Theme and What is it?
The Rise and Fall of Anvalor is set in the fantasy Warhammer setting, Age of Sigmar. Anvalor is a location of vital importance to 6 unique factions. It is set in Aqshy, The Realm of Fire, in the middle of the Great Parch.
Anvalor has been built up before. Each time, a new enemy has risen to the challenge of destroying it. But this time, the factions are putting their differences aside and coming to rebuild Anvalor together. Despite all taking a stake in the success of the mission, in the end, only one will have the strength and influence to dominate the new stronghold.
Players will choose one of the 6 factions to play as and select one of 4 aspect cards to gain a unique advantage during play. They then shuffle a set of 20 faction tiles to use during the game. The players must also choose one of three enemy factions to battle against. Once the enemy faction is chosen, they must also pick a “war cry” modifier tile with added difficulties from 1-4 to use for the game.
Each faction deck has a different distribution of buildings, ranged units, melee units, and monster/magic/leader units. The faction tiles are either a building with a cost in stone or a unit with a cost in manpower. All faction abilities only help their own faction rather than all players. There are also three city building tiles with a cost in gold that any player can build to gain influence while giving all players some benefit.
After a city building tile is put into play (leaving an open spot on the buying board), each player will roll a 6-sided die at the end of their turn to determine what the enemies are doing. On a 1-4 an enemy monster tile is placed face down on a preparation space of the corresponding number. On a 5 or 6, some special tactic specific to the enemy type or warcry will activate. Once three enemies have staged on the same side of the city, an assault begins!
The Rise and Fall of Anvalor is ultimately a dice driven combat game. Most of the influence points come from being the player who defeats the biggest enemies during these assaults. Positioning units in the best places and manipulating where enemies stage to have the first shot to take them out can be a key strategic feature.
WOW this is a heavy box! For a relatively normal sized board game box, I was blown away by the weight. Knowing it was a warhammer game I had a strong suspicion the weight was due to the miniatures. There are no miniatures in The Rise and Fall of Anvalor. Let me repeat that. There are NO figures or minis of any kind.
Instead, the weight was a 5 inch deep stack of thick punchboards. Everything in the game is driven by drawing, discarding, placing, moving, and using the powers on tiles. Each faction and each enemy has their own sets. They work just as well as miniatures for tracking where combat is occurring and what units can support other units during combat. But the tile approach allows all the special rules for each unit to be organized where all players can see and understand what is happening.
Game Build Quality
The punchouts are of the highest quality in gaming. Wizkids do not mess around with the production cost of their punchboards. The insert was a little (very) confusing at first until I realized it was designed to hold tiles vertically. I am still not convinced I have tiles exactly where they belong. Since this photo, I have moved the city buildings to where the dice are and that seems better. I feel bad asking for a packing reference sheet, but I do not find this insert intuitive to use. All of the tiles are thick enough to pick up easily. This is vitally important in a game where all you are going to be doing is placing and moving tiles on the main board.
The faction units all have vibrant artwork showing all sorts of battle postures. Each faction has distinct thematic differences in their units. Each of the enemy factions has detailed monstrous creatures that look ready to rip the players fledgling fortifications to shreds. My only complaint is the buildings. They don’t have any artwork? Just the same basic building symbol with a slightly different outline repeated on every single building for every single faction. That was a disappointment to me. I am not really sure how to make buildings look nearly as awesome as the war units, but I would like to have seen it done.
The pacing of the game depends on player choices and preferences. One strategy can be to first build up passive building benefits to make putting out units more efficient with hand management or cost reduction powers. Another strategy is to rush out combat units as soon as possible and build a neutral city building for some instant influence and to get enemies coming out to assault fast. An early assault might mean other players have their buildings being destroyed or the best prepared player picking up a lot of victory points for defeating the monsters.
Age Range & Weight
14+ is a conservative rating because of the thematic content. This is a relatively light wargame. Players are trying to build up their military forces and slay as many fearsome enemies as possible. The actual options for actions players take during the game are not simple enough to learn in a few minutes but are hardly the heaviest game out there. For a wargame I would rate it as low complexity but for a normal board game it is definitely moderately difficult.
The Rise and Fall of Anvalor offers an experience with an intense number of setup permutations. 2-4 players with 6 possible factions to play as each with 4 different aspects to try out against 3 unique enemy subsets with 4 different warcry banners… that is a LOT of replay value in this one box.
The order tiles come out and how the physical locations picked will impact play gives even the same choices a great degree of variability to the experience. Oh, and dice. Anytime dice are involved there will be unbelievably lucky moments and those epic fails you will never forget.
I don’t think I mentioned dice explosions yet. In Rise and Fall of Anvalor if you roll the highest possible value when attacking a target, you have the option to roll again and add the result. This can happen multiple times. Conversely, if you roll a 1 your attack is an automatic failure regardless of anything else.
This game seems targeted very strongly towards fans of the Warhammer universe. The use of a single die roll to determine if you kill an enemy or are struck down (when using melee combat) instead can be off putting to players who want to be rewarded for strategic planning. Those with a threshold for dice results will find a game that delivers a new story each time it is played.