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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cooperative fantasy boardgame
I was looking for a new game to play with my son, and after a lot of research, I ordered Defenders of the Realm. I'm glad I did.

Quick summary: Cooperative play for 1-4 players. Scales REASONABLY well to the number of players. Highly variably (read random) from game to game. Good odds you'll lose, but the game is fun in the playing (no, honest, it is!)...
Published on December 12, 2011 by Christopher Barkley

versus
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it, but was disappointed
I was excited to get this game, and thought it would be a great one for the wife and I to play-- after several games, it has just fell flat and I have no interest in getting it out of the box anymore. It's a real shame too, b/c some of the game design was great... just not enough of it.

Pros:
* Theme - the game has rules that really support the theme...
Published 14 months ago by SaintHax


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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cooperative fantasy boardgame, December 12, 2011
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
I was looking for a new game to play with my son, and after a lot of research, I ordered Defenders of the Realm. I'm glad I did.

Quick summary: Cooperative play for 1-4 players. Scales REASONABLY well to the number of players. Highly variably (read random) from game to game. Good odds you'll lose, but the game is fun in the playing (no, honest, it is!). Materials are adequate but a little on the cheap side. Overall, a lot of fun if you dig the theme.

DotR is set in a generic-feeling fantasy kingdom. The board is divided up into a few dozen regions with names like "Raven Forest", "Orc Valley", and "Ghost Marsh". Dotted lines connect regions showing the allowed paths of movement. The central region is "Monarch City" where the players all begin. In each of the four corners is an enemy general (orc, dragon, demon, and undead). The players' shared objective is to destroy the four generals before any of several failure conditions occurs. Each player chooses a character from the provided set of stock fantasy heroes (paladin, dwarf, wizard, etc). Each character has unique advantages which provides a nice degree of customization to personal play style. A deck of cards controls the enemies, and at least one card is drawn each turn. These cards cause minions of evil to pop up around the board and may cause a general to advance along a fixed path toward Monarch City. The players lose if a general reaches the center, too many minions overrun the board, or one of a few other conditions crops up. Other decks provide the tools for the players to attempt to win or offer extracurricular quests that can be completed to gain advantages.

Gameplay is straightforward. The character is allowed a certain number of actions on the player's turn. These can be spent moving around the board, beating down the random minions or their side effects, attempting extracurricular quests, and gathering resources to fight the generals. When all the actions are used up, a bad guy card is drawn to see how much worse things get. Since a bad guy card is drawn after each player's turn, more players means a faster tempo of advancement for the evil. This is, of course, offset by the extra players to try and keep the lid on things. It is vital that the players cooperate to keep the minion tide under control and make joint attacks on the generals; if they can't work together, victory is almost certainly impossible. Victory is a team victory as well. There are some optional rules for designating the king's champion if you have to have an individual winner, but most people I know ignore them. The essence of play is balancing the short term threats and options while pursuing the ultimate goal of beating the generals.

A note about randomness. The bad guy deck is purely random (barring a few powers that can let you reject cards, etc), so it's impossible to predict enemy behavior. A bad series of draws can be lethal as one quarter of the board erupts into a minion storm or a single general sprints to the finish line. It's entirely possible to lose on turn four. In general, though, it seems to be fairly well balanced. Combat against minions and generals involves rolling dice as does completing the extracurricular quests. This adds a degree of uncertainty which thwarts long-term planning. It can be frustrating to get a series of bad rolls so you spend your entire turn throwing yourself repeatedly at what SHOULD have been an easy fight. This may frustrate some players, but it can also be a good thing. Since you can't plan more than a couple of turns in advance, the game stays fairly fluid and fast moving. You don't get twenty minute pauses while someone works out their next fifteen moves to five decimal places.

The materials are of mixed quality. Each of the characters has a unique plastic figure with some decent detail, but they're a drab grey. The four generals are pretty good looking, but all the minions are carbon copies (the only difference between an orc, a demon, and a dragonkin is the color of the cowled figure). The regions on the board each have a nicely painted picture, but those individuals pictures are scattered across a featureless surface. The font of some of the cards can be tricky to read. Some of the generals don't like to stand up on their own. In particular, the orc general tends to invade the kingdom on his back because I get sick of fidgeting with his base and trying to get him to stand up.

Bottom line, I like this game a lot. My eight year old son and I play it frequently. It's got a good balance for two or three players which is nice when no one's around to play with us. The randomness of the enemies and the wide variety of characters makes for good replayability. There are at least four ways to lose which makes for interesting variation. Each failure condition can be resisted if the players tune their activities, so the game involves a lot of turn-by-turn rebalancing. We've won probably 30% of our games, but almost all of them has been fun. I like the purely cooperative aspect of the play; there simply isn't an individual competition (if you ignore the king's champion silliness). It's got a lot of tactics to a small amount of strategy, but that can be a good thing. Playtime tends to be around ninety minutes once everyone's familiar with the rules.

One last note... DotR has a lot of mechanics in common with Pandemic. DotR is larger in scope and more "personal", but the overall feel is very similar. If you love or hate the gameplay of one, that feeling will probably apply to the other. The themes are totally different, of course, and that can make a lot of difference depending on your players' interests.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made for a fantastic game night, February 14, 2011
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
I bought this game for my 8 year old son on his birthday. We then invited his 9 year old friend and his father over to play. I was a little worried as we started to read through the lengthy instructions because the boys started to glaze over. Reading the instructions took a while and it seemed like the game would be very complex, but once we started playing, we found it very easy to get right into the action. We had to refer to the rules often at first, but the more we played, the more fun we had. The next thing we knew 3 hours had passed and the boys mothers were asking us when we'd be wrapping things up because it was way past their bedtime.

The pace of the game was a little bit slow for us the first time around, because we were new to the game, but that didn't make it any less fun. I imagine a game will take half as long the next time we play. 8 / 9 years old is a perfect age range for kids to play (even though the game recommends 13), so long as you have an adult or 2 playing as well. They picked up the concepts very quickly and we didn't have to do much "hand holding", although we did discuss group strategy, as it is a co-op game (another thing I love about the game - you win or lose together).
We all loved the game, and it was a great father - son -friend experience for the boys. They can't wait to play again, and neither can I.
I highly recommend this game.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GREAT Co-op game, December 29, 2010
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
Bought this game because i was into fantasy and having the players interact with each other. Not when 1 guy goes and then the other can wait and watch TV. So 1v1 or co-op games work great. Plus i heard lots of positive reviews about this game on boardgamegeek.

Basically the game is about stopping 4 generals from entering the main city and at the same time stop their massive amount of minions from spreading like a virus. Combat is simple against the minions since they are many, but the generals are another story.

Heroes you can choose from a very different and half the fun is trying the new heroes. Too bad theres only 7 or 8 as I said the heroes are all VERY different and fun to play as or coordinate with other heroes. And i dont mean stat wise, the heroes abilities and skills is what makes this game great. There is no leveling process but you can do quests for some items or to draw more cards to help with transportation and defeating generals.

This game felt like a puzzle/strategy game wrapped in a fantasy theme. So thinking ahead and a bit of luck will win you the game.Im sure many non-fans of fantasy or board games will get involved with this. Me and my friend were so involved with each others movements that we were planning several steps ahead. That kind of involvement is exactly what i was looking for. I hardly find that in most games. The dice rolling is lite which is another plus.

Major gripe is that the all the minions are the same mold but just different colors. And the heroes are about 20mm. So for $50+ i was expecting better models. Good thing is the cards and materials are all very durable. Though item and artifact cards have no art on them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Evil Game, April 11, 2012
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= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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This is really an evil coop game that gets harder as it progresses. You think you are doing great, successfully battling the forces of darkness, and then you get slammed by an eruption of evil minions or tainted crystals and the game is over.

My family has played this game four times now, and won twice and lost twice. It is not an easy game to beat, which is good in a coop game. It is well designed with straightforward rules. Plus it is hard not to like any game where you battle a large plastic dragon.

There are a couple cons to the game. While players need to work together to battle generals, I think coop games are more fun when there is more interaction. Shadows Over Camelot is one of the best in this regard. Also, the layout of the board could be better. We spend a lot of time looking for locations where we need to move our heroes. Finally, some of the rules are a bit ambiguous, but that is OK -- you can interpret them to make the game easier or harder.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting cooperative fantasy game, July 26, 2012
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
Here's a tasty recipe for gaming success:
1. Start with some gameplay concepts from a successful cooperative game (Pandemic)
2. Add generous dose of fantasy theme (no pasting)
3. Add one famous fantasy game designer (Richard Launius, creator of Arkham Horror)
4. Add one famous fantasy artist (Larry Elmore)
5. Add quality looking components (including 100+ plastic miniatures)
Stir regularly, while simmering for a year, making necessary tweaks and adjustments. When ready, serve to your gaming family or friends! That's more or less what you can expect from Defenders of the Realm, a great fantasy themed cooperative game.

The game revolves around the protection of Monarch City, which is being assaulted by four accursed races: orcs, dragons, demons, and undead. The King of Monarch City is in need of your help to defend the countryside, repair the tainted lands, and defeat these four races before one of them enters his city. In this cooperative fantasy game for 1-4 players, you and your friends each choose a role as one of the King's Champions (Cleric, Dwarf, Eagle Rider, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, or Wizard), and must work together to protect the city.

Components: The components are high quality, and the inclusion of so many miniatures is a big plus for this game, adding to visual appeal. No little wooden cubes in Defenders of the Realm - and let's face it, when you're playing a fantasy adventure game it's far more fun to move around miniature dragons and orcs than wooden bits!

Game-play: The cooperative system of Pandemic is one I enjoy a great deal, and converting this for a fantasy game is an excellent concept. To some extent, the engine itself has already been tried and proven in Pandemic, and Defenders of the Realm just takes this in a new direction. Tension increases as the game progresses, and the dice based combat makes for exciting gameplay that suits the fantasy adventure genre perfectly. I particularly like the fact that there are nine different hero characters that players can choose from - this helps give the game flexibility and enhances replayability, making each game a new challenge, depending on the roles chosen and the random placement of minions. The dice-based combat and minion placement based on card draw certainly result in random elements, but these lend themselves perfectly to the fantasy genre.

Cooperative game: In many respects Defenders of the Realm shows evidence of an underlying game system that we've already seen in Pandemic. But unlike Pandemic, the random elements of dice-based combat result in a different feel. You cannot calculate everything in advance, and the unpredictable can happen. There are also individual quests that give the possibility of achieving personal glory. In that respect Defenders of the Realm includes an aspect of story-telling and adventure that Pandemic can't provide, and despite some similarities, the two games don't really overlap and have a very different feel. Pandemic is more of a calculating puzzle, while Defenders of the Realm is more of an epic adventure. It's like comparing a family sedan with an SUV - both are vehicles, but driving the SUV off-road is a totally different experience of adventure than being on a highway in a family sedan. Defenders of the Realm is that kind of SUV: while it has four wheels just like the sedan in the garage, it's a very different beast.

Fantasy adventure: The theme is strong. Over the years I've played several other fantasy adventure games, including Runebound and Prophecy. Neither was entirely satisfactory for me, in part because I wanted to see more interaction without the games becoming too confrontational - making the fantasy adventure game into a cooperative endeavour solves that neatly, because it requires a high level of interaction without being nasty. The game length of Defenders of the Realm also seems to be more ideal for the kind of game I look for when playing with family or friends.

Is Defenders of the Realm for you? If you like fantasy adventure games and cooperative games, you'll be hard-pressed to dislike this one. Not everyone is going to be the target audience, particularly those who can't stand those genres. But the rest of us can expect to enjoy it a lot. Get your game, and prepare to defend the realm! - EndersGame @ BGG
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it, but was disappointed, November 17, 2013
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This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
I was excited to get this game, and thought it would be a great one for the wife and I to play-- after several games, it has just fell flat and I have no interest in getting it out of the box anymore. It's a real shame too, b/c some of the game design was great... just not enough of it.

Pros:
* Theme - the game has rules that really support the theme well. The "Darkness Spread" cards make each enemy faction feel like a different group with only slight changes. The enemy action cards are the strongest point of the game-- really, really well thought out.
* Pieces - the quality of all the game pieces were great. Even the box made storing the game easy.

Cons:
* Takes a while to set up and play-- not a major issue.
* Multi-player is weak-- most co-op games have this problem, where the game digresses to a veteran player instructing new players on what to do, and therefore they aren't playing but along for the ride. One mechanic to correct this is to have a "winner" in a co-op game, so that there is still a sense of competition. DotR does this... sorta, but in a game where the designer has said it has a 20% win rate, you can't capitalize on this. To win the game at all you have no room for any game changing play to make you the hero-- right place-right time. There's no difference in a 4 player game, than a single player playing 4 heroes.
* Hero balance-- some heroes are fun and awesome, some are rather weak and lackluster.
* Rule clarity-- there are a few (only few) cards that are really hard to understand (Cavalry Sweep being the worst offender). There is a FAQ and online help for this, but at least one "clarification" from the game designer breaks the games rules to make the green general harder... which I just ignored.
* Almost completely luck based-- this is what killed it for me: there really is not strategy passed the basic. There is no counter-play, the quest cards go from Awesome to why bother (and some of them make you risk the game for a 1:3 chance to get the item), or you need a really good draw from the Darkness cards. I'm used to winning and losing some games b/c of good/bad luck, but after someone figures out the gist of the game, the play requires little choices and lots of luck. Let me repeat-- this is much more luck based than say a card game like Spades which still is swayed by good and bad hands.

I really wanted to like it, it's just not there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heroic Warrior Game, August 18, 2014
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This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
Defenders of the Realm is a cooperative fantasy themed adventure game about about being a brave and courageous hero who will sacrifice it all to save a kingdom that is under siege. To summarize the game experience, it feels like a combination between The Lord of the Rings and The Legend of Zelda. For that reason alone, it is seriously a game worth checking out.

This game is a great single-player experience but bringing your friends along for the ride is also fun. At the start of the game, each player chooses a hero who will have unique powers and abilities. This is maybe the best part of the game because the whole point of being a hero is discovering what strengths and weaknesses you have and how you will defeat your enemies with those strengths. The most ingenious game mechanic are the action tokens that players receive at the start. Action tokens determine how much life you have, but you also spend them to pay for actions, like attacking, moving and other abilities. At the start of your turn they will be replenished, but if you take battle damage you will start loosing action tokens; which makes sense because if you're hurt you won't have the strength to do as many actions as before.

As I've mentioned, this game is cooperative and all the players are a team fighting against four armies of monsters advancing on Monarch City. A few missed opportunities include lore and flavor text, because there isn't much background to Monarch City or the enemies attacking it. All the monster pieces are cast from the same mold, even though they are four different species. So story wise the game feels kinda shallow which makes it difficult to believe this is really a realm of fantasy. But personally, my favorite experiences are the side quests where you get bonuses for running simple errands. It really adds to the single player experience.

But even though I love this game there is one persistent problem. The game features an awful lot of downtime because there's very little person to person interaction. Players need time to choose what actions they will perform each turn and (especially with a four player game) it will take a while for the game to complete a round before it's your turn again. This problem is serious with a crowd who has no attention span.

But despite it's flaws there is an awful lot to be enjoyed about this game. It has easy-to-read rules. The learning curve is about as steep as Monopoly but it provides you with the unique experience of being a hero and confronting evil. I think people attracted to stories about warriors and fantasy will definitely be attracted to this game. But before going in, it's important to know, THIS GAME IS HARD! I have never ONCE beaten it. It gets progressively harder with each victory and just when you think you've won you will be surprised with the stuff this game pulls on you. Even so, this is a fun game to loose. If you win I know people will be signing with relief. But when you loose, it's much more exciting to see people scrambling around the board looking at their cards for any sign of hope.

That being said, it's a really good game. It's nice to find a simpler hero-themed game that isn't a dungeon crawler or published by Fantasy Flight, and I wish I saw more of this game. The game time normally lasts one to three hours and I think it plays best with older teens and adults who will really be into the theme. Unfortunately, this game is priced rather high; even for a game that would be bigger than itself. But as the game becomes a collectors item I think the experience by itself is worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging cooperative fantasy board game with lots of expansions, December 29, 2014
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This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
Only a couple issues with this game. Overall a highly enjoyable cooperative board game. High replayabilty with endless combinations especially if you purchase add-ons.

Issues:
1) High cost of game and add-ons.
2) Rules are not well written but online help is available.
3) Hard to win and easy to lose but that just makes the game challenging.

Rule clarifications from the game designer posted on boardgamegeek.com:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/794245/designers-errata
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5.0 out of 5 stars Have played it with a friend before and it is like a medieval version or pandemic (in that it is ..., August 4, 2014
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the quality of the pieces in this game are mind blowing. I own several thousand dollars in board games and even the outside of this box is higher quality finish/graphics/materials then most two games I own combined. Have played it with a friend before and it is like a medieval version or pandemic (in that it is co-op, freaking hard, and the game will beat you a lot!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Game with excellent package, June 29, 2014
This review is from: Defenders of The Realm (Toy)
I am impressed with the Miniatures which is well crafted. The characters sheet card made of hard cardboard is of good quality too
The game is easy learn and fun to play. I have a great time playing with my 2 boys.
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Defenders of The Realm
Defenders of The Realm by Eagle Games
$79.99
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