Full disclosure: I received a review copy of The Rise and Fall of Anvalor from Wizkids.
What is this game about?
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - The Rise and Fall of Anvalor is a tower defense game set in the Warhammer universe. In the game, you'll be playing one of six factions that comes with a unique deck of tiles. Your task is to build up the city of Anvalor and gain as much influence as possible while doing so. On each turn, you'll use the resources on some of the tiles in your hand as payment to place other tiles. Some of the tiles you place will be buildings, while others are units. The configurations in which you place your tiles will provide various bonuses that you'll need to take on enemies—and you will definitely need to battle it out with some enemies. While most of the buildings you place will be from your own faction, you'll also want to place city buildings that represent contributions to Anvalor. And once you do that, you'll draw the attention of marauders outside the city gates.
In addition to offering several player factions, The Rise and Fall of Anvalor also offers three different enemies to choose from, each of whom is customizable because you can set the difficulty level. Once city buildings are placed (or just automatically in the solo game), you will roll for enemy actions. Most of the time, enemy tiles are placed facedown on the outskirts of the city. On a roll of 5 or 6, a special (and not fun) effect may occur. When enough enemies have built up on one side of Anvalor, their presence will trigger an assault, and enemies will pass through your city, destroying everything in their wake, until they either die or pass all the way through Anvalor to disappear on the horizon. In the multiplayer game, the goal is to survive all of the enemy assaults with more influence than any of the other players. In a solo game, you'll need to finish the game with at least one city building still standing after all of the enemy tiles are gone.
How does it play solo?
The Rise and Fall of Anvalor comes with a solo-specific mode. In solo, you will play as one faction and will have slightly different victory conditions. In a solo game, you roll the enemy die every turn, even if you have not constructed a city building yet. You will also need to have at least one city building still standing at the end of the game in order to win. If you are victorious, your influence will become your score.
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar - The Rise and Fall of Anvalor is ultimately a fun game. It's a very heavy box filled with relatively light and snappy gameplay. There are a lot of interesting choices to make, including picking a faction and special ability, as well as an enemy with an adjustable level. It is also enjoyable to get to know your faction deck and figure out how to make smarter plays that maximize the synergy among tiles in your player deck. I also tend to like games where you "purchase" cards to play by discarding other cards from your hand, and I still like that mechanism in Rise and Fall of Anvalor. Having to choose what to keep and what to sacrifice adds another layer of fun to the in-game choices already on offer.
That said, Rise and Fall of Anvalor isn't perfect. For all of your carefully laid plans, your success is still going to come down to a die roll, which will inevitably be frustrating at times. The game can seem swingier when your enemy faction is set at a high level, because the powers they have when you roll high on the enemy placement turn are a lot nastier compared with lower-level powers. I also think that enemy interactions in this game could have been a bit more interesting. Enemy tiles are placed facedown on the board and not revealed until it's time for an assault, which can hobble your placement strategy. I would have liked to try to respond to shifting enemy presence throughout the game in a way that I can't when the enemies are facedown. Also, while enemy assaults as currently designed probably do make the game snappier and more pleasant to run, I am always a little disappointed when enemies that aren't killed just run out of the other side of Anvalor, never to be seen again. Some deeper interaction might have added interest to the game.
Do I recommend it?
Possibly. This game doesn't knock my socks off, but it's good fun, and I think I might have liked it even better if I had a deeper appreciation of its Warhammer theme.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars - I love it!
4 stars - I really like it.
3 stars - I like it.
2 stars - It's okay.
1 star - Meh.