Before I begin. I was provided a print and play prototype version of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid preview.
If you would prefer to watch a video of this preview then you can do that below! Also, Legends of Novus is currently live on Kickstarter!
Occasionally a game peaks my interest and I reach out to the designer to see if they will send me a prototype so I can preview it. Sometimes they are happy to do so, sometimes they are all, already spoken for. However, when I reached out to Wes Woodbury the designer of Legends of Novus I got a different reply. Yes his prototypes were already spoken for, but he was happy to make a print and play version and send it out.
I was initially interested in LoN because it was a fantasy game, which anyone who knows my barely hidden nerdom knows is my jam, and because it seemed like a game that was unlike anything I had played before. Boy was I right!
Now since there is already a rules overview, and some how to play resources I am not going to spend a ton of time talking about how to play, rather I will highlight things that I find particularly interesting.
Novus is a brand new fantasy world, which has been devastated by the Maelstrom. This Maelstrom has unleashed all kinds of magic and new monsters on the world. Said monsters are slowly destroying the world. Now as anyone who has ever read a book, or seen a movie knows, when the world goes to pot heroes will rise and fix everything. Well this is where things go a little bit askew.
In this game, yes the heroes are trying to save the world, but they are trying to be the most famous hero to do it. They are trying to become a legend. It is an interesting twist. Also, luckily for the world, it is not all that complicated to save, because you only need 45-90 minutes to do it. There is no campaign in this one.
This lack of campaign works because it is NOT a dungeon crawl. Rather you move about the world map, and each location can be explored. Exploring each location gain result in rewards, or combat, or curses, or special location specific events. Literally on a turn you might traverse the equivalent of a hundred miles (there is no scale on the map, and I probably wouldn’t measure it if there was…but you get what I am saying).
I will note one interesting thing about traveling. Every time you travel you have to roll the travel die. This can result in extra movement (cool), an adventure card (cooler), extra treasure (coolest), or a battle with a monster (not remotely cool). Fighting these monsters is relatively simple. It is done by calculating your power score (measured by your class and equipment and xp level) and adding the roll of a d10. This is compared to the enemies power level and their d10 roll. There are some bigger, badder quest monsters that require you to win 2 out of 3 fights, but it is done, in more or less, the same manner.
There are a couple modes that you can play, solo, competitive, and team competitive. There is also a full co-op mode that is still in the early phases of play-testing.
So what do I think?
First of all, this game is unique. I have played a lot of fantasy, RPG type games and none of them has ever played like this one. I think it does what it sets out to do. Over the course of a single game you progress from a rookie hero and by the end of the game you are certainly formidable…nay, dare I say it? Legendary. The core of why this game feels so different is that it is fully contained in a single game, the focus on traveling from one side of the continent to the other to accomplish tasks, and the relative lack of focus on combat.
Since combat is so streamlined, the game really seems to focus on the travel aspect. Where are you going to go? Where can you accomplish quests, where can you cure a curse, or fight a quest monster? In this game it really is about the journey and not the result. That is cool.
The art is top notch, and there is a LOT of it. While some of the cards I had do not have their art yet, my understanding is that all of the cards will eventually have their own artwork. It is attractive and effective. The iconography is simple enough, and clear. It does not take long to learn it.
Finally, there is so much lore already existing behind this game. Some of it is on the reverse side of the cards, while the rest will be available via a link/QR code in the rulebook or via the free app that will be part of the game. I got to take a peek at an alpha version of the app, and it is easy to use and clean. You can really immerse yourself into this game, or just play it through with limited story. It is up to you.
The player boards are very large. This is done purposefully, as the designer wants to be able to showcase the art, and he has said that he really does not like mini cards. This is perfectly understandable, though I will say it does feel like the game takes up more space than it needs to. On the other hand it does allow for you to see all of the art, and it is certainly easy to read everything.
The other thing that may rub folks the wrong way is combat. There is a certain amount of randomness involved, as there always is with dice, however there is always a 10% chance that you just blow it and fail. If you roll a “1” on your die then you lose combat, and take whatever penalties there are associated with that. This does not bother me, and it actually made for a fun story as my very first fight ended this way. I can only imagine that my warrior charged into combat for the first time, and was so nervous that he forgot to draw his sword, and promptly got trounced.
Finally, this game plays so differently than anything that I have played before I did find that I had to to the rules regularly. This did lead me to, initially, feel like the game was far more complicated than it is. Though in reality it is decently simple, it is just new.
I think the biggest challenge with this game is player expectations. As I have now said several times, I have never played a game like this before. An epic feeling game, contained in a single game-play. A game that seems to be about the journey more than the result, and a game where saving the world is secondary to becoming a legend.
I think it would be very easy to EXPECT a dungeon crawling, campaign game. This is not that game. It does not pretend to be, but so many of the fantasy games out there are, heck I would venture to say most of them are. That is not a fault of the game certainly, just something that you should be aware of.
Bringing it together
Legends of Novus feels like a new kind of fantasy adventure game. I have never played one before where it truly felt like the journey was more important than combat, or the end result. I have also never played a game that feels epic in scale, but concludes in a single sitting. The artwork is good, the theme is solid, and the lore behind the game is deep. The gameplay is enjoyable. Some people might not like the size of the player boards, and the use of automatic failure in the combat system, though to me I was not bothered by it. I do think it is very important to make sure that you really check out this game to understand what it is. It is not another dungeon crawler.
You say the game feels epic? Reading all that hot garbage is epic!
*Deep story, good art
*Unique style of game. One I have not played before.
*Epic in feel, but not in time at the table.
*Game play is so different from other games it can feel daunting at first
*Perhaps larger than it needs to be on the table
*Relatively inexpensive at under $50