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Set a Watch

Evil is approaching, and only your band of adventurers can prevent its advance.

Set a Watch is a game of defeating enemies and preventing the return of the unHallowed, now seeking funding on Kickstarter by Rock Manor Games.

Gameplay

Set a Watch is a 1 to 4 player cooperative game where surviving a stream of enemies over nine rounds is the key to victory. Each round consists of a new location (drawn from a shuffled location deck) and a new set of enemies. Three players will work together to defeat the enemies and clear the location, while the fourth player will stay at camp and work to reset abilities, maintain the campfire, and prepare for further rounds.

Play begins by choosing character classes. In a 4-player game, each player will choose one character; in a 2-player game, each player will choose 2 characters; and a solo game will have the player choose 4 characters. A 3-player game will have each player choosing one character, and the group choosing a fourth that will be played by the player who is also in camp during that round.

After character selection, players will choose 3 adventurer cards at random and add them to their player card(s). These are the special abilities that will modify gameplay, such as changing a rolled dice, revealing creature cards, or increase attack values. These cards can only be used once before exhausting, and each character will begin the game with one of their adventurer cards already exhausted. Cards can be reset when camping.

Now it’s time to set up the creature, unHallowed, and location decks using the game box as placement indicators. Shuffle each separately. In setting up the creature deck, shuffle in summon cards (the number to include determines the difficultly level for the game). Choose the top 30 cards that will make up the enemies your adventurers will be facing during battle. Setting up the location deck is similar: shuffle all the cards after removing the Forbidden Tower location, choose the top 8 of the deck and place them face down, on top of the facedown Forbidden Tower card. These will be the nine locations indicating each round of gameplay. The unHallowed deck is shuffled, and eight cards are chosen and placed face down in their own pile. These cards represent the horde that will be added to the game’s final round.

The final step is to set the starting firewood to eight and then turn over the first location card. Each location card indicates how much firewood is lost and how many creatures will be faced in each round. Lay them out face down and look at the total of firewood at the start of each round. This number will determine how many cards are turned over to begin the round. Players will decide which characters will face the creatures and which player will be in camp. All characters must visit camp at least twice during a game, and camp offers its own set of actions.

All players roll their character’s die and use the totals to determine how to address the creatures in line and which character they may want to send to camp. Adventurer cards may also determine what actions each player can do with their dice and where the creature line may be affected. The player in camp will use their dice to perform actions such as chopping wood (to increase or replenish the firewood total), scouting the creature line (seeing the next two creatures and strategically rearranging their order), and healing (refreshing an exhausted card on any one character’s board). Each character also has their own special camp actions in the form of runes that can aid the other players in the current round (helping someone in a reroll) or the future (removing unHallowed cards from the horde deck).

Play continues until all creature cards are defeated or all characters' adventurer cards are exhausted, with any remaining creature cards added to the horde for the final round. The final round allows all characters to face off against the horde or the choice to send any one character to camp to perform camp actions. Creatures and then any remaining horde cards are laid down and the game is won when all creatures and unHallowed are defeated.

Set a Watch components

Review

Set a Watch has a lot going on that may seem confusing, and even overwhelming, at first. Initial set up takes a bit of time during the first few plays, but the game’s box also functions as its game board and guides you through the process. Though the booklet is 15 pages, there is very little filler in the instructions and the layout is easy to follow. Once you have completed a couple of rounds, the game’s pace picks up quickly and it becomes evident how to best strategize from round to round.

The game comes with six starting characters (Beast Master, Dwarf, Elf, Wizard, Rogue, and Cleric) with more potentially introduced via the Kickstarter campaign. Mixing and matching characters and their abilities allows each game to feel new and different, as does strategizing when to send a specific character to camp to leverage their special camp abilities or to refresh a much-needed adventurer card.

However, the game’s player count is a noticeable weakness. The 2-4 player variants feel solid, but the one player variant lacks the fun of multiple player counts, to the point that experimenting with different character combinations does not pick up the game’s pace or excitement. While it’s great that the solo experience is equivalent to the 2-4 player game, having something different to achieve or complete may keep the game fresher for longer. Though the game usually goes quicker in the solo variant, it’s still a long game when playing by oneself

All said, Set a Watch is a great take on the dungeon crawling and D&D-inspired genres. Rather than having players race into the belly of a dungeon to collect gold and escape by the skin of their teeth, Set a Watch has focused on battle — creating a tower defense game with a familiar feel that will hit many fantasy and adventure fans, lighting a fire inside them to never let this game leave the table. Check it out on Kickstarter and see for yourself.

Pros: Good theme, familiar feel for fantasy and adventure fans

Cons: Steep learning curve, solo variant lacks the fun of multiple player counts

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.