28 December 2020
Kingdom come on
What happens to kings who lose their kingdoms? In our world it’s usually something to do with not needing to know their hat size any more, but in the anime world of Ni no Kuni II, kings can wander off and start a new kingdom.
But this new kingdom isn’t safe, you, as one of the four playable characters are being hunted down by the shadowy forces that destroyed your previous homeland. Can you build up your kingdom to be strong enough to repel them in time? It’s quite a compelling story, even if you find playing the role of an anime cat-or-mouse-persons a bit silly.
Players, or player – as the solo mode works in almost exactly the same way – choose a character, each with their own stat line and special power, and a couple of helper tokens. These stat lines tell you how many dice you’re going to roll in combat in an attempt to overcome each monster guarding the valuable, revenue-generating quests. Winning a fight is a simple matter of rolling a higher number than the one on the enemy card for the corresponding stat type. We roll, and hope.
Once you’ve done that you can collect the quest and associated resources which you can then take to market. These allow you to buy upgrades for your town, which in turn gives you victory points and further more resources per turn.
Players have to commit a certain number of heroes (and helpers) to fill slots for each quest, making the toughness of the roll somewhat variable. Some enemies also effect the board in terms of how many dice you can roll, or they may restrict what you can attack until they’re cleared. In this way the game kind of gives you a little sliver of narrative amongst what is mostly a case of choosing your own battles.
And you’ll have to do this wisely, as there’s only five rounds, and your final score (accrued by counting up victory points from your built-up kingdom) is all that stands between you and destruction, again.
Because of the dicey nature of the game, it often felt that, however strategically you plan your battles it’s just down to dumb luck. Playing solo means that you’ll often be faced with only rolling for one battle a round, and if you fail that, your chances to succeed are reduced massively. You can imagine that there’s more wiggle room in the co-op set up, but it’s simply going to be a game that you lose a few times before you win. While this is fine, and even encouraged, for co-op and solo experiences, we did feel like there were certain situations where a bad board simply could not be overcome. The problem isn’t the insurmountable odds, but that you get pretty good at reading when you’re doomed after a few goes. Ni No Kuni II: The Board Game will likely make fans happy, but the rest of us will take it as a solid but unspectacular entry in the co-op dice-roller genre.
A tough co-op with a couple of niggling restrictions that can make for some unsatisfying stalemates.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED: Last Bastion…
If being under attack with some friends (or solo) is what does it for you, then Ni No Kuni II might be exactly what you’re looking for to hunker down with.
Words by Christopher John Eggett
Designer: Bryce Johnston & Steve Margetson
Publisher: Steamforged Games
Time: 35-40 minutes
WHATS IN THE BOX
- 4 Miniatures
- 1 Game board
- 108 Cards
- 6 Dice
- 51 Tokens
This review originally appeared in Issue 44 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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