Back at BGG Con 2019, I remember staring at the wall of Legend of Andor games at the KOSMOS booth, and wondering about the gameplay. I knew they were popular, but I wasn’t expecting to have so many fans check in at the booth to register their pleasure with their experience or ask about future expansions. Andor fans are very passionate about the game.
So, when KOSMOS sent us a review copy of the newest version of Andor, a family weight introduction to the milieu, I must admit to a level of excitement that I was not expecting. First, at home, I have the perfect target audience to play the game, a family of gamers from all ages. Second, the theme of working cooperatively to help the kingdom deal with some catastraphe appeals to me. And of course, the chance to finally explore at least a part of the world of Andor made this one easy to get to the table.
But enough blather about my pre-game impressions, what about the game itself?
Andor: The Family Fantasy Game is a cooperative family game from designers Inka and Markus Brand with art from Michael Menzel. Menzel was also the creator of the original series, so he knows the world very well. It is a 2020 release from KOSMOS but is just hitting American shores right now.
The furry and friendly wolf cubs are missing, the Castle in Andor is under siege from a terrible dragon, and time is running out. That’s not a bad idea for a summer blockbuster and not a bad idea for a board game, either, but do not expect Matthew McConaughey to help.
Instead, the designers of Andor provided each player with a unique role to help them win the game. Players can chose from typical fantasy archetypes like the wizard, warrior, archer and dwarf, and each role comes with unique skills and action points.
In each game, players will need to complete two goals chosen either in succession (as in a campaign) or at random. Or, the difficulty setting can be ramped up or down by increasing or decreasing the number of goal cards. The goal cards are things like collecting a certain amount of McGufffins around the board or delivering something to someone. Think Oceans Eleven but on a much lighter scale and not so many characters to keep up.
On their turns, players will move their characters around the board, exploring unexplored territories (not always a favorable thing to do), fighting monsters, and collecting stuff. Once enough goals have been met, they are allowed to cross the bridge on the right side of the board to start exploring the caves to start the wolf cub search. Find all the cubs and win the game!
KOSMOS has a well deserved reputation for solid game production, and Andor is not an exception. The art is cartoony and bright, and will definitely appeal to the younger set. Most of the bits and bobs are cardboard or wooden pieces, so this is the kind of game that will not only look good on the table, but appeal to the kids (and the kids in all of us) as something that can be played for many years.
I love the artwork in the game, especially those centered on the player characters and the wolf cubs. I wish there were more diversity in the art representation — this is a family level fantasy game, meaning anything goes when it comes to who and what is represented in the game. It’s always a little nicer when differences between cultures are appreciated in a family weight game like this.
But overall, this is a very solid game production and one we will be happy to share with family and friends.
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
I am fortunate to have so many different age groups that come through my house to play games. One of the toughest groups to please — which is kind of counter intuitive — is the youngest set. A lot of times, my little grandbugs just want something that they can play on their own and make up stories (like FunkoVerse or Unmatched) instead playing “a real game.” But every once in a while, a game like Andor comes around.
In our family plays, because of the age of the kiddoes, we had to do a lot of ‘hand-holding’. The kids easily got the overall concepts of the game — explore, collect, fight, and find those wolf cubs — but struggled with the particulars of the rules. They are still much more comfortable with the HABA series of early games that have limited rules and a quick play time.
That being said, I really like the way that the designers scale up the difficulty. If you don’t mind the hand holding, gamers of all ages can definitely play together, and the interest level for adults will still be there. You can follow the order set by the designers, pairing up the goals which will give the players tougher and tougher outings. Even once you play all of the combos, you can ratchet it up, by combining different cards intentionally or randomly.
As the kiddoes get older, this is the kind of game that I will want to put on the table after the dinner dishes saved up, because there is fun to be had no matter the age. In some ways, as our hobby has grown, the idea that a game can be fun for all ages is a bit in peril. Kickstarter blings out games, making them wildly more expensive. Hobbyists (and I’m pointing at myself, for sure) drool over games that have overlapping gears, some so convoluted that they resemble more Rube Goldberg machines than past times to be enjoyed on a wooden table on your back porch. Legacy and campaign games ask participants to devote hours and hours of game time (and lose hours and hours of sleep) for the payoff.
Andor gave us hours of gameplay, our whole group playing and sharing the adventure together, without the need for tons of mechanisms or dozens and dozens of boxes of content to open up. Or maybe never open up, as the case may be. And, thinking back on that wall of game expansions at the con, it would not surprise me if we see more adventures down the road, because there’s plenty of room in this system for expansion.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!