Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 13, 2024
My review of Agemonia

I posted a review of Agemonia on BoardGameGeek, my only 10 out of 10 review on the site so far. Here it is:

When reviewing a game, it is important to first consider what your purpose is in playing the game. For big campaign adventure games like Agemonia, my purpose in general is to achieve an experience similar to what I get from playing a pen & paper role-playing game, but without one player having to do all the work of being the dungeon master. The reason why I consider Agemonia the best campaign adventure game that I have ever played is that it comes the closest to this purpose. I tried the game in every configuration from solo to 4 players, and it always worked. There were always moments of adventure, of excitement, of surprise, with a lot of laughter around the table even when things sometimes didn't go as planned. We haven't seen a scenario yet that we didn't enjoy, and they all played somewhat differently. The backstories and player booklets do a great job of giving every player a bit of personal story within the larger adventure.

Story vs. Gameplay
Agemonia is both a narrative game, and a tactical game. In this sort of campaign game, that often is a tricky balance. Personally, for example, I enjoyed the story of Tainted Grail very much, but found the gameplay sometimes tedious, while in Gloomhaven I really like the deep tactical gameplay, but found the overall and personal stories somewhat lacking. Agemonia hits a sweet spot for me: Combat and skill checks are done by rolling a few dice; the growing number of abilities lead to meaningful choices having to be made, but combat never gets too grindy. Meanwhile Agemonia does a great job of telling stories, and that isn't limited to the bits between the scenarios: The story cards you uncover during exploration in a scenario keep the focus on this being a narrative game, and not just a mathematical problem to be solved.

With success and failure frequently being decided by dice rolls, Agemonia has its fair share of randomness, which might not be to everyone's liking. But there is also a good amount of dice mitigation and added options to influence success and failure. You can push your luck and take the risk, or play in a way that is more likely to succeed, but either slower, or burning resources. When playing a scenario for the first time, blind, as intended, the story cards add a big unpredictable element to the game. That is as it should be, and I found that playing a scenario a second time, and knowing which story point triggered what, led to a lot less fun. Fortunately the 36 scenarios in the campaign mean that you can play Agemonia for 100+ hours before replaying it.

Agemonia is a big game. The box is bigger and heavier than Gloomhaven. Fortunately the box comes with a large number of trays and a detailed plan what goes where, providing both a storage solution, and added convenience during play. Having said that, and not knowing how big your gaming table is, I can assure you one thing: Your table is too small. When we play, we fully occupy a large gaming table, plus a side table, and then still have some trays stacked on top of other games in my games shelf. I have the basic version of the game, with miniatures only for heroes, and monsters being represented by standees, so I can't tell you much about the quality of the monster miniatures. I can recommend the extra dice. The only material I am not happy with is the use of stickers to mark the reputation with the different factions. I just made a photo of the reputation track, printed it on paper, and am marking my reputation on that. The rulebook doesn't come with an index, but you can find the index on BGG.

As I am writing this, the average weight score for Agemonia on BGG is 3.27 out of 5. I would say that much of the complexity of Agemonia is the result of there being a lot of game material; thus when a new situation arises in the game, e.g. the first time you encounter a trap, there is complexity in finding the trap token, the trap card, and the rules regarding traps. Once you are very familiar with all the rules and all the materials the game offers, Agemonia becomes easier to play. Due to the story cards and dice providing a certain degree of unpredictability, Agemonia can be played with a certain degree of spontaneity, without planning several moves in advance. I wouldn't say the BGG weight is wrong, but it is a different sort of weight than what you would get with a Eurogame of the same weight score.

Play Time
Our last session of Agemonia took 6 hours, and in that time we played through 2 scenarios, and played 3 city phases (before, between, and after). You can get through one short scenario in "60 to 120 minutes", if everything is already set up, and you don't play the city part of the game. For one complete loop of the game, from the start of one scenario to the start of the next one, I would rather plan 3 hours. Note that "saving" the game in the middle of a scenario isn't foreseen, and would be difficult, so this isn't really the game for shorter play sessions.

My group and me enjoy Agemonia very much, and we are looking very much forward to playing more of it. An afternoon with Agemonia feels very much like an afternoon spent playing a pen & paper role-playing game, but without me having to do all the preparation and work of a dungeon master. I have played a number of different adventure and/or campaign games, and up to now this one is the best that I have seen, and comes closest to what I want from such a game. Thus, for me it is a 10 out of 10 game.


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