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Luna Llena is Pissing Me Off

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Luna Llena board game

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

In case you couldn't tell by the title, this is probably going to get a bit ranty. Starting with Matt's review:

The rules themselves are pretty atrociously written to be honest, probably as the result of an unfortunate translation job from the original Spanish and there are a number of loose ends that aren’t properly covered...

Luna Llena is a fun game with some rough edges...

It'll be interesting to see what the revised rules look like, whether they can scale down on some of the unfortunate flaws in the design. 

Loose ends, rough edges, unfortunate flaws. Either this is polite British speak for this game is a frackin' godawful mess, or Matt's on drugs.

If you know anything about me as a gamer, you know that if a game has enough theme I'll find something to like about it, even if it's stupid and clunky.  I found Tomb salvageable for heaven's sake. I'm also willing to deal with  poorly written and/or translated rules. I may bitch a bit. I may even make fun of the translations. However, I'll muddle through them, and call the light weights that can't deal wiennies. Like when people were all complaining about the Ghost Stories rules - they were all wiennies. So it really hurts to have to say that Luna Llena is a FAIL.

Luna Llena has an awesome theme. Obviously, it has werewolves, a theme for which I've been waiting forever. It's got that Blair Witch vibe with the lost hikers without a map, which is a cool idea for a game. It's got a little deduction game going on. It's got combat. It's got turning hikers into werewolves, which can add a secret traitor aspect to the game. Combine that with the need for hikers to cooperate and make action choices from a hidden hand of cards, and you have an interesting social/bluffing aspect a la Battlestar Galactica.

On paper, Luna Llena sounds fabulous. That is if you can get through the paper. The rules ARE atrocious. I don't even want to go there. On second thought, I can't help but go there. If I were teaching a class on writing rules and laying them out, I'd use Luna Llena's rules as an example of what NOT to do. You have to download these and look at them yourselves, because words can not accurately describe the horror. Rules range from poorly written to out right Indecipherable. What the hell was someone thinking?

The introduction to the game reads in part (bold added by me):

There can be no coolest place for an extreme adventure! A group of friends who love strong emotions have bought an old map... The youngsters have prepared their backpacks... In Aquirre's Forest lives one of the last werewolves pack...

 

Right there the alarm bells go off. I think to myself, these rules, which I am about to read were not proof read by a native English speaker, nor were they translated by someone who has enough mastery of the language to use it with the precision required for the very technical task of writing rules and instructions. I understand tight budgets, but how hard is it to find some English speaking grammar Nazi gamer on the internet willing to proof read rules in exchange for a line in the credits and a free copy of the game. Is this an indication of carelessness, a rush to production, simple laziness?  But I push these thoughts aside, hoping that perhaps this introduction was an afterthought, possibly written and translated by someone other than the person responsible for the rules. I turn the page.

I read the rules. Unfortunately, they do not inspire confidence. I study the rules. I download the FAQ, which is even longer than the rules. I study those. I go back and look at the rules again. I think I spent less time studying for Chemistry finals than I spent studying these rules. Now I'm really invested in this game. I've spent money. I've spent time. I don't want to look like a bozo that got suckered. This is going to be totally worth it. Right. I wish.

Unfortunately, Luna Llena holds together like a loose meat sandwich on Wonder bread. As I said, it sounds good on paper, but in practice almost nothing works. Like the little deduction game to try to find the trail to the wolf's lair. The way this works is that a hiker chooses to explore. He rolls a number of dice equal to his character's dexterity (yes, his dexterity, and don't get me started on that. Like they couldn't have taken 20 minutes to come up with a more appropriate name for the attribute you use to search for stuff - like, maybe intelligence or observation. Shit.), anyway he rolls a number of dice, and for every 5 rolled, he points to an edge of the hex his character is on and says, "Is the trail here." Then the werewolf player says yes or no. For every 6 rolled, the hiker gets to play a little game of hot and cold. Instead of just saying yes or no, the werewolf player also must say "near" if the trail intersects a hex side to the right or left of the chosen side. This sounds okay. If you have done any role playing, it should be familiar. You figure you have the character with the highest dex take an explore action. If he finds the trail, cool. If not, then the next character will take an explore action. Yeah, well due to the way actions get chosen, it doesn't quite work this way.

Each character has a hand of action cards. Most cards have one of the 5 actions, Explore, Search, Alert, Hide, Run, on it. A few cards give you a choice of two actions. A few are wild cards. There are some special cards that can be used as an action or saved for a bonus during combat or at some other point in the game. At the start of the turn, all the hikers play an action card from their hand, face down on their character. They are all revealed simultaneously, and each hiker gets to take the action he has played. This sounds kind of cool. If the highest dex character knows he's a werewolf, he could lie and say he has no explore cards. Maybe there will be some tough choices between using a special card for its action instead of its bonus. Maybe sometimes none of the hikers will have a card to do what they need to do as a team, and have to come up with some creative solution about what to do.

In practice how it works is that there are so few actions, and so many cards in the hands of the hikers, that it is rare that they can't do exactly what they want. It is also rare  for someone to know he's a werewolf and play the hidden traitor role. To get turned into a werewolf you first have to have been bit by a werewolf. Then you pick a random face down tile that you don't get to look at. Most of them are "You are not a werewolf" tiles. At sunset, you get to peek at it. The next turn you flip it for everyone to see and then you immediately turn into a werewolf  if you have the "You are a werewolf" tile. There is one hex where if you end your turn there, you can peek at your tile. So the chances of someone having been bit, and having pulled a "You are a werewolf" tile, and ending their turn on the hex that lets them peek at their tile, all before sundown - well it just isn't going to happen often enough to depend upon the hidden traitor mechanic to add some life to the game.

Instead, what happens is that two hikers choose the explore action, so that they have insurance if the first one blows the roll. If the first player does find the trail, then the second player who chose the explore action gets to do NOTHING. Not that the other actions are all that interesting. A hiker can Hide, which means they do NOTHING. They can go on Alert, which means they do NOTHING, except if a werewolf attacks the party. Then they get a combat bonus and can force the werewolf  to attack them instead of another character. But if someone is on alert, then the werewolf probably isn't going to attack, so in practice, going on Alert means you do NOTHING and the werewolf player does NOTHING. The most interesting thing a hiker can do is search for items, which means he can pick a card and maybe find something helpful, or maybe find a pile o'snakes.  But hell, if picking cards is the most interesting thing in the game, I might as well go play Talisman or Arkham Horror so I can pick a card every turn.

The werewolf player gets to attack, which is way cooler than rolling dice and playing hot and cold. The only problem is that the werewolf player has to pay points to attack. Only a small number of points are earned each turn. It takes about 3 turns to earn enough points to make a worthwhile attack. So for about two turns out of every three the werewolf player does NOTHING.

So the werewolf player finally stores up enough points to attack. But first the werewolf player has to pay a point to roll dice to see if they are even allowed to attack. If the werewolf chows the die roll, they get to do more NOTHING. If they don't chow the roll,  the werewolf and the hikers now get to play what is supposed to be a tense little blackjack-like press your luck game. What it really amounts to is that you flip cards until someone gets the "You lose card." Seriously, it would really speed up the game if you just played cut the deck instead. If the werewolf wins he gets to bite the hiker and the hiker takes a token that might turn him into a werewolf later in the game. If the hiker wins NOTHING happens. Okay well not exactly, the werewolf is injured and the werewolf player has to pay points to heal it, so it just takes longer for the werewolf player to save up enough points to attack, so the werewolf player gets an extra long stretch of time to do NOTHING.

So, let me sum this up for you. The way Luna Llena plays out is the hikers roll dice for the opportunity to play hot and cold with the werewolf, slowly inching along the trail. And...well that's about it for about an hour and a half. Occasionally the werewolf player gets to roll the dice to see if he is allowed to attack. On the rare instances when there is combat there is a slight chance the hiker could be turned into a werewolf.

Then the sun goes down, and the game gets a little more interesting, because the werewolves are a bit more dangerous, and maybe by then the hikers have found the map. But you have had to go through like two hours of the big bore to get to this point.

And I haven't even touched upon the clumsiness of the sequence of play, or the absurdly fiddly book keeping required to track fear level, and lives. All you have to know is that hikers fear level and lives can go into the negative and they have until the end of the turn, after combat, to buy them back up into the positive and there are like three different ways they can do it. And also, your calm tokens flip from green to red, as well as going up and down. It's kind of a nightmare.

And finally there is the way the entire game breaks down if the hikers go off script and decide screw this finding the trail shit, and just flail randomly through the forest until they hit the lair. There's also a couple of other loop holes in the rules that will trash the game, and then there are all those other" loose ends" that aren't addressed. I guess those situations were so obscure they never came up in play testing,  although people who actually spent money for the game seem to hit them the first time out of the gate.

Luna Llena is game about doing nothing...for a couple hours. It feels like it was play tested  by the designer and his three role playing buddies, like maybe four times. And each time they played it, they played it the same way - like a bunch of role players lead by the nose through a script.

In response to players whose feed back on Luna Llena essentially amounted to the fact that game isn't really working, and changes were needed, the designer, Servando Carballar, said:

As a Roleplaying gamer myself I liked and welcome House rules. I´m sure each gaming group can add interesting ideas to the game that fits perfectly into the game.

 

To which I must say, Dude, you aren't just a role playing gamer. You're a game designer. So YOU write some frikin' rules for YOUR game. In it's current state, Luna Llena is essentially a pretty prototype. It needs to be deconstructed; stripped down; rebuilt; tightened up; and then play tested and polished.  And no, it's not the job of the people who bought the game to write house rules to make the game work.

There Will Be Games Luna Llena board game
Luna Llena board game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

 

Luna Llena board game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

 

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