Developer: Rattlebox Games
King Alwan of the Kingdom of Draig is dead and epic battles begin to breakout amongst lords vying to stake a claim to the throne. These lords eagerly await the precious days of the year when the season are in flux, for this is when the magical druids are at their most powerful. The druids are masters of elemental damage and can vastly turn the tide of any war. In Cromlech, players take control of a faction of druids fighting for glory and the right to sit upon Draig’s throne. Cromlech utilizes the card drafting and dice battling mechanics very well, which add a lot of variety, strategy, and replayability.
Cromlech is played over the course of three “years” (12 rounds, with one round for each season of each year). Each “year” begins with a build phase where players build their cromlech (which is a stone circle) through card drafting. Choosing which stones to build your cromlech with is a crucial aspect of the game because they are used throughout the game to determine which dice you battle with on your turn. At the start of the year each player draws two cards from the stone (gariadon) deck and chooses one of the cards to build in their cromlech. Players then pass their discarded card to the player next to them, pick up their new card, and draw another card from the stone deck (making a hand of two cards). The process continues until all players have selected eight cards and their cromlech is complete. In the first “year” of the game, players build their inner circle that surrounds their druid. The circle consists of eight cards, with two cards above, below, and to each side of the druid. In “year” two of the game, players build the outer circle of their cromlech (with a new layer of cards being placed around the circle from year one). In the final “year”, the build phase gives players the option to rebuild any part of their cromlech that has been destroyed using stones that they have taken from other players in their score pile.
After the build phase, players will take part in four battle rounds (one for each season of the “year”) in which players take turns selecting, rolling, and then resolving dice. Druids will rotate within their cromlech to symbolize the seasons and change the power stones available to them. The stones closest to the top of the druid are the current season and can be targeted by other players. The stones on both sides of the druid are the power stones that players can use along with their druid’s abilities to select what dice to roll. In the first “year”, the druid are relatively inexperienced with elemental magic and can only summon magic with one hand and one stone (giving the player two dice). In “years” two and three however, druids can summon magic with both hands and four power stones (giving the player six dice). After selecting their dice players being to roll their dice and may reroll them up to three times (possibly more with druid’s abilities and lintels) keeping whatever results they want to as they roll.
The outcomes of the dice are attack, defend, heal, rend, build, and an elemental symbol. Attack, defend, and heal results only need a single die to come into effect. With an attack result, the rolling player may place one wound token on a druid whose alignment opposes the die (i.e. fire and air elements oppose water and earth elements). Each druid has four can sustain four hit points until they are defeated. A defend result allows the rolling player to place a defense token on any druid whose alignment matches the rolling die. Defense tokens are used to absorb attacks when druids are targeted. Heal results allow players to remove one damage token from any druid with matching alignment.
The build and rend results require a pair of matching results. A build result allows the current player to build a lintel on top of the pair of stones in the current season. If a player cannot build a lintel over the current season’s power stones because another lintel is already in place, they may choose to either replace the lintel or add the new lintel to their score pile. A lintel is a horizontal stone that serves the purpose of protecting the gariadon from attacks as well as providing additional powers. Lintel powers are activated when the power stones underneath them are activated and there are six lintel powers. Three of these powers (heal, defend, and attack) work exactly like their die results do with the exception that they can ignore elemental alignment. The other three powers are join, re-roll, and add die. Join lets the current player use dice for both power stones under a lintel when one stone under it is activated (essentially adding another die to the players roll). The re-roll lintel simply gives the player an extra roll when a stone under it is activated. Likewise, the add die lintel simply gives the player an extra die of their choice.
The rend result is the exact opposite of the build result. Rend destroys an opponent’s eligible power stone or lintel in the current season. If a lintel is covering the current season’s stones, only the lintel may be target by rend. The rend results does get a little tricky when trying to understand what power stones are eligible to be targeted. Luckily, there is a handy chart in the instructions that lays out what stones can be destroyed by every possible rend pair combination.
The final die result is an elemental symbol. The elemental symbol is super powerful because they have two effects on just one die. The air and water symbol serve as half of a rend pair as well as a heal result to a druid with matching alignment. While the fire and earth symbol serve as half of build air and a wound result to a druid with opposite alignment.
At the end of the third “year” (12 rounds) scores are added up to determine the new King of Draig. Players get one point for each lintel they have in their score pile, two points for each power stone in their score pile, and 3 points for each druid they have defeated.
Final Thoughts: My initial impression of Cromlech was a little disappointing mostly because the rules were not very clear and it was just a lot of information to take in all at once. Since my first game, Rattlebox Games has sent us an updated rulebook that provided a lot more clarity and they will be making videos on their site teaching the game. Cromlech is still very much in a work in progress but I am excited to watch the game continue to develop because the theme and game mechanics are so well done that there is potential for a very exciting game.