Essen '09 Impressions and The Three Musketeers: The Queen's Pendants Review

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The Three Musketeers: The Queen's Pendants review
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I attended Spiel for the first time this year, so I have decided to share my impressions with other F:AT members. There were three of us and once we entered the hall, we thought we were in an ATer's hell - everyone was running with boxes of Dungeon Lords, Stronghold, Rise of Empires, Dominion or Factory Manager. Sweaty geeks, fat LARP girls, it was all there. I bought an ASLSK #1 and went to play some games.

The Bad:

The Treasures of the Dark Towers

A dungeon game published in English, German and Russian (all versions in one box). We decided to try it, which was our biggest mistake during the fair. I don't even want to go into the details - this is the worst game I have ever played. I can't imagine what the designer was thinking.

You go through the dungeon trying to collect four keys. You roll two D6 and move. Then you draw a card and see what happens (monster or a treasure), When you encounter a monster, you keep rolling the dice for two minutes to see if you defeat it but it doesn't matter because if you win, you get a gem (pointless), if you lose, you stay on the same place fully healed. When you find one of the keys, you flip a coin to see if you get it. The coin is sometimes flipped even during the combat to decide if you win. We ran away after ten minutes, it was unbearable. The fact that the demo guy smelled like an ashtray and was grinning like a pedophile didn't help either.


A card game from the AEG guys. Nice artwork but the game is boring and no fun at all. So bland I don't even know what to write about it.

Chaos Marauders

Not bad but no good either. A big "meh" from me.

The Good


Thrilling and tense game full of fun. As my friend said: "This is the first time I have almost shitted my pants from tension while playing a game". One of my friends was eliminated in a few turns by jumping into the lava, so he kept rolling for the boulder and had fun as well. I love the boulder- each turn, it keeps moving forward, gaining speed and serving as a time limit for the players. We grabbed treasures, drowned in the river and were crashed by the boulder. Great game but I am not sure about it's re-playability value.

Police Alarm

Kids game from HABA, but we were having fun anyway. You control a police vehicle through a magnetic board and try to catch two robbers, while the robber player tries to unlock a safe by frenetically rolling the dice trying to get the right combination. Nice one.

Dungeon War

Incredibly great Japanese card game for 3-5 players. You employ heroes, with whom you conquer dungeons, steal opponents dungeons or characters and develop your conquered dungeons. Easy, fast and full of conflict. My personal favourite.

And finally:

The Three Musketeers

This is the best game I have played in Essen and one of the best game of this year. I don't know about the US but in Europe, The Three Musketeers is one of the most popular novels. Every boy has read it or seen the movies (and I don't mean the crappy movie with Charlie Sheen and Jeremy Irons, which has nothing to do with the novel). So when we saw this game in one booth, we decided we had to try it.

The box is ugly and looks like some kids game from the '80s. Don't let it fool you though. Inside, there is a game board depicting the Louvre, plastic figures of the musketeers, Cardinal's henchmen, the Queen, Roquefort and Milady De Winter. As for the plot - if anyone isn't familiar with the novel, here it is: The Queen foolishly gave a pendant to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu knows it. As he wants to secretly discredit the queen, he arranges a grand ball and suggests the king that the queen would look great with her pendant. So the musketeers must travel to England to retrieve the pendant and return it to the Queen before the ball starts.

The musketeers start on one side of the board and must make it through the Louvre before the Queen gets to the ballroom. The board is divided into rooms connected with doors and secret passages. Some rooms contain a spawn point for Cardinal's henchmen or an armory where the musketeers can equip. Each musketeer is carrying a pendant but only one of them is the real one. The other three are fake and serve as decoys for the Cardinal who doesn't know which of the musketeers is carrying the real pendant.

Each turn a card is revealed which decides the play order, the actions available to the cardinal and how far the queen advances on her track to the ball (once she reaches the 15th space, the musketeers lose). The cards are great, as no one can know the player order for the next turn or the power of the cardinal.

Example of a card: D'artagnan, Athos, 3 actions for the cardinal, Porthos, 2 actions and a card for the Cardinal, Aramis, 1 move for the Queen.

During his turn, a musketeer can move up to two rooms. If there is a henchmen in the room, he must fight him, if there is an Armory, he can draw one of the three chits there. There can be a potion, sprint (allows to move one room more),dagger (allows a kill of one henchmen before a fight), musketeers door which can block the henchmen, a map which allows him to use a secret passage, a cloak with which the musketeer can avoid combat and retreat or there can be a booby-trapped chest or other traps.

The fight is simple - every musketeer rolls two dice and hits on 4+. Each henchman rolls one die and hits on 5+. Every musketeer has 3 life points. The henchmen have only one. There are exceptions however. Roquefort - the leader of the henchmen can shoot a pistol before combat and has two dice. There are also two elite guards who hit on 4+. Each musketeer also has a special ability - Porthos has 4 life points, Athos can re-roll one die, Aramis prevents all damage to himself if he rolls a one on one of the dice, and D'artagnan rolls at the number of dice equal to the number of henchmen in the room. The fight goes on until one side is eliminated. When a musketeer loses the combat, he is knocked out and must spend his next turn doing nothing. If there is a henchmen in the room, he can search the musketeer's pockets and if the musketeer carried the real pendant, the game is over for the musketeers.

If there are two or more musketeers in the same room, they can exchange their equipment and even the pendants to keep the Cardinal guessing. The Cardinal has only two ways to find out if a musketeer is carrying the real pendant, or a fake one - either to KO him in combat or send Milady De Winter after him. When Milady is alone in a room with a musketeer, she can attempt to seduce him. On 4+,the musketeer must show his pendant to the Cardinal. Milady can't be killed and she is really a pain in the ass.

During his turn,the Cardinal can use his actions in the following ways. Deploy a henchmen, Milady or Roquefort on an empty (i.e. Musketeer free) spawn point, move a henchman, Milady or Roquefort up to two rooms and play his cards. The cards can provide him additional actions, a portcullis to block the musketeers or use of a secret passage. The musketeers and Cardinal each have one special card ("One for all, all for one!" for the musketeers allows all of them to move one room or heal and "Cardinal's call" for the cardinal, which allows all the henchmen to move one room), which is very powerful but can be used only once per game.

I love this game, it is very tense, full of bluffing,simple but strategic. The turn order cards provide a level of uncertainty each turn as no one knows where will his next turn begin. The musketeers can attempt to go separately or try to stand together to get better protection against Milady and to change the pendants in case of trouble. A blockade of spawn points is also important but works well only when the musketeers are separated. The Cardinal must gather his henchmen and strike when the time is right as his troops are weak and use his cards wisely.

We had a lot of fun with this game. There was lots of cheering and cursing at the table, quoting from the novel (the mechanics capture the theme very well) and discussing the strategy while the Cardinal was plotting his next move. It is strange but the best AT game of this years Essen comes from France.

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