Game Review: Defenders of the Realm

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I traveled down to Panguitch, UT for a few days of relaxation and fun.  We spent time fishing in Panguitch Lake, hiking in Bryce Canyon and walking around town.  If you haven’t been, Panguitch is an amazing little town in the south central portion of Utah.  With access to Bryce Canyon, Brian Head resort, fishing, hiking, and camping this little town has it all.  One of my favorite things that happens in Panguitch is the balloon festival.  If you have never been–you should definitely give it a visit.  But I digress from the family vacation.

Me with my "Giant" Trout

Me with my “Giant” Trout

E's Fish

E’s Fish

The reason I have such a cheesy smile on my face is that by the time I had caught my first fish (which turned out to be nearly a minnow compared to the other fish being caught) each of my six children had already caught a fish–and all of them were well over 20″.  So when I finally caught my 10 incher, I thought I would ham it up for the camera.

In the evenings, as we put the younger children in bed, four of my children and I played Defenders of The Realm.  This strategic board game can be played by up to 4 players and is considered a cooperative style game.  This means that everyone either wins or loses together.  At the end of the game, if the players all win, the player who performed the best gets to be the King’s Champion.

I had never played a cooperative game before and was quite impressed.   Before we started, I had my oldest read the rule book.  I also read the rule book.  Between the two of us, we had a fairly firm grasp on how the game was played.  The game took about two turns before everyone caught on to how it was played. The youngest playing was only six and she caught on completely and had a blast playing.  She and I played on a “team” in case she needed some help with her turns.

At the beginning of the game, each player chooses to be one of the different King’s Heroes.  Each hero has different abilities and skills.  It makes a lot of sense for the players to talk about who they are choosing so a good blend of skills and powers end up in the game.  If not, you can have a really tough time beating one or two of the enemy Generals.

During each turn, a player has the choice of engaging the enemy minions in battle, working on completing an individual quest that helps them gain extra advantages, or combating the enemy Generals.  At the end of each players turn, a card or two are drawn that cause the enemy Generals to advance toward the center of the board.  These cards also direct players to place more enemy minions on the board.  If any of the enemy Generals reach the center (Monarch City) the game is over and all the players lose.  Players can also lose the game if too many minions end up on the board, too many minions end up in Monarch City, or if all the tainted crystals (there are 12) end up on the board.  Crystals end up on the board when too many minions are in one space.  So each turn a player is faced with the decision of using their turn to improve their abilities or fighting against the enemy.  You can fight against the minions, clean up (remove) tainted crystals, or fight against enemy Generals.  If you plan properly, all the players can join in an attack on the enemy Generals–and let me tell you, to win against any one of the four Generals, you will need at least two and maybe three or four of you in on the attack.

The first game we played took about two hours.  Part of that is because we were playing slow and having lots of conversation.  We won that game.  The next night, we played again.  This game went a bit faster and interestingly enough, everyone was a bit more interested in winning the crown of King’s Champion at the end of the game.  Because we were all focused on finishing our individual quests (completion of which give you a huge advantage in deciding who wins the title of King’s Champion) we didn’t focus enough on the enemy Generals.  We quickly “got behind” in the game and went on to lose.  Both games were a ton of fun.  In fact, the morning after the first game, my wife kept mentioning how funny it was to keep hearing all of us cheering or booing in unison when a turn went well or poorly.  We all really enjoyed the game.   I felt the best lesson learned was that we all need to work together to win.

If you like fantasy and you enjoy board games I heartily recommend playing Defenders of the Realm.  You can pick it up over on Amazon for under $60.  I have since learned that there are several expansion packs for the game.  I’m considering picking up one or two of them–we’ll see.

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