Sunday, January 18, 2015

[Review] Classic Game Review: Mayfair's Encounters

When my brother and I were in high school and junior high, respectively, we used to play a "fantasy combat card game" for hours upon end. At some point, this game we owned was lost or trashed or given away. (Not sure what happened to it.) And, over the years, I tried to remember the name of that game in hopes of one day getting a new copy of it. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a random entry on Board Game Geek, and a rush of nostalgia hit me. Placed an order with Noble Knight, and I now have this cherished game back in my hands.

The 30-year-old fantasy card game from my youth is Mayfair's Encounters.

Encounters is a very simple game based on fantasy combat. Each player has a fantasy party of Heroes that the other players are trying to kill of with the Monsters in their hands. They are also trying to outfit their Heroes with better weapons and spells, while also banking treasure. At the end of the game, whoever has the most treasure banked wins.

The game is played with two decks of cards (Hero and Monsters/Magic) and a pair of dice. Each player draws seven cards at random from the Hero deck and places them into two lines of defense. The Heroes can be Elves, Dwarves, Knights, Wizards, Clerics, Men-At-Arms, and Paladins, and each has a specific Ability Score depending on their strength.

The players then draw seven cards from the Monster/Magic deck for their hand.The Monster/Magic deck contains Wizard and Cleric scrolls (usable only by the appropriate class), weapons and magic items (again, usable only by specific classes, but can also be banked as treasure), and treasure (for banking know...treasure). The remainder of the deck consists of a selection of fantasy monsters like Giants, Demons, Vampires, and -- of course -- Dragons.

 On a player's turn, he draws two cards, then plays two cards if he can. You can bank treasure (placing it aside where it cannot be lost during the game); grant treasure (giving it to your Heroes for combat bonuses, where it can be lost to a successful Monster attack); and attack an opponent (by sending a Monster to attack the player). In this picture, the defender has banked some gold, and given his Elf a bow in the rear line and his Man-At-Arms an axe in the front line. The attacker has sent a Giant to attack a Knight in the front line.

Combat is resolved by each player rolling one die for his Hero/Monster, then adding the Ability Score on the card (as well as any modifiers bestowed by granted weapons). High roll wins, with ties going to the defender. Monsters can only attack the front line unless they have the flying ability (letting them swoop down upon weaker Heroes in the rear ranks). Before combat, Wizards can cast spells (if a scroll is held); Clerics can try to turn undead; Elves can fire bows at any attacker even if they're not targeted; etc. Meanwhile, the attacker can send Dragonfire down upon the defender; have a Demon's curse placed upon the Heroes; and even summon the specter of Death himself to vanquish a particularly troublesome foe.

Once all players but one have all of their Heroes destroyed, the players add up their banked treasure. The player who had heroes remaining is given a 1,500 gp bonus. High GP value wins. My brother and I would instead play "Last Man Standing" where we'd attack each other until there was a victor. (We didn't really bank treasure when we played.) As you can see, the game is incredibly simple, but there's a bit of strategy involved as you organize your lines of defense and arm your party for the onslaught. It's a great little game -- a fun beer-and-pretzels diversion. Apparently there was a later CCG version of the game, but the original version will always have a place in my heart -- and now, a place on my game shelf.

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