WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 1-4
Published by: Rebel Studio
Designed by: Przemek Wojtkowiak
There have been many great Chronicles over time. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Christmas Chronicles and, well, the movie Chronicle. None of these however have given kids the freedom to create and truly invest in their own fictional character…….unless you count Christmas of course.
Set up by first creating the map using the four start tiles and then shuffling the rest of the tiles and placing them face down in the configuration you’re using. Give everyone a duel layered player board and a character sheet and then colour in and name your character. Yes, even you, I don’t care if you’re a grown adult, this is an essential part of the game and we all know colouring is fun no matter how old you are. Decide how difficult you want the game and place the corresponding tile at the back of the map and you're ready to go.
Chronicles of Avel is played over two main phases. First, what I would call a preparation phase and Second is pretty much a tower defence game. On your turn you can perform two actions. You can move to an adjacent space and if your on a space with a portal then it’s adjacent to another portal. If you move onto a face down tile you flip it over and spawn any monsters on it if it’s a monster space. You can trade items or money with another player on your space, you can heal two damage or you can use a tile action. These come in a variety of flavours which include, putting out a castle wall, getting new equipment, selling equipment, sealing off monster tiles and laying traps to name but a few. Getting equipment will see you pulling items from the bag with a five second time limit and equipping them to your hero or putting them in your backpack. Warning though as you can only fit things in your backpack as long as you can physically fit them in your backpack.
The last action you can do is fight a monster in your space. Hero’s will take two green dice and any dice given to them from equipped items and roll them against the monster dice. Hits and shields will be compared and both will take any damage. This will go for either three rounds of combat (don’t worry it’s very quick) or if either the monster or the hero is defeated.
Once all players have gone the round will move on and either players will heal two damage or monsters will respawn depending on which round you enter into.
Once all the rounds have passed the Beast (not the one from The Chase) will appear and depending on the difficulty and player count will spawn more monsters. From then on once all players have activated all the monsters will move one space forward. Any traps will trigger when their space is moved onto potentially doing damage and any monsters who try to move into the castle space with walls up will be repelled back but a wall section is destroyed. If any of them or The Beast successfully move into the castle space then the heroes lose. If all the monsters and the beast are defeated then the heroes win.
A game of two halves
I often find that making a game that has two distinct parts like this one can either be hit or miss. If one half isn't as good or is too wildly different than the other then you leave players wishing that the designers had just made a full game and focused on the good half. It’s a bit of a gamble. Luckily Chronicles of Avel pulls it off really well and manages to blend the two halves well enough that you see the second half as an escalation of the first and one that serves as a payoff to everything you were doing previously.
The first part of the game is where you get to level up your character so to speak. You’re going to be adventuring round and literally laying out the map and discovering new areas. Your initial turns will more than likely involve players doing at least one move action into an unexplored tile and seeing what’s there and potentially using any abilities there. It won’t be long though before you're all discussing plans, figuring out who’s in the best place to lay a trap, seal off a gate and put up some walls all in preparation for the oncoming storm. All of that is really satisfying to be able to do because you know you're helping out the team and hopefully making the endgame a bit easier. What else is arguably more satisfying though is powering up your character. From the simple system of delving into a bag and hoping to draw something awesome to upgrading those items to something better. You really do get a feeling of being more powerful. At the beginning of the game, taking on most monsters will feel a bit risky and winning those fights you will feel like a hero who had to dig deep to secure victory and reap the rewards. As you gain items with the ability to reroll or even gain extra dice you’ll feel more confident taking on the bigger monsters. If all works out and the beast emerges you’ll have no problem walking up to it and saying “bring it on”! That’s not to say you can rest on your laurels though because if you take enough damage then you will lose items.
Once the big bad is finally released it’s time to put that training to good use. The game does play as normal and aside from walls, traps, and sealing gates you can still use any tile for its action. It’s more than likely though you’ll be racing around the map trying to herd the monsters and fight your beastly nemesis but this really is the make or break part of the game.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this game is going to be a breeze every time you play it. It’s not going to have its difficulty turned up to eleven but it will give you a fun challenge. There are so many ways you can tweak the difficulty from the Beast token to the map set up, even the player count has some bearing. On the times we have lost this it’s been a close fought battle. Whilst that may sound frustrating to some, I much prefer it that way. It means that just because you’ve levelled up your character the game isn’t going to be a walk in the park and that the second half of the game is still worth your time playing out.
Character creation 101
Let’s get into one of the big draws for this game, character creation. Aesthetically that player board looks fantastic the duel layer board does more than just look good, it actually has a really cool function. As an aside, if you can have a dual layer player board then you should. Having the backpack be used for its proper space is genius and being able to physically see the upgrades on your character is a really fun idea and is visually pleasing. My youngest's one gripe with that though is that you now can’t see her character properly but I think she’s willing to give it a pass for how cool it looks.
I worry that some people may be tempted to skip colouring in their characters and giving them a name just so that they can start playing. While you're free to play the game how you like, I would say that you’re missing out on a really fun element if you do. It adds a level or personalisation to the game which the kids get a huge kick out of. The kids now want to play this game so that they can take their character through the game. It’s all well and good being able to play a pre-made character, it’s so much more fun to play one that you’ve made. Plus there’s no arguments over who gets which character!
If you don’t want to make characters right before a game then why not make it into an activity one evening, get everyone to create one or even many characters and then you're all set for when you do want to play. If you're doing that why not even let them create a backstory for them on the back of the sheet!
Chronicles of Avel is up there for us as a family favourite. There's enough there to keep adults and children engaged and the scalable difficulty and replay ability means that this is gonna stick around in your collection for a good while. If that wasn’t enough there is an expansion that adds boots to your character for all you footwear aficionados and another bigger expansion in the works and I for one am keen to get my hands on both.