Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game. I received a play test copy of the game along with rules for play. This is my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!
The Guardians: Explore is a game by Jonathon Ruland. In this game players will be apprentices on a quest to save their town. They will work together to fight off the hordes of darkness but in the end, only one person can be crowned the True Guardian. The player that collects the most trophies will be declared the winner.
To begin, the card supply mat is placed on the table and slid to the right to make room for the other mats. The 10 unique location mats are then set up in a snaking formation starting with the mat labeled A in the bottom corner. One game store and one museum are taken randomly from the stacks and added in alphabetic order with the others. The different decks of cards are separated and shuffled before placing them on the card supply mat. The first wave and second wave monsters should be separated and then the first wave is placed on top of the second wave cards. The boss rewards are placed aside. Locations that have empty card spaces showing a monster symbol have monster cards placed on them. This is known as invading a location. The timekeeper token is placed on the home’s turn symbol. Players then choose a colored player mat and also receive the blanket fort and guardian figure for that color, as well as a broken card token and 3 power level counters that are placed on their player mat on the 0 spaces. The first player is chosen and given the trailblazer token. play now begins.
The game takes place over 2 game chapters, divided into turns. The first chapter is the Warm Up. In this chapter players will be completing the set up for the game. Players gain 2 explore cards and 5 practice swings from the supply mat which are then placed face down in front of each player. The timekeeper token is then moved forward. First time players will then take out all of the slayer quests from the player aid/quest cards. One is randomly given to each player. The preconstructed deck lists are then put together with each player taking their own color. The timekeeper token is then placed on the Playground’s turn symbol. In more advanced games, players will draft their decks and quest. Players then shuffle their decks and draw 4 cards. This takes us to chapter 2.
Chapter 2 is the Battle. In this chapter, players will play cards, activate locations, power up, play pranks, attack monsters, clean up and move the timekeeper token. Players will play cards from their hand adding energy and power to their character. Energy will allow them to play cards with the same energy cost or less, while power will allow them to attack monsters a little later on. Persistent cards will remain even after the other cards are sent to the discard stack. Players then choose a location without any monsters and place their guardian figure on it, activating the location’s effect. Players then power up by adjusting the power levels on their player mat. They then are able to play a prank card from their hand, if they have any. These allow players to interact with the other players usually in a negative way. They are then able to attack monsters. To do this, players will select monsters to attack, select the location to attack all the monsters there, and then actually attack the monsters with their power level. As long as a player has more power than the monster, the player collects the defeated monster and gains its reward as noted on the card. If a player is unable to defeat a monster, they instead gain an explore card. Players then collect their guardian figure, set their power back to 0 and invade any blank monster spaces. Players then clean up everything by discarding any cards in play and then drawing 4 new cards. The trailblazer token is then passed to the next player. The timekeeper token is then moved forward on the game path.
This all continues until the timekeeper token reaches the game store. At this point, players will take a cooperative turn. Monsters are removed from this location and the location is flipped over to reveal the boss. Locations are still activated, power ups still happen and pranks are still played like normal. The attack phase is a little different. starting with the first player, monsters are chosen to attack or if attacking the boss, the power level is simply adjusted. Attacking the boss is detailed a little more for each specific boss in the rules. Afterwards, players collect their guardian figures and invade any empty monster spaces. If players defeat the boss, they will gain rewards based on their contribution to the fight. If the boss was left unbeaten, penalties are handed out also based on player contributions. The current wave of monsters are removed from the supply and trash piles and are placed back in the box. The location is then flipped back over. Monsters then invade any empty symbols. Cards in play are then discarded. Power levels are set back to 0 and 4 new cards are drawn. The timekeeper token is them moved forward on the path again. Players then take individual turns like before until the timekeeper token reaches the Museum.
Once the timekeeper token reaches the Museum, player take another cooperative turn like before. Once the turn is over, players leave the damage on the boss and don’t flip it back over to the museum side. Players then check to see if they succeeded in their secret quest. Trophies are added up from the defeated monsters pile and the True Guardian is crowned based on who has the most points. That player is the winner.
This game has a lot of pieces to it. There are several different mats from the 4 player mats to the card supply mat as well as the location mats. These are all really nicely done. The artwork is really great. I really like the style and feel of them all. The cards are really great too. There’s so many nice designs and art on each one. I really love the thematic elements to the game. The game is really beautiful in it’s own way. There were no tokens or counters included in the prototype copy I received but from what I can tell, the art looks really nice on them as well. If everything looks as good as the pieces that I have, this should be a very nicely designed game.
8 out of 10
The rulebook for this is very nicely put together and looks really nice. Every card and mat is explained thoroughly so there should be no questions on what each one does. I really love the art and design throughout the book. There are lots of pictures and examples on every page. On my first read through, I got a little confused until I realized that I needed only to follow the numbers. It did seem to jump around a bit but everything was explained really well. I would have liked a little more streamlined design but as I said, I was able to figure it out fairly easily. In any case, it only took me a few moments to get right to the game itself.
8 out of 10
This game is actually quite fun. There is a bit of a deck building feel to the game as well as drafting. The game that I could most liken it to would probably be Heroes of Graxia. Starting out you can being with pregenerated decks like in Heroes or you can draft your own deck more like 7 Wonders. Both mechanics are quite fun for me, so this game was really enjoyable. I like playing it both ways. The one thing that got me was the powering up. I wasn’t really fond of losing my power after every turn. I mean, I understand the whole idea and concept behind it but I think I’d have liked it more if the power that I got stayed with me and was simply built up every turn. In any case, it did make sense and made for a fun game anyway. I like that every turn you try to figure out which monster(s) you can beat and then try to get your power up enough to be able to beat them. I really enjoyed the game and once I figured out the rules I was able to play it fairly quickly. It only took about 45 minutes to an hour for the first play through but was a little shorter the second time around. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and look forward to seeing it printed.
8 out of 10
The Guardians: Explore is a medium weight card game of deck building and drafting. It’s an average length game with most sessions lasting around 45 minutes or so. The artwork and theme are very nice and everything is designed really well. I really like the feel of the game and it’s really enjoyable. Fans of deck builders and drafting games like Heroes of Graxia or 7 Wonders should really enjoy this game. It takes a little bit to learn and understand but once you’ve played through the game once, you will have no problems after that. There’s not a whole lot of strategy to the game as most of what you’re able to do is dependent on what cards you draw and what monsters are available to attack. I like playing with pregenerated decks as well as drafting your deck. This is a fun game that has a very unique feel to it. It’s really well designed and I look forward to playing it many more times. I’d definitely recommend everyone give it a try.
8 out of 10
For more information about this game, please check it out at the following website.
You can also back the game right now over on Kickstarter.