Mikey Mouse Club #25 – Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble Review

Along with the usual cavalcade of product released with Ursula’s Return, Lorcana has also introduced an entirely new kind of dinglehopper that brings solo and co-op play to the game. I think this is great as it positions Lorcana as a competitor to co-op and solo board games, offering some crossover appeal to folks who might be coming from games like Arkham Horror LCG, Marvel Champions, Aeon’s End, or similar teamplay options over there in that other hobbying gaming area. Illumineer’s Quest: Deep Trouble retails at $59.99 and includes two decks (meaning it supports two players out of the box but it can go to four with additional decks), a special playmat for Ursula and her unique deck, and some counters. The core rules are not included, but either you already know ‘em or you can look ‘em up online or in the Lorcana app. What it does not include is a viable box situation to store all of this stuff.

And that stuff is where the Deep Trouble in fact begins. At sixty bucks, this game is overpriced and understuffed. Other than the cards, all of which are legal for regular play except Ursula’s special deck, the components are absolute trash with embarrassingly flimsy mats and counters. $60 in the board game world pretty much always buys you a mounted board and sturdy, multiply cardboard bits at the least. Frankly, I threw most of the components into recycling minutes after tearing open the non-reusable but foiled to the gills box. So wasteful. If Ravensburger can ship Villainous for $50, there’s no reason this package should be $60.

As for the decks, they are trash for normal play and really serve just as a way so that a complete newcomer can play the game without prior or adjacent purchases. The highlight is that you get a foil Legendary in each, Yen Sid and Mulan so that does add some value – especially if you are like me and didn’t get either one in two booster boxes. Otherwise, the decks are stacked with mostly common and uncommon cards from all previous sets so if you really need more Friends on the Other Side or Dragon Fires, you can get those sub-penny value cards here. I groaned going through the decks- so much waste, and again reinforcing that just-ripped-off feeling. There’s also a foil pack with a surprise card that is supposed to be your “prize” for beating all four levels but upon opening it I was more interested that it is apparently a preview card for set 5 than in the card itself.

That’s most of the bad stuff out of the way up front but we will get back to the negatives. As for the gameplay, it’s really quite good and I’m impressed at how it manages to capture the feel of Lorcana playing against an automaton. Ursula is very simple to run and doesn’t require any kind of complex triaging or if-then flowcharting like many solo or co-op board games do. Ursula draws cards based on the number of players and how far along she is on the Lore track. She plays the cards that she has enough ink for (without exerting it), if she doesn’t have the ink it goes into her inkwell. Many are action cards affecting all players, there are a few items, and of course characters. Ursula’s characters only attack when they have Rush and the card will generally specify which exerted player character is hit. Once her cards are played, everything in her row (characters and items) goes off with characters questing to try to get her lore counter to 40 and then she becomes Queen of Lorcana or something like that.

Now, on the player side, you play just like you normally would with the big exception that all players play simultaneously. This is super smart. It means that working together and coordinating challenges, quests, and other effects is critical to success. The Support keyword takes on a whole new importance as Ursula’s special characters (many of which are “Entangled” versions of other cards) tend to be quite tough and teaming up to take them down is essential- and fun. Items, songs, locations and other card effects can benefit anyone on the good guys’ side.

The players are trying to get 20 lore before Ursula hits 40, but the rule sheet is sort of unclear about whether players have to have 20 lore exactly or not. It reads “when all players have 20 lore” and not “when all players have at least 20 lore”. We play the latter way, which I believe is what is intended as Ursula has a lot of effects that reduce player lore. Mostly the rules are pretty clean and I was impressed that I actually felt the and design values of Lorcana shining through.

It works and it’s a good format for the game, but it also feels tentative and limited. There are four encounters that increase in difficulty, but they really just speed up Ursula’s progress and provide a couple of special rules to mix it up. Compared to comparable games in the board game space, there simply isn’t much content. The Ursula deck becomes predictable quite fast, and once you build custom decks to take on Ursula the challenge becomes dependent on whether or not Ursula gets lucky draws early in the game.

I hate to keep harping on the price, but this should have been a $15 scenario deck and not a $60 package. At $15, I would be whole heartedly recommending it as a great new format for Lorcana, even with the limited replay value. I could see this packaged as a single Ursula deck without the zero effort mat and counters and garbage decks. Leave the two foil Legendaries though, would you Ravensburger?

So very mixed feelings about the first Illumineer’s Quest set. I think Ravensburger should definitely continue to explore this space and I’d love to see other villains highlighted. But I’d also like to not pay $60 every cycle to get a bunch of cards I already have and some stuff to throw into the recycling. There’s a lot of potential here, but it has a ways to go to be a reason for players uninterested in competitive play to get into Lorcana and that is really what it needs to be.

Next weekHow the South Was Won!

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