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Game review: Realm of Wonder, Kaleva and Kings of Mithril bring fantasy worlds to the family
Realm of Wonder is a board game where players fight to save the king and his kingdom or to claim the throne for themselves. Each of the six characters in the game have their own, individual abilities. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Tactic games has introduced some noteworthy fantasy board games to the market over the last few years. Three titles of note, Realm of Wonder, Kaleva and Kings of Mithril, offer thoughtful gameplay with interesting decisions. The games are completely different but offer fun, specifically for families.

A family game should be non-threatening, easy to learn and provide opportunity for plenty of player interaction. That's the case with Realm of Wonder. It's a game for two to six players lasting about an hour.

A rich back story for the game is offered in the Realm of Wonder rulebook. Players are mythical creatures exploring a magical land looking to accomplish one of three specific goals. To win, a player must collect three magic orbs, three monsters or one of five random goals that was determined by drawing a card before the game began.

The first thing gamers will notice is the game board. It rotates in two different spheres, changing the pathways of the board and bringing magic to the realms it touches. The boards contain six realms represented by the six different players and mythical creatures. Players can activate magic runes in the game that allow them to rotate the board.

Each turn, all players play one of three movement cards they possess. Some movement cards have an additional magical benefit, but they are hard to find. At the top of each movement card is a number, and whoever has the highest number goes first.

Just before movement though, players have a chance to play magic cards. Each player starts with three but must collect more by going on adventures (more on that later). Magic is not mandatory but helps give a person an advantage. Once magic is played, players move in turn order.

The core of the game is adventures represented by castle tiles on the board. They are distributed randomly as play begins and accessed by moving to the specific space where it resides. Castle tiles look the same until turned over. On the bottom can be monsters, magic, orbs, items or valiant knights. Players never know what lies in wait until the tile is turned over.

Eventually one player will carry out one of the three goals and go for the win. To win, a player must meet the victory condition and then move his or her playing piece to the center ring of the board (the king's castle). Some victory conditions can be lost while en route, and others are earned once and kept no matter what.

Ream of Wonder is geared towards kids and families and has a fair amount of luck and randomness. Each player has a cool, unique board and miniature to use. Know that there are cards and abilities that allow players to pick on each other, and players can even fight, but the loser just goes back to the home spot. They are never eliminated. This is a good family game with simple mechanics, a unique board and good components.

Kaleva is a two-player game of head-to-head combat. It is reminiscent of the classic games of war and checkers combined together.

The board is separated into six columns with each player taking a side. An equal number of spaces separate the two sides. Similar to chess or checkers, the goal is to move playing pieces from one side of the board to the other. However, each player plays a card with a value from 0 to 9 on their side of the board face down, and it affects the game.

Whenever two opposing playing pieces meet on the board, the cards of each player in the affected column are revealed. Whoever has the lower number must remove his or her piece. Eliminated pieces can come back if a player passes his or her turn. When a player manages to move three of his or her pieces to the opposite side of the board, they win.

This game is simple and easy to grasp. The theme is weak and could have been anything, but the concepts are familiar. People who enjoy simple, chess-like two-player games might enjoy this version.

The final game of the trio is Kings of Mithril. It is a world-building game for two to four players and takes about an hour to play. The theme is that players are building a Dwarven kingdom and competing for the king's crown. The best builder will win the game and be crowned the new king.

The board looks like an island and at the center is Mount Mithril. Surrounding the mountain is a forest that breaks out into flatlands and then to the sea. Surrounding the island is a track that the old dwarf king travels around the island to inspect his followers' work. The old king will complete a number of laps around the board and then the game will end.

At the base of the mountain, each player places their starting village tile. Additional tiles can be acquired throughout the game and be added to create a complex network of roads, tunnels and forges (on the mountain spaces), farms, guilds, forts and towers.

A cool part of the game comes by building certain tiles that allow placement of a player's personal shield on the dwarf king track on the edge of the island. When the dwarf king lands on that space, he will reward that player with a special resource that can be used to buy additional tiles.

Tiles can also be acquired at the end of a turn when each player must roll two dice to determine how far the dwarf king will walk. A chart determines which tile is received based on the number rolled. Tiles must be used the following turn or be lost. To avoid this, players can use resources acquired from the dwarf king to buy additional tiles to make nonplayable tiles playable.

Depending on what players build in their kingdom, they will score points in the form of cards. There are agricultural cards, military cards, border cards and more. The cards will count as points at the end of the game, and the person with the most points will win.

Kings of Mithril has a number of things going for it. It is enjoyable to gather tiles each turn and try to figure out how to place them. It's even more enjoyable to create the right building to place a shield in the path of the dwarf king. When he lands on one of the player's shields, it is a wonderful advantage to get the additional resources, although it is mostly an exercise in luck.

This is a simple game to grasp but a bit harder to master. It has some enjoyable parts but also has a heavy luck factor. Tiles and resources are acquired for the most part by luck. The components are good quality and it can be replayed many times with different outcomes. Check out more at Tactic games.
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