Session Report: Defenders of the Realm, How Many Ways To Lose?

Defenders of the Realm
Defenders of the Realm
I was introduced to this game a few weeks ago by a gaming friend at a local game store. That was when we were able to gather in public and all that. (Future readers are going to wonder what that means…) After playing it once, I bought it. All of it. 😛 A few nights after the game arrived, I played solo for the first time. I wasn’t sure if in playing solo I should pick multiple characters or a single character. I decided to go with just one.

Disclaimer: This was my first solo game, so I missed some rules. Doesn’t matter, still had a blast!

My random character was the Errant Paladin. Since I was initially concerned about playing solo, I was pleased to see that because of his horse (Noble Steed) he can always move two spaces (if he chooses to do so) without having to discard a horse travel card. I also wondered about how often the Broadsword Of Might (Kill everything when you roll doubles) effect would come into play; turns out, not that often but it’s really nice when it does!

With only one character to collect cards, I let the draw of the cards decide where I was going first. Red was the answer. After picking up a few extra red cards at an Inn (totally lucky draw, called “red” and pulled two red cards worth 3 dice total) I figured I had enough to give it a shot. Managed to defeat the Demon Lord on my first attempt, yay!

Taint count at this point is about 3, so it feels like it’s under control. My quest card has me visiting all three Inns, and I have already done two. Things are looking much more manageable than I anticipated from never playing solo before. (Can you say, “Misplaced confidence” anyone?)

My hand then started slanting towards Blue cards. Hm, Sapphire is tough, do I go for it? I managed to collect a large number of blue cards. Because I’m solo, I am discarding other colors to be able to quickly move around the board, so my hand shifted rather rapidly towards the single color. I also drew a “Hero can reroll dice” card, so that’s awesome. I decide with 9 dice worth of blue cards, it’s worth the attempt at Sapphire, especially with the reroll, right?

Taint count is up about six by now, I don’t remember exactly.

So into battle with Sapphire I go, with my reroll card handy. I roll 9 dice. The highest number I rolled is a four! On all 9 dice, not a single hit. Play the reroll card and to roll all 9 dice again. The highest number I rolled – again – is a four. Nine dice. NINE DICE! Not a single hit after rolling 18 times.

I take my wounds (minus one, due to the Errant Paladin ability to ignore one wound, even from generals) and end up back in Monarch City with zero cards. Sapphire really kicked my…tail.

As I start my card collection again, I ended up with green cards. Gorgutt seems to be more in line with what I can manage, what with needing only 3’s or higher to hit. I quickly amassed a hand of 7 cards worth 8 dice. Things are really starting to look dicey (ha, see what I did there) but Gorgutt is only two stops away from Monarch City by now. I’m going to have to take some risks. After combat, I ended up hitting Gorgutt for five out of six wounds. I take my losses and drop back to Monarch City.

With Gorgutt in the red wound area, he was not going to start healing. And my “Darkness Spreads” card was an All Quiet card! Woo hoo! My second card did not involve Gorgutt moving.

Again, it’s just me to save the world. I have one green card, one green die, to do one hit on Gorgutt. Do I risk it? Yes, I am the Paladin! For my first action I heal. Since I am in Monarch City I get all of my tokens back. (I don’t get to use them this turn, but it’s important to have them in case I take damage.) So off I go, with my ability to jump two spots I get right to Gorgutt’s location. I play my single green card, roll a single green die, and get…a 3. Woo! Just enough!

That was exciting, but I still have Sapphire looming, and the Varkolak (the Undead Boss Monster) is bearing down on Monarch City too. The Taint count is up to about 9, but I just don’t have time to deal with that problem, so I ignore it. (You might think you see where this is going by now…)

As I am trying to clean the board, my “doubles” ability was starting to come in handy. Even though I automatically kill red and green minions, I found that having the extra dice worked to my favor. For example I went to a location with one red and two blue minions. I rolled two 2’s and a 1! Normally, nothing happens. But I am the Paladin! Doubles-Rule! The double-2 means I kill everything on the spot, even though I didn’t roll a single hit. 😀 I figure after getting my tail kicked, the game owed me a few favors…

Once again I let my hand contents determine where I was going to go…and the answer was, the Varkolak had to die. I collected a number of cards, completed a quest that allowed me to ignore his ability to prevent rerolls, and also collected a special card that allowed me to reroll. I figured that meant I didn’t need many dice (see, I had already forgotten that I rolled nine 4’s or lower against Sapphire…)

I get to his location, but there is one minion there. I have to take care of him first. Spend an action, roll a 2. Spend an action, roll another 2. Spend another action, and — wait for it — roll another 2! I spent my last action and rolled a 5 so the minion was finally gone. I’m thinking maybe this is okay, because now I get to draw two more cards, and that will help? No, it doesn’t…no more black cards, and the Darkness Spreads ends up using two more taint crystals. I now have one left in my supply, Sapphire is one location away from Monarch City, and I’m standing there facing off with the Black Lord.

On my next turn, I turn in my quest card to negate the boss monster ability to prevent rerolls, and turn in all my black cards. Remember how poorly I rolled against Sapphire? Exact opposite. With 8 dice my lowest number was a 4. Undead guts (is that a thing?) were splashed all over the place!

I’m now down three boss monsters, have one taint crystal left, and am thinking, maybe I can do this! I can survive! I can defend the realm!

Darkness spreads. My last taint crystal goes on the board. Sapphire is only one location away from Monarch City. I have only a few blue cards. I use a couple of gate cards to quickly hit some hot spots and take out areas of high minion concentration, and try to pick up some blue cards while hoping and praying (I’m the Paladin, that’s what they do) that I don’t have another overrun. I am out of taint crystals so if I get one more, I am going to lose. If Sapphire moves at all, I am going to lose.

Darkness spreads. I draw the card that says, “Place 1 minion of each color that has minions adjacent to Monarch City.” I already have one green orc in the city; I had been ignoring him because of the perception of greater threats elsewhere. No worries, right? I check Father Oak Forest. There is a green orc, so add a green orc minion to Monarch City. Check Wolf Pass…it’s empty! Check Orc Valley, uh-oh, there are both red and black minions there. Add +1 red and +1 black minion to Monarch City. There are four there.

Check Dancing Stone. One green minion, so nothing to add.

Check Greenleaf Village. Sapphire is there, but no other minions, so I’m good!

Oh, wait, there’s one more location. Bounty Bay has a green…and a blue minion. No blue minions currently in Monarch City, so I have to add one. Monarch City looks really full right now. I think, wait, there is something in the rules about this.

Winning or Losing the Game
Players lose if any of the following occur:
i. If any of the 4 Generals move into Monarch City. Nope, Sapphire is close, but she’s still outside.
ii. If a Darkness Spreads Card identifies minions to be placed on the board and you do not have enough minions to meet the requirements of the card. Nope, I have not run out of anything yet.
iii. The last of the 12 Tainted Crystals is added to the board. Wait, what? I thought it was when you had to place the 13th taint crystal, and you were out. So apparently I had lost already.
iv. If 5 enemy minions are in Monarch City at any time. There it is…5 minions in Monarch City means the city is overrun, and you lose!

Defenders of the Realm - Final Board
Defenders of the Realm – Final Board

So basically I lost twice. The first time I lost because I didn’t remember the right rule. The second time I lost because I didn’t think the smaller groups of minions popping up around the capital were a threat. Learned my lesson! (And the rules.)

It was a fantastic game. I knew I liked it when my friend introduced me to the game, and after playing my first solo I am hooked. I will be playing this a lot over the coming days (weeks?) as I have time at home. Who knows, I might even get my son to play with me…I told him the story of my loss last night and he seemed intrigued.

Father / son bonding time over getting our tails kicked by a bunch of cardboard tokens and plastic figures. What could be better than that? 😎

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