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Rise of the Necromancers


Thorbjørn Christensen
Christoffer Kyst

Sore Loser Games

No. of Players:

G@mebox Star



G@mebox author Lutz Wildt writes about the game:

As a player of a board game I have always tried to avoid necromancers. Of course, in real life as well. Besides their very aggressive appearance, this also has to do with the fact that a game doesn't necessarily turn for the better when a necromancer enters the board. I'm thinking especially of CMON's Zombicide. With this evil and powerful creature interfering with the game, the chances of the survivors are astonishingly small.

I always thought that necromancers existed with all their power and malevolence from the beginning of time, and when they want to do their evil work, they appear out of nowhere. However, I had to learn that this is not the case! They bring the life-denying mood with them, but they have to gain power and strength before they can do you any harm (well, maybe they can slap you already before...). And you can even take the side of the necromancers and help them develop into the most evil of all evil beings. Rise of the Necromancer from SORE LOSER GAMES let us experience this feeling, and maybe the one or other of you also gets to know the kind qualities of the villains after playing the game.

In the game, each player assumes the role of a weak Necromancer in search of resources, spells and minions like zombies, hell knights, ghosts and skeletal dragons. The goal of the game is to become the most powerful and evil of all necromancers. To achieve this goal, players must develop their necromancers to the point when they dominate the land with their morbid influence. So, there is the board with a map of the land where necromancers and their armies move from one area to the next. To avoid to many miniatures on the board, only the necromancer miniature is placed there, the apprentice and his army of minions are placed on the player board instead. A necromancer can always move as many spaces as the slowest minion on the player board. And a move consists of 5 phases: a player can play cards, raise a new minion, has to move, can perform an action and can place the dominion counters. The player who is the first to place 13 dominion counters wins the game and becomes the most evil player.

The problem with this is that as one of the villains, you really don't start with any resources or abilities. You don't even have a name! Only in the course of the first rounds you slowly become stronger by playing a necromancer card and in a later round an apprentice card, from which you get three each at the beginning of the game. With regard to the necromancer, the decision has been made because you can no longer change your necromancers personality within the game. The situation is different for the apprentices. You only have the three apprentices that you have dealt at the beginning of the game, but only one of them can be the active apprentice. However, if this apprentice is doomed to death due to unfavorable circumstances, the two remaining apprentices can be re-filled later as cannon fodder or reinforcement one by one.

So far so good. So you start with nothing. The question remains: What is something you can use as a necromancer to become more powerful and how do you get it? You could also come up with it yourself! As a necromancer you need ichor, scrolls, lesser or greater corpses and dark water to become stronger, because with it you can raise minions, bring an apprentice or item into play (in order to use their abilities later) and cast spells. To reach the mentioned resources, you must end your necromancers movement on a land space on the game board and perform the corresponding action. In this case, the dice specified in the land space will be rolled and the corresponding resources can be collected. All other actions in the game that allow you to search dungeons, browse libraries, conduct workshops, or attack or tax cities work in the same way. However, you don't always have to roll the dice to get what you want. For example, you can select one of the first three spells from the spell deck, when your move ends up on a library space and use the same method with the item deck when your move ends up in a workshop space. If you end your turn on a dungeon space, you might get a not inconsiderable reward, but a fight with a dungeon monster can happen unintentionally. So you should plan your destructive path carefully in order to get as easy and safe the most useful items, spells or other resources.

To get closer to victory, players must bring dominion counters onto the field or player board. As mentioned before, the first player to place 13 dominion counters wins. There are several ways to place them. These include the successful search of a dungeon or the devastating conquering of a city. In these cases, you may leave the counters on the corresponding space and should protect them with additional minions for defence, because other necromancers have the same goal in mind and can conquer these goals without defence more easily. Unfortunately, you lose influence if you let go of your territories because you have to take back a counter. If you bring item and spell cards into play, you may also place Dominion Counters. This depends on the card's affiliation to one of the four academies (Academy of Bone, Academy of Decay, Academy of Mist and Academy of Blood) which can be assigned by the colours bone coloured, green, blue and red. If you have a spell card in the game, you can put a Dominion Counter on the player board's spell track, if you have two spells of the same colour, you can put two counters on it and if you have three spells of the same colour, you can put three there. You can never place more than three Dominion counters on a track. It works in the same way with items´ Dominion Counters.

The affiliation of the cards and minions to a certain academy is also important for another powerful opportunity in Rise of the Necromancers. If you have six cards or minions of an academy in the game, you can become the headmaster of the corresponding academy if you finish your turn on the corresponding academy space. Sounds like a good idea, because it gives the respective player two more Dominion Counters and the strong additional capability of the Academy. But beware, should an opponent collect more cards from an academy, he can challenge the respective headmaster by attacking the corresponding academy space.

A fight is decided by rolling dice according to the strength of the necromancer's army. All hits are distributed among the opponent's army whereas necromancers, minions and dungeon monsters have one wound each. Cities can take from zero to five wounds. Although the game and its main actors look quite violent, I had to learn that fights play a rather subordinate role in the game. With the basic rules, the necromancers can't even fight each other. Nevertheless they can still die in a fight against a city against minions left behind or in dungeons. This is due to the fact that in most cases the opponents may carry out at least one counterattack. As soon as the necromancer cannot distribute a hit to a minion anymore, he dies. Well, an undead can't really die after all, so he resurrects at the starting point of all Necromancers, the Valley of Souls. Fortunately for the player, he doesn't lose any items, spells, minions or apprentices.

In my opinion Rise of the Necromancers is a complex but at the same time straightforward game. Considering the very extensive possibilities that a player has to strengthen his necromancer and the corresponding army, the steps and game phases that have to be carried out are always easy to keep track of. As the two authors have already explained at SPIEL to me, all actions of a turn are resolved immediately. This results in a very smooth gameplay.

In addition, despite the complexity of the game, the rules are easy to understand. After just one or two rounds, a player can see how the game works. At this point, I have to mention that besides the good and of course evil rulebook, there are also some youtube videos which skillfully explain all important rules in several short film sequences. I liked this fact very much, because you didn't have to browse through a 30 minute explanatory film to get an explanation of just one single rule section you have problems with.

It is a lot of fun to play this really well thought-out game with great game material and the creepy and evil design. All dice, minis and game tokens are of high quality. The double-sided game board (for 2-3 and for 4-5 players) is also well made and offers enough space for the players. The detailed map reminds me a little bit of the nice map representations of the Lord of the Rings. I also have to point out the excellent card design, which put a player in a really evil atmosphere as soon as you hold the cards in your hand or in front of you as a well equipped necromancer army.

I think I'm slowly losing the fear of the necromancers, now that I know what they're really like. Let's see if that helps me playing Zombicide next time. In any case, I will further strengthen my confidence in the necromancers by bringing Rise of the Necromancer to the table more frequently in the near future.

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