Defenders of the Realm by Richard Launius – Published by Eagle Games
”In the ancient Citadel of Monarch City, the King calls to arms the finest Heroes to defend against a Darkness that engulfs the land. You and your allies must embark on a journey to defend the countryside, repair the tainted lands, and defeat the four Generals and their Minions before any of them enter the Citadel. They approach from all sides, fast populating Orcs, fierce Dragons, Undead that bring fear, and foul Demons! All will be tainting the land in their wake. There are several paths to defeat, but only one path to victory. Only the most valiant Hero will be crowned King’s Champion.”
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‘Defenders of the Realm’ is a fantasy themed cooperative board game for 1-4 players ages 13+ with a suggested play time of 90-120 minutes. Each player takes control of a fantasy hero drawn from one of the many typical fantasy stereotypes such as a Paladin, Cleric, or Wizard. Player’s will have assume a pivotal role in a war that is almost reminiscent of fantasy novels such as “Lord of the Rings”, where a small band of heroes and their efforts prove to be instramental in stopping the invaders from destroying the realm! Players will roam far and wide across a large map representing various locations in the realm while completing quests, fighting off minions, and gathering strength in an effort to defeat the evil Generals. Be wary though, for each time a General is defeated the war effort will become tenser as the Generals advance quicker, more Minions spawn, and quests become more challenging.
Can you defeat the Generals before they can march on Monarch City or their vile Minions can corrupt the land beyond repair? It is a time for brave heroes too rise up to the challenge and join together. Remember though, when it is all over only one hero will be declared “The King’s Champion”!
What’s In The Box
Defenders of the Realm comes in a large almost “Coffin” sized box that has some nice dividers to separate all the games bits for easy set up and storage. Normally dividers prove to be pretty useless but with the amount of miniatures and the decent layout of the dividers they actually work well. The box contains well over 100 plastic miniatures representing the Minions, Generals, and player’s heroes; it’s a veritable smorgasbord of plastic gaming goodness.
The complete component list:
– 1 Large Game Board
– 8 Hero Character Cards
– 8 Hero Miniatures
– 4 General Character Cards
– 4 General Miniatures
– 100 Minions Broken Down as Follows
o 25 Black to represent Varkolak’s Undead
o 25 Blue to represent Sapphire’s Dragonkin
o 25 Red to represent Balazarg’s Demons
o 25 Green to represent Gorgutt’s Orcs
– War Status Board
– Deck of Darkness Spreads Cards
– Deck of Hero Cards
– Deck of Quest Cards
– 12 Tainted Crystals
– 5 Magic Gate Tokens
– 12 Dice – 3 per color (Black, Blue, Red, Green)
– 7 Status Tokens (War Status, 4 General Wound Markers, and Eagle Rider Status)
– 42 Life Tokens
All of this is available for a $79.99 MSRP but of course some astute price hunting could easily net you up to $20.00 in savings.
With 112 plastic miniatures in the box there is definitely a perceived value with the purchase of the game. Even considering that there are only 13 different sculpts the sheer quantity of plastic is quite staggering. The miniatures are manufactured using a softer bendable plastic that is slowly becoming the standard in the board game industry. The softer plastic has the advantage of durability which is great if you just want to toss all the miniatures into the box at the end of a game and not have to worry about swords and other bits breaking. Yet for the true hobbyist, who really enjoys painting their miniatures, the softer plastic can be troublesome to paint compared to the hard plastic used in games such as Star Trek Fleet Captains or the late 80’s Games Workshop games.
The sculpts themselves for the most part are ok and except for the sculpt used for the dragon Sapphire I would actually describe them as minimalist. The minions are literally faceless drones wearing hooded robes and carrying a knife. The Generals are slightly lower quality with minimal detail flourishes to the point that if you were to paint Balazarg his face would become a near featureless blob. The heroes are about the same quality as the Generals with some parts appearing to be far too thin for the plastic used which seems to add to the “Less Detailed” look of the miniatures. The best way to describe them is that the plastic either didn’t pour into the moulds completely or the moulds themselves were not carved deeply enough to allow finer details (I am leaning towards the latter). As a final note some purchasers state their Dragon General miniature would not stand up, luckily Eagle did include a base to glue him too if you have this issue (I personally didn’t need to use the base since my Sapphire stands up perfectly fine).
‘Defenders of the Realm’ includes a lot of cards, enough in fact that you could easily play some games without ever reshuffling the decks. The cards have some great artwork on the back done in classic ‘Larry Elmore’ style. The front of most cards contain full color artwork, large easily legible text, and are color coded for ease of play (while the colors of the cards assist in using the cards abilities, a color blind person would not have any trouble playing the game). The cards themselves are on the thinner side, with a laminate to increase longevity, and are unevenly cut. I actually have to have the stack of “Hero Cards” stacked slightly “messy” otherwise you can pick out all the purple cards at a glance (they are all larger then the location cards in the Hero deck. The Hero Cards and Darkness Spreads cards are standard size but the Quest cards are the small half sized cards which feel very thin. While I have never been a fan of mini-cards I can appreciate how they help keep a players “play area” less cluttered.
The game board is large, colorful, and durable. The board has text that is easily legible, the spaces are color coded (but again color blind friendly thanks to the text), and there is some fantastic artwork on the board. The artwork has a unique style to it that may be off putting to some but I personally appreciate it. The spaces show a quick “glimpse” of the area reminiscent of an image through a “Crystal Ball” setting a nice tone and theme to the game. The spaces are also very large and able to hold multiple miniatures at a time (a good thing when you consider 5 or more miniatures in a space can be quite common), “Pandemic” should be taking notes here. Like “Arkham Horror” the game could have used some game rule charts imprinted on the board for quick reference such as minion “To Hit” numbers (anyone who has taped a copy of the overrun charts etc from Arkham Horror on a corner of the board will understand what I mean here). The board is definitely large enough for these kinds of charts and while it could be argued that these numbers will be eventually memorized by players, it would have been nice during those early learning games.
The rulebook is fairly well laid out and is an easy read thanks to a bit of humor as bits of it are presented from the viewpoint of the “Bad Guys”. The text is large and there are numerous gameplay examples and images to help clarify the rules throughout the book. The back page also has a nice player action phase summary. While there isn’t a table of contents the rules are laid out in the order they will be encountered which will speed things up when rules need to be looked up. To be fair though the game is really easy to learn and the included player aids make it so that after a few plays you can pretty much toss out the rulebook and never miss it.
The cardboard used for the game is really nice and thick, with each Hero and General getting their own board. The General and Hero boards include relevant game play information and are nicely designed. The same can be said about the “War Status Board” with a nice summarization of the relevant rules.
There are 12 dice in 4 different colors included in the game. They are very nice, hefty, full sized dice with the pips engraved into them for longevity. The final bit is the plastic “Crystals” used to represent when a location on the board has become too corrupted by the vile Minions. They are a nice touch in a game that could have easily used cheap wooden cubes or simple cardboard tokens.
Components And Presentation Verdict: 7.0/10 The board and the cardboard used for the game show some real attention to quality. The miniatures really add to the thematic feel of the game especially in this day and age where cardboard bits or wooden cubes are becoming more and more common. I would have liked some higher quality sculpts on the miniatures though and some variety in the minion sculpts would have been nice to see too. Finally the cardstock and quality of the cut for the cards was a disappointment for me.
How Does It Play?
Defenders of the Realm, is a cooperative board game where the players will use strategy, card management, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of cooperation in an effort to defeat 4 vicious Generals marching on the capital city of Monarch. On a players turn they will travel to various regions on the board stemming the tide of minions spawning all over the place, while trying to complete quests that will grant them special abilities to make them stronger or to slow down the growing armies of the Generals. Players get action points each turn based on their currently remaining hit points (creating an interesting mechanic where players will strive to avoid injury). Players then use Action Points to move, fight, use special abilities, or heal the land of the taint caused when too many minions occupy the same location on the board. The player’s eventual goal is to gather enough Hero cards matching the color of a General so they can fight and possibly defeat that General. Players win if they manage to defeat all 4 Generals and lose if any of the 4 Generals move into Monarch City, a Darkness Spreads Card identifies minions to be placed on the board and you do not have enough minions to meet the requirements of the card, the last of the 12 Tainted Crystals is added to the board, or if 5 enemy minions are in Monarch City at any time.
Great, Now What Do All These Bits Do?
The Darkness Spreads cards create the main antagonist mechanism of the game. At the end of each player’s turn they will draw 1-3 (depending on the current “War Status”) Darkness Spreads cards. The cards will depict 2 locations on the top and 1 location on the bottom half of the card. The two top locations will spawn minions in the color and amount depicted on the card and the bottom location will depict a location the depicted General will advance too if the General is on the space just prior to it, for example Balazarg will only advance to “Angel Tear Falls” if the card depicts that location and Balazarg is currently at “Raven Forest”. A general will also spawn Minions at the location as depicted on the bottom of the card if the General moves to that space and Generals will never move backwards due to a Darkness Spreads Card.
Each of the 4 Generals has their own statistic card with Hit Points (how many hits they can take before being defeated), the minimum roll on a D6 required to score a hit, special combat skills, and some thematic text. During set up place a wound marker on the hit point track at the highest number and each time the General takes a wound move the token 1 space towards the skull. Once the token reaches the skull the General is defeated and the player who landed the killing blow takes the General card as a reminder they now automatically slay any of that Generals Minions (forgoing the Die/Dice roll) in combat
Each Hero Statistic Card lists the unique special abilities that the hero has access too during the game. In the lower left hand corner is listed the hero’s starting Action/Hit Point tokens. Heroes have different Hit Points which helps balance out player abilities ranging from the Eagle Riders 4 Hit Points up to the Clerics 6 Hit Points.
There are 2 kinds of Hero cards the basic cards which match the locations on the board and the purple “Special” cards which grant the heroes special 1 use abilities and are then removed from the game. The standard cards have multiple uses. First each card can be discarded to move the number of spaces listed on the top of the card or to the location depicted if there is a Magic Gate Icon for the cost of one Action point. If a player is on the space depicted on the card the card can be discarded to place one of the 5 Gate Tokens on that space. A Hero card can also be discarded to try to remove a taint crystal from the depicted location if the player is on that space and is willing to discard that card. Finally and most importantly Hero cards can be used to engage a General in combat. The bottom of each card shows a General and depicts a number of dice (usually 1 but some cards show 2 dice). When a player engages a General in a fight they discard cards and then roll as many dice as depicted on all the cards discarded, causing wounds to the General for each successful hit.
The Life Tokens simplify the Action Phase greatly. Each player has Life Tokens equal to their starting life, when they spend an Action Point they simply flip a life token over to its back side signifying the Action Point has been spent. When a player takes damage they discard the Life Token until they are healed reducing their available action points for the turn
Each player starts with a quest card and as soon as they complete a quest (whether successfully or not) they immediately draw a new quest card. While a character cannot discard a quest they do not like, they can discard it the moment it becomes impossible to complete (for instance if it requires you to interact with a General that has been defeated). Successfully completing quests give random rewards, some are one time use, while others grant permanent abilities.
Taint Crystals add an additional sense of urgency to the game. Any time a Darkness Spreads card instructs a player to place a 4th Minion (or 3rd Demon Minion) instead of placing the Minion a Taint Crystal is placed on the space. If all 12 Taint Crystals are ever placed on the board then the players instantly lose.
As the war progresses and the heroes defeat Enemy Generals, the remaining Generals press the attack even harder. The War Status is used to track the progress of the war. As Generals are defeated, the War Status marker advances on the track increasing the number of Darkness Spreads cards that are drawn each turn.
Rulebook turn Summary.
Setup is a quick process, player’s select their hero, randomly spawn the 30 starting minions in random starting locations, draw starting cards, and then play is ready to begin.
Each players turn is broken down into 3 Phases with each player completing all 3 phases before ending their turn. Play then moves to the next player.
Players can spend one (1) action point to perform one of the following actions;
(All Actions require the use of 1 Life Token unless otherwise noted. Simply flip a Life Token Over to signify it has been spent for this turn):
Movement by Foot: Move 1 space to an adjacent location (connected by a line).
Movement by Horse: Move up to 2 locations away (connected by lines) by discarding a Hero Card with a Horse Icon on the top.
Movement by Eagle: Move up to 4 locations away (connected by lines) by discarding a Hero Card with an Eagle Icon on the top.
Movement by Magic Gate: There are two ways to move by Magic Gate:
– 1. Discard a Hero Card with a Magic Gate icon and move to the location on the card or to any Magic Gate on the board.
– 2. When there are multiple Magic Gates on the board, you may move from one Magic Gate to any other Magic Gate for a single action and no card is required.
Perform a Special Skill: Some heroes have unique skills that may require 1 or more actions to perform. If a skill requires an action, it will be noted on the Hero Character Card. Otherwise, the skill can be executed without the use of an action.
Build a Magic Gate: When a hero is on a location and also has a card matching that location, he may discard that card to build a Magic Gate. Place a Magic Gate token on that location to show that the gate has been built.
Rumors at the Inn: A hero may spend up to 2 actions at an Inn to listen for rumors. When doing so, call out a card color (Red, Green, Blue, or Black) and draw 2 cards for each action spent listening for rumors. Keep all cards that match the called color, as well as any Purple (Special) cards that were drawn.
Heal the Land: If the hero is on a tainted location, discard a Hero Card that matches the location color and roll 2 dice. If a 5 or more is rolled on either die, the hero removes 1 Tainted Crystal from that location. Only 1 Tainted Crystal may be removed per action.
Healing Wounds: Heroes may heal themselves. The number of Life Tokens recovered depends on the location.
Engage Minions in Combat: Roll a die for each enemy minion in the same location as the hero. The dice rolled should match their target’s color.
Attack an Enemy General: If a hero is in the same location as an Enemy General and all enemy minions there have been eliminated (or no minions were present to begin with), the hero can attack the General by playing any number of Hero Cards bearing that General’s portrait. The hero rolls one die for each die on the played Hero Cards (shown next to the General at the bottom of the Hero Card, some cards have 2 dice, most have 1).
Combat uses an interesting mechanic, players roll colored dice matching the color of the Minion(s) on that space. Any rolled die that matches the color of a Minion and scores a hit instantly slays that Minion (different Minions have Different to hit rolls, Orcs are weak and die on a 3 or higher on a green die, while Dragon Minions are tough requiring a 5 or Higher on a Blue die to defeat). For example a player on a space with 2 Blue Minions and 1 Red Minion would spend 1 combat action to roll 1 red die and 2 blue dice. If the red die yields a 4 or higher the Red Minion is defeated and if the blue dice yield a 5 or higher then a Blue Minion is slain for each die that yields a 5 or higher.
If a hero ends their turn in a space with Minions, they take damage (depending on the number of Minions in the space) and must discard Life Tokens until they heal by using a Healing Wounds Action.
COMBAT WITH A GENERAL
Players can (and should) team up to defeat a General by simply having all heroes on the same space with the General. Once all heroes who wish to participate in the fight are on the space with the General, the last player to move to the space (as long as they have 1 Action Point to start the fight) announces the battle. Simply play hero cards matching the General being fought. Then the hero(s) rolls one die for each die on the played Hero Card(s) (shown next to the image of the General at the bottom of the Hero Card, some cards have 2 dice, but most have only 1). Each roll equal to or greater than the to hit number of the General (for simplicities sake it is the same target number used to hit a Minion) scores a hit and moves the Generals wound token 1 space on the wound path. If players score enough hits the General is slain and the player who scored the final hit becomes the slayer who can now slay that Generals minions without rolling a combat die. Of course all the Generals have special powers making it much more challenging than a simple roll of the dice.
If the hero(s) fails to defeat the General, the hero(s) must suffer the Hero Defeated penalties on the General’s Character Card. The hero is moved to Monarch City, his bleeding body carried back to the King to heal and fight another day. Finally the General begins to heal its wounds based on the color of the space the Wound Marker was advanced to.
The active player draws 2 Hero Cards and adds them to their hand, if they have more than 10 cards, they must discard down to 10 cards (this can be done after drawing).
The current player draws 1-3 Darkness Spreads cards (depending on the war status), places Minions on the board, and then potentially moves a General (or two if you are really unlucky) one space.
Check for Overruns and Tainted Land: The maximum number of minions that may exist in any location outside of Monarch City is 3. When a 4th minion (or 3rd Demon) is to be added to a location, the location becomes too destroyed for humanity to survive in that area and the land becomes Overrun and Tainted. Instead of adding the 4th minion, a Tainted Crystal is placed on that location and minions advance to surrounding locations. Add 1 minion of the same color that caused the overrun (which will also be the same color that is on the Darkness Spreads Card) to all adjacent (connected by a line) locations. A General does not count as a minion when determining Overruns and Tainted Land. During an overrun, any “overrun minions” that would increase the number of minions in an adjacent location beyond 3, Taint the land but they do NOT cause any additional overruns and no minions are added to the overrun locations that become Tainted.
The current players turn is now over and it is the next players turn.
A sample game might look something like this:
A player is playing the Eagle Rider Hero who has 4 Hit Points (4 Actions per turn) and one of his special abilities is the ability to be in one of two attack modes, Air or Ground (Ground allows him to re roll missed attacks, Air allows him to end his turn in a space with Minions and not take damage). The Eagle Rider’s other important ability is they can move up to 4 spaces for the cost of 1 Action Point.
The Eagle Rider spends an Action Point (flipping over a Life Token signifying it has been spent) to move 3 spaces to a location containing 2 Red Minions and 1 Blue Minion. The Eagle Rider then spends a 2nd Action Point (flipping over a Life Token signifying it has been spent) to engage the Minions in combat and rolls 2 Red Dice and 1 Blue Die (the colors of the Minions in the Location). The Eagle Rider rolls a 1 and a 5 on the red dice and a 3 on the blue die resulting in only one Minion (a red Minion) defeated. The Eagle Rider spends a 3rd Action Point (flipping over a Life Token signifying it has been spent) and re-engages the 2 remaining Minions in combat, this time rolling a 4 on the Red die and a 5 on the Blue die slaying the 2 remaining Minions. The Eagle Rider spends his 4th and final Action Point (flipping over the last Life Token signifying it has been spent) to move 4 spaces ending their turn on a space with 3 Dragon Minions (luckily he is in Air attack mode saving him from damage; otherwise he would take 3 wounds). The Eagle Rider draws 2 Hero cards bringing their hand up to 11 cards and forcing them to discard 1 card unless they have a purple card they wish to play now (the hand limit is 10).
The 3rd Phase now begins and the Eagle Rider player draws a Darkness Spreads card which directs them to place 2 Red Minions in the Withered Hills, 2 Black Minions in the Enchanted Glade, and if Gorgutt is currently in “Thorny Woods” (he is!) he moves one space to “Amarak Peak” spawning 2 additional Green Minions at “Amarak Peak”! There is already 1 Blue Minion at “Amarak Peak” bringing the total Minions at “Amarak Peak” to 3. If one more Minion spawns here then an Overrun and Taint will occur at “Amarak Peak”!
Simplicity of The Rules: 8.25/10 The rules are actually pretty simple especially for anyone who has experience with games like Pandemic. Once you are familiar with the rules you will rarely if ever need to crack open the rulebook. The game does have quite a few ambiguities caused by interactions of the cards though especially “Varkolak’s” immunity power which has an extensive FAQ available to download and peruse. Honestly though I played this game for months before even knowing the FAQ existed and found out I only had one ruling incorrect with a quest reward so it’s not as difficult as some would lead you to believe.
Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?
As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too.
Defenders of the Realm is a cooperative game for 1-4 players ages 13 and up. Larry Elmore did the artwork for the game and I would say for the most part it has a slightly more mature look to it. Nothing overly gory mind you (a compliment to Mr. Elmore and his ability to create artwork that is dark without resorting to the cheap gore factor that some fall back upon) but the imagery is dark. There is a demon on the game board, Varkolak the undead general reminds me of some of the fantastic Dragonlance settings paintings of the Death Knights, and even Balazarg has a slightly dark look. The game mechanics on the other hand are really not that deep and each player can discuss there plans with the other players which can help the younger players. Some of the Heroes can be easier for younger players to use, I would recommend the Eagle Rider to any younger player with his 4 movement and damage immunity.
Overall though, ages 9-10 seems like a decent starting age for the game complexity wise with the only caveat being your feelings on the artwork. While the artwork isn’t prevalent, there really isn’t a way to hide it all.
Family Friendliness Verdict:7.5/10 Cooperative games can make for a great family gaming experience, Forbidden Island is still a family favorite in my household for that reason alone. ‘Defenders of the Realm’ has a strong cooperative team feel and encourages players to help each other especially if they want to defeat the Generals. The different heroes can also make the game play easier for younger players. If not for the artwork, this would be a fantastic companion or even replacement for Forbidden Island.
Defenders plays in about 90 minutes to 120 minutes depending on how many players are playing. While the game is playable solo, the max hand limit of 10 cards forces you to play with 2 heroes unless of course you have a semi-masochistic streak and really want a challenge. Most games will be played with 2 to 4 heroes and while it has some decent balancing mechanics, it is easier with more players. The perfect balance of challenge seems to sit at 3 players, with 4 players being easier and 2 players being more challenging. If you want a 4 player game to be more challenging I would suggest removing the Eagle Rider, Paladin, and Wizard from the Hero pool since their special abilities are fairly powerful. If you would like an easier 2 player game I would suggest having one person use the Eagle Rider hero.
* Fun cooperative game.
* Built in randomizers add to replay value.
* The randomness of combat makes outcomes less of a “sure thing”.
* Copious amounts of plastic really adds to the theme, if the Minions were replaced with wooden cubes it would have really detracted from the game.
* Lots of room for expansions adding new Heroes, new Generals, and new challenges.
* Well designed box holds all the components well.
* Like most cooperative games the rules allow for solo play.
* The randomness of the dice can get frustrating at times.
* Some days it just seems like the cards are “Stacked against you”.
* The sculpts could have used more/better detail
* The thin cardstock used for the cards and the terrible job cutting the cards.
* Some minor rules discrepancies caused by card interaction will frustrate players who hesitate to make a call and go with it.
* There are some balance issues, they are far from game breaking, but some heroes are just better then other heroes in some groups.
But Is It Fun?
Mechanically Defenders of the Realm is a well designed game, to the point that you could basically toss almost any theme at it and have a pretty entertaining game, which says a lot about the games mechanics. Don’t think I am implying that the theme is pasted on though, far from it, Defenders has an epic feel to it and leaves me feeling like I am part of an intrepid band of adventurers trying to stop an evil army of marauders. Defenders makes me feel like I am part of the war for Middle Earth much in the same way that the classic game “Freedom in the Galaxy” makes me feel like I am part of the Star Wars universe. You can definitely see where the inspiration comes from.
‘Defenders’ feels like an evolution of the cooperative game Pandemic and has basically shelved Pandemic for my play group. Whether it is the theme or the randomized none deterministic mechanics that leaves every action with a chance of failure, the game really works with my gaming group. Although it can get frustrating when you just cannot get the dice to work in your favor, I can remember many times when a “Sure thing” fight with a General ended in abysmal failure. Gorgutt especially of all the generals with his ability to parry hits on a roll of a one has led to many an “Aaarrghhhh” moment but that just adds to the determination of the group. The dragon Minions can also be frustrating requiring a 5 or higher to defeat but thankfully they are supposed to appear less often (but some days the cards are stacked against you). This alone can kill this game for some players, if you get frustrated by randomizers like this you will not enjoy Defenders of the Realm and I would suggest you look into Pandemic.
I think Defenders of the Realm does a few things better than Pandemic though. First unlike Pandemic since you cannot trade cards you are forced to group up “like a heroic party” to take out the Generals. Additionally the added quest cards give players something else to do and they grant heroes additionally abilities making the quests something players want to strive towards completing. Yet in the later parts of the game questing becomes a greater risk as the quests become harder to complete! I really want to avoid making this review a Pandemic comparison so I’ll end the comparisons here.
I have mentioned this a few times already but I am glad that Eagle went with actual sculpts for the Minions instead of either tokens or generic wooden cubes. Not only do they add to the theme of the game, they also help make the game board feel like a living world. I would have preferred the Minions to each have a unique sculpt though and think this could have been done without adding too much to the cost of the game. Imagine if the black Minions would have been Skeletons or the green Minions had been Orcs that would have made the game look even more thematic and exciting. I do understand the logic that including generic Minions allows future expansions to match them to any possible future Generals, my contention is that more thematic Minions wouldn’t have hurt the potential of future expansions in the least.
The sculpts also could have used some work. While they are not terrible you can definitely see the quality difference between the miniatures in Defenders and the miniatures in games such as the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System games. I could almost accept the less detailed quality of the Minions (Minions are faceless cannon fodder after all), if the Generals and Heroes had been higher quality sculpts.
Eagle did a great job on all the cardboard included in the game, using thick card stock that seems durable and has yet to peel or start to fall apart, I cannot say the same for the cards though. While the thin card stock is mildly frustrating, the fact that if I stack the hero cards in a clean stack I can pick out the purple cards 100% of the time is a definite quality control negative.
The artwork is very well done including the art on the game board. I like the over-sized game board, one of my largest complaints with Pandemic (ok one last comparison…) is that the spaces were far too small for the game pieces. This is definitely not the case with Defenders where you can fit a Large Dragon, a couple Minions, and some heroes all in one game space on the board. I also appreciate the artistic style of the game board it feels like I am gazing through a crystal ball at a tiny segment of a location in a large fantasy realm.
Overall though Defenders doesn’t do anything new that will convert you if you do not enjoy cooperative games. A dominant personality can still ruin the enjoyment of the game (although this is a personality flaw not a game flaw in my opinion), bad luck can really ruin the best laid plans, and aside from the “Kings Champion” rules that allow players to pick an overall winner it is still a players versus the game board experience. The game can be slightly more challenging with multiple ways to lose and only 1 way to win which is a definite plus.
Overall Final Game Verdict: 8.0/10 If you enjoy a good cooperative game, like a fantasy theme, and enjoy random outcomes to your decisions pick up a copy of Defenders of the Realm! You will not be disappointed.