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PROPHECY

Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

Z-Man Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 3 hours; $39.99

   Prophecy, designed by Vlaada Chvatil and published by Z-Man Games, is a really nice and solid game, with good mechanics and artwork and widely underestimated. Vlaada’s talent in creating games, as everyone knows thanks to winning the IGA with Through the Ages (featured in the Fall 2007 GA REPORT), was already clearly visible in this six year old design. Z-Man put effort in producing the game in a second edition with the needed high quality finally giving gamers a really good product. prophecybox

Prophecy lays down in the big groove dug by Talisman (Summer 1988 GA REPORT) and games like Runebound. In a world rich of perils and wealth, the characters are trying to acquire enough power, both in physical and mental strength, to be able to retrieve the five magical artifacts protected by demonic guardians in the Astral Planes. The game can be played both in a simple basic version, good for kids and learning, and in a regular advanced version, the one I’m going to describe in this review.

Every player, from two to five, takes one of the 10 characters available. Every character is described by physical and mental strength, ranging from 3 to 6, and by membership in two of the five guilds. The first guild displayed in the character sheet is also the starting point. The differences between the characters are not really big, although the different memberships usually lead to a development of various abilities. If you are looking for the great details and diversity offered by Talisman you will be disappointed since Prophecy is, in many ways, closer to German designs than it looks at first approach: you have wooden cubes for displaying mental and physical strength together with counters for gold and experience. On the other hand, this could be also a good thing since it will be unusual for the game to develop a deadly combo in cards and powers.  The map, displaying hills, forests, plains, mountains and civilized sites is, more or less, a ring of contiguous areas, sometimes also connected by sea-routes and magic portals that allow players to cut the ring. In the middle, there is space for the five guild Ability cards; in the edges, space for Chance, Adventure and Items cards. Also the five Astral Planes zones will be covered by Guardians and Artifacts cards.

Cards, cards and cards. The main part of the game is played by cards, in huge number and variety.

Every turn you have to flip a Chance card displaying what is happening in the world. Usually it directs you to take one or more Adventure cards to fill particular areas like hills, plains, mountains or forests. But Chance cards are also responsible for the pop up of new abilities in the five guilds and objects in the village or the city. Some Chance cards regenerate characters’ physical and mental strength, give or take player money. After this, you have to make your movement.prophecyboard

   Characters are able to move only into one of the two adjacent areas. Using a horse, and paying one gold for it, lets you make a two area movement. Finally you can move by sea, from a harbor area to another one, or by magical portal, if you are in the right place.

There is no luck or randomness in the movement. Not bad rolls, not lucky rolls. You know where you want or where you to have to go. If you land in a space occupied by one or more Adventure cards, you have to resolve these starting from the monsters. Fighting usually requires a battle of physical strength: you roll a D6 adding your actual strength against monster strength. Some monsters could be battled also with mental strength and some have to be. Losing a battle usually means losing a point of strength. This is where the wooden cubes come into play. Your maximum value is the number of cubes you have on your sheet, moving cubes from right to left as soon as you use them. During the game, a lot of Adventure cards let you improve mental and physical strength both in the total number of cubes you have on your sheet or in bonuses you can apply to your dice rolls.

Resolving events and killing monsters usually give you different amounts of experience and gold needed to buy items, recovery from wounds and energy and finally, acquire skills from the guilds. Every character is linked with two of the five guilds: getting abilities from those linked guilds is only a matter of experience, from other guilds it is expensive in terms of gold. So a Warrior probably will acquire more abilities from the Fortress and a Wizard from the Magic tower. There is a maximum number of skills and items you can possess, and also a maximum number of experience and gold. Soon you’ll have to face the guardians to acquire the artifacts. As soon as all five artifacts are acquired, a final phase will start with characters fighting each other for their possession. This can be a long sequence and, for me, the weakest part of the game.

In conclusion, I think Prophecy is a solid game, with nice graphics and materials, that inherits a lot of good mechanics and ideas from Talisman, especially the feeling of a weird world full of fun things, but also preserves the neatness of some German designs. The weakest part of the game is the final battle and also the little differences between characters. I can also point out that with more than three players the game is slow but that seems a common problem in games like this; it shows up to a similar degree in Talisman as well. Anyway, there is enough in Adventure cards, abilities and items to make the game different from play to play. – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue


 

Spring 2008 Gamers Alliance Report

 

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