Full disclosure: A preview copy of Anna’s Roundtable was provided by Brother Ming Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the title, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
This is always a fun, interesting bit. Normally I do prototype reviews for Kickstarter, check out what will ultimately be Kickstarted. This particular game, though? Not hitting Kickstarter. Just trying a Game Crafter prototype. Neat! Anyways, this is an even more interesting game because it’s an unofficial fan project based on the Fire Emblem series. Fan art, fan rules; the whole thing is a labor of love for a video game series. I’m kind of hyped for that, so let’s dive right into Anna’s Roundtable!
In Anna’s Roundtable, players live out their tactical best lives as strategic commanders, looking to occupy various castles around a major land area. Naturally, your units are skilled in their own right, and ready to battle for superiority. You’ll need to give them plenty of items if they’re going to do well, but thankfully the merchant Anna is always available to play both sides! She’s really just here for the capitalism. Which one of you will reign victorious?
So, there are various tokens you should set aside, so let’s start with those. Make piles for the Shapeshift Tokens:
The special ability tokens:
The Anna Coins:
The VP Tokens:
The damage counters:
The Dragon Vein gems:
Put the Victory Point cards in a pile from smallest to largest (smallest on top):
And give each player one of the Dragon Vein tiles:
Anna’s Shop Cards you can shuffle, after giving the second player Anna’s Cheer:
Place them in a deck face down and place three cards face-down on the Anna Shop Board. Give each player a board in their color:
And place the map board in the center, with the player boards touching it to form a complete board:
Each player should take a die in a color matching their board:
Give each player a set of tokens in the shape of their choice:
That means each player should get a red / blue / green / gray token of one shape. Now for the main event: the unit cards! Each player gets 6. There are a lot of these, so shuffling will take some time, and I took a LOT of photos of these. So much art!
Once you’ve dealt them out, you can get started!
Anna’s Roundtable sets out the major forces from the Fire Emblem games to do battle for control of the map. Capture, battle, and change the terrain to your advantage, but there can only be one winner!
The game is played over a series of player turns, where each player can take several actions on their turn. Let’s go through each.
To begin your turn, take 1 Anna Coin (I always forget to do this) and ready all of your units (meaning they are no longer Exhausted).
Deploy a Unit
Once per turn, you may deploy a unit to the field. To deploy a unit, first play its card in the zone of its color. Gray units may be played in any zone, but you may only have one gray unit at a time. Units with red name banners are Legendary Units, and you may only have one Legendary Unit at a time, as well. After placing the card, take the token that matches the card’s color (not the zone, since, gray units exist) and place it on one of the spaces on your player board (known as your Deployment Zones). These are valid spaces on the map, but your opponent can’t enter these spaces. Most units start Exhausted, meaning that they cannot be activated until the next turn. Units with Haste start ready, so they can be immediately activated.
If your unit has Shapeshifter, deploy it with a Shapeshifter Crystal.
If your unit has a special ability (in purple), deploy it with a Special Ability token.
After playing a card, immediately draw one to replace it; you should always have 6 Unit Cards in hand.
Activate a Unit
When you activate a unit, they first move a number of spaces up to their MOV value. Keep in mind that units cannot move diagonally, they cannot move through enemy units, and they need to follow tile restrictions (some tiles end movement or block certain unit types from entering [stupid horses]). There are a number of actions a unit may take afterwards, but each unit may only take one action:
- Capture: If on a Castle space, they may capture it! Take the top VP card and give your opponent one Dragon Vein crystal. You can only capture once per turn!
- Work: Gain 1 Anna Coin. If you have the Pickpocket ability, gain 2 Anna Coins. If your Unit has Shapeshifter, they also regain their Shapeshifter token.
- Special Ability: Discard your unit’s Special Ability token to use your unit’s special ability.
- Assist: Use the unit’s Assist ability. Generally these are written on the card (or as an ability in the middle of the card).
- Retire: You may pay 3 Anna Coins to remove your unit from the board and gain one Dragon Vein token. Your opponent gets nothing.
- Attack: Each unit has a RNG (usually 1 – 2). This is how many spaces away (not counting diagonal) that they can attack an opponent. When you attack an opponent, you initiate combat! I’ll talk more about that below.
In Combat, it’s your unit vs. your opponent’s unit! Generally, it works like this:
DAMAGE = YOUR ATTACK – THEIR DEFENSE
However, there are often modifications to this. For instance, there’s the Weapons Triangle from classic Fire Emblem! In this game, Red > Green > Blue > Red. This means that if you’re a Red Unit attacking a Green Unit, you have +1 Attack. This can be modified by certain abilities. Additionally, Gray units don’t follow the Weapons Triangle.
Once you have landed your attack, place damage tokens equal to the damage dealt onto their unit; each reduces their HP by one. If they’re at 0 HP or lower, the unit is defeated! Take a VP Token (2 VP tokens if it’s a Legendary Unit!) and remove the unit from the board. Discard the unit card, and your opponent gets a Dragon Vein crystal.
If you did not defeat the unit, they get to counterattack if they’re within range! This means if you’re attacking from 2 away and they have RNG 1, they will not be able to hit you (unless they have the ability Distant Counter).
Once the attack and the counterattack are complete, check your SPD stats; the unit with the higher SPD gets a follow-up attack! If units have the same SPD, nothing happens.
Buy a Shop Card
Spend the number of Anna Coins on the back of one of the cards to purchase it.
Use a Shop Card
Cards have a variety of effects and may be used immediately upon being purchased. Certain cards are Attachments, meaning they’re bonded with a unit and stay with that unit until they are defeated. Each unit may only have 1 Attachment.
Discard a Unit Card
You may spend 1 Anna Coin to discard a unit card. When you do, immediately draw a new one so that you’re at 6 unit cards. The first time you do this in a turn is free.
Change a Gray Unit Slot
You may spend 1 Anna Coin to move a gray unit to another slot on your player board. This frees that color up for a deployable unit.
Spend Dragon Vein Crystals
You may spend Dragon Vein crystals to change various things about the board.
- Spend 1 Dragon Vein crystal to move your Terrain tile. You cannot move your opponent’s terrain tile, and they can be placed on castles.
- Spend 2 Dragon Vein crystals to bump any unit one space. You cannot bump a unit into a space it cannot normally move into, but other than that, have a blast.
- Spend 3 Dragon Vein crystals to hurry deploy a unit. You may deploy units this way even if you have or have not used your standard deploy. Units deployed this way have Haste, meaning they can be activated this turns.
End of Game
Play continues until either the VP card stack or the VP tokens are depleted. Count your points! VP cards are worth their stated value; VP tokens are worth 1.5 points each. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The version I played only supported a two-player duel, so, none as far as I tried. I’m aware additional player counts are in the works, I just didn’t play a game with rules that supported those player counts.
- Don’t let a player control castles for too long. There aren’t that many VP cards, and if you let them entrench themselves for a while in one place, they may get a lead that is difficult for you to overcome.
- Similarly on castles, be mindful of when you take the second-to-last card. Taking the second-to-last card gives your opponent the ability to end the game on their turn. You may not want to do that, if they’re significantly ahead of you. But then, you may not want to leave them the second-to-last card either, since it’s typically 4VP! It’s worth thinking about the long-term impact of choosing to Capture or not.
- Sometimes you need to go all-in on an attack. This is what you might need to do if you can’t get rid of a unit that will end the game, or your opponent has a Legendary Unit that is going to mess you up. Some of your units may die, but that’s the trade-off sometimes. It’s worth it if you can stop your opponent from capturing on their turn.
- Remember the weapons triangle! This is going to be a big maneuver for you, especially if you have the Triangle Adept ability (doubles bonuses and penalties from the weapons triangle). If you want to defeat a lot of units, go after ones that are weak to yours.
- Watch out for items that your opponent has. Certain items let you ignore defense or increase your range; you won’t know exactly what your opponent has, but you should assume and operate under the assumption that they might have whatever card is worst for you. It’s very possible, given what’s available in the Anna Store at any time.
- Also make sure to read the cards your opponent deploys. This slows the game down, but it’s absolutely critical for new units. You don’t want a surprise ability or nullification to jump up on you because you missed something on the card. Until you’re familiar with the units, read all the cards.
- Try to keep a few Anna Coins around. Not only are they pretty important for buying helpful items from the shop, you can also use them to pull a sneak on your opponent and retire a unit right before they would otherwise kill them off. They don’t get any VP, and you get a Dragon Vein crystal!
- Legendary units can be very helpful, but try not to lose them! They give your opponent 2 VP coins (3 VP total!) if you lose one of them. Excellent candidates for being preemptively retired.
- Moving your Dragon Vein tile to block your opponent out can be a helpful way to prevent one of your units getting wiped out. You can place blocks that force them to move through areas with movement penalties, too! Make the map do the work for you.
- As in standard Fire Emblem, the value of Dancers and healers cannot be overstated. Giving your best unit an extra turn? Amazing. Healing your unit from near-lethal damage? Excellent.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, I love Fire Emblem, so, this is a hit for me. Been a big fan of the series for a decade, so I also recognize a lot of the characters that are making appearances in the game. It’s definitely a great game for Fire Emblem fans, especially since it leverages a lot of the costumes / characters from Heroes, which I know a lot of people enjoy.
- It feels pretty true to the Fire Emblem series, as well. The tactical elements, the weapons triangle, the board movement, being annoyed by terrain; this definitely captures a lot of things that I remember about Fire Emblem and ports them into a tactical board game. I think some players may be saddened by the lack of conversational / support elements, but, can’t have everything.
- I really like the variety of characters, though I imagine coordinating this many artists must have been a nightmare. I was originally a bit thrown since the art styles are so different, but overall I think there are some nice things about it. Certainly, everyone will likely have a favorite character (if they’re familiar with the characters), but the variety of art styles gives players the opportunity to have a favorite card, as well. It’s sort of the best of a tactics game along with a collectible card game.
- I think the item shop rules are an excellent way to prevent player overanalysis in a text-heavy game. Having them be face-down lets you speculate what they actually are, but it doesn’t gum up the works as much as having them actually be readable would.
- Even though it says 45 – 75 minutes, it’s not the longest game. I think the turns never run long enough that you notice the downtime. You may see that number increase pretty steeply if you play with four players, however, depending on how the tactical element shakes out.
- Lots of different strategies. You can go after castles or fight units, yes, but the specific routes you use to fight units may differ wildly. Shapeshifting, magic, swords, red units, terrain control, special abilities, legendary units; there’s a lot to go off of, here, and for a fairly dense game I think it handles the options pretty impressively.
- Also lots of optional rules to tweak the game to your preference. Basically everything someone might not like about the game can be tweaked. Want to have more control over your starting units? You can draft them. Don’t like face-down shop cards? You can reveal them. Overrelying on Castles? They’ll deal 1 non-lethal damage to every character on them at the start of their turn.
- This may just be a prototype thing, but the variable textures of all the pieces kind of throws me off. Got some wood, plastic, cardboard; it’s not bad, it’s just a bit confusing from time to time.
- The very nature of this game means that it’s going to be fairly text-heavy, which generally benefits experienced players who are already familiar with the cards (or it slows the game down). You’re going to be reading a lot during your first game, and you’re going to need a lot of references. You’ll need to know about terrain penalties, abilities, shop cards, and more. It’s a lot of text, so, you should expect your first game to take a while while players read everything available.
- Even then, there’s just a lot of things to have to keep in your brain around abilities, terrain, and their intersection. It’s going to be tough for new players / people not experienced with Fire Emblem. I’m not exactly confident that it’s going to get a ton better, either, just purely because the number of unit cards you see each game may not be high enough, and there are so many that it can be hard to remember what every one of them does. Some iconography may help to make certain things easier to read / understand across all units and cards (Fire Emblem, the video game, does this), but given how many cards there are you should just be prepared to read something new every time. It, to be fair, is part of the excitement of the game.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Anna’s Roundtable is a lot of fun! I will say that I’m generally not the biggest tactical combat game fan around (I like Fire Emblem because it’s single-player), but I think this is a very faithful adaptation of a Fire Emblem game to a tabletop board game experience. Additionally, since it’s a fan project, they could go absolutely wild on unit cards, so you have great art, a wide variety of it, and art for some more less-well-known characters that hopefully increases the game’s appeal. Naturally, with all this content, there are some drawbacks: it’s a longer game since there’s so much text, and new players and players unfamiliar with the Fire Emblem series may struggle to find footholds while learning new terms and ideas that the video games tend to introduce gradually. That’s loosely to be expected. It would be interesting to have some kind of solo mode that gradually introduces the mechanics a la a Fire Emblem, but who knows what’s largely in the works. I think, though, Anna’s Roundtable is probably the perfect game for a big Fire Emblem fan. They’ll appreciate the art, enjoy the tactics, and be just kind of taken by how much work clearly went into the production of this fun, strategic game. I’m certainly impressed by it, and if you’re into tactics or Fire Emblem, you may enjoy Anna’s Roundtable as well!