Luna Llena (Full Moon) first play review
If you have read my review on Dos de Mayo, you’ll understand I have plenty of reasons to be a fan of GenX Games. Dos de Mayo is an absolutely fantastic game, easy to learn, easy to play, good replayability factor, great board, simple but effective components, good background and small enough to fit in any bag. At a game play of around 20 to 30 minutes, it is perfect for a train journey, a quick game at the cafe with your friend (it’s a two players game) or any other situation. A true hit.
When I saw Full Moon in a shop in Madrid, I pretty much stopped looking at any other games (well, apart from the other 5 games I ended up with. Call me fickle. The box is big, with a nice colourful and quite inspiring illustration. The list of components was also very enticing! (I told you to call me fickle!).
The theme is actually quite exciting. A bunch of backpackers, looking for thrills, have gone camping to a dark and very large forest. What they don’t know to start with, is that the forest is also home to a pack of werewolves. The objective of the game? Find and follow the track to the werewolves lair, rescue the two backpackers the werewolves kidnaped before the game started, find the forest map (because one of the kidnapped backpackers carried it, of course) and leave the forest with at least one character alive. This is a game for 2 to 7 players. One of the players will take the role of the werewolves pack. The other players the role of the backpackers.
The game components are a hit for some of them, and a horrendous miss for some others. The board is composed of hexagons, very much like Settlers of Catan, that the players lay down as they explore the forest looking for the werewolves lair. The dice are heavy and a pleasure to roll. The cloth bag where you store the board tiles is a very nice touch some other games companies should learn from. The cards are strong enough, but a bit too thin. They will get bent fairly easily, and there are a lot of cards too. An action deck that determines what players can do, combat deck, pack deck to allow the werewolves to do things, an objects deck, special objects deck and lair objects deck. Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty sturdy, but having been spoilt by Fantasy Flight Games, these cards do feel a tad flimsy in comparison.
Then there are the tokens, and here’s when things go horribly wrong for the components. The health, planning points, determination points and other tokens that one uses and stores to increase the stamina and chances of performing certain actions, are fiddly and difficult to use.. Much too small to handle or be picked from the table easily. Terribly frustrating.
Then is the rulebook. Sorry… the Survival Guide.
The box comes with two of them. One in English and one in Spanish. The design is atrocious. I am sorry if I sound unkind, but the design is, to say the least, amateurish. They have tried to make something good looking, colourful and exciting, but unfortunately it doesn’t work. Having illustrations under the font makes it difficult to read. No index and not even page numbers. The reference images for the tokens and cards are much too small and we spent a lot of time looking for the references we needed. It was confusing enough for us to decide not to use some of the rules just to avoid having to look for them time and again!
The rules are not too bad, though there are a few of them that could easily be considered optional. We decided not to use some of them and even then the game played quite well. The turn sequence sheets provided help immensely and we saw the speed of play increase quite a lot after a few rounds.
The game is full of really great ideas though, and it would be very easy to have a simplified gameplay and an advanced gameplay for those more familiar with the rules. For example, the players are meant to find the trail that leads to the werewolves lair (though that wasn’t made THAT obvious in the rulebook) in order to find it. We played so, once the player fell on the tile where the lair is, it just gets revealed. I can see, however, with more players on the table, this would make the game more fun and interesting… and more difficult!
I did like the idea of backpackers running the risk of becoming werewolves if they get wounded in combat. Didn’t like that the player who turns into a werewolf has to surrender the game and give the character to the person in control of the pack. That could leave one or two players with nothing else to do for the duration of the game. However nothing stops you from just keep playing, but switching sides while you’re in lupine form.
This game feels unfinished. I have the feeling not enough playtesting has been done. It feels like the friends and family of the team who designed this game played a few sessions, sort of liked it and it was left as is. No impartial look has been taken to this game and no art director has looked at this games components design and giving them a rework (if one has, I can tell you now it was a VERY careless one and has taken the guys from Gen X for a ride).
It is a pity, with a great theme and truly lovely ideas, the game only grips you at times. The combat is fairly polished, the tension is huge and the sense of fear does last for as long as there is a werewolf on the hunt, either on animal or human shape (they are much stronger than humans). No doubt with some more sessions and a bit of rule re-reading and re-working this will be a fun and interesting game to play often. A good effort that falls short to start with.
One thing, though. If you are interested in game mechanics and game design, this game would probably be perfect for you. It provides with a good foundation to start with and rework the rules to turn them into something different that will suit you better. Consider it a training ground and you could have a lot of fun with it.
Overall this game would receive 2.5 out of 5.