Todd Sanders is one of the more prolific home boardgame designers, and his work has a fantastic high design feel. As an artist he takes real care in the presentation of his games, and this means you end up with great looking cards, counters and components. His work is of a higher standard than some professionally published games, which is why I’m pleased to see one of his games is due to be published this year.
The game that first brought him to my attention was Shadows Upon Lassadar, a winner in BoardGameGeek 2011 Solitaire Print and Play contest.
The design is striking – seemingly taking inspiration from old engravings, it fits beautifully with the traditional European Medieval Fantasy setting, yet is set in it’s own unique world.
Although there are many parallels with other similar creations, there’s something special about the way Todd creates an atmosphere as you attempt to stop the ominous Greyking from crossing into the mortal realm from the Barrier Planes. With his approach marked on his own board, your quest to defeat his Zhumbi, Ghast and Ymp minions before he reaches Lassadar takes on a certain importance.
To make the game myself I downloaded a pdf from BGG, and printed out 4 pages onto 160gsm card on a laser printer. (Thats very thin card, only twice the weight of standard printer/copier paper). You could print onto paper and stick to foamboard or heavier card if you wanted. (See our forum for more discussion on print and play constructions). The whole game can be cut out to a full pack of 54 cards, for easy storage/transport, but I preferred to keep the larger boards in tact. I cut with a craft knife and ruler, but I hurried, and Todd’s design really deserves a little more time than I gave it (I was just anxious to play the game).
The cards are double sided, so most people would want to print the backs and fronts on separate pieces of paper/card, cut separately and then stick together neatly. My printer was playing nicely that day, and perfectly aligned the fronts and backs when duplex printed.
9 dice are needed to play the game, and Todd reccommends 25 black counters, and 1 each red, blue and yellow. As someone who doesn’t have any games with Eurocubes, I took the opportunity to buy some of my own, being unable to steal them from other games. This also means I have a set I can keep with the game boards and cards. I actually like having 2 each of the Yellow red and blue counters, but that’s purely an aesthetic, rather than practical consideration.
The gameplay effectively consists of drawing cards, which will detail the nature of each battle against the Grayking’s servants. Battles are then fought by rolling (initially) a pair of dice for you, and a 3 dice for the monster. If your dice roll total equals or exceeds the total of your enemy’s, you win.
Throughout the game you will receive opportunities to learn new spells. These spells llow you to alter the die rolls, beginning to tip the rolls in your favour. Some spells allow you to ALWAYS roll additional dice, but at this point, the monsters effectively level up, so they always roll 1 more die than you. This keeps the pressure up throughout the game.
Spells cost mana, and some spells allow you to replenish your mana. Players must also keep track (through a cube on a card) of their Spirit. Losing a monster fight may deplete your Spirit, and if it falls to 0, you die, the Grayking breaks through to Lassadar, and you have lost. Losing battles may also allows the Grayking to advance towards Lassadar.
Finally, some cards that you draw will trigger “Extended Battles”. These are the exciting looking things played out on hexmap boards. In these you will need to go multiple rounds with multiple monsters, and your spell usage is more heavily restricted. Completing 3 of these successfully will lock the Grayking back in the Ash Tower from whence he came, and win you the game.
Shadows Upon Lassadar is now part of a game trilogy, so consider investigating the others if you enjoy this.
There’s an amount of strategy involved here – how you choose your spells (choosing certain spells excludes you from learning others), the order in which the cards are drawn, and particularly in the Extended Battles. But Luck plays a major part, and if you dislike relying on dice rolls to see you through a game, then Shadows Upon Lassadar is not for you.
Picking the right spells seems to be the key to the most enjoyable game. On my second playthrough, I deliberately picked the spells that appeared to have least effect on dice rolls. And that made for a boring game. I ended up in protracted rounds of dice rolling and healing, with no ability to swing the odds in my favour.
As an introduction to Print and Play games, this has a lot to recommend it: gorgeous art, an engaging theme, relatively simple mechanics, easy enough construction, fun to play. Just make sure you pick some interesting spells!