Sturmtal (a nonuman fighter).

Also included is a new magic item called the Brother Shield, and the character who possesses it can exchange strength with one of the other heroes or it can also be used as a normal shield.

The cool thing about this expansion is that the game can grow to five or six players and there are rules for each existing scenario (including the Star Shield expansion) if any adjustments are needed. There are also creature boards that strengthen the power of creatures when playing with five or six players.

A couple of other optional rules give details for Dark Heralds that make boss creatures harder to defeat. There is also a drunken troll that wanders aimlessly through the lands and pushes other creatures along its path, speeding up the game.

rmorgenegg@desnews.com