Monday, November 28, 2022

First steps into...Lands of Galzyr

High tension...?

Crash, bang, crunch - slaves against the charge!
Warhammer Fantasy Battles

I realised the other day that lots of the games I like (boardgames, computer games, and tabletop) are (in one way or another) focused on tension, excitement and conflict - the picture of Warhammer Fantasy Battles above being a good example. Nothing wrong with that! Many a memorable moment has been had under those circumstances...

...acts of daring do, skin-of-the-teeth escapes, high-tension searches through warrens and dark tunnels, victory (and calamity!) against overwhelming odds, and more. 

However, sometimes, don't we all want a more relaxing game experience? 

...or a hot cup of tea?

Credit: Shreya13jain, CC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

Personally, I sometimes want a relaxing experience - a short experience - without conflict, to just enjoy over the course of an hour or so. Almost like a stress-free walk in the countryside.

Sound good? Then consider a stroll through the beautiful and engaging Lands of Galzyr, a new adventure board game from Sami Laakso and Seppo Kuukasjarvi at Snowdale Design.

Welcome to Galzyr

I recently managed to get my hands on a copy of Lands of Galzyr via a lucky catch on Mercari in Japan, but what is it? How do you play it? Let me share some first impressions after a few hours of gameplay.

Lands of Galzyr. Not quite so blurry in real life.

The creators explain:
'Lands of Galzyr is an adventure board game set in an open, story rich world. Acquire prestige as a cunning and ambitious adventurer by exploring the lands and by taking on challenging quests. Your actions have long-lasting consequences in the evolving and persistent game world. Your decisions affect not only the current game, but the following games as well.'

What you have then, is an overland adventure for one to four players across the countryside, towns, and cities of a beautifully-realised fantasy world. Almost best of all, this world is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals of every type, whose daily lives you will explore as a wandering animal yourself.

Speaking of adventurers, let's meet Keridai, the intellectual Northern Banded Newt whom I have chosen to explore as:

Keridai's player board.

Keridai's player board shows us he has 10 gold, which is adjusted via a wheel, three slots (bottom) for equipment, and 4 skills on his skill wheel (at right). These are indicated by these lovely solid semi-circular 'skill marks' which you slot into the board.

Keridai has skills in:
  • Knowledge (green x2)
  • Communication (light blue x1)
  • Perception (dark blue x1)
These skills allow you to adjust your standard dice pool (5 black dice) when you roll for skill checks. You simply swap in dice with higher-probabilities for success if you have a skill mark in the relevant skill.

You can see the custom dice that come with the game in the image below. If Keridai had to make a 'Knowledge' skill check with his two skill marks (green markers on the player board), he can swap in the two green dice (and actually an adjacent light blue dice) to replace the black standard dice. This increases your chance for success.

Lands of Galzyr custom dice

You might also notice just underneath Keridai's name two blue words - 'Scholar' and 'Swim'. These tags (and others on cards you accrue, including certain verbs) will influence your options as you adventure.

All of these variables come into play as you explore the world. Each player turn is divided into the Adventure and Calendar phases. In the former you move across the board, and then play out a 'scene'. The scene can come from a variety of situations - a quest you have in your hand, a location on the map, etc. You read and play through the scene by making choices in the 'Book of Adventures' web-app, which you can use on any internet connected device, or download to your home screen for offline use.

A land of appventure...

Uh-oh, I think I just heard some of you react (probably negatively) to the very mention of the words 'device' and 'app' (not to mention the terrible pun). However although the digital Book of Adventures is required to play don't let that put you off. It brings a lot to the (gaming) table.
  1. A huge amount of content that just couldn't fit into a 'storybook'. Over 600,000 words?
  2. The convenience of searching for any of the numbered scenes by just entering the number. NOT flipping backwards and forwards through a giant spiral-bound tome is a big plus IMHO.
  3. An immersive soundtrack (really thematic!) built in...
  4. ...and, once downloaded you don't need to be connected to the internet. You can add the web app to your homescreen. You don't need to install if from an app store.
As you can see below, the interface is clean and easy to follow:
The scenes are listed at left, and the game randomizes the day.

No spoilers here! This is from the included demo story.
Notice the variety of options at the bottom.

The app is integral to the storytelling experience, and you will spend time in the app. However the quality and feel of the physical components has so far meant that I still feel engaged with the game laid out before me. I think this is due to the tactile, card-based system the game uses to represent the changing and evolving world before you, and the high quality components.

...and libraries

Like some other narrative games (e.g. 7th Continent) you will manage a large 'library' of numbered cards. These include locations, events, quests, statuses, equipment, seasons etc. As you work through the game, you are often drawing cards from the library to read, add to your character or the board, or otherwise interact with. This is not onerous, as the system is well thought out. The illustrations themselves are delightful and make each card fun to discover.

Cards: Seasons, quests (public side), 
and the library.

The cards are stored in two sturdy boxes with numbered dividers, called 'The Library'. This makes it only a matter of moments to find the correct card. You'll also have cards before you on the table to be interacted with. These include public quests that form a 'notice board', an event deck that manages scenes you encounter as you travel, and of course equipment. Your character's status can also be impacted by your adventures, as 'status' cards may force you to be weakened for several days.

A piece of common equipment. Note the blue 'tag' words
and verbs (in brown) that can influence your skill checks.

Speaking of being weakened for several days, each game session plays out over the course of a week or more, depending on how many players you have. For solo, it is eight. At the end of each round you move the calendar one day forward in the app and on the board. This concept of advancing time is nicely interwoven into the game by having certain cards with timed effects. This can include the aforementioned statuses, but also companions (NPCs) who will show up in your adventures for a few days and then leave. 

Land of Galzyr's in-game calendar.
Used in the application and on the gameboard.

When receiving a timed effect, you simply put a counter on the card itself and a corresponding token further along the calendar track. When the day token advances and meets the token on the calendar, that effect comes to an end. You no longer feel weakened, or the travelling companion who joined you for a few days decides to leave (along with any bonuses they brought to you while travelling together.) It makes the world feel alive yet is simple to track (and also helps reduce the clutter that some games have as you accumulate a mass of cards.)

Time - specifically the month of the year - can also affect what is happening in the world before you. Each time you play you enter a new month. On once occasion, I was instructed to replace one of the city cards with a slightly different one, which included a scene for a festival held in that city only in that month. Naturally, I made a beeline for it to join in the fun. Added to that, the board is double-sided with summer and winter designs. 

The Lands of Galzyr in summer.

Keridai visits Arhin. (Not a spoiler - cities and towns are 
placed on the board at the start of the game.) Notice the locations
with scene numbers.

There is a lot more that could be said, including about the excellent component quality, the simple save system allowing you to carry the world forward seamlessly from game to game, or the beautiful and evocative soundtrack. As you can tell, far too much to include in my initial impressions here. 

In summary, I'm looking forward to exploring Lands of Galzyr further in a leisurely fashion and just enjoying the story and adventures that come before Keridai as he traverses the world. What will he find?

Congratulations to Sami Laakso and Seppo Kuukasjarvi at Snowdale Design, as well as everyone who has contributed to the game. A special shout out to the composer Joash Kari for the nearly 2 hours of accompanying music, which you can find in the game, on YouTube, and available for purchase via the composer

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...