Nominal Award: Best Cooperative Game
Mechanics: Area Movement, Dice Rolling
Players: 2 - 4
You only think Pandemic is good because you haven't played Legends of Andor. Now, I love Pandemic, but here's it's biggest flaw: about 50% of the time I play, one person at the table has no idea what is going on and another veteran makes every descision for them. A game of Legends of Andor is the great equalizer in this matter.
Legends of Andor is a cooperative adventure game where players assume the role of a hero commissioned to protect the castle of Andor and carry out various quests. Like Pandemic, enemy monsters appear throughout the land as determined by cards that are revealed as you play. And of course, each player has a special ability which, when utilized effectively, can give the players a big advantage.
Unlike Pandemic, Legends of Andor includes five "Legends" in its box, each of which tells a part of an over-arching narrative and provides unique win conditions. Rather than having a shuffled deck of cards to draw from and place "disease cubes", Legends of Andor has "story cards" that get revealed as you progress through the game. The story cards contain a bit of flavor text adding top the story and also introduce objectives and events. I have a group of friends who I've played the of the five missions with. Given the story so far, we have our own theories about what the next legend will be like, given how the story has progressed.
The story cards do two things to improve the game experience. First, they moderate the difficulty level. In cooperative games, a bad shuffle can be a recipe for disaster. While the story cards will sometimes call for a roll of the die to add variety to the game, it is not so easy to create the perfect storm. Secondly, beginning with the introductory legend, the story cards actually teach you how to play as you play. This enables a group of brand new players to sit down and begin playing almost immediately. Finally, they put every player on the same page. Assuming everyone is playing the legend for the first time, everyone is equally unsure of what could go wrong.
The story of Legends of Andor motivates people to play with the same group. I have played the first Legend about five times with five different groups of people. I've gotten all the way to legend 4 with one group (we had to play legend 3 three times before we beat it.) I really like this, but at the same time, if the occasion arose, I wouldn't be as excited about the prospect of playing legend 1 again with a new group. Legends of Andor is really best with any group that is willing to commit to a regular game night. Once the group is established, the game has a great deal of replay value. We are determined to succeed at each mission in consecutive order, so we have already played five times and we still have two legends left. Once we are finished, I've heard there are new modules that are written and published online. The box contains tons of potential, with two sides of the map and dozens of items and characters to help you on your quest.