Allies: Realm of Wonder is a Finnish card game from Mindwarrior Games. I got a review copy of the game to try.
The game: Allies: Realm of Wonder by Mikko Punakallio and Max Wikström, published by Mindwarrior Games in 2015.
Elevator pitch: A quick two-player card game, with tug-of-war mechanics based on rotating cards.
What’s in the box? Smallish box (could be smaller) contains 165 cards and two wide cardboard summary boards. The cards are of decent quality cardstock. The art is CGI familiar from Realm of Wonder, and has the same problems as before: it looks nice, but the graphic design could be better.
Take a look inside in this video (in Finnish, but with English subtitles):
What do you do in the game? There are five region cards to conquer. Players play tribe cards one by one, one for each region card. Once every region card has two tribe cards next to it, the cards are compared to see which one wins.
The tribe cards are the main catch of the game. Each has four values, for example 1-2-3-5 or 2-2-3-3. They also have the ability to rotate other cards, to make them weaker or stronger. That’s what makes the game: you must rotate the cards so that your cards come on top after the five cards are played.
After four rounds players count their points. Collected region cards are worth two points each, castle regions are minus one point and region cards on the table that point to you (so you’re in the lead, but haven’t won them yet) are worth one point. Most points wins.
Lucky or skillful? Probably more skill than luck. The cards are different, so there’s some luck of draw, but the differences between cards aren’t huge, so in the end skill will probably prevail. On the other hand, I don’t think you can be really good in this game, so even a really good player won’t probably have a huge win rate.
Abstract or thematic? Almost purely abstract. The theme doesn’t really come into it. The art is nice, sure, but it’s also very generic and lifeless. The gameplay is all about numbers, which means it’s a bit dry.
Solitaire or interactive? It’s tug-of-war, so it’s very interactive. This is certainly in the more confrontative end of two-player card games.
Players: 2; no more, no less.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 8+. The game is easy to play and works well with children or adults.
Length: 15 minutes. Just four rounds, so the game certainly doesn’t last too long.
What’s to like: Simple gameplay; rotating cards; tense rounds; quick to play.
What’s not to like: A bit repetitive; boring cards.
My verdict: Not a bad game. Rotating the cards is a nice game mechanism, and works quite well. The tug-of-war could be frustrating, but the game is short enough – just 20 cards spread over four rounds – to make it work.
A nice two-player filler card game, then, but there’s just one problem: there are lots of really good two-player filler card games, and this doesn’t rank near the top. I could name at least a dozen two-player card games I’d play rather than Allies, so that’s obviously a bit of a problem (let’s see: Epic, Star Realms, Cthulhu Realms, Battle Line, Jaipur, Lost Cities, Yardmaster, Love Letter, Dale of Merchants, Kyoto Protocol, The City, Parade – many of these have the added benefit of being decent multi-player games as well).