A Glimpse Into The Vault: Andor

In the aftermath of a great storm, a wolf has appeared outside the walls of the city of Rietburg. Her cubs are missing, having fled into the mines on the edge of the kingdom. A band of heroes set out to find and rescue them, but it won’t be a simple journey. Mart, the bridge guard, needs help with various tasks before he will let anyone cross the bridge over the river and into the mines. Gors are emerging from the mountains, slouching towards Rietburg every night. Worst of all, in the clouds left above a fell dragon approaches the city – if it gets there before the heroes can finish the rescue, they’ll have to abandon their efforts. Designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by Thames & Kosmos, this is Andor: The Family Fantasy Game!

Fair to say that if your search engine brought you here looking for the origin story of a rebel spy, you’re not quite in the right place. I hope a fun game that you can play with your family will be worth sticking around for!

A cooperative game for 2-4 players, this Andor sees our heroes racing against time and a dragon to complete their assigned tasks, cross over into the mines, and rescue the Wolf Cubs. There are four different types of hero/heroine for players to choose from, each having only two things in common: they each have a number of Sun Discs, which are spent to move across the map of the kingdom of Andor, and they each have dice, which are used for fighting and searching.

Warriors have more dice than the other heroes, and have more sword symbols on their dice, making them particularly good at fighting. Rangers have nine Sun Discs instead of the normal six, allowing them to travel farther and complete more actions per day. Magicians only have one die, but have powerful flashes of light that can easily defeat foes. Dwarves have more torches on their dice, making searching within the mines of Andor easier for them, and they can also take shortcuts through cave systems.

Initial setup can take a fair bit – a fog left behind from the storm has covered nearly every space on the map in Fog Tokens, 38 of them, which have to be randomly distributed face down. Across the river from Andor proper, another 10 face down Mine Tokens also have to be randomly distributed. The Dragon takes its place in the clouds and a certain number of monstrous Gors need to be placed depending on the number of players, the bridge guard Mart has to assume his post, Well Tokens (sunny side up) need to be placed. That’s all before you get into the tasks you need to do! The instructions are very well laid out, setting up is mechanically very easy, but a travel-friendly-pick-up-and-play-in-a-minute game Andor is not.

Play consists of heroes taking turns spending Sun Discs to travel spaces, and getting one action per turn. If a player ends their turn on a space with a face down Fog Token then their action is to automatically flip over the token and reveal what it is. It could move the dragon closer to Rietburg, make another Gor appear on the map, be a piece of wood or gold or a Sword Token, help reveal the identity of other Fog Tokens, provide an additional space to move, or add a merchant (‘herb witch’)’ to the game.

Aside from flipping Fog Tokens, there are a number of voluntary actions, none of which cost Sun Discs to perform. If you use a well you regain up to three Sun Discs, and flip the well sunny side down. If you reach the watchtower you can spend a piece of wood to keep it lit and drive the dragon back away from Rietburg. At a merchant you can spend gold to get Torch Tokens, which will come in handy later. You can interact with the various tasks that Mart needs you to perform. 

Finally, you can fight the Gors. You simply roll your dice, and place however many sword results you get on the spot with the Gor – you’ll need two in forests and three in mountains. You can also place Sword Tokens found out in the fog. Provided you still have some Sun Discs, you can spend as many turn as it takes, rolling your un-placed dice – while that may seem ‘easy’, it’s balanced by the fact that other players are no doubt still walking around, potentially finding dragon tokens that bring the beast closer to Rietburg, and that if you don’t fight the Gors they allow the dragon to speed up its approach upon reaching Rietburg themselves. Once you defeat the Gor, you get all your dice back and the dragon gets pushed one space away from the city.

The tasks that Mart sets before you have been mentioned a bit. The default starting challenge is two: making sure at least one player character has a pair of matching plant tokens, which involves reaching and flipping said tokens over to gather them, and getting a wounded falcon all the way from Mart back to Rietburg. Once both tasks are complete, Mart is taken off of the board and the heroes can cross the bridge into the mines. Other tasks, which come in pre-set pairs but can be mixed and matched randomly for replayability and variety, are destroying Gor forts, gathering food, delivering music books, repairing the bridge, cleaning wells, getting a healing potion from the herb witch, delivering secrets letters from the king, and driving away a terrifying cave troll, each of which involves its own tokens and governing rules.

Once you’re over the bridge, it’s simple: you need to flip over Mine Tokens to find the three Wolf Cubs. Unlike Fog Tokens, however, you don’t automatically flip Mine Tokens when you finish your movement on the space. Instead, you need to roll your dice and get a torch symbol, or spend one of the aforementioned Torch Tokens, in order to flip them. The tokens may move the dragon closer to Rietburg, send a falcon to reveal the identity of more face down Mine Tokens, get an octopus latched onto your face to make you flee the mines, or of course reveal one of the Wolf Cubs.

When every player runs out of Sun Discs, Night falls. The dragon moves through the clouds to get closer to Rietburg, the Gors move along their own winding path to the city, more Gors appear, any sunny side down wells are sunny side up again, any still-placed dice are returned to the players, and everyone regains their Sun Discs. Then another day dawns, and the effort begins again! If the dragon reaches Rietburg first the heroes lose, but if they can find all three Wolf Cubs they immediately win.

Andor: The Family Fantasy Game does a good job at balancing easy-to-learn-and-understand mechanics with variety and challenge. One of its selling points is listed as “more approachable to younger players”, and in that it succeeded. While its recommended age is 7+, all of my games so far have been with my eldest who is not quite five as of this writing, and all have been successful (at least in terms of playing the game and having fun – the dragon got there first a few times). While there are fights and of course the big scary dragon, the game’s language also helps keep things kid friendly – the Gors simply run away, and the dragon doesn’t destroy Rietburg, it merely forces the heroes to chase it off and try to find the cubs another day.

Andor: The Family Fantasy Game can be bought directly from Thames & Kosmos for $34.95 plus shipping, and can also be found at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and so on (possibly even at a better price). If you particularly like the game, there’s also the entire Legends of Andor collection, for which the Family Fantasy Game version is something of an introduction to, a total of three standalone games (with a few add-ons) that see your heroes defending Andor from all kinds of threats.

Band together and protect the Land of Andor!

Thanks to Thames & Kosmos for sending us a copy of Andor: The Family Fantasy Game to review!

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